Current Affairs Analysis

5th June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Virtual Global Vaccine Summit 2020; Plea for renaming India as ‘Bharat’; One India, One Agriculture Market; Essential Commodities Act, 1955; Border Area Development Programme; National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures; TULIP - Urban Learning Internship Program; GAVI; Malabar Exercise; Visiting Forces Agreement; World Environment Day 2020; Periodic Labour Force Survey; CSIR-SRTP-2020; MTP Act, 1971; Holographic principle etc.
By IASToppers
June 05, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Plea for renaming India as ‘Bharat’
  • Barrier-free trade in Agriculture produce

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Ordinance to amend ECA, 1955

Issues related to Health and Education

  • NCVTC to develop host-directed antivirals for COVID-19
  • TULIP – Urban Learning Internship Program

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India to boost infrastructure along China border
  • Virtual Global Vaccine Summit 2020
  • India-Australia meeting strengthens ties
  • Philippines’ U-turn on U.S. pact

Key Facts for Prelims

  • World Environment Day 2020
  • Periodic Labour Force Survey
  • CSIR-SRTP-2020
  • MTP Act, 1971
  • Holographic principle

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Polity & Governance

Plea for renaming India as ‘Bharat’

The Supreme Court has ordered that a plea to change India’s name exclusively to ‘Bharat’ be converted into a representation and forwarded to the Union government for an appropriate decision.

What was the plea?

  • As per the petition ‘India’ is a name of foreign origin that can be traced back to the Greek term ‘Indica’.
  • The word ‘Bharat’ is closely associated with our Freedom Struggle which resonated as freedom cry was ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
  • The petition seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States…”.
  • It wants ‘India’ to be struck off from the Article.

What was the court’s stand?

  • CJI Sharad A. Bobde in a virtual court hearing said that Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution & India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution. 
  • The court said the petition be transformed into a representation and forwarded to the ministries, primarily the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • This will ensure citizens of this country to get over the colonial past and instil a sense of pride in our nationality. Will also justify the hard-fought freedom by our freedom fighters.

2016 petition:

  • The apex court had dismissed a similar petition in 2016.
  • Then CJI T.S. Thakur had remarked that every Indian had the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’.
  • The Supreme Court had no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Barrier-free trade in Agriculture produce

The Cabinet has approved ‘The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020’.

Background:

  • Farmers suffer from various restrictions in marketing their produce.
  • There are restrictions for farmers in selling agri-produce outside the notified APMC market yards.
  • The farmers are also restricted to sell the produce only to registered licensees of the State Governments.
  • Further, Barriers exist in free flow of agriculture produce between various States owing to the prevalence of various APMC legislations enacted by the State Governments.

Benefits:

  • The Ordinance will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce.
  • It will also promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations.
  • It will open more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for the farmers and help them in getting better prices.
  • It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices.
  • The ordinance also proposes an electronic trading in transaction platform for ensuring a seamless trade electronically.
  • The farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act.
  • Further there will be a separate dispute resolution mechanism for the farmers.

One India, One Agriculture Market:

  • The ordinance basically aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition.
  • This will supplement the existing MSP procurement system which is providing stable income to farmers.
  • It will certainly pave the way for creating One India, One Agriculture Market and will lay the foundation for ensuring golden harvests for farmers.
[Ref: PIB]

Government Schemes and Policies

Ordinance to amend ECA, 1955

The Union Cabinet has approved an ordinance to amend The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to deregulate commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.

What is the amendment?

  • Sources at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that the ordinance has introduced a new subsection (1A) in Section 3 of The Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
  • The amended law provides a mechanism for the “regulation” of agricultural foodstuffs, namely cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato, and supplies under extraordinary circumstances, which include extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature.

Definition of an ‘essential commodity’:

  • There is no specific definition of essential commodities in The EC Act.
  • Section 2(A) of the act states that an essential commodity means a commodity specified in the schedule of this Act.
  • The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the schedule.
  • The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.
  • At present, the Schedule contains 9 commodities — drugs; fertilisers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs, including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cotton seed; face masks; and hand sanitisers.
  • The latest items added to this schedule are face masks and hand sanitisers, which were declared essential commodities with effect from March 13, 2020 in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
  • By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.

When can the government impose stock limits?

  • Under the amended EC Act, agri-food stuffs can only be regulated under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity.
  • However, any action on imposing stock limits will be based on the price trigger.
  • In case of horticultural produce, a 100 per cent increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower, will invoke the stock limit.
  • For non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs, the price trigger will be a 50 per cent increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.
  • The key changes seek to free agricultural markets from the limitations imposed by permits and mandis that were originally designed for an era of scarcity. 

Need for an amendment:

  • The EC Act was legislated at a time when the country was facing scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistent abysmal levels of food grain production.
  • The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import form US under PL-480) to feed the population.
  • In that scenario, to stop the hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, The Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955.
  • The production of wheat has increased by 10 times; production of rice has increased more than four, pulses have increased by 2.5 times.
  • India has now become an exporter of several agricultural products. With these developments, the EC Act has become outdated.

