Current Affairs Analysis

4th June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Cyclone Nisarg; SWADES initiative; Pharmacopoeia Commission; Study of COVID’s genetic dimension; Genome India Project; Naming of Cyclones; Kohala Hydropower Project; China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; USTR launches probe for digital tax; Buddhist rock engravings in Gilgit-Baltistan; Rock of Hunza; National Productivity Council; Global Economic Prospects Report; Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Port; MoU with Bhutan; Over the Top streaming; COVID-19 Management index; Lockdown costing lives indirectly; Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope etc.
By IASToppers
June 04, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes and Policies

  • SWADES initiative
  • Cabinet approves establishment of PCIM&H

Issues related to Health and Education

  • Study of COVID’s genetic dimension

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Cyclone Nisarg

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Kohala Hydropower Project
  • USTR launches probe for digital tax

Art and Culture

  • Vandalism of Buddhist rock engravings in Gilgit-Baltistan

Key Facts for Prelims

  • National Productivity Council
  • Global Economic Prospects Report
  • Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Port
  • MoU with Bhutan
  • Over the Top streaming
  • COVID-19 Management index
  • Lockdown costing lives indirectly
  • Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope

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Government Schemes and Policies

SWADES initiative

The Government of India has launched a new initiative SWADES to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission. 

Objective:

  • To create a database of qualified citizens based on their skill sets and experience and fulfil demand of Indian and foreign companies.

Major Highlights:

  • SWADES stands for Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support.
  • This is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The initiative aims to make the best use of the skilled workforce returning to the country due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • The collected information will be shared with the companies for suitable placement opportunities in the country.
  • The returning citizens are required to fill up an online SWADES Skills Card.
  • The card will facilitate the returning citizens with suitable employment opportunities through discussions with key stakeholders including State Governments, Industry Associations and Employers.
  •  The implementation of the project is supported by National Skill Development Corporation. 

Significance:

  • The spread of COVID-19 had a significant economic impact with thousands of workers losing their jobs and hundreds of companies shutting down globally.
  • The data collected through SWADES Skill Card will help the citizens with job prospects and bridge the demand-supply gap.
  • Further, a lot of our overseas workers returning to India possess international skill sets and experience which can be of great value for domestic and international markets.

 [Ref: PIB]

Cabinet approves establishment of PCIM&H

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval to re-establish Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIM&H).

  • PLIM, HPLand PCIM&H are going to be merged to establish PCIM&H, as a subordinate office of the Ministry of AYUSH with common administrative control.

Objective:

  • Optimizing the use of infrastructural facilities, technical manpower and financial resources of the three organizations.
  • Enhancing the standardization outcomes of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs towards their effective regulation and quality control.

Major Highlights:

  • The approval has been given to establish PCIM&H as Subordinate Office under Ministry of AYUSH by merging Pharmacopoeia Laboratory for Indian Medicine (PLIM) and Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia Laboratory (HPL)- the two central laboratories established at Ghaziabad since 1975.
  • Presently, PCIM&H is an autonomous body under the aegis of Ministry of AYUSH established in 2010.
  • This merger will facilitate focused and cohesive development of standards of AYUSH drugs and publication of pharmacopoeias and formularies.
  • It is also intended to accord legal status to the merged structure of PCIM&H and its laboratory by virtue of making necessary amendments and enabling provisions in the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

Significance:

Post-merger PCI M&H will have adequate administrative structure under the Ministry to strive for:

  • Augmenting the capacity and outcomes of pharmacopoeial work;
  • Achieving harmonization of pharmacopoeial standards of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs;
  • Preventing duplication and overlapping of drug standardization work and
  • Optimal utilization of resources in an effective manner.

Key fact:

  • Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission is an autonomous institution of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which sets standards for all drugs that are manufactured, sold and consumed in India.
  • Pharmacopoeia is an official publication containing a list of medicinal drugs with their effects and directions for their use.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health and Education

Study of COVID’s genetic dimension

The Bengaluru-based team of scientists leading the new Genome India Project has submitted a fresh proposal to Delhi to examine samples of a thousand Covid-19-infected Indians. 

