Current Affairs Analysis

23rd June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Macaws; Decarbonizing Transport in India Project; International Transport Forum; Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI); Goliath frogs; UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); Senkaku islands; Nepal amending Citizenship Act; Madhesis; India-China-Russia trilateral; Ambubachi Fair; Exclusive Investment Forum by Invest India; Indira Rasoi Yojana; Punjab public grievance redressal policy; First open source model of Covid-19 spike protein; FabiFlu, Cipremi and Covifor; Foldscope; Blazars; Cannes Film Festival; UNICEF Kid Power etc.
By IASToppers
June 23, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Decarbonizing Transport in India Project

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • DRI busts syndicate smuggling exotic macaws
  • Goliath frogs need urgent conservation measures

Bilateral & International Relations

  • China to join UN arms trade treaty
  • Japan to rename islands disputed with China
  • Madhesis oppose new Nepal rule

Defence & Security Issues

  • India to take part in China-Russia trilateral

Art & Culture

  • Ambubachi Fair

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Exclusive Investment Forum by Invest India
  • Indira Rasoi Yojana
  • Punjab public grievance redressal policy
  • First open source model of Covid-19 spike protein
  • FabiFlu, Cipremi and Covifor
  • Foldscope
  • Blazars
  • Cannes Film Festival
  • UNICEF Kid Power

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Government Schemes & Policies

Decarbonizing Transport in India Project

NITI Aayog in collaboration with International Transport Forum will launch the Decarbonizing Transport in India project on 24 June.

Aim:

  • To develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system for India.

Major Highlights:

  • The Decarbonising Transport in India project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.
  • It will provide the government with a detailed understanding of current and future transport activity and the related CO2 emissions as a basis for their decision-making.
  • The online event will inform transport and climate stakeholders in India about planned project activities.
  • It will also offer the opportunity to provide inputs regarding India’s transport challenges and how they relate to CO2 reduction ambitions.
  • The discussion will help to focus the project further on India’s specific needs and circumstances.

International Transport Forum:

  • The International Transport Forum is an inter-governmental organisation within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) system for transport policy.
  • It is the only global body with a mandate for all modes of transport.
  • It acts as a think tank for transport policy issues and organises the annual global summit of transport ministers.
  • The organization provides policy makers and the global transport community with evidence-based insights on transport policy issues.
  • India has been a member of ITF, since 2008.
[Ref: PIB]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

DRI busts syndicate smuggling exotic macaws

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has busted a wildlife smuggling syndicate of a consignment of exotic macaws which had been smuggled from Bangladesh to Kolkata.

Major Highlights:

  • The joint operation was carried out in coordination with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and the Customs Department at the Kolkata airport.
  • The possibility of spread of zoonotic diseases on account of smuggling in such exotic species was increasingly becoming a global concern against the backdrop of COVID-19.
  • The Sections 48 and 49 of the Wildlife Protection Act prohibit trade or commerce in wild animals, animal articles or trophies. The accused can be sentenced to seven years of jail for the offence.
  • The illegal wildlife trade was ranked the fourth largest transnational organised crime globally, after the smuggling of narcotics, counterfeit goods and human trafficking.
  • West Bengal and northeast India are vulnerable to cross-border wildlife smuggling because of their proximity to the Bangladesh and Myanmar borders, and to Thailand.

Macaw:

  • Macaws are long-tailed, often colorful, New World parrots.
  • They are popular in aviculture or as companion parrots, although there are conservation concerns about several species in the wild.
  • The majority of macaw species are now endangered in the wild and a few are extinct.

Directorate of Revenue Intelligence:

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence is the apex anti-smuggling agency of India.
  • It works under the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence was constituted on 4th December 1957.
  • It detects and curbs smuggling of contraband (goods that have been imported or exported illegally), including drug trafficking and illicit international trade in wildlife and environmentally sensitive items.
  • It also combats commercial frauds related to international trade and evasion of Customs duty.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Goliath frogs need urgent conservation measures

According to a recent estimate, the total population of goliath frogs has dropped by at least 50 per cent over the last 15 years driving them to the brink of extinction.

About the species:

  • The goliath frog is the largest frog in the world, with some adult individuals weighing as much as 2.99 kilograms.
  • They are found only in the tropical rainforest of central Africa, within the south western part of Cameroon and north of Equatorial Guinea.
  • IUCN status: Endangered

Concerns:

  • This species has a limited geographic distribution, narrow ecological requirements and is largely hunted by the local communities in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea for consumption and pet trade.
  • Climate change, deforestation, commercial agriculture, and over-hunting are some of the prime causes driving this species to extinction.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

China to join UN arms trade treaty

China has recently announced to join the UN arms trade treaty as its efforts to enhance peace and stability in the world.

What is UN arms trade treaty?

  • The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons.
  • The UN General Assembly adopted ATT in 2013 and it entered into force on 4th December 2014.
  • The ATT is an attempt to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace; reducing human suffering; and promoting co-operation, transparency, and responsible action by and among states.

