ias-toppers-india-Japan-civil-nuke-deal
Current Affairs Analysis

22nd July 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy; National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP); Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA); The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017; India performs miserably on inequality index; Forest Fires in India; Castor oil can reduce soil pollution;
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
July 22, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Finance Minister releases National Trade Facilitation Action Plan

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Lok Sabha passes The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Social Issues

  • India performs miserably in war on inequality

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • NGT directs Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh to submit guidelines on forest fire

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India, Japan civil nuclear deal comes into force

Science & Technology

  • Castor oil can reduce soil pollution

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Polity & Governance

Finance Minister releases National Trade Facilitation Action Plan

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP).

ias-toppers-National-Trade-Facilitation-Action-Plan

  • The NTFAP was considered a major milestone for the global trading system.

About the NTFAP:

  • The NTFAP gives a time bound map, not only for implementing WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but also for India’s initiatives for trade facilitation and ease of doing business which goes beyond TFA.
  • The NTFAP aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, coordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.
  • The action plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine and DGFT in a time-bound manner.
  • The action plan not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but they go beyond the ambit of TFA per se, which have been defined as TFA Plus category.
  • It also covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructure leading to ports and the infrastructure within ports, airports, ICDs, land customs stations that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries like shipping, civil aviation, railways, road transport and highways, home affairs, finance and commerce have been assigned specified targets.
  • All actions covered under the plan have been categorised by prioritising the activities into short, mid and long term.

Monitoring and review of NTFAP:

  • The national plan would be monitored by the steering committee (the operational arm of the National Committee on Trade Facilitation) chaired by the revenue secretary and the commerce secretary.
  • The plan would be reviewed by the cabinet secretary.

Background:

  • Earlier, under Article 23.2 of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) headed by the Cabinet Secretary was constituted.
  • The NCTF comprises stakeholders from the government and the private sector, including trade community.
  • The NCTF has adopted a 76-point National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) which is a reflection of the government’s commitment to implement the TFA.

About Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):

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  • The TFA in Goods is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to streamline, simplify, standardise and ease customs procedures and norms for the cross-border movement of goods.
  • The TFA in Goods was adopted by the WTO Members in 2014.
  • It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013.
  • While Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement is the global pact proposed by India to boost services trade at the WTO-level.
  • The proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods.

Provisions under TFA:

The agreement includes provisions for:

  • Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies: It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.
  • Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.
  • Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities.
[Ref: PIB, Indian Express]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

Lok Sabha passes The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017

The Lok Sabha has passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill.

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Key facts:

  • The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 to extend the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.
  • The bill allows teachers appointed on or before March 31, 2015 to acquire minimum qualifications within a period of four years from the date of commencement of the Act.
  • This gives the 8.5 lakh unqualified teachers, appointed after implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) law, another chance to get recognized degrees.

Why is there a need for extension?

  • According to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which came into force on April 1, 2010, a teacher, who did not possess minimum qualifications, was required to acquire them in five years.
  • The Act was enacted to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the age of six and 14 years.
  • The central government subsequently received requests from states for extension of the period to enable them to complete the training process for in-service untrained teachers.
  • Moreover, many new schools had come up in the days of educational expansion under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the RTE, and many teachers who were hired did not have requisite degrees, some having studied only till school.
  • They were given five years to train themselves, and many did, but 5-6 lakh private schools teachers and 2.5-lakh government school teachers still did not have the requisite degrees.
  • The qualifications are deemed necessary to ensure that teachers are well-qualified to ensure quality of education.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Social Issues

India performs miserably in war on inequality

India has been ranked 132 out of 152 countries in an index that rates countries by their commitment to reducing inequality.

iastoppers-India-inequality-index

About the index:

  • The index and the inequality report were put together by the international NGO Oxfam and Development Finance International.
  • The index measures the efforts of governments that had pledged to reduce inequality as part of the sustainable development goals.
  • The index mainly focused on redistributive actions governments can take, rather than those that would prevent rising inequality in the first place.

Highlights of the index:

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  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries headed by Sweden ranked the highest while Nigeria was at the bottom.
  • The US had the highest level of inequality among developed countries, though it is the wealthiest country in history.
  • Ironically, Bhutan, known for coining the term ‘Gross National Happiness’, is ranked even lower than India at 143.
  • Nepal (81) and China (87) ranked between 138 and 150. This region is home to the largest chunk of poor people in the world.