Major Highlights:

  • The team wants to study and develop more insights into the role of genetic components in resistance and susceptibility to COVID-19.
  • A person’s immune system is his response to the environment, but immunity has aspects that relate to the genetic component too.
  • The team wants ethical clearances and to get access to the blood samples of infected individuals, and look at the genetic determination of infectability.

Genome India Project:

The ambitious Genome India Project is the government of India-project tasked with mapping India’s genetic diversity.

Objective:

  • To build a grid of the Indian reference genome, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population.

Key Features:

  • The project is being headed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru as the nodal point of about 20 institutions including a few IITs, each doing its bit in collecting samples, doing the computations and research.
  • The mega project hopes to form a grid after collecting 10,000 samples of healthy individuals in the first phase from across India, to arrive at a representative Indian genome.
  • Second phase is meant to be about another batch of 10,000 of Indian samples with diseases, of three broad categories — non-communicable diseases like cardio-vascular and diabetes, mental illnesses and cancer.
  • A sum of Rs 238 crore was allotted by the Department of Biotechnology for the Genome India Project in January 2020.
  • The Indian project will aim to vastly add to the available information on the human species which is possible because of the scale of the Indian population and the vertical and horizontal diversity here.

Challenges involved:

1. Medical ethics:

  • The risks involved are misuse or unqualified access to the technology.
  • After collection of the sample, anonymity of the data and questions of its possible use and misuse would need to be addressed.

2. Data & Storage:

  • Keeping the data on a cloud is full of problems and would raise questions of ownership of the data.
  • India is yet to pass a Data Privacy Bill with adequate safeguards.

3. Social issues:

  • The question of heredity and racial purity has obsessed civilisations, and more scientific studies of genes and classifying them could reinforce stereotypes and allow for politics and history to acquire a racial twist.
  • In India a lot of politics is now on the lines of who are “indigenous” people and who are not.
  • The Genome India Project could add a genetic dimension to the cauldron.
  • It may also add to the existing problem of Selective Breeding.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Cyclone Nisarg

Cyclone Nisarga, which intensified into a severe cyclonic storm has made landfall on the Maharashtra coast. 

About the cyclone:

  • The fast-moving depression in the Arabian Sea that hit the west coast of India has intensified into a severe cyclonic storm.
  • The name ‘Nisarga’ has been suggested by Bangladesh.

How are the cyclones named?

  • Cyclones that form in every ocean basin across the world are named by the regional specialised meteorological centres (RSMCs) and Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs).
  • There are six RSMCs in the world, including the India Meteorological Department (IMD), and five TCWCs.
  • As an RSMC, the IMD names the cyclones developing over the north Indian Ocean, including the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, after following a standard procedure.
  • The IMD is also mandated to issue advisories to 12 other countries in the region on the development of cyclones and storms.
  • In 2000, a group of nations called WMO/ESCAP (World Meteorological Organisation/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), which comprised Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, decided to start naming cyclones in the region.
  • After each country sent in suggestions, the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) finalised the list.
  • The WMO/ESCAP expanded to include five more countries in 2018 — Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Criteria for the consideration of cyclone names:

  • The proposed name should be neutral to (a) politics and political figures (b) religious beliefs, (c) cultures and (d) gender.
  • Name should be chosen in such a way that it does not hurt the sentiments of any group of population around the world.
  • It should not be very rude and cruel in nature.
  • It should be short with a maximum length of eight letters and easy to pronounce.
  • The proposed name should be provided along with its pronunciation and voice over.
  • The panel reserves the right to reject any name, if any of the criteria above is not satisfied.
  • The names of tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean will not be repeated.
[Ref: Indian Express, Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

Kohala Hydropower Project

China under the multi-billion-dollar CPEC will set up a 1,124-megawatt power project in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite India’s objection.

