Current Affairs Analysis

19th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Call for probe into origin of COVID-19; World Health Assembly; International Health Regulations; India opposes rejoining RCEP; Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership; Pinanga andamanensis; South Andaman Island; Mount Harriet National Park Super cyclone Amphan; Shekatkar Committee; World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2020; International Telecommunication Union; LISA; 4.2k event; International Day of Light; Troglomyces twitteri etc.
By IASToppers
May 19, 2020

Contents

Issues related to Health and Education

  • Call for probe into origin of COVID-19

Economy

  • India opposes rejoining RCEP

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Pinanga andamanensis
  • Super cyclone Amphan

Defence & Security Issues

  • Shekatkar Committee

Key Facts for Prelims

  • World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2020
  • LISA
  • 2k event
  • International Day of Light
  • Troglomyces twitteri

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Issues related to Health and Education

Call for probe into origin of COVID-19

A resolution has been pushed by the European Union and Australia for a review of the origin and spread of the coronavirus at the World Health Assembly’s annual meeting.

Major Highlights:

  • The entire international community at the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly voiced support for addressing the key issues raised by the Corona crisis by debating the resolution.
  • An India-backed draft resolution received a big boost when the African group of nations extended support for the motion which seeks global investigation into the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • The resolution calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation into review of the origin and spread of the coronavirus.
  • The resolution gained support from almost two-thirds of the WHA’s 194 members.

World Health Assembly:

  • The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the forum through which the World Health Organization (WHO) is governed by its 194 member states.
  • It is the world’s highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states.
  • The members of the WHA generally meet annually in May in Geneva, the location of WHO Headquarters.
  • The main tasks of the WHA are to decide major policy questions, approve the WHO work programme and budget and elect its Director-General.

International Health Regulations:

  • The International Health Regulations or IHR (2005) represent an agreement between 196 countries including all WHO Member States to work together for global health security.
  • Through IHR, countries have agreed to build their capacities to detect, assess and report public health events.
  • WHO plays the coordinating role in IHR and together with its partners, helps countries to build capacities.
  • IHR includes specific measures at ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks to neighboring countries, and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions so that traffic and trade disruption is kept to a minimum.
  • IHR is a legally binding instrument of international law.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Economy

India opposes rejoining RCEP

India has not responded to a fresh proposal of rejoining negotiations on the ASEAN-led RCEP indicating its refusal to join RCEP.

Reasons behind India not joining RCEP:

  • India’s experience of trade pacts in the past had hollowed out manufacturing in the country.
  • The decision to join RCEPwould hamper the government’s renewed commitment to the ‘Make in India’ policy.
  • Presently, the government is quite focussed on moving the ‘Make in India’ programme from Level 1 to Level 2, and up above to Level 10.
  • It is a signal to the world that not only is India an attractive place to invest, but has the potential of being a global manufacturing hub.
  • India’s decision to not join RCEP will generate “optimism” amongst Indian companies, given the uncertainty over demand and consumption due to the pandemic.

RCEP:

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • It is between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and five of ASEAN’s FTA partners—Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
  • India is also ASEAN’s FTA partner, but opted out of RCEP in November 2019.

Background:

  • RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
  • In 2018, the 16 negotiating parties accounted for about half of the world’s population and 39% of the world’s GDP.
  • Without India, the 15 negotiating parties account for 30% of the world’s population and just under 30% of the world’s GDP.
  • RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.

Objective:

  • RCEP aims to create an integrated market within member countries, making it easier for products and services of each of these countries to be available across this region.
  • The negotiations are focused on the following: Trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property, dispute settlement, e-commerce, small and medium enterprises, and economic cooperation.

Why did India quit RCEP?

