Current Affairs Analysis

19th & 20th January 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Steppe Eagle; Hyperloop transportation system; The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2019; Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT); Thirukkural; The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013; ELECRAMA 2020; What is Most Favoured Nation Status? K-4 Missiles; Circular Error Probability (CEP); etc.
By IASToppers
January 27, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Strengthening Sexual harassment laws

Issues related to Health & Education

  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2019

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Steppe Eagle

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands: report

Defence & Security Issues

  • Testing of K-4 Missiles

Art & Culture

  • Need to Preserve ancient languages

Science & Technology

  • Clouds over the future of Hyperloop

Key Facts for Prelims

  • ELECRAMA 2020

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Government Schemes & Policies

 Strengthening Sexual harassment laws

The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister, constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, has finalised its recommendations and will be put up for public comments.

sexual harassment at the workplace 1

About the GoM:

  • The GoM was constituted first in October 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media and reconstituted in July 2019 under Mr. Shah.

sexual harassment at the workplace

  • The GoM constituted Finance Minister, Human Resource and Development Minister and Women and Child Development Minister.
  • The proposed amendments by the GoM would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based.

Sexual harassment:

  • Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual connotation that is abusive, injurious and makes a person feel offended, humiliated and intimidated.
  • In 1997, in the landmark judgment of Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan the Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment at the workplace, pronounced preventive, prohibitory and redress measures, and gave directives towards a legislative mandate to the guidelines proposed.

the Vishaka Guidelines

Indian Constitution On Sexual Harassment:

  • It clearly violates the fundamental rights of a women to Equality under Article 14[2] and Article 15[3], her right to life under Article 21[4], and her right to practice any profession and carry on any occupation, trade or business, which includes a Right to safe environment free from sexual harassment.

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:

the Vishaka Guidelines 1

  • The main objective of the act was protection of Women, Prevention and Redressal of sexual harassment complaints.
  • Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (directly or by implication) namely:
    • Physical contact and advances; or
    • A demand or request for sexual favours; or
    • Making sexually coloured remarks; or here implies the need to shift focus from the existing laws.
    • Showing pornography; or
    • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
  • The law is applicable to government offices, the private sector, NGOs and the unorganised sector.
  • A woman can be of any age, whether employed or not, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”, that means the rights of all the women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, are protected under the Act.

Shortcomings:

  • The 2013 Act had shortcomings like giving the powers of a civil court to the internal complaints committee (ICC) without specifying if the members need to have a legal background.
  • It only imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on employers for non-compliance.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2019

ASER ‘early years’ report, based on a household level survey across 26 districts in 24 states, assesses the performance of children in age group of 4-8 year in four domains: cognitive development, early language, early numeracy, and social and emotional development.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 has been published by education non-profit Pratham.

What is ASER?

  • Annual Status of Education Report is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in almost all rural districts of India coordinated by ASER Centre and facilitated by the Pratham network.
  • ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey which enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools etc.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 1

Highlights of ASER 2019:

  • Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters.
  • The report showed that children were lacking in cognitive development.
  • At least 25% of school children in the four-eight age group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills, making for a massive learning deficit at a very early stage.
  • Among Class 1 children who could correctly do none or only one of the tasks requiring cognitive skills, about 14% could read words, while 19% could do single digit addition.
  • Those children who could correctly do all three cognitive tasks, 52% could read words, and 63% could solve the addition problem.
  • Of six-year olds in Class 1, 41.5% of those in private schools could read words in comparison to only 19% from government schools.
  • Indians preferred government schools for girls in the age group of 4 to 8 years while private schools for boys.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019

Why it matters?

  • The early years, defined globally as age 0-8, are known to be the most important stage of cognitive, motor, social and emotional development in the human life cycle.
  • Inadequate access to developmentally appropriate inputs and environment during the “early years” affects children’s ability to cope with school and has lifelong implications.