Features of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT):

  • Aims to prevent diversion of arms for crimes and genocides.
  • Designed to control the flow of weapons into conflict zones.
  • By curbing illicit trade of conventional firearms, tanks, artillery, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and ammunitions.
  • Puts legally binding obligations on both importing and exporting country.
  • Importers have to provide detail about usage of arms purchased, and assure the exporting country about compliance with this treaty.
  • Exporting nation prevent arms transfer, if they suspect possible usage in genocides or crimes against humanity.
  • Mechanism for information sharing among member states to prevent diversion of the arms.
  • The ATT does not place restrictions on the types or quantities of arms that may be bought, sold, or possessed by states.

Key Facts:

  • India has not signed the treaty citing that it has strong and effective national export controls on military hardware to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • As per latest reports of SIPRI (January 2020), China is the second largest arms producer in the world, behind the US.
  • US had signed the treaty but not ratified it yet. Trump has called to exit from the same.
[Ref: Economic Times]

Japan to rename islands disputed with China

Japan has passed a bill to rename a group of islands disputed with China, which has not gone well with the country.

Major Highlights:

  • Japan’s Ishigaki city assembly has passed a bill to rename an administrative area covering uninhabited Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
  • The move triggered a backlash from China and Taiwan, both of which also claim the uninhabited islets as their own.
  • The assembly changed the name of the southern Japan area containing the Senkaku Islands from Tonoshiro to Tonoshiro Senkaku, which the two countries see as an attempt to cement Japan’s claim by inserting the Japanese name Senkaku.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Madhesis oppose new Nepal rule

A key parliamentary panel in Nepal has proposed to amend the country’s Citizenship Act that would require a foreign woman married to a Nepali national to wait seven years for naturalized citizenship.

What is the issue?

  • The bill to amend the existing Citizenship Act was registered at the Nepalese Parliament recently.
  • The ruling Nepal Communist party (NCP) has decided to make foreign women married to Nepali men eligible for naturalized citizenship on the basis of matrimonial relations only after seven years.
  • The foreign woman will get residence permit till she is eligible for citizenship.
  • Presently, a foreign man married to a Nepali woman must wait 14 years for citizenship.

Significance:

  • The amendment bill proposes changes to Clause 4.1(b) of the Citizenship Act paving the way for women receiving residence permits to exercise economic, social and cultural rights and provide seven different economic, social and cultural rights to such women.
  • Lack of a citizenship certificate will not bar them from running any businesses and earn, use and sell any fixed and movable assets, make profits through businesses and get involved in transaction of property of any kind.

Reaction:

  • Nepal’s opposition parties criticized the move saying it would cause inconvenience to people living in Madhes as cross-border marriage is prevalent there.
  • The parties are in a view to grant the women citizenship as soon as they get married.
  • The proposal has been criticized by women groups, who said an all-male secretariat should not have a say in a matter which largely concerns females.
  • They also pointed out that the amendment does not speak about foreign men who are married to Nepali women.

Who are Madheshi?

  • The Madheshi are the inhabitants of the Terai region in the south of Nepal at the foothill of the Himalayas on the border with India in Bihar.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Defence & Security Issues

India to take part in China-Russia trilateral

India’s External Affairs Minister will take part in the Russia-India-China trilateral on 23 June, in indicator that India is prepared to press on with diplomatic moves with China clashes at the Line of Actual Control.

Major Highlights:

  • The meeting will be held via video conference and will be hosted by Russian Foreign Minister.
  • No bilateral issues would be discussed during the video conference.
  • The three ministers are expected to discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability and RIC cooperation in that context.
  • It is being seen as an indicator that the government is willing to put aside the bilateral issues with China for the moment.

Role of Russia:

  • Russia has emerged as a key diplomatic player amid the tensions between India and China.
  • India has a historical relationship with Russia, spanning over seven decades.
  • The strongest pillar of the strategic partnership is of the defence basket.
  • Although India has consciously diversified its new purchases from other countries, the bulk of its defence equipment is from Russia.
  • Estimates say 60 to 70 per cent of India’s supplies are from Russia, and India needs a regular and reliable supply of spare parts from the Russian defence industry.
  • India has made this decision to reach out to Russia not just out of choice, but also out of necessity, since it believes Russia has leverage and influence to shape and change China’s hard stance on border issue.

 [Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

Art & Culture

Ambubachi Fair

For the first time in almost 500 years, the Ambubachi fair in Assam began at the Kamakhya temple on without mendicants, hermits and devotees, due to COVID-19.

About the fair:

  • Ambubachi Mela is the most important festival of the Kamakhya Devi Temple of Guwahati, Assam.
  • The Mela is celebrated every year during the monsoon season, which happens to fall in around the middle of the month of June.
  • It marks the celebration of the annual menstruation of Mother Earth.