  • India faced a demand to reduce its existing tariffs to a considerably low level.
  • It was demanded to eliminate duties on 92% of its products and keep very low duties on another 7%, covering a total of 99% of all its agricultural and industrial products.
  • In order to protect its interest, India had proposed a three-tier tariff reduction mechanism under which the RCEP countries were categorised into three tiers based on the level of trade imbalance and existence of free trade agreement with the member country.
  • India had been facing stiff opposition from the member countries and was branded as the one impeding the overall negotiations with its unjustified demands of three-tier tariff reduction and services liberalisation.
  • Hence, the present form of the RCEP agreement did not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

India’s concern:

  • There was a fear in India that Indian industries would be unable to compete with cheap Chinese goods that would flood Indian markets.
  • India’s farmers were also worried given that they would be unable to compete on a global scale.
[Ref: The Hindu, Business Standard]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Pinanga andamanensis

A rare palm endemic to the South Andaman Island is finding a second home at Indian mainland due to the efforts of JNTBGRI.

About the species:

  • Pinanga andamanensis is a rare palm endemic to South Andaman Island, India.
  • The palm species is a critically endangered species and one of the least known among the endemic palms of the Andaman Islands.
  • Its entire population of some 600 specimens naturally occurs only in a tiny, evergreen forest pocket in South Andaman’s Mount Harriet National Park.
  • Such a small gene pool means the species is vulnerable to natural calamities such as cyclones, earthquakes.

Efforts by JNTBGRI:

  • The Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute has taken an initiative to preserve the specimen by introduction in Indian mainland.
  • By conserving the germplasm JNTBGRI can ensure its continued survival in the event of its minuscule original home getting wiped out by any natural calamity.
  • Such conservation efforts assume special significance in the era of climate change.

South Andaman Island:

  • South Andaman Island is the southernmost island of the Great Andaman islands.
  • It is home to the majority of the population of the Andaman Islands.
  • It belongs to the South Andaman administrative district, part of the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is located on this island.

Mount Harriet National Park:

  • Mount Harriet National Park is a national park located in the South Andaman islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory of India.
  • The park was established in 1969 and covers  an area about 4.62 sq. km.
  • Mount Harriet (383 m) is the third-highest peak in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago next to Saddle Peak (732 m) in North Andaman and Mount Thuillier (568 m) in Great Nicobar.
  • The park is a butterfly hotspot and the well-known species are Andaman wild pigs (an endangered species), saltwater crocodiles, turtles and robber crabs.
  • The tribal community living in the tropical forest of the park are the Negrito people who are hunter-gatherers.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Super cyclone Amphan

The Cyclone Amphan has intensified from a cyclone to a super cyclone in about 40 hours.

Amphan:

  • According to the India Meteorological Department Cyclone Amphan intensified to the super cyclone category, with wind speeds in excess of 230 km / hr.
  • This peak intensity is going to last for another 24 hours before the cyclone decreases in intensity and makes landfall somewhere along the West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts.
  • This is the first super cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal after the 1999 super cyclone that hit Odisha and claimed more than 10,000 lives.
  • It is the third super cyclone to occur in the North Indian Ocean region after 1999 which comprises the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the northern part of the Indian Ocean.
  • The other two super cyclones were Cyclone Kyarr in 2019 and Cyclone Gonu in 2007.

Intensification of Cyclone:

  • The rapid intensification (RI) of Cyclone Amphan to a super cyclone in such a small time might be a sign of a warming Bay of Bengal, a consequence of global warming.
  • It was due to many favourable conditions over the Bay of Bengal like:
    • high sea surface temperatures,
    • low vertical shear winds,
    • enough moisture in the middle layers of the atmosphere all of which aid in the development of a cyclone.
  • RI happens when there is an increase of maximum sustained winds of a cyclone by at least 55 kilometre / hour within 24 hours.

Intensification and Global warming:

  • A study published in the journal Nature Communications in February 2019 found a detectable increase in the rate of intensification of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean between 1982 and 2008.
  • It also established a link between this intensification and anthropogenic global warming but required more data and a better climate model to make exact conclusions.
  • Rapid Intensification might become more frequent in the Indian Ocean as well, especially considering the rapid and monotonic warming of the Indian Ocean.

