Current Affairs Analysis

4th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Cabinet approves FDI policy on Civil Aviation;US-Taliban Pact; National Sports Development Fund; Target Olympic Podium Scheme; Rare diseases; Rare Diseases day, Violent protest for ILP status in Meghalaya, Inner Line Permit; Period Poverty; COVID-2019 placed under Very High Risk category; COVID-19; Global Subject Ranking; 61st Lalit Kala Akademi Awards; Lalit Kala Akademi; Janaushadhi Week; Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana; Generic drugs.
By IASToppers
March 05, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Violent protest for ILP status in Meghalaya

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Sports Development Fund
  • Cabinet approves FDI policy on Civil Aviation

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Rare Diseases
  • COVID-2019 placed under Very High Risk category
  • Global Subject Ranking
  • Janaushadhi Week

Social Issues

  • Period Poverty

Bilateral & International Relations

  • US-Taliban Pact

Key Facts for Prelims

  • 61st Lalit Kala Akademi Awards

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Polity & Governance

Violent protest for ILP status in Meghalaya

Curfew in parts of Meghalaya’s capital Shillong and East Khasi Hills district area was extended “until further orders” after the death of a man in clashes between tribal and non-tribal people.

What is the issue?

  • Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and non-tribal people in the area organised a meeting to gather support against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and for the introduction of the inner-line permit (ILP).
  • Tribal organisations in Meghalaya have been demanding the ILP system, already applicable in four other north-eastern states, for restricting the entry of outsiders into the State.
  • The clashes spread out between tribal and non-tribal people owing to misinformation about the real facts of the situation, rumours and hate-mongering.

What is Inner Line Permit (ILP)?

  • ILP is an official travel document issued for a limited period, mandatorily required by Indian citizens residing outside certain ‘protected areas’ while entering them.
  • Currently, the ILP is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland and Manipur.
  • Manipur is the latest edition to the ILP regime as, ILP comes into effect in Manipur from January 1, 2020.
  • Different types of permits are provided — for tourists, for tenants and for other employment purposes, based on the period of stay & the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.
  • ILP is not valid for central government employees and security forces.

History of ILP:

  • ILP is based on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade. It prohibited “British subjects” or Indians from entering into these protected areas.
  • In 1950, the term ‘British subjects’ was replaced with ‘Citizens of India’.
  • Today, all non-natives require the permit.
  • This has been done to protect the indigenous tribal communities of these states from exploitation.

Key Fact:

  • Union Home Ministry has assured that Citizenship Amendment Act would provide protection to such regions and states where the ILP or sixth schedule is applicable.
[Ref: The Hindu, Outlook India]

Government Schemes & Policies

National Sports Development Fund

Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL) under the Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the Company, contributed a sum of Rs 1 Crore towards National Sports Development Fund.

Details of the move:

  • The amount would be utilised under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for the top athletes of our Country selected for Tokyo Olympics and beyond.
  • The cheque of Rs 1 Crore was handed over to Shri Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Youth Affairs & Sports.

Target Olympic Podium Scheme:

  • Target Olympic Podium Scheme was formulated in July 2014 under overall ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).

Objective:

  • It is aimed to identify, groom and prepare potential medal prospects for Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sports included:

  • Presently, nine sports disciplines: (i) Athletics, (ii) Badminton (iii) Hockey (iv) Shooting (v) Tennis (vi) Weightlifting (vii) Wrestling, (viii) Archery and (ix) Boxing have been categorised as ‘High Priority’. At present, there is no proposal to expand the list of high priority sports.
  • High priority category has been created to put focus on and incentivize those sports disciplines played in the Olympics in which India has won medals in the last conducted Asian Games as well as Commonwealth Games or in which India has good chance of winning medals in Olympics.

Other Assistance:

  • Under the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations (NSFs), assistance is also provided to sports disciplines other than High Priority Sports disciplines.
  • Assistance is given for participation in international sporting events, conduct of international events in India, conduct of National Championships and coaching camps.
  • Further, identification and nurturing of identified talented sportspersons belonging to various sports disciplines is done under the promotional schemes of Sports Authority of India and Khelo India Scheme.

Key Facts:

  • About 54.40 % of total expenditure of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) has been incurred on TOP Scheme.
  • Till date, 352 athletes have received assistance under TOP Scheme in the sports disciplines of Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Winter Olympics, Wushu, Para Sports, Para Athletics, Para Shooting, and Para Badminton.

