Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court allows Centre to replace MCI oversight committee
- Cabinet approves revision of Indian Community Welfare Fund guidelines
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Underwater ‘ghost nets’ posing threat to marine ecosystem off Kerala
- World’s northernmost coral reef bleached
Bilateral & International Relations
- DGCA braces for ICAO safety audit
- E-commerce to get bigger focus at RCEP talks
- Cabinet approves MOC in respect of tax matters between India and BRICS countries
Science & Technology
- IISER Kolkata develops fire-retardant, rust-resistant material
Key Facts for Prelims
- Gujarat retains top slot of states with most investment potential
- mAadhaar app
For IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Supreme Court allows Centre to replace MCI oversight committee
The Supreme Court has allowed the Union Government to replace the oversight committee set up to supervise the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a fresh panel of five eminent doctors.
- The Supreme Court also gave the Government liberty to replace any doctor in the list with another if he does not wish to be a part of the oversight committee.
- Earlier, Government had proposed the names of five eminent doctors to replace the earlier members of the oversight committee whose term had just expired.
- The Supreme Court using its rare and extraordinary powers under the Article 142 of the Constitution had set up the oversight committee court in May 2016 to oversee the MCI’s functioning for a period of one year or till a suitable mechanism was brought in by the Government to substitute it. The committee was led by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha.
- Medical Council of India (MCI) is a statutory body for establishing uniform and high standards of medical education in India.
- It grants recognition of medical qualifications, gives accreditation to medical schools, grants registration to medical practitioners, and monitors medical practice in India.
Cabinet approves revision of Indian Community Welfare Fund guidelines
The Union Cabinet has approved revision of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) guidelines.
Key features of the revised guidelines:
- The revised guidelines being made broad-based seek to expand the scope of welfare measures that can be extended through the Fund.
- The guidelines would cover three key areas namely
- Assisting Overseas Indian nationals in distress situations,
- Community Welfare activities and
- Improvement in Consular services.
- They are expected to provide Indian Missions and Posts abroad greater flexibility in swiftly addressing to requests for assistance by Overseas Indian nationals.
ICWF, set up in 2009, is aimed at providing ‘on site’ welfare services on a means-tested basis in the most deserving cases, including:
- Providing boarding and lodging for distressed overseas Indian workers in household / domestic sectors, and other unskilled workers;
- Extending emergency medical care to overseas Indians;
- Providing air passage to stranded overseas Indians; and
- Expenditure on incidentals and for airlifting the mortal remains to India or local cremation / burial of deceased overseas Indians.
- The ICWF would be funded through budgetary support from the Ministry, funds raised by the Indian Missions by levying a nominal service charge on consular services and through Voluntary contributions from the Indian community.
- Apart from assisting Indian nationals in distress abroad, ICWF has been a critical support in emergency evacuation of Indian nationals in conflict zones in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and other challenging situations like assistance extended to undocumented Indian workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Nitaqat drive in 2013 and the ongoing Amnesty drive in 2017.
- It has also created a sense of confidence among the migrant workers going overseas about the support they can expect from India during critical times.
- ICWF stands extended to all Indian Missions and Posts abroad and is primarily funded by levying service charge on various consular services rendered by Indian Missions and Posts abroad.
Administration of the ICWF:
- The Heads of Missions may constitute a three member Committee for administration of the Fund with officers dealing with Labour, Consular, Community Welfare or Administration matters to review the Fund periodically.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Underwater ‘ghost nets’ posing threat to marine ecosystem off Kerala
What are ghost nets?
- Ghost gear, or ghost nets, are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea by fishermen.
Types of ghost nets:
There are four types of ghost nets that infest the bottom of the seas.
- The first are the large fishing vessels that stray into the territorial waters and deploy large nets. At times, these nets get caught in underwater reefs, forcing the vessel to abandon them before leaving the territorial waters.
- The second type are smaller nets cast by fishermen, that are cut off by a passing vessel. These too drift down to the ocean floor and get attached to the rough features there.
- The third type of ghost nets refer to those that get caught in violent currents and swivel down to the ocean floor, where they get stuck.
- The fourth type are nets abandoned at sea after three or four uses. The nets remain under water for decades if not centuries.
Why in news?
- The issue of ghost nets came up for discussion at the UN Ocean Conference recently in New York.
- Ghost nets have emerged as the greatest killers of the underwater ecosystem in the seas off Kerala.
How do they pose threats?
Ghost nets, among other fishing gear that are accidentally lowered into the depths, now pose a major threat to the natural habitat and breeding ground of underwater fish.
- The stock of fish rearing and living under water is much larger in size and number than those populating the surface. Many of the underwater reefs identified with flourishing fish stock have either been destroyed or are threatened by the ‘stifling cover’ cast by ghost nets.
- Every year ghost nets are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds.
- Ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments.
- It is estimated that at least 10 per cent of the reduced fish catch globally could be blamed on ghost nets, some of which have survived deep underwater for decades together.
World’s northernmost coral reef bleached
According to researchers, about 30 percent of the coral reef off the coast of Tsushima island in Japan, which lies in the temperate zone some 1,000 kms southwest of Tokyo, suffered bleaching.
- There was large-scale coral bleaching in Japan’s subtropical Okinawan chain of islands last summer.
- Coral in Okinawa were taking refuge in waters with lower temperatures, expanding their habitat range.
What are the major reasons?
- Above-average sea water temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as a leading cause for coral bleaching worldwide.
- Since 2015, all tropical coral reefs have seen above-normal temperatures, and more than 70 percent experienced prolonged high temperatures that can cause bleaching.
