Australia’s Uluru rock formation iastoppers
Current Affairs Analysis

26th October 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Australia’s Uluru rock formation; Maharatna, Navratna and Miniratna status of Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs); Developing country status in WTO; Classification of WTO member countries; IndiGen initiative; India’s first human genome mapping project; What is Whole-genome sequencing (WGS)? Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management; How Nitrogen is harmful; Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016; Citizenship Act 1995; Keeladi excavation site; Sakhalin oil project; Air Quality Index (AQI); SAFAR (System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research); etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
October 26, 2019

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • faces tough negotiations on CAB

Economy

  • Govt accords ‘Maharatna’ status to Hindustan Petroleum, Power Grid Corp

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • New Declaration calls for tackling global nitrogen challenge
  • Diwali likely to be less polluted, says SAFAR

Bilateral & International Relations

  • South Korea to give up developing country status in WTO talks
  • Minister of Petroleum visits Sakhalin oil field in Russia

Science & Technology

  • CSIR conducts Whole Genome Sequencing of over 1,000 Indians
  • Massive galaxy found hidden amid cosmic dust

Key Facts for Prelims

  • ASI clears further excavations at four sites in Tamil Nadu
  • Hundreds visit to Australia’s Uluru for last ever climb atop the sacred monolith

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Polity & Governance

Govt. faces tough negotiations on CAB

With political positions on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) largely unchanged, the government which is hoping to move it during the upcoming winter session beginning on November 18, faces tough negotiations.

Govt

  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill bill has been opposed by the opposition parties. They argued that the bill is in contravention of the Article 14 because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of religion.
  • They also questioned the inclusion of Afghanistan since it was not part of undivided India.

What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016?

  • The bill seeks to provide citizenship to six minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014. In other words, it amends the Citizenship Act of 1955.

Citizenship-Amendment-Bill-1

  • It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least 11 to 6 years for such migrants.
  • The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.

Key Issues and Analysis of the bill:

  • The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.
  • The Bill allows cancellation of OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences (eg. parking in a no parking zone).
  • The bill violates the basic tenets of the Constitution as Illegal immigrants are distinguished on the basis of religion.
  • It attempts to naturalise the citizenship of illegal immigrants in the region. It is perceived to be a demographic threat to indigenous communities.

What is the Citizenship Act 1995?

  • From December 3, 2004, onwards, persons born outside of India is not considered citizens of India unless their birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth.

What are the criteria to get an Indian citizenship?

  • In India, the Citizenship Act, 1995 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship:

Birth:

  • Every person born in India on or after the 26thJanuary, 1950, is a citizen of India by birth provided his / her father is not an enemy or representative of a diplomatic mission.
  • A person born in India on or after 1st July,1987 but before 3rd December, 2004 is considered citizen of India by birth if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • A person born in India on or after 3rd December, 2004 is considered citizen of India by birth if both the parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth.

Descent:

  • A person born outside India on or after Jan 26, 1950 but before 10th December 1992 is a citizen of India by descent if his/her mother/father is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • A person born outside India on or after 10th December 1992 but before 3rd December, 2004, is considered as a citizen of India if either of his parents was a citizen of India by birth at the time of his birth.
  • A person born outside India on or after 3rd December, 2004 is not a citizen of India, unless the parents declare that the minor does not hold passport of another country

Registration:

A person can acquire citizenship by registering themselves with prescribed authority. Such categories of persons are:

  • Persons of Indian origin residing outside the territories of undivided India
  • Those persons of Indian origin who are ordinarily residents in India and have been so resident for 6 months immediately before making application for registration
  • Women who are married to citizens of India
  • Children of Indian citizens
  • Adult citizens of commonwealth country or republic of Ireland

Naturalization:

  • A foreign citizen not covered by any of the above methods can get Indian citizenship with the following conditions:
  • Belongs to a country where the citizens of India are allowed to become subjects or citizens of that country by naturalization.
  • Renounces the citizenship of his country and intimated the renunciation to the Government of India.
  • Has been residing in India or serving the government for 12 months before the date of making application for naturalization.
  • Possess a good character
  • Possess working knowledge of Indian Languages
  • Intends to reside in India after naturalization.

Incorporation of the territory:

  • If a new territory becomes a part of India, the government of India specifies the persons of that territory who shall be citizens of India.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Economy

Govt accords ‘Maharatna’ status to Hindustan Petroleum, Power Grid Corp

The government accorded ‘Maharatna’ status to state-owned Hindustan Petroleum and Power Grid Corporation, thus giving them greater operational and financial autonomy.

Maharatna'-status

What does it mean to have Maharatna status?

  • The Boards of Maharatna central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) can make equity investments to undertake financial joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries.
  • They can undertake mergers and acquisitions in India and abroad, subject to a ceiling of 15 % of the net worth of that Maharatna CPSEs.
  • The Boards can structure and implement schemes relating to personnel and human resource management and training.
  • They can also enter into technology joint ventures or other strategic alliances.
  • The holding companies of a Maharatna CPSE are also empowered to transfer assets, float fresh equity and divest shareholding in subsidiaries.

Additional Information

  • Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) was incorporated in 1974 after the takeover and merger of erstwhile Esso Standard and Lube India through the Esso (Acquisition of Undertaking in India) Act passed by Parliament.
  • Power Grid Corporation of India Limited is India’s largest electric power transmission utility firm.

Maharatna, Navratna and Miniratna status of Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs)

navratna-maharatna

  • The government grants the status of Maharatna, Navratna, and Miniratna to Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) based upon the profit made by these enterprises.
  • The Maharatna, Navratna and Miniratna statuses give financial and administrative power to the companies to a certain extent.
  • Currently, there are 10 Maharatna, 14 Navratna and 73 Miniratna CPSEs.

Eligibility:

Criteria for grant of Maharatna status: –

The CPSEs fulfilling the following criteria are eligible to be considered for grant of Maharatna status.

Criteria-for-grant-of-Maharatna-status

  • Having Navratna status.
  • Listed on Indian stock exchange with minimum prescribed public shareholding under SEBI regulations.
  • Average annual turnover of more than Rs. 25,000 crore, during the last 3 years.
  • Average annual net worth of more than Rs. 15,000 crore, during the last 3 years.
  • Average annual net profit after tax of more than Rs. 5,000 crore, during the last 3 years.
  • Should have significant global presence/international operations.

Criteria for grant of Navratna status: –

The Miniratna Category – I and Schedule ‘A’ CPSEs, which have obtained ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ rating under the Memorandum of Understanding system in three of the last five years, and have composite score of 60 or above in the six selected performance parameters, namely,

  • net profit to net worth,
  • manpower cost to total cost of production/services,
  • profit before depreciation, interest and taxes to capital employed,
  • profit before interest and taxes to turnover,
  • earnings per share and
  • inter-sectoral performance.

Criteria for grant of Miniratna status: –

  • The CPSEs which have made profits in the last three years continuously and have positive net worth are eligible to be considered for grant of Miniratna status.
[Ref: Business Standard, PIB]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

New Declaration calls for tackling global nitrogen challenge

A two-day event in Sri Lanka, with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), saw member states adopt the so-called Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management.

UNEP-Colombo-Declaration-1

About Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management

  • The Colombo Declaration was developed with the support of the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS), a joint activity of the UNEP and the ‘International Nitrogen Initiative’ supported by the Global Environment Facility.
  • It aims to halve the nitrogen waste by 2030.
  • As part of the Declaration, environment ministers and officials endorsed UN plans for a campaign on sustainable nitrogen management called ‘Nitrogen for Life’.
  • The Declaration calls upon UN agencies, other international organizations, development partners, philanthropic agencies, academic and civil society organizations to support its implementation.
  • It also urges countries to conduct a comprehensive assessment on nitrogen cycling covering policy, implementation, regulation, and scientific aspects at a national level plus sensitize the citizens to understand the natural nitrogen cycle and how human impacts alter its balance.

How Nitrogen is harmful?

UNEP-Colombo-Declaration

  • In the form of the N2 molecule, nitrogen is harmless. Amino acids, proteins, DNA etc. are all nitrogen compounds.
  • However, growing demand on the livestock, agriculture, industry and energy sector has led to a sharp growth of the levels of reactive nitrogen in the form of ammonia, nitrate, nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • The nitrogen compounds released when burning fossil fuels are responsible for as much as 50% of the deadliest type of air pollution, the tiny particles that lodge inside people’s lungs.
  • Burning fossil fuels also release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is also the main cause of ozone depletion.
  • Around 80% of the synthetic nitrogen used as fertiliser to grow food goes to waste, with much of this leaking into rivers, lakes and seas.
  • According to the World Health Organization, nitrate-contaminated drinking water can cause reduced blood function, cancer and endemic goiters. Surplus inputs of nitrogen compounds have been found to cause soil acidification. The lowering pH, as a result of the acidification, can lead to nutrient disorders and increased toxicity in plants. It may also affect natural soil decomposition.
  • Nitrogen oxides also cause photochemical smog in which high level of tropospheric ozone is produced. This ozone, which is closer to the Earth’s surface, is harmful for both humans and the environment.
[Ref: The Hindu, India Today, UN]

 

Diwali likely to be less polluted, says SAFAR

Delhi is likely to witness a less polluted Diwali this year as “high deterioration” of Air Quality Index (AQI) is expected only by the first week of November, according to government-run monitoring agency SAFAR.

Diwali-likely-to-be-less-polluted

What is SAFAR?

SAFAR

  • SAFAR (System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research) was introduced by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time.
  • It was developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune along with India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  • It is integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi.
  • It will monitor all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and wind direction. It also will measure sun’s UV-Index (UVI), PM1, Mercury, Black carbon, PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides and Carbon Monoxide. It will also monitor existence harmful pollutants of Benzene, Toluene and Xylene.
  • SAFAR gives out real-time air quality index on 24×7 basis with colour coding along with 72-hour advance forecast.

SAFAR 1

Significance of SAFAR:

  • The main objective of SAFAR project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
  • The World Meteorological Organization has recognised SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high quality control and standards maintained in its implementation

 [Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

South Korea to give up developing country status in WTO talks

South Korea will no longer seek special treatment reserved for developing countries by the World Trade Organization in future negotiations given its enhanced global economic status.

South-Korea-no-longer-wants-to-be-treated

Background

  • South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has maintained its developing country status as a member of the WTO since the WTO’s creation in 1995, mainly to guard its agriculture industry.
  • In July 2019, US put pressure on the WTO to change how it designates developing countries, especially China with which it is engaged in a trade war for unfairly giving preferential treatment.

Classification of WTO member countries

There are mainly two types of countries in WTO:

wto

  1. Developed Countries and
  2. Developing Countries – (i) Least Developed Countries and (ii) Developing Countries.

Self-identification by a member either in the developing group or in the developed group is the first step of classification. Then, WTO identifies the Least Developed Countries from the developing country group by adopting the UN based per capita income criteria.

Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

  • There are no WTO definitions of developed and developing countries.
  • Members announce for themselves whether they are developed or developing countries. However, other members can challenge the decision of a member to make use of provisions available to developing countries.

What are the advantages of “developing country” status?

  • The WTO Agreements contain provisions which give developing countries special rights. These are called “special and differential treatment” provisions.

The special provisions include:

  • Longer time periods for implementing Agreements and commitments,
  • Measures to increase trading opportunities for developing countries,
  • Provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries,
  • Support to help developing countries build the capacity to carry out WTO work, handle disputes, and implement technical standards, and
  • Provisions related to least-developed country (LDC) Members.
  • Receive protection against sudden import restrictions by developed nations.

However, if a WTO member announces itself as a developing country, it does not mean that it will benefit from the unilateral preference schemes of some of the developed country such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In practice, it is the preference giving country which decides the list of developing countries that will benefit from the preferences.

Other benefits

  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT): It gives developing countries the right to restrict imports to promote the establishment or maintenance of a particular industry.
  • Non-reciprocal preferential treatment: When developed countries grant trade concessions to developing countries, developed countries can’t force the developing countries to make matching offers in return.
  • The Enabling Clause officially called the ‘Decision on Differential and More Favourable Treatment, Reciprocity and Fuller Participation of Developing Countries’ enables developed members to give differential and more favourable treatment to developing countries.
  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS): It allows developing countries and countries in transition to restrict trade in services for reasons of balance-of-payment difficulties.
  • Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS): It provides least-developed countries with a longer time-frame to implement all the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement and encourages technology transfer.
  • Waivers: A waiver enables developing and developed-country members to provide preferential treatment to services and service suppliers of least-developed countries (LDCs).

Least developed countries

  • The Classification of least developed countries is based upon the UN identification. The LDCs are identified by the WTO as per the United Nations Economic and Social Council categorization. The categorisation is based upon the per capita income of the countries. The LDCs are the countries with lowest level of per capita income.
  • There are currently 47 least-developed countries on the UN list, 36 of which to date have become WTO members.

Issues of self-identification

  • Some relatively developed countries claim the identity of developing countries to get certain benefits.
  • For instance, South Korea, Israel, Mexico, and Turkey are members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). However, they sometimes claim to be a developing country in WTO.
  • The Bali Ministerial Conference of WTO in 2013 established a mechanism to review and analyse the implementation of special and differential treatment provisions.
[Ref: Economic Times, India Today]

 

Minister of Petroleum visits Sakhalin oil field in Russia

Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel visited Sakhalin oil field in Russia.

Shri-Dharmendra-Pradhan-visits-Sakhalin-oil-field-in-Russia

  • He also visited the Rig Krechet which is the biggest and most powerful land rig in the world. It is a covered rig to allow people to work in extreme temperature. A drilling rig (similar to Bombay High) is an integrated system that drills wells, such as oil wells, in the earth’s subsurface.

About Sakhalin oil project

  • The Sakhalin-I project, a similar project to Sakhalin-II, is a consortium for production of oil and gas on Sakhalin Island in Russia.

sakhalin-oil-and-gas1

  • It operates in three fields in the Okhotsk Sea.
  • It will continue to produce oil and gas till 2055.
  • Since 2001, ONGC Videsh Limited has 20% stakes of Sakhalin-1.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

CSIR conducts Whole Genome Sequencing of over 1,000 Indians

Announcing details of the IndiGen Genome project, the health minister said that the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has conducted Whole Genome Sequencing of 1,008 Indians from different populations across the country for biomedical applications.

Genome-Sequencing-of-over-1,000-Indians

  • Scientists have also developed IndiGenome card and mobile application for researchers and clinicians to access clinically actionable information. The minister said it would ensure privacy and data security, which is vital for personal genomics to be implemented at large scale.

About the IndiGen initiative

  • IndiGen programme aims to undertake whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.
  • The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in April 2019.
  • It was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
  • This project is a supplement to India’s first human genome mapping project to sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes.

Significance

  • The whole genome data will be important for building the knowhow and indigenous capacity in the area of Precision Medicine.
  • The genomic data will help scientists understand genetic diversity of the Indian population.
  • The outcomes of the IndiGen will have applications in a number of areas including predictive and preventive medicine with faster and efficient diagnosis of rare genetic diseases.

About the India’s first human genome mapping project:

The Indian genome project will be executed in two phases.

India’s first human genome mapping project

1st phase: It involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from across the country and capture the biological diversity of India.