National Sports Development Fund:

  • National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) was established by the central government to mobilising resources from the government and non-governmental sources for promotion of sports and games.
  • It was established in 1998, under Charitable Endowments Act 1890.
  • The funds available under NSDF are used for promotion of sports and achieving excellence at the national and international level.
  • The day to day working of the Fund is managed by the Executive Committee.
  • The Member Secretary of the Executive Committee is the custodian of all records of the Fund.
[Ref: PIB]

Cabinet approves FDI policy on Civil Aviation

The Union Cabinet has given approval to permit foreign direct investment by those NRIs, who are Indian Nationals in Air India upto to 100% under automatic route.

What is the move?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved to amend the extant FDI Policy to permit Foreign Investment (s) in Air India by NRIs, who are Indian Nationals, upto to 100% under automatic route.
  • As per the present FDI Policy, 100% FDI is permitted in scheduled Air Transport Service/Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline (Automatic upto 49% and Government route beyond 49%).
  • However, for NRIs 100% FDI is permitted under automatic route in Scheduled Air Transport Service/Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline
  • Further, FDI is subject to the condition that Substantial Ownership & Effective Control (SOEC) shall be vested in Indian Nationals as per aircraft rules, 1937.
  • However, for Air India Ltd., as per the present policy, foreign investment(s) in Air India Including that of foreign Airline(s) shall not exceed 49%, either directly or indirectly, subject to the condition that substantial ownership and effective control of Air India shall continue to be vested in Indian Nationals.
  • Therefore, although 100% FDI is permitted under automatic route for NRIs in Scheduled Air Transport Service/Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline, it is restricted to be only 49% in case of Air India.

Benefits:

  • In light of the proposed strategic disinvestment of 100% of Air India Ltd. by the Government of India, Air India Ltd. will have no residual Government ownership and will be completely privately owned.
  • It has been decided that foreign investment in Air India Ltd be brought on a level playing field with other scheduled airline operators.
  • The amendment in FDI policy will permit foreign investment in Air India Ltd at par with other Scheduled Airline Operators i.e. upto 100% in Air India Ltd by those NRIs, who are Indian Nationals.
  • The proposed changes in FDI Policy will enable foreign investment by NRIs into Air India Ltd. upto 100%, under automatic route.

Rationale of the move:

  • Above amendment to the FDI Policy are meant to liberalise and simplify the FDI policy to provide ease of doing business in the country.
  • It is expected to lead to largest FDI inflows and thereby contributing to growth of investment, income and employment.
[Ref: Bussiness Standard, PMIndia]

Issues related to Health & Education

Rare Diseases

As per a recent report of World Economic Forum study only 5% of the 475 million affected by rare diseases have access to treatment.

Highlights of the report:

  • The study — by health economists from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia — said around 80 % of rare diseases emerged from genetic or genomic variants.
  • Individuals who suffered from rare diseases were born with them.
  • This resulted in deaths of 30 % of children before the age of five, according to the study.
  • It emphasised on the need of a global framework for the secure sharing and aggregation of genomic and clinical data and to diagnose and treat rare diseases at a global scale.
  • Such a framework would result in economic benefits for all.
  • With such a framework in place, countries and hospitals with genomic institutes could provide correct solutions to diagnose those who were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with rare diseases.

What is a Rare disease?

  • Rare diseases: A rare disease is a health condition of low prevalence that affects a small number of people compared with other prevalent diseases in the general population.

Occurrence:

  • It is estimated that globally around 6000 to 8000 rare diseases exist with new rare diseases being reported in the medical literature regularly.
  • However, 80% of all rare disease patients are affected by approximately 350 rare diseases. Paradoxically, though rare diseases are of low prevalence and individually rare, collectively they affect a considerable proportion of the population in any country, which according to generally accepted international research is – between 6% and 8%.
  • 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin and hence disproportionately impact children.

Examples: Rare diseases include genetic diseases, rare cancers, infectious tropical diseases and degenerative diseases.

Rare Disease Day:

  • Rare Disease Day 2020 was observed on February 29.
  • Rare Disease Day is an observance held on the last day of February to raise awareness for rare diseases and improve access to treatment and medical representation for individuals with rare diseases and their families.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

COVID-2019 placed under Very High Risk category

The World Health Organization has increased the assessment of the risk of spread and risk of the impact of the coronavirus from “high” to “very high” at the global level.

What is the issue?

  • According to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report, five new member states have reported cases of COVID-2019.
  • These are Belarus, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand and Nigeria.
  • China has reported over 78,000 cases with around 2,800 deaths. At 329 new cases, China recorded its lowest cases in a month.
  • Chinese officials have claimed that some of the recovered patients had been found to be re-infected, implying that eradication may be more difficult than previously thought.
  • The continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries over the last few days are clearly of concern.
  • Hence, keeping in mind the grave threat WHO has increased the assessment of the risk of spread and risk of the impact of the coronavirus from “high” to “very high” at the global level.