- Early in 2017, the rise in water temperature caused significant bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for the second consecutive year and also in American Samoa.
Location of Tsushima island:
[Ref: The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
E-commerce to get bigger focus at RCEP talks
Sixteen Asia Pacific nations, including India, are discussing in detail norms on e-commerce as part of negotiations on the proposed mega Free Trade Agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Discussion on E-commerce:
- Issues including digital certification, paperless trading, online consumer protection and customs duties in e-commerce have been identified for discussion.
- The discussions follow the setting up of a panel on e-commerce two years ago by RCEP countries in response to a Japanese proposal on easing foreign direct investment in the sector under which member countries would exchange best practices linked to online commerce.
- Developed nations’ demand for talks on proposed global e-commerce rules has become louder.
- Increased focus on e-commerce led to formation of an international grouping composed of Latin American nations as well as Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- Global e-commerce giants are looking for an official route to tap the lucrative developing markets, especially India.
- Australia and Japan have already proposed at the RCEP that there should be no compulsory disclosure of source codes, no restriction on transfer and processing of data outside the country, prohibition on requirements concerning the location of computing facilities and allowing cross-border transfer of information by electronic means.
- India has been opposing binding norms on opening up the e-commerce sector at the level of RCEP as well as the global level (WTO) talks on grounds including that it (India) is yet to have a comprehensive national policy on the topic.
- It is also believed that such binding norms would harm development by diminishing policy space, some economists have warned.
- Also, experts fear RCEP talks could be used by developed countries to get an outcome at the WTO ministerial in Argentina later this year.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two is:
- The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and
- The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
- RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.
DGCA braces for ICAO safety audit
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is bracing for a safety oversight audit by the U.N. body, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
- The aviation regulator (DGCA) is taking a series of steps to save it from the embarrassment of the 2012 audit in which the ICAO had raised safety concerns about India’s aviation system.
The measures include hiring flight operation inspectors, aligning its rules with ICAO norms, certifying flight examiners, among others.
About the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO):
ICAO is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
- Its headquarters are located in Quebec, Canada.
- It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
- ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.
- These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world.
- ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.
Cabinet approves MOC in respect of tax matters between India and BRICS countries
The Union Cabinet has approved signing of Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) in respect of tax matters between India and the BRICS countries namely, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.
- The MoC aims to promote cooperation amongst BRICS Revenue administrations on common areas of interest in tax matters and capacity building and knowledge sharing.
- It envisages regular interaction amongst the heads of Revenue administration of BRICS countries to continue discussion on common areas of interest.
- It also strives towards convergence of views and meeting of the experts on tax matters to discuss the contemporary issues in areas of international tax.
- MoC will also accord confidentiality and protection to information exchanged under it.
- The MoC will stimulate effective cooperation in tax matters.
- Moreover, the collective stand of BRICS countries can prove to be beneficial not only to member countries but also to other developing countries in long run in tax matters steered by the G20.
- The Heads of Revenue of BRICS countries have been meeting regularly to discuss potential areas of cooperation in tax matters.
- They are also exchanging their opinions and views based on existing commitment to openness, solidarity, equality, mutual understanding, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation in tax matters.
- It was also affirmed in the 2016 Goa Declaration of BRICS.
- The BRICS countries also had identified four areas of mutual interest on which understanding and cooperation can be further strengthened.
- The heads of Revenue of BRICS countries in their meeting held on sidelines of FTA plenary at Beijing, China in May, 2016 also had decided to sign MoC outlining areas of cooperation in tax matters.
Science & Technology
IISER Kolkata develops fire-retardant, rust-resistant material
Researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata have developed an organic-inorganic molecular hybrid material which is fire and rust resistant.
How was it developed?
- The hybrid material was synthesised by combining polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) and diphenylalanine.
- Both POSS and diphenylalanine are naturally water repelling, and when they are combined together the hydrophobic nature further gets enhanced. The POSS has unique properties such as high thermal stability and fire retarding ability.
About the material:
- The hybrid material is colourless and does not react with metal.
- It also inhibits bacterial growth and make coated material such as wood or paper fire and flame proof.
- It also increases the mechanical strength of the coated paper 1.5 times Nails coated with the material can resist corrosion even when treated with highly corrosive aqueous solution of sodium chloride, sodium bromide, potassium chloride and hydrochloric acid.
- Paper or other materials coated with it can behave similar to the lotus leaf and keep the surface clean and completely water-proof.
- The hydrophobic nature of the hybrid material can protect artefacts from corrosion and environmental pollution. Moreover, its fire-resistant property can prevent plenty of fire accidents.
Key Facts for Prelims
Gujarat retains top slot of states with most investment potential
- According to a report by economic think-tank National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Gujarat has retained the top position in the list of 21 states and UTs with most investment potential.
- Gujarat is followed by Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
- While Gujarat topped in economic climate and perceptions, Delhi ranked one in infrastructure. While Tamil Nadu topped the chart in labour issues, Madhya Pradesh ranked one in land pillar.
- The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI 2017) report ranks states on their competitiveness in business and their investment climate.
- The ranking of 20 states and one Union Territory of Delhi was based on six pillars — labour, infrastructure, economic climate, governance and political stability, perceptions and land — and 51 sub-indicators.
- The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has launched ‘mAadhaar’, a new mobile application for syncing Aadhaar data on mobile phones.
- The application allows users to have their Aadhaar profile on their mobile as a quick and convenient identification proof.
- The app also allows users to lock or unlock biometrics data.