Key Fact:

  • Both cyclones and hurricanes are tropical cyclones but are named differently according to the ocean in which they form.
  • While hurricanes form in the North Atlantic and central and eastern North Pacific Oceans, cyclones form in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Defence & Security Issues

Shekatkar Committee

Government has accepted and implemented three recommendations of the Committee of Experts under the Chairmanship of Lt General D B Shekatkar (Retd) relating to border Infrastructure.

Aim:

  • To speed up road construction, leading to socio economic development in the border areas.

Recommendations of the committee:

1. Outsourcing road construction work:

  • Outsourcing road construction work beyond the optimal capacity of Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
  • It has been made mandatory to adopt Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) mode for execution of all works costing more than Rs 100 crore.

2. Introduction of New Technology:

  • Introduction of modern construction plants, equipment and machinery has been implemented by delegating enhanced procurement powers from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore to BRO, for domestic and foreign procurements.
  • New Technology like blasting technology for precision blasting, use of Geo-Textiles for soil stabilisation, cementitious base for pavements, plastic coated aggregates for surfacing, is also being used to enhance the pace of construction.
  • With the empowerment of field officers through enhanced delegation of financial and administrative powers, there has been significant improvement in faster financial closure of works.

3. Obtaining prior clearances:

  • The land acquisition and all statutory clearances like forest and environmental clearance are also made part of approval of Detailed Project Report (DPR).
  • With the adoption of EPC mode of execution, it is mandatory to award work only when 90 per cent of the statutory clearances have been obtained, implementing the recommendation of CoE regarding obtaining prior clearances before the commencement of the project.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2020 

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2020 was celebrated on 17 May, 2020.

About the day:

  • The Day has been celebrated since 1969, marking the founding of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865.
  • Theme: Connect 2030: ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

International Telecommunication Union:

  • ITU is the UN specialised agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs).
  • It has 193 countries as its members and some 900 private-sector entities and academic institutions.
  • ITU is responsible for allocating global radio spectrum and satellite orbits.
  • It works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.
  • It strives to improve access to ICTs among the underserved communities worldwide.
  • The ITU is active in the areas of broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

[Ref: TOI]

LISA

  • A recent medical technique, known as less invasive surfactant administration (LISA), has been started at a Jaipur Hospital for treatment of lung disease or respiratory distress syndrome among premature babies.
  • Need: LISA has been developed as a lung protective strategy for respiratory management and ventilation in view of the mechanical ventilation causing damage to the preterm lungs of newborns.
  • Ventilatory support was gradually weaned and babies were put on non-invasive ventilation like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) after maturation of lungs.

4.2k event

  • A major global cooling event known as the ‘4.2k event’ some 4,200 years ago led to the dispersal of rice from China to all parts of Asia, a new study has found.
  • The study reconstructed the historical movement of rice across Asia using whole-genome sequences of more than 1,400 varieties of rice.
  • The event caused the japonica variety of rice to disperse from China to tropical southeast Asia as well as temperate northern Asia such northern China, Korea and Japan.
  • The other major variety of Asian rice, namely indica, originated in the lower Ganges valley 4,000 years ago and spread to China.
  • The researchers also found that temperature, rather than water availability and rainfall, was the key determinant in rice diversity.

International Day of Light

  • The day is observed by the United Nations annually on May 16.
  • It aims to raise awareness on the critical role played by light-based technologies in everyday life.
  • May 16 marks the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman.
  • The IDL is administered from the International Basic Science Programme (IBSP) of UNESCO, and its Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste, Italy.

Troglomyces twitteri

  • A new species has been discovered using a Twitter image and thus has been named as Troglomyces twitteri.
  • It is a type of parasitic fungusbelonging to an order called Laboulbeniales 
  • It is a tiny fungal parasite that attacks insects and millipedes.

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