Kamakhya Devi Temple:

  • It is one of 51 Shaktipeeths or holy sites for the followers of the Shakti cult, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.
  • The temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses the yoni.
  • As per the legends, the temple atop the Nilachal Hills was built by demon king Narakasura.
  • But records are available only from 1565, when Koch king Naranarayana had the temple rebuilt in 1565.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Exclusive Investment Forum by Invest India

  • Union Minister of Food Processing Industries launched the Food Processing Edition of the Exclusive Investment Forum by Invest India, the National Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency of the Government of India today.
  • Due to the COVID pandemic, the sector has seen unique challenges and has been playing a very important role in ensuring that the lockdown was successful.
  • These challenges are leading to opening up of new opportunities such as this exclusive forum which has made it possible for over 180 investors, 6 state governments and the Central government to be at the same place at the same time.
  • Union Minister explained all participants about the myriad opportunities available in the Indian food processing sector, with the focus on importance of nutritional food.
  • The Indian metabolism has managed to handle COVID better than many other countries and superfoods in India need to be highlighted to the western world.

Indira Rasoi Yojana

  • Rajasthan Chief Minister announced that meals (twice a day) will be made available to the poor at a concessional rate under the state government’s ‘Indira Rasoi Yojana’.
  • There is a dearth of nutritious food and it is with the idea that nobody goes to sleep hungry.
  • The needy people living in the jurisdiction of urban local bodies will be getting nutritious meals twice a day at concessional rates. The rate for the meals are yet to be finalised.
  • A committee headed by the district collector will be monitoring this Yojana and the government will spend around Rs 100 crore each year on the scheme.
  •  The CM added that partnership of local NGOs will also be ensured for the functioning of the scheme.

Punjab public grievance redressal policy

  • The Punjab approved a comprehensive public grievance redressal policy to bring the grievance mechanisms of all departments under one umbrella, within the ambit of ‘digital Punjab’.
  • The policy provides for establishment of standardized work-flow for grievance redressal, assigns time-lines to each officer in the work-flow for resolution of grievance.
  • It enables citizens to submit their feedback on the resolution provided, escalates grievances to higher authorities and allows for analysis of the collected data for evidence-based decision making.

First open source model of Covid-19 spike protein

  • Scientists have produced the first open source all-atom models of full-length spike protein of the novel coronavirus that facilitates its entry into the host cells.
  • It is being seen as an advance that may aid faster Covid-19 vaccine and antiviral drug development.
  • The spike or S protein of SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 facilitates viral entry into host cells.
  • This makes S protein the main target for vaccine and antiviral drug development.

FabiFlu, Cipremi and Covifor

  • While Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has launched favipiravir under the brand name FabiFlu for treatment of mild to moderate cases of Covid-19, Cipla and Hetero Labs have received approvals from the Drug Controller General of India to launch generic versions of Remdesivir under the brand names Cipremi and Covifor respectively.
  • Remdesivir is an antiviral drug first developed for treating Ebola in 2014. It is administered intravenously and inhibits viral replication in the body.

Other Potential Treatments

  • Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressant commonly used to treat for rheumatoid arthritis, has been used to treat more than 100 severely ill Covid-19 patients in Mumbai.
  • Itolizumab, a drug commonly used for the skin disorder psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune disorders, is being trialled on Covid-19 patients in Delhi and Mumbai.

Foldscope

  • Foldscope is an affordable origami-based microscopy device composed of a series of paper clippings.
  • Upon assembly, the device can hold a specimen slide for observation, and this specimen can be viewed via a mobile phone camera attached to it.
  • The use of the Foldscope in the clinical diagnosis of oral and urinary tract infections and evaluated its efficacy as a motivational tool for improving oral health among school children in India.
  • Using this tool, one can easily monitor own-kidney stone status at home with a simple glass-slide, a Foldscope and a phone in hand.

Blazars

  • A blazar is a feeding super-massive black-hole in the heart of a distant galaxy that produces a high-energy jet viewed face-on from Earth.
  • Blazars are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the known universe with a jet composed of ionized matter traveling at nearly the speed of light directed very nearly towards an observer.
  • Study of optical properties of super-massive black-hole can provide clue to emission mechanism from its close vicinity.

Cannes Film Festival

  • Indian Participation at Cannes Film Festival – 2020 recently began with the e-inauguration of the Virtual India Pavilion by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
  • The Cannes Festival, until 2003 called the International Film Festival, is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from all around the world.
  • The official language of the Cannes Film Festival is, like the Olympics, French.

UNICEF Kid Power

  • UNICEF Kid Power is a philanthropic initiative that was launched in 2015 as a division of the US Fund for UNICEF.
  • UNICEF Kid Power, with the help of California-based technology firm Calorie Cloud and design studio Ammunition, developed the world’s first “Wearable for Good” activity tracker called Kid Power Bands.
  • These bands act as a kids’ fitness tracker bracelet that connects to a smartphone app.
  • The app lets users’ complete missions, which counts total steps and awards points.
  • The points then unlock funding from partners, which is then used by UNICEF to deliver packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world.
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