Major Highlights:

  • The details of the Kohala hydropower project was presented in the 127th meeting of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) chaired by Pakistan’s Energy Minister.
  • A tripartite agreement has been finalised among China’s Three Gorges Corporation, the authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the PPIB to implement the 1,124-megawatt Kohala hydroelectric power project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework.
  • The project will be built on the Jhelum River and aims at annually providing more than five billion units of clean and low-cost electricity for consumers in Pakistan.
  • Further, Pakistan government has signed a whopping Rs 442 billion contract with a joint venture of a Chinese state-run firm and a commercial arm of Pakistan’s powerful military for construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan, POK.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor:

  • The 3,000-km-long CEPC is aimed at connecting China and Pakistan with rail, road, pipelines and optical cable fibre networks.
  • It connects China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan Gwadar port, providing access to China to the Arabian Sea.
  • The CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan region which lies in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, over which India has conveyed its protests to China.
  • The Chinese presence in a disputed region which India claims as part of its own territory raises sovereignty concerns for India.
  • The establishment of a project with China in the disputed territory gives Pakistan’s occupation of the area a degree of legitimacy.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

USTR launches probe for digital tax

The office of the United States Trade Representative is initiating investigations into taxes adopted or under consideration by 10 nations, including India, on revenues of American digital service companies like Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, LinkedIn and Spotify.

Digital Services Tax:

  • Over the past two years, various jurisdictions have taken under consideration or adopted taxes on revenues that certain companies generate from providing certain digital services to, or aimed at, users in those jurisdictions.
  • They are referred to as Digital Services Taxes, or DSTs.

Major Highlights:

  • The US is probing the 2 percent DST that India adopted in March and which went into effect on April 1, 2020.
  • The tax applies only to non-resident companies with annual revenues over $267,000, and covers online sales of goods & services to, or aimed at, persons in India.
  • The investigation has been initiated by USTR against other key trading partners of the US, including India.
  • The Section 301 provision gives the USTR “broad authority” to investigate and respond to a foreign country’s action which may be unfair or discriminatory as well as negatively affect US commerce.
  • Adopted in 1974, it allows the US President to impose tariffs or other curbs on foreign nations.

Outcome:

  • In India’s case, it could potentially affect the outcome of a bilateral trade deal that the NDA government has been looking to forge with the US.
  • India is expected to respond to the move by submitting its responses to the USTR, with the main line of argument likely to be that the levy is in compliance with India’s commitments under the 1995 General Agreement on Trade in Services and is applicable on all global companies, not just American ones.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Art and Culture

Vandalism of Buddhist rock engravings in Gilgit-Baltistan

India has reacted strongly to reports of vandalism and defacement of ancient Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit-Baltistan under Pakistan’s control.

What is the issue?

  • The Buddhist sites in Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan have been desecrated by Islamists, who painted Pakistani flags and slogans on the rock-cut art.
  • The Buddhist residents, who found the paintings to be fresh, said that the vandalism by the Islamists was in retaliation to the recent protests against the Diamer Bhasha dam project, a joint Pakistan-China project.
  • The conservationists and activists had expressed apprehension that the artefacts will get submerged in the Diamer Bhasha dam that China and the Pakistan Army are jointly constructing in the area.

Rock of Hunza:

  • The Sacred Rock of Hunza is carved rock as well as a cultural heritage site in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
  • The carvings on the rock dates back to the 1st Millennium AD.
  • The rock is on the top of a hill which lies east to the Hunza River.
  • The Sacred Rock is divided into two portions, an upper portion and a lower one.
  • Both the portions carry carvings on them which are basically inscriptions and images from the Prehistoric era.
  • The site had many Buddhist shelter caves in ancient times which later collapsed or fell over the time.
  • The rock carvings and engravings in areas were part of the Buddhist circle covering Ladakh and Tibet.

Upper Portion:

  • The upper portion of the rock consists of inscriptions which are carved in Sogdian, Kharosthi, Brahmi, Sarada and Proto Sarada languages.
  • The names of the Emperors of the Kushan Empire appear in these inscriptions as well as the names of other Emperors from the Empires of Kanishka and Huvishka.
  • The name of the Trukha King Ramadusa is also mentioned in inscriptions which are carved in Brahmi language.

Lower Portion:

  • The lower portion is engraved by the images of Ibexes.
  • The carvings also contain Horned-Human deities playing with the ibexes.
  • The carvings of the Ibexes are a proof of the ibex being an animal which holds cultural importance to Buddhists as well as to the region in ancient times.
  • Some carvings show a Tibetan styled Stupa.
[Ref: The Hindu, Op India]

Key Facts for Prelims

National Productivity Council

  • NPC is a national level organization to promote productivity culture in India.
  • Established by the Ministry of Industry in 1958, it is an autonomous, multipartite, non-profit organization with equal representation from employers’ and workers’ organizations and the government.
  • It is an autonomous body under Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  • NPC is a constituent of the Tokyo-based Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental body, of which India is a founding member.

Global Economic Prospects Report 

  • The Global Economic Prospects Report, 2020 has recently been launched by the World Bank.
  • GEP is World Bank Group’s flagship report that examines global economic developments and prospects with special focus on developing and emerging market economies.
  • It is issued twice a year in January and June.
  • The impact of COVID-19 has made the Emerging Market and the Developing Economies highly vulnerable. 
  • These countries according to the report are expected to have 3% to 8% output loss.
  • Around 60 million people may be pushed to extreme poverty due to COVID-19 this year. 
  • The report suggests making better policy choices which includes greater debt transparency, expansion of cash safety, digital connectivity, improving business environment, enhancing outcomes of education and improving governance.

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Port

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval to rename Kolkata Port as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Port.
  • The Kolkata Port is the first Major Port as well as the only riverine port of the country.
  • It features at Serial Number 1 in The First Schedule, Part I—Major Ports of the Indian Ports Act, 1908 and is governed by the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
  • Nhava Sheva Port Trust was renamed as Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in 1989.
  • The Tuticorin Port Trust was renamed as V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust in 2011 and the Ennore Port Limited has been re-named as Kamarajar Port Limited in the honour of Shri K Kamarajar, eminent freedom fighter and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
  • Recently, in 2017 Kandla Port was re-named as Deendayal Port.

MoU with Bhutan

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing the Memorandum of Understanding between India and Bhutan on Cooperation in the areas of Environment.
  • The MoU will enable establishment and promotion of closer and long-term cooperation between the two countries in the field of environment protection and management of natural resources on the basis of equity, reciprocity and mutual benefits, taking into account the applicable laws and legal provisions in each country.
  • MoU covering the following areas of environment has been considered: Air; Waste; Chemical Management; Climate Change; and Any other areas jointly decided upon.

Over the Top streaming

  • Amid shutdown due to COVID-19 the announcement that movies will be released online didn’t go well with theatre owners and they declared to boycott movies of the producers.
  • Over the Top (OTT) services refer to any type of video or streaming media that provides a viewer access to movies or TV shows by sending the media directly through the internet.
  • OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.
  • The complete services can be accessed with an active internet connection either locally or through a mobile network. 
  • Some of the most popular OTT providers include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video etc.

COVID-19 Management index

  • Rajasthan has occupied first rank in the COVID-19 management index analysed for 10 States by the Central government, which included parameters such as active cases, recovered cases and mortality rate.

Lockdown costing lives indirectly

  • A study has observed that while the lockdown invoked in India saved fatalities from COVID-19, it would cost lives indirectly.
  • Lives lost through violence, starvation, indebtedness and extreme stress will be invisible, as an indirect consequence of lockdown.

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope

  • The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), Pune which is the world’s largest radio telescope facility operating at low radio frequencies, was shut down for a day since cyclone Nisarga’s predicted trajectory was close to its array.
  • It is built and operated since 2002 by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
  • The GMRT facility studies a wide range of subjects in modern astronomy including the origin and evolution of the universe, pulsars, quasars, radio galaxies.
  • The facility, used by astronomers from more than 25 countries, is equipped to investigate a span ranging from nearby solar systems to the edge of the observable universe.

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