Risk categories by WHO:

  • WHO has prepared a manual to guide the rapid risk assessment of acute public health risks. The guidelines in the manual are aimed at national departments with health-protection responsibilities.
  • Within this manual, the WHO characterises risk of spread and impact of a disease on a scale that ranges from “low risk” to “very high” level of risk.

It defines the different characterisations of risk as follows:

1. Low Risk: “Managed according to standard response protocols, routine control programmes and regulation (e.g. monitoring through routine surveillance systems)”.

2. Moderate Risk: “Roles and responsibility for the response must be specified. Specific monitoring or control measures required (e.g. enhanced surveillance, additional vaccination campaigns)”.

3. High Risk: “Senior management attention needed: there may be a need to establish command and control structures; a range of additional control measures will be required some of which may have significant consequences”.

4. Very High Risk: “Immediate response required even if the event is reported out of normal working hours. Immediate senior management attention needed (e.g. the command and control structure should be established within hours); the implementation of control measures with serious consequences is highly likely”.

COVID-2019:

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

For detailed information about COVID-2019 refer to the link given below:

[Ref: Indian Express]

Global Subject Ranking

The latest edition of the QS World University Rankings by subject have ranked as many as 26 departments of higher education institutions in India among the top 100 in the world.

Highlights of the Report:

  • 26 departments of higher education institutions in India have been ranked among the top 100 education institutions in the world in the Global Subject Rankings.
  • According to last year’s report, the number stood at 21.
  • Incidentally, all 26 departments are in institutions run by the Union government — IITs, IIMs, IISc and Delhi University.
  • IIT Delhi has five programmes among the top 100 and IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, and IISc Bangalore have recorded three programmes each
  •  IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore are ranked in the 51-100 band for business and management studies.

Top Subjects:

  • India has not only improved its performance in the top 100 club but also has more of the world’s best 50 departments.
  • The department of electrical and electronics engineering at IIT Delhi, the departments of chemical engineering and mineral and mining engineering departments at IIT Bombay; development studies at Delhi University and mineral and mining engineering at IIT Kharagpur are among the top 50 departments in the world in their respective fields.
  • The rankings indicate India’s particular strength in the Natural Sciences, Life Sciences, and in Engineering disciplines.
  • The subject tables featuring the highest levels of Indian representation are: Chemistry (20 Indian universities ranked); Computer Science & Information Systems (20); Physics & Astronomy (18); Biological Sciences (16); Electrical Engineering (15); Chemical Engineering (14); and Mechanical Engineering.

Global Highlights:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the world’s best-performing institution with 12 of its departments being ranked number one.
  • This is followed by Harvard University, which is the world’s number one for 11 subjects and University of Oxford, best in eight subject tables.

QS World University Rankings:

  • QS World University Rankings by subject calculate performance based on four parameters — academic reputation, employer reputation, research impact (citations per paper) and the productivity of an institution’s research faculty.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Janaushadhi Week

Janaushadhi week is being celebrated across the country from 1st march to 7th March in more than 6200 Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Kendras.

Highlights of the event:

  • Jan Aushadhi Kendra owners are organising different types of activities entire week for making awareness about health and hygiene.
  • Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI), the implementing agency of Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) will be celebrating the 2nd Janaushadhi Diwas on March 7.
  • The theme of this year’s Janaushadhi Diwas is ‘Jan Jantak Janaushadhi’.
  • On fourth day of the week, an event for empowering the women of the country with the theme of ‘Suvidha Se Sammaan’ was held.
  • Free distribution camps for Suvidha Sanitary Napkins were held at about 2000 places and more than 50,000 Sanitary Napkin packets were given free of cost to the women.
  • Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana is a noble initiative of the Government which is now making an impact on masses in its endeavour to provide quality medicines at an affordable price.
  • The total sales in the financial year 2019-20 till February have crossed 383 crores which led to total savings of about 2200 crore rupees of common citizens.

Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana:

  • Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals,Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers in association with Central Pharma Public Sector Undertakings, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through dedicated outlets called ‘Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Kendra’.
  • These provide generic medicines at much lesser price.
  • The potency of these medicines are same as compared to expensive branded medicines available in the open market.

Generic Drugs:

  • Generic drugs are marketed under a non-proprietary or approved name rather than a proprietary or brand name.
  • Generic drugs are equally effective and inexpensive compared to their branded counterparts.

 [Ref: AIR, BPPI]

Social Issues

Period poverty

Scotland has become the first country to end “period poverty” by providing free sanitary products to women of all ages in the country.

What is the move?

  • Free menstrual products are already available to students in high schools, colleges and universities in Scotland.
  • A bill has been passed by the Scottish Parliament recently which will make pads and tampons free across the board to women of all ages.
  • The legislation would make tampons and sanitary pads available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies, at an estimated annual cost of 24.1 million pounds ($31.2 million).
  • European Union has pledged to remove all taxes on menstruation products by 2022.

What is Period Poverty?

  • Period poverty means being unable to access sanitary products and having a poor knowledge of menstruation often due to financial constraints.
  • Period poverty is an issue that affects women and girls across the globe, with more than a quarter having missed work or school because they couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to menstrual products.
[Ref: NY Times, Reuters]

Bilateral & International Relations

US-Taliban Pact

The US and Taliban have signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, recently which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months. India attended the signing ceremony in Doha, and was represented by Ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran.

Series of events:

  • The US has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001.
  • The US invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attacks by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group.
  • More than 2,400 US troops have been killed during the conflict.
  • About 12,000 are still stationed in the country. President Trump has promised to put an end to the conflict.
  • Saturday’s agreement in Doha came after more than a year of negotiations with the militant group.
  • The two sides had reached “an agreement in principle” in early September 2019.
  • But, shortly thereafter, Trump called off the talks and said he cancelled a secret Camp David summit with the militant group after they took credit for a deadly attack in Kabul that killed a US service member.
  • The US had demanded for a ceasefire before the final peace agreement was signed.
  • The Taliban has ordered all its fighters to halt fighting and “refrain from attacks“.
  • Finally, the agreement was signed on 29 February 2020.

What is the deal?

The following are the key elements in the US-Taliban deal:

1. Troops withdrawal:

  • The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
  • And all troops will be out within 14 months — “all” would include “non-diplomatic civilian personnel” or “intelligence” personnel.

2. Taliban commitment:

  • The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
  • The pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. As India, not being an US ally is not covered under this pact.

3. Sanctions removal:

  • UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29, 2020) and US sanctions by August 27, 2020.
  • The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

4. Prisoner release:

  • The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10 — which is when intra-Afghan negotiations are supposed to start, in Oslo.
  • The joint declaration says the US will facilitate discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.
  • Miller identified it as a “possible trouble spot” because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ, and it is not clear whether the Ashraf Ghani-led government agrees with this “pretty big up-front concession to Taliban”.

5. Ceasefire:

  • It has been identified as another potential “trouble spot”.
  • The agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.

[Ref: CNN, Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

61st Lalit Kala Akademi Awards

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, conferred the 61st annual Lalit Kala Akademi Awards on 15 meritorious artists at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhavan recently.

Awardees:

  • Artists honoured are: Anoop Kumar Manzukhi Gopi, David Malakar, Devendra Kumar Khare, Dinesh Pandya, Faruque Ahmed Halder, Hari Ram Kumbhawat, Keshari Nandan Prasad, Mohan Kumar T, Ratan Krishna Saha, Sagar Vasant Kamble, Satwinder Kaur, Sunil Thiruvayur, Tejaswi Narayan Sonawane, Yashpal Singh and Yashwant Singh.
  • Artwork of these artists will be on display till March 22, 2020, at the 61st National Exhibition of Art at the Lalit Kala Akademi galleries in New Delhi.

Art exhibition:

  • Lalit Kala Akademi organises art exhibitions and award ceremonies every year to promote art as well as to honour talents.
  • The exhibition brings together the works of brilliance from across the country and also encourages budding art talents to learn new tendencies and mediums in the world of painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, drawing, installation and multimedia etc.

Lalit Kala Akademi Awards:

  • The Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship or Lalit Kala Akademi Ratna is an honour for the fine arts in India, given to eminent artists for their lifetime achievements in the field of visual arts.
  • It is awarded by the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s National Academy of Art.
  • It is the highest honour in the fine arts conferred by the Government of India.

Lalit Kala Akademi:

  • The Lalit Kala Akademi or National Academy of Art is India’s national academy of fine arts.
  • It is an autonomous organisation, established in New Delhi in 1954 by Government of India to promote and propagate understanding of Indian art, in and outside the country.
  • LKA provides scholarships and a fellow program, and sponsors and organises exhibitions in India and overseas.
  • It is funded by the Union Ministry of Culture.
  • Its headquarters are at Ravindra Bhawan, Ferozshah Road, New Delhi.
[Ref: PIB]
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