Impact of the amendments:

  • The Act had become detrimental for investment in the agriculture sector in general, and in post-harvesting activities in particular.
  • The private sector has so far hesitated investing in cold chains and storage facilities for perishable items as most of these commodities are under the ambit of the EC Act, and could attract sudden stock limits.
  • The amendments will remove commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of regulated essential commodities.
  • The move is expected to attract private investment in the value chain of these commodities.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Issues related to Health and Education

NCVTC to develop host-directed antivirals for COVID-19

India’s veterinary scientists have now joined the hunt for a drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

Major Highlights:

  • TheScientists at the Hisar-based National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures are screening their library comprising 94 small molecule chemical inhibitors for antivirals for coronavirus.
  • The study has been approved by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB).
  • As per the scientists, all the drugs for treatment of the virus were designed to hit the viral protein.
  • But when a virus mutates (as in the case of COVID-19), the drug becomes ineffective, as it won’t bind on the viral protein.
  • The scientists are exploring an alternative strategy of targeting the proteins in the host cell that would be used by the virus to replicate.
  • Those proteins are being targeted that are not used by the host (human) cell to replicate, but are used by the virus to grow.
  • The host-directed antivirals have less tendency of becoming resistant to drugs.

Chemical Library screening:

  • Chemical library screening in medicinal chemistry research is a useful methodology that considerably shortens drug discovery and development cycle, especially for newly identified etiologic agents, such as SARS-Cov-2.

National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures:

  • NCVTC Hisar, India is a microbial repository responsible for conservation of microbes where microbial biodiversity of animal origin is being conserved.
  • It is done so that microbial biodiversity can be utilized effectively for research, teaching and development of biologicals for improving livestock and human health.
[Ref: Deccan Herald]

TULIP – Urban Learning Internship Program

The Central government has launched an online portal for `The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP)’ recently.

Objective:

  • To provide internship opportunities to fresh graduates in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Smart Cities across the country.
  • To enhance the value-to-market of India’s graduates and help create a potential talent pool in diverse fields like urban planning, transport engineering, environment, municipal finance etc. 

Major Highlights:

  • TULIP is a program for providing fresh graduates experiential learning opportunities in the urban sector.
  • TULIP was announced in the Budget 2020-21 by the Finance Minister under the theme ‘Aspirational India’.
  • The urban local bodies across the country would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year.
  • Technical support for the platform shall be anchored by AICTE and the programmatic non-technical support shall be anchored by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) over a period of 5 years.
  • A Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary, MoHUA will review the progress of the program on a periodical basis. 
  • This launch is also an important stepping stone for fulfilment of MHRD and AICTE’s goal of one crore successful internships by the year 2025.

Significance:

  • The program will help reap the benefits of India’s demographic dividend as it is poised to have the largest working-age population in the world in the coming years.
  • India has a substantial pool of technical graduates for whom exposure to real world project implementation and planning is essential for professional development.
  • General education may not reflect the depth of productive knowledge present in society.
  • Instead of approaching education as ‘doing by learning,’ our societies need to reimagine education as ‘learning by doing.’

 [Ref: PIB]

Bilateral & International Relations

India to boost infrastructure along China border

The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to spend 10% funds of the Border Area Development Programme to ramp up infrastructure along the China border.

Major Highlights:

  • The Border Area Development Programme has been allocated ₹784 crore in the 2020-21 FY.
  • The money is distributed to the border States and Union Territories depending on various criteria such as the length of the international border and population.
  • The 10% funds will be used to create infrastructure on border projects in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
  • The projects for developing strategically important villages and towns in border areas that have been identified by the border guarding forces, will be given priority.
  • Around ₹78.4 crore has been parked for projects in areas inhabited along the 3,488 km China border.
  • Construction of roads, bridges, culverts, primary schools, health infrastructure, playfields, irrigation works, mini-stadiums, indoor courts for basketball, badminton and table tennis can be undertaken within 10 km of the border from the BADP funds.

Border Area Development Programme guidelines:

  • The BADP is a centrally sponsored scheme which initially started in 1980 for the western border, has over the years expanded to cover 396 blocks of 111 border districts in 16 States and two UTs.
  • As per the new BADP guidelines: 10% of the total allocated funds will be additionally allocated to the States/UTs around Indo-China border [Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand].
  • The 10% funds would be reserved as an incentive for the better performing States.
  • Out of the remaining ₹638.2 crore, the northeastern States- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim would get –₹255.28 crore or 40% of the remaining 80% funds.
  • Around ₹382.9 crore or 60% funds would be allocated to Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Union Territories Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • No NGO or private institution could be hired for infrastructure related work.

Feedback:

  • Forces such as the Border Security Force (BSF), deployed along the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders