Government Schemes & Policies
- Geographical indication (GI) Certification for five varieties of Indian coffee
Issues related to Health & Education
- Centre notifies new rules for drugs, clinical trials
- Finance Commission chief makes case for institutional mechanism to check fiscal deficit
- RBI allows non-residents to participate in rupee interest rate derivatives market
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%
- The hump-backed mahseer is now critically endangered
Defence & Security Issues
- Government sets up multi-disciplinary terror monitoring group to ensure action against terror financing in J&K
Key Facts for Prelims
- New Delhi airport named India’s best, followed by Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru
- Punjab & Haryana HC bars stating of caste in proceedings
- Tashigang: World’s highest polling station
- Rajasthan Divas
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Government Schemes & Policies
Geographical indication (GI) Certification for five varieties of Indian coffee
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry has recently awarded Geographical Indication (GI) to five varieties of Indian coffee.
Objectives behind this move:
- To allow the coffee producers of India to invest in maintaining the specific qualities of the coffee grown in that particular region.
- To enhance the visibility of Indian coffee in the world and allow growers to get maximum price for their premium coffee.
List of five varieties of Indian coffee which received GI certification:
- Coorg Arabica coffee: It is grown specifically in the region of Kodagu district in Karnataka.
- Wayanaad Robusta coffee: It is grown specifically in the region of Wayanad district which is situated on the eastern portion of Kerala.
- Chikmagalur Arabica coffee: It is grown specifically in the region of Chikmagalur district and it is situated in the Deccan plateau, belongs to the Malnad region of Karnataka.
- Araku Valley Arabica coffee: It can be described as coffee from the hilly tracks of Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha region at an elevation of 900-1100 m Mean sea level (MSL). The coffee produce of Araku, by the tribals, follows an organic approach in which they emphasise management practices involving substantial use of organic manures, green manuring and organic pest management practices.
- Bababudangiris Arabica coffee: It is grown specifically in the birthplace of coffee in India and the region is situated in the central portion of Chikmagalur district. Selectively hand-picked and processed by natural fermentation, the cup exhibits full body, acidity, mild flavour and striking aroma with a note of chocolate. This coffee is also called high grown coffee which slowly ripens in the mild climate and thereby the bean acquires a special taste and aroma.
Coffee cultivation in India:
- Coffee is cultivated in India in about 4.54 lakh hectares by 3.66 lakh coffee farmers and 98% of them are small farmers.
- India produces some of the best coffee in the world, grown by tribal farmers in the Western and Eastern Ghats, which are the two major bio-diversity hotspots in the world.
- Its cultivation is mainly confined to Karnataka (54%), Kerala (19%) and Tamil Nadu (8%) which form traditional coffee tracts.
- Coffee is also grown in non-traditional areas like Andhra Pradesh & Odisha (17.2%) and North Eastern states (1.8%), with main emphasis on tribal development and afforestation.
- Coffee is predominantly an export oriented commodity and 65% to 70% of coffee produced in the country is exported while the rest is consumed within the country.
- The two main varieties of coffee viz., Arabica and Robusta are grown in India.
Difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee:
- Arabica is mild coffee, but the beans being more aromatic, it has higher market value compared to Robusta beans.
- On the other hand, Robusta has more strength and is, therefore, used in making various blends.
- Arabica is grown in higher altitudes than Robusta.
- The cool and equable temperature, ranging between 15 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius, is suitable for Arabica while for Robusta, hot and humid climate with temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius is suitable.
- Arabica requires more care & nurture and is more suitable for large holdings whereas Robusta is suitable irrespective of size of the farm.
- The harvest of Arabica takes place between November to January, while for Robusta it is December to February.
- Arabica is susceptible to pests & diseases such as White Stem Borer, leaf rust etc., and requires more shade than Robusta.
What is a Geographical Indication?
- A ‘geographical indication’ (GI) is a place name used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.
GI registration confers:
- Legal protection to the products.
- Prevents unauthorised use of a GI by others.
- Helps consumers get quality products of desired traits.
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods by enhancing demand in national and international markets.
Why is it important?
- Article 22 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement says unless a geographical indication is protected in the country of its origin, there is no obligation under the agreement for other countries to extend reciprocal protection.
- Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
- Products sold with the GI tag get premium pricing also.
GIs and international conventions:
GI registration is essential to get protection in other countries.
- Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPR
- They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the agreements concluded at the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
- India, as member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 that came into force from September 15, 2003.
Some popular registered GIs in India:
- Some of the popular registered GIs in India are Mysore Silk, Mysore Agarbathi, Kancheepuram Silk, Orissa Ikat, Channapatna Toys & Dolls, and Coimbatore Wet Grinder, Mysore Pak (sweet), Tanjavur Veena, Pusa Basmati 1 (a high-yielding variety of scented Basmati rice) etc.
- The Monsooned Malabar Robusta Coffee, a unique specialty coffee from India, was given GI certification earlier.
- India is the only country in the world where the entire coffee cultivation is grown under shade, hand-picked and sun dried.
- Journal of Coffee Research is published by Coffee board of India Biannually.
- A total of 343 products have been conferred the GI status in India so far.
- Ministry for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation launched ‘Coffee Connect – India coffee field force app’ and ‘Coffee KrishiTharanga – digital mobile extension services’ in September 2018.
- Coffee Board in collaboration with EKA Analytics, a global leader in the data analytics has developed the hyper local weather forecast, pest identification and leaf rust disease forecast applications for pilot testing.
Issues related to Health & Education
Centre notifies new rules for drugs, clinical trials
The Union Health Ministry on March 25, 2019 notified the new Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019.
Highlights of the new rules:
- The rules reduce the time for approving applications to 30 days for drugs manufactured in India and 90 days for those developed outside the country.
- In case of no communication from Drugs Controller General of India, the application will be deemed to have been approved.
- As per the new rule the requirement of a local clinical trial may be waived for approval of a new drug if it is approved and marketed in any of the countries (EU, UK, Australia, Japan and US) specified by the Drugs Controller General with the approval of the government.
- In case of injury to a clinical trial subject, medical management will be provided as long as required as per the opinion of the investigator or till such time it is established that the injury is not related to the clinical trial.
- Also, the compensation in cases of death and permanent disability or other injury to a trial subject will be decided by the Drug Controller General.
Need for new rules:
- India has the second largest population in the world and the highest disease burden but does less than 1.2% of global clinical trial.
Objective for the new rules:
- The key aim is to promote clinical research in India, have predictable, transparent and effective regulations for such trials and also make faster accessibility of new drugs to the Indian population.
- The rules will apply to all new drugs, investigational new drugs for human use, clinical trials, bio-equivalence studies and ethics committees.
- The new rules will ensure patient safety and an ethics committee will monitor the trials and decide on the amount of compensation in cases of adverse events.
- The Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR) said that the new Clinical Trial Rules are well balanced and will further the conduct of ethical and quality clinical trials in the country which, in turn, will benefit patients.
- The new rules protect the rights, safety and well-being of patients while ensuring a strong scientific base for the conduct of clinical trials.
- This will lead to more stability and growth in clinical research being done in India, which will ultimately ensure that our patients have access to faster and more effective treatment
Finance Commission chief makes case for institutional mechanism to check fiscal deficit
Stressing on the need to have uniform rules for fiscal consolidation of states and Centre, Fifteenth Finance Commission’s Chairman has called for institutional mechanism like a ‘Fiscal Council’ to enforce fiscal rules and keep a check on Centre’s fiscal consolidation.
What is Fiscal Consolidation?
Fiscal Consolidation refers to the policies undertaken by Governments (national and sub-national levels) to reduce their deficits and accumulation of debt stock.
Steps taken by government to promote Fiscal Consolidation:
- Cut down the subsidies
- Reforms in Tax Structures
- Improve profit generated by Public Sector Enterprises
- Recover Black money
- Austerity measures (limiting Govt. expenditures by limiting perks & privileges of Ministers, and other avoidable expenditures)
Why is there a need for an Independent Fiscal Council?
- Historically, interim budgets in India have consistently overestimated revenue growth and underestimated expenditure growth.
- An analysis of the projected, revised, and actual budget figures since 1991 showed that deviations from budget estimates tend to be extraordinarily high for budget estimates presented in interim budgets.
- The over-ambitious revenue targets combined with the lack of transparency in tax administration lead overzealous taxmen to exceed their brief in a quest to fulfil unrealistic targets.
- A 2017 CAG report found that the tax department had resorted to ‘irregular’ and ‘unwarranted’ methods to meet targets.
- Presently the preferred mode of financing the deficit is the use of public sector enterprises to boost stake sales by the government.
- One way to fix these problems is to institute an independent and statutory watchdog to oversee the state of public finances.
- It was also noted that there is a need for coordination between the finance commission as well as the GST Council.
Various committee and reports supporting an independent fiscal council:
- For state government liabilities, Article 293 (3) provides a constitutional check over borrowings. But there are no such restrictions on the Centre.
- Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Review Committee [N.K. Singh committee] in its 2017 report had proposed creation of an autonomous Fiscal Council with representatives from both states and Centre, but the recommendation was not implemented.
- In 2018, the D.K. Srivastava committee on fiscal statistics established by the National Statistical Commission (NSC) also suggested the establishment of a fiscal council that could co-ordinate with all levels of government to provide harmonized fiscal statistics across governmental levels and provide an annual assessment of overall public sector borrowing requirements.
- An International Monetary Fund (IMF) working paper showed that the presence of an independent fiscal council tends to boost accuracy of fiscal projections even as it helps countries stick to fiscal rules better.
What is FRBM Act?
The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act was enacted in 2003 which set targets for the government to reduce fiscal deficits.
Aim of FRBM act:
It is to bring a check on revenue deficit, the act strives to improve the overall management of public finance by controlling unchecked borrowings and imparting financial discipline.
- When it was introduced for the first time, its target was to bring down the fiscal deficit to 3 percent of the GDP by 2008. The act however suffered several challenges, such as the global financial crisis of 2007, when it came to implementation due to several reasons.
- In the 2012-13 budget, amendments were introduced in the act. It brought forward the concept of effective revenue deficit that excluded grants to states for the creation of capital assets from conventional revenue deficit.
- Besides it also brought forward the idea of ‘Medium Term Expenditure Framework Statement,’ setting forth a three-year rolling target for the expenditure indicators with the specification of underlying assumptions and risks involved.
- In May 2016, the government set up a committee under NK Singh to review the FRBM Act.
- The committee recommended that the government should target a fiscal deficit of 3 per cent of the GDP in years up to March 31, 2020 cut it to 2.8 per cent in 2020-21 and to 2.5 per cent by 2023.
RBI allows non-residents to participate in rupee interest rate derivatives market
RBI has allowed non-residents to participate in the rupee interest rate derivatives segment with a view to deepen the rupee interest rate swap (IRS) market.
- The non-residents can undertake rupee interest rate derivative transactions on recognised stock exchanges, electronic trading platforms and over the counter markets (OTCs).
- A non-resident will be allowed to undertake transactions in the rupee interest rate derivatives markets to hedge an exposure to rupee interest rate risk and other specified purposes.
- RBI also said that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), collectively, can transact in interest rate futures (IRF) up to a limit of net long position of Rs 5,000 crore.
- RBI also observed that while the rupee interest rate swap market was most liquid among the interest rate derivatives market, it lacked depth to enable large banks to manage risks.
Aim of allowing non-residents to participate:
RBI in its first bi-monthly policy for 2018-19 in April had announced to provide access to non-residents into the IRS with a view to increase participation in the domestic market.
- There is an active market for rupee interest rate swap offshore, and the exercise is aimed at increasing participation of non-residents in the domestic market.
What is an interest rate swap?
An interest rate swap is a financial contract between two parties exchanging or swapping a stream of interest payments for a notional principal amount on regular occasions during a specified period.
- There are two parties to a swap: party one receives a stream of interest payments based on a floating interest rate and pays a stream of interest payments based on a fixed rate. Party two receives a stream of fixed interest rate payments and pays a stream of floating rate payments.
- Both payment streams are based on the same notional principal, and the interest payments are netted.
- Through this exchange of cash flows, the two parties aim to reduce uncertainty and the threat of loss from changes in market interest rates.
- A swap can also be used to increase an individual or institution’s risk profile, if they choose to receive the fixed rate and pay floating.
- This strategy is most common with companies that have a credit rating that allows them to issue bonds at a low fixed rate but prefer to swap to a floating rate to take advantage of market movements.
What is an Interest-Rate Derivative?
An interest-rate derivative is a financial instrument with a value that increases and decreases based on movements in interest rates.
- Interest-rate derivatives are often used as hedges by institutional investors, banks, companies and individuals to protect themselves against changes in market interest rates, but they can also be used to increase or refine the holder’s risk profile.
- Interest-rate derivatives can range from simple to highly complex; they can be used to reduce or increase interest rate exposure.
- Among the most common types of interest-rate derivatives are interest rate swaps, caps and floors.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%
According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), India’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are growing at a faster rate than in any other major energy-consuming nation.
- India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year.
Carbon dioxide status at global level:
- Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world. Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas, even as solar and wind posted double digit growth.
- India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China which two are biggest emitters in the world
- This was primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.
- China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
- India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden.
- The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.
- As a result of higher energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.7% in 2018.
- As per its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
- It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
- India says it will cost at least $2.5trillion (₹150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.
- The IEA report, showed that India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 10.6% from last year.
About IEA (International Energy Agency):
- The IEA works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 30 member countries and beyond.
- Main areas of focus are energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide.
- The IEA examines the full spectrum of energy issues including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy technologies, electricity markets, energy efficiency, access to energy, demand side management and much more.
- Through its work, the IEA advocates policies that will enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy in its 30 member countries and beyond.
- Important programs under IEA are:
- Clean Energy Transition Programme
- Sustainable Development Goal 7
- Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies
- Electric Vehicle Initiative
- Technology Collaboration Programmes
[Ref: The Hindu]
The hump-backed mahseer is now critically endangered
As per the IUCN Red list, a large freshwater fish called the hump-backed mahseer is now Critically Endangered.
About hump-backed mahseer:
- It is also called ‘Tiger of the water’ or ‘Tor remadevii’.
- It is only found in the Cauvery river basin including Kerala’s Pambar, Kabini and Bhavani rivers. The Cauvery River drainage basin originates in the Brahmagiri Range of the Western Ghats, Karnataka.
- There are 16 species of mahseer in India.
- Shoal, an international organisation working to conserve freshwater species, initiated ‘Project Mahseer’ in February 2019 to enable conservation action for the hump-backed mahseer.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
- It was established in October, 1948.
- As the first global environmental union, it brought together governments and civil society organisations with a shared goal to protect nature.
- IUCN also played a fundamental role in the creation of key international conventions, including the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971), the World Heritage Convention (1972), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, (1974) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).
- In 1980, IUCN – in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – published the World Conservation Strategy, a ground-breaking document which helped define the concept of ‘sustainable development’.
IUCN Red List:
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, also called IUCN Red List, one of the most well-known objective assessment systems for classifying the status of plants, animals, and other organisms threatened with extinction.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unveiled this assessment system in 1964.
- The IUCN Red List is a key indicator for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
- The IUCN Red List is often referred to as a ‘Barometer of Life.’
- The IUCN Red List Committee oversees the work of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) on biodiversity assessments.
- The IUCN Red List is used to inform decisions taken by Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
- It is often used as a guide to revise the annexes of some important international agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
- It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies.
Classification by the IUCN Red List:
- Extinct (EX) – beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
- Extinct in the wild (EW) – survives only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range, as presumed after exhaustive surveys.
- Critically endangered (CR) – in a particularly and extremely critical state.
- Endangered (EN) – very high risk of extinction in the wild, meets any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
- Vulnerable (VU) – meets one of the 5 red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention.
- Near threatened (NT) – close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future.
- Least concern (LC) – unlikely to become extinct in the near future.
- Data deficient (DD) – a condition applied to species in which the amount of available data related to its risk of extinction is lacking in some way.
- Not evaluated (NE) – a category used to include any of the nearly 1.9 million species described by science but not assessed by the IUCN.
Criteria to assess the extinction risk:
- The rate of population decline
- The geographic range
- Whether the species already possesses a small population size
- Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area
- Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild
- Three prestigious awards: The Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal, the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal and Honorary membership of IUCN will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in France in June 2020.
- More than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction in world in which amphibians are highest with 40% followed by conifers (34%), Reef corals (33%), Shark and rays (31%), Mammals (25%), Selected Crustaceans (27%) and Birds (14%).
Defence & Security Issues
Government sets up multi-disciplinary terror monitoring group to ensure action against terror financing in J&K
Union Home Ministry constituted a multi-disciplinary terror monitoring group (TMG) to ensure concerted action against terror financing and other terror-related activities in Jammu & Kashmir.
Composition of the group:
- The members of TMG will comprise additional Director General of Police (DGP) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in J&K police, who would also be its chairman.
Work of TMG:
- The body will take coordinated action in all registered cases relating to terror and terror financing and bring them to logical conclusion.
- It will identify key persons including leaders of organisations involved in supporting terrorism in any form and take concerted action against them.
- It will investigate the networks of various channels used to fund terror and terror-related activities and take coordinated action to stop the flow of such funds.
- The group will also take action against hardcore sympathisers amongst government employees including teachers who provide covert or overt support to terror-related activities in J&K.
Key Facts for Prelims
New Delhi airport named India’s best, followed by Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru
According to the Skytrax World Airport Awards, New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport is ranked first in India and 59th globally.
About the award:
- The list has been compiled by the UK-based Skytrax, a consultancy firm which runs an airline and airport review and ranking site, featuring 100 airports.
- The prestigious accolade was awarded at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2019 in London.
- The Skytrax World Airport Awards are voted for by customers in a global airport customer satisfaction survey.
Globally best airports:
- Singapore’s Changi Airport has been crowned the world’s best aviation hub for the seventh time in a row, followed by Tokyo International Airport (Haneda).
- Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) also won World’s Best Domestic Airport and World’s Cleanest Airport.
- Incheon International Airport was ranked third.
Indian airports ranking:
- New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport was eight points up this year after featuring at the 66th spot in 2018.
- The other Indian airports in the list were Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at 64th
- The Rajiv Gandhi Hyderabad International Airport is ranked at 66th
- Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport is at rank 69.
- The Japanese government officially defines hikikomori is a psychological condition for people who haven’t left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months.
- There are at least half a million of them in Japan.
- It was once thought of as a young person’s condition, but sufferers are getting older and staying locked away for longer.
- Japan already faces an aging population and massive labour market shortages.
Punjab & Haryana HC bars stating of caste in proceedings
- Punjab and Haryana High Court has barred the mentioning of caste in the FIRs.
- The court directed its judicial officers and the governments of Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, not mention the caste of the accused, victims or witnesses in any of the proceedings before it.
Why this move?
- The mentioning of caste/status separately in the criminal proceedings is a colonial legacy and requires to be stopped forthwith. The right to dignity was a fundamental and basic human right.
Tashigang: World’s highest polling station
- Tashigang in Himachal Pradesh became the world’s highest polling station.
- Tashigang is highest village in Spiti valley at an altitude of 15,256 ft.
- The Tashigang polling station in Himachal Pradesh falls in Buddhist-dominated Lahaul-Spiti, one of the 17 assembly segments that form the Mandi Lok Sabha seat, the second largest constituency in India.
- Earlier, Hikkim in Himachal Pradesh, positioned at an altitude of about 14,400 ft, was the world’s highest booth.
- Every year March 30 is celebrated as Rajasthan Diwas or Rajasthan Day, which marks the formation of this state.
- The kingdoms of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Bikaner were accessed together to form the present day state of Rajasthan on March 30, 1949.
- The present-day Rajasthan was formed in seven stages.
- Rajasthan is derived from Raja meaning king and Sthan which means abode, so it literally means the ‘land of Kings.’
- The state, however, officially came into existence on November 1, 1956.
- Rajasthan carries a deep cultural and historical significance. Some parts of the present-day state were part of the Vedic Civilisation and Indus Valley Civilisation.
- It was later ruled by dynasties like Gurjars, Rajputs, Jats, Meenas, Bhils, Yadavs, Bishnois among others, all of which made a great contribution in the building of this state.