Efforts in this regard:

  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education by 2030.
  • In India since 1975, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) was introduced to provide food, pre-school education, and primary health care facilities to 0-6 year children and their mothers.
  • The draft National Education Policy (NEP), 2019 proposes to provide “free, safe and developmentally appropriate care and quality education to all children in the age group of 3-6 years by 2025.”
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Steppe Eagle

A Steppe Eagle was sighted in Andhra Pradesh.

About Steppe Eagle

About Steppe Eagle

About Steppe Eagle 1

  • Steppe eagle is believed to be the second-largest migratory eagle species to India. In winter, steppe eagle breeds in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.
  • The Steppe Eagle appears on the flag of Kazakhstan. It is also the National bird (animal) of Egypt and appears on its flag.
  • Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae.
  • It breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia. The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India.
  • The bird inhabits areas of steppe and semi-desert, and areas up to 2,300 m in mountainous regions.
  • The bird is listed under Endangered category under the IUCN Red List. 
[Ref: The Hindu, IUCN Website]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands: report

India-Pakistan trade freeze has affected thousands according to ‘Unilateral Decisions, Bilateral Losses’ report authored by Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF).

India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands 1

  • Post the shutdown of trade between India and Pakistan, roughly 50000 people in Punjab and about 900 families in Kashmir have been impacted. 

Causes:

  • The cancellation of MFN (most favoured nation) status to Pakistan and the trade routes’ closure following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.
  • Pakistan’s counter-measures, including an airspace ban and suspension of trade relations.

MFN at the same time allows some exemptions as well

Implications of these decisions:

  • The decisions on trade were meant to be a tough message for Pakistan and would impact Pakistan’s economy even more than India’s. Even though ties have been much worse in the past like after the Parliament attack, trade had never been touched.
  • Now, at least 9,354 families, roughly 50,000 people, in Punjab and about 900 families in Kashmir have been directly impacted.
  • Both countries have lost billions of dollars and hundreds of job days.
  • These measures that led to a 200% duty increase on imports from Pakistan at Punjab saw even the relatively meagre bilateral trade of $2.56 billion in 2018-2019 dropping to $547.22 million (April-August 2019) – imports dropping from about $500 million to just $11.45 million.

India-Pakistan trade freeze hits thousands

  • Similarly, the closure of LoC trading points in Jammu and Kashmir has put small trade, handicrafts sellers, truckers, labourers, and hotel owners near the LoC in Baramulla and Poonch out of business.

What is Most Favoured Nation Status?

  • Most Favoured Nation is a treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners. It is the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
  • Under World Trade Organisation(WTO) rules, a member country cannot discriminate between its trade partners. If a special status is granted to a trade partner, it must be extended to all members of the WTO.
  • MFN essentially guarantees the most favourable trade conditions between two countries. These terms include the lowest possible trade tariffs, the least possible trade barriers and highest import quotas.
  • The WTO rules allow discrimination in certain cases like in cases when a country signs free trade agreements in a region. In that situation, a country may grant special favours and trade concessions to a country as compared to non-member countries of that group.

Benefits of MFN:

  • Access to a wider market for trade goods.
  • Reduced cost of export items owing to highly reduced tariffs and trade barriers.
  • Cuts down bureaucratic hurdles.
  • Makes domestic industry more competitive and robust.

Disadvantages of MFN:

  • The country has to give the same treatment to all other trade partners who are members of the WTO.
  • Can trigger a price war which may affect the domestic industry.
  • Some domestic players might face heavy losses or growth restrictions.
[Ref: The Indian Express, The Hindu]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Testing of K-4 Missiles

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) tested the K-4 Missile off the Vizag Coast.

Submarine-launched-ballistic-missile,-K-4

K-4 Missiles

  • The K-4 is a submarine launched ballistic missile with a range of 3500 kms. The missile is 3-metre-tall and can carry a nuclear warhead of over one tonne.

Submarine-launched ballistic missile, K-4 1

  • The Circular Error Probability (CEP) of the K-4 is much more sophisticated than most countries which possess similar missiles. The CEP determines the accuracy of a missile. The lower the CEP, the more accurate the missile would be in targeting.
  • Successful induction of the missile will help India complete its the air, land and sea nuclear triad and ensure India`s second strike capability.
  • Only the US, Russia and China have submarine-launched ballistic missiles of 3,500-kilometre range. 
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Art & Culture

Need to Preserve ancient languages

Speaking at the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), the Vice President of India stressed the need for promotion and protection of ancient Indian languages as they offer a window to our ancient civilization values, knowledge and wisdom.

Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT

Takeaways from his speech:

  • Need to promote the use of mother tongue at homes, meetings and as a mode of primary education in the schools.
  • Develop a sense of dignity and pride for those who speak, write and communicate in Indian languages.
  • He commended CICT for translating the ‘Thirukkural’ into all Indian languages and also in some foreign languages.

Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT):

  • CICT is an autonomous Institute of higher research functioning under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India.
  • The CICT is engaged in several research activities aimed at establishing the ancientness and uniqueness of Tamil and of Classical Tamil in particular and in propagating its findings globally.
  • The Kural Peedam Award was instituted by the CICT.

Thirukkural:

  • The Thirukkural or Kural is a classic Tamil language text consisting of 1,330 couplets or Kurals.
  • The text is divided into three books, each with aphoristic teachings on virtue (dharma), wealth (artha) and love (kama).
  • It is known for its universality and secular nature, authored by Tamil philosopher Valluvar or Thiruvalluvar.
  • The text has been dated variously from 300 BCE to 5th century CE.
  • First Dravidian work for ethics.
[Ref: PIB, CICT]

 

Science & Technology

Clouds over the future of Hyperloop

The proposed Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop project, an ultra-modern transport system that will reduce the travelling time between the two cities to 25 minutes from 2.5-3 hours, may be scrapped by the state government.

Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop project

Hyperloop transportation system:

  • It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at enormous speed.

What is hyperloop transportation system

  • It is being designed to transport passengers and freight which will be thrice or four times fast as a bullet train, with an average speed twice of an aircraft.
  • The Hyperloop is a concept proposed by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, CEO the aerospace firm SpaceX.
  • US-based Hyperloop Transport Technology (HTT) claimed it costs $40 million per kilometre to build Hyperloop system while building a high-speed train line would cost almost twice.

How does it work?

  • In Hyperloop transportation, custom-designed capsules or pods are expected to zip smoothly through continuous steel tubes which are held at partial vacuum.

hyperloop transportation system in india 1

  • The pod which sandwiches the passenger compartment between an air compressor upfront and a battery compartment in the rear is supported by air caster skis at the bottom.
  • The skis float on a thin layer of air provided under high pressure, eliminating rolling resistance and allowing for movement of the pods at high speeds. These capsules are expected to be driverless with estimated speeds of 1,000 km/h.
  • Linear induction motors that are placed along the tube control the speed of the pod. Electronically-assisted acceleration and braking determines the speed of the capsule.

Bottlenecks:

  • It requires heavy investments and therefore effective public and private sector coordination is prerequisite for implementing it.
  • It consumes high-power compared to railways.
  • Technical challenges and accidents may hamper its progress.

Status of Pune-Mumbai project:

  • In November 2018, the state Urban Development Department accorded the Hyperloop project the status of a ‘Public Infrastructure Project’ and gave the go-ahead to award the work using the Swiss Challenge Method.
  • But no significant progress has been made till date.

expansion-joint-1

Way ahead:

  • The state government hints at stalling the project citing its novelty, inexperience and risks associated with the project, given India is the first country in the world to undertake the project.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

ELECRAMA 2020

  • ELECRAMA 2020 was held in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

ELECRAMA-2020

  • It is the flagship showcase of the Indian electrical industry and a platform to connect the world with Indian industry in respect of technology, new trends and innovation for future energy transition.
  • It is organized by Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA), the apex industry association of electrical equipment, industrial electronics and allied equipment manufacturers in India.
  • It is supported by the Ministry of Power, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India.
[Ref: PIB]