Note on India:

  • The report noted that government spending on health, education and social protection was woefully low in India.
  • The tax structure looks reasonably progressive on paper, but in practice much of the progressive tax is not collected.
  • India fared poorly on labour rights as well as respect for women in the work place.
  • If India were to reduce its inequality by a third, 170 million people could be raised out of poverty. In contrast, it noted how Namibia had halved the poverty rate from 53% to 23% with very high spending on health and education.
[Ref: Economic Times]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

NGT directs Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh to submit guidelines on forest fire

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments to submit the national forest fire prevention and control guidelines.

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  • The court has also asked both the state governments to inform it about the total number of forest fires till date starting from 2016.
  • The tribunal had earlier directed the states to submit crisis management plan for prevention and control of forest fires to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Background:

  • In Himachal Pradesh during 2016-17, there were 1,545 forest fires which affected 13,069 hectare causing loss of Rs 1.53 crore, whereas, in 2015-16, there were 672 fire incidents which caused harm in 5,749.95 hectare area causing loss of Rs 1.34 crore.

Forest Fires in India:

As per the latest state of forests report of the Forest Survey of India the actual forest cover of India is 19.27% of the geographic area, corresponding to 63.3 million ha.

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  • The Forest Survey of India, data on forest fire attribute around 50% of the forest areas as fire prone. This does not mean that country’s 50% area is affected by fires annually. Very heavy, heavy and frequent forest fire damages are noticed only over 0.8%, 0.14% and 5.16% of the forest areas respectively. Thus, only 6.17% of the forests are prone to severe fire damage.
  • The bulk of forest fires in India occurs in the tropical dry forests of our country, an umbrella category encompassing scrub, savanna grassland, dry and moist-deciduous forests. Almost 70% of forests in India are composed of these types.
  • This is mainly because during the dry season, the forests shed their leaves and allow the development of fuel at the surface of forests.
  • Forests in India are also burnt for economic reasons. For example, Forest grazing is one of the important sources of income for many people.
  • Burning of forests at the peak of dry seasons helps to stimulate grass growth before monsoon rains. This is one reason of intentional forest fires in some parts of India.
  • Similarly, collection of non-wood forest products is also one of the reasons of burning. The surface fire would remove the litter and freshly fallen fruits would become visible to collect.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India, Japan civil nuclear deal comes into force

The landmark India-Japan civil nuclear agreement came into force.

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  • The India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was signed in Tokyo during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan in November, 2016.

Key provision of the pact:

  • The deal includes the option that Japan can give a year’s notice before terminating it in case India breaks the nuclear testing moratorium that it had extended to the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008.

Significance of the pact:

ias-toppers-India-Japan-civil-nuclear-deal-significance

  • This agreement is a reflection of the strategic partnership between India and Japan and will pave the way for enhanced cooperation in energy security and clean energy.
  • India is the first non-member of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to have signed such a deal with Japan. The deal will help India access Japan’s nuclear market.
  • It seeks to promote full cooperation between the two countries in the development and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes on a stable, reliable and predictable basis.
  • The deal is essential for bringing a network of nuclear energy cooperation for India, especially with the U.S. as prominent American nuclear companies are owned by the Japanese nuclear majors.
  • The deal is significant as it will help guarantee Japan’s continued support to India’s civil nuclear programme.
  • The deal will bring Japan into the Indian nuclear market where France and Russia have already have a strong presence.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Science & Technology

Castor oil can reduce soil pollution

According to a study conducted by Indian researchers, castor oil can prove useful in fighting a major problem of soil pollution.

ias-toppers-Castor-oil

How?

  • Castor seed plant has been observed growing in areas where the soil is highly polluted, including in areas where mining is carried out.
  • Castor plants growing in these areas absorb toxic heavy metals such as lead from soil.
  • Hence, Castor bean plants can be grown in such polluted lands and over a period of time the levels of heavy metals can be reduced in the soil.
  • Castor plant has also been observed to accelerate the remediation of polluted soils due to presence of some chemicals in them known as chelators which enhances the capability of castor bean plant to accumulate heavy metals.

The latest study highlights how castor bean plants can prove a boon in remediation of areas in and around Hyderabad where soil is highly polluted with heavy metals due to industrial pollution.

About the castor oil:

  • Castor oil also known as ‘Arandi ka tel’ in Hindi and ‘Amudham’ in Telugu has been an age-old home remedy for a variety of ailments in India.
  • Castor seed plant is known to be one of the most sturdiest plants.

Way ahead:

  • Government bodies can take a cue out of this study if they are serious towards remediation of polluted areas.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

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