2nd Phase: About 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced.

  • Then, these vast data would be compared using machine learning(ML) techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.
  • The data generated can be accessed by anyone through a proposed National Biological Data Centreenvisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’.

What is Whole-genome sequencing (WGS)?

Whole-genome sequencing

  • Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is the process of determining the complete DNA sequenceof an organism’s genome.
  • Genomic information has been instrumental in identifying inherited disorders, characterizing the mutations that drive cancer progression, and tracking disease outbreak
  • Many countries have undertaken genome sequencing of a sample of their citizens to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease.
  • There is interest among private and public companies in sequencing genomes due to the declining costs for the process.
[Ref: PIB, Down To Earth]

 

Massive galaxy found hidden amid cosmic dust

Astronomers have found a massive galaxy, dating back to the early universe, lurking in cosmic dust clouds– an advance that may open the doors for discovering a new galaxy population type.

Massive-galaxy

About the newly found galaxy

  • The newly found galaxy has as many stars as Milky Way galaxy, but forms new stars at 100 times the rate of our Milky Way galaxy.
  • The galaxy was found using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), group of radio telescopes, located in Chile.
  • Scientists will use James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to study more about this galaxy once JWST telescope is launched in 2021.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

ASI clears further excavations at four sites in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu archaeological department’s request to continue excavations at four locations, including Keeladi, has been approved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The development has given hope to experts that the 1000-year gap in history between the Sangam Age and the Indus civilisation may now be bridged.

ASI-clears-further-excavations-at-four-sites-1

What is the issue?

  • In 2017, some Tamil academicians alleged that the central government had made deliberate attempts to stop the excavations at Keeladi (or Keezhadi) including deliberate transfer of excavation project manager and delay of funding.
  • They claimed that the government had a Hindutva agenda, and wanted to stop the Keezhadi project because the excavations at the site provided an evidence of a secular culture in South India.
  • However, the government clarified that it had no intention to stop or delay the excavations at Keeladi.

About Keeladi excavation site

ASI-clears-further-excavations-at-four-sites

  • Keeladi excavation site is a Sangam period settlement that is being excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India and the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department.
  • This excavation site is located in Madurai near the town of Keeladi (or Keezhadi).
  • Excavations in Keeladi, close to Vaigai river, were started by ASI in three stages between 2014 and 2017.

Findings from Keeladi excavation

  • Findings during the Keeladi excavation proved that the history of Sangam Era, earlier considered as old as 3rd century BC, is as old as 6th century BC.
  • It was also found that Tamil Brahmi script dates back to 580 BC. Earlier Evidence traced Tamili back to 490 BC.
  • Buildings with a sewage canal facility made of ceramic tubes have been found showing a strong proof that it was a well-developed city. Excavation disproved the claim that there were no buildings during the Sangam period.
  • The ceramics found from the site which are brought by merchants demonstrate business connections with the Roman Empire.

How can it help to bridge the gap between Sangam Age and the Indus civilisation?

  • In South India, researchers have found iron age between 2000 BC to 600 BC. Hence, it is assumed that graffiti marks found in Keeladi may have links to the Indus Valley period.
  • Indus script is 4,500 years old and the graffiti marks in the Keeladi region are dated between disappearance of Indus script and emergence of the Brahmi script. Some graffiti sherds found from Keeladi site are believed to be from the Iron Age people.
  • Hence, artifacts found at Keeladi excavation may point to a link between the scripts of the Indus Valley Civilization and Tamil-Brahmi.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Hundreds visit to Australia’s Uluru for last ever climb atop the sacred monolith

A permanent ban on scaling Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, comes into place in line with the long-held wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.

Hundreds-visit-to-Australia’s-Uluru

About the Uluru

  • Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in central Australia.

Uluru-Kata-National-Park

  • It is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area known as
  • It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Uluru and Kata Tjuta (also known as the Mount Olga), are the two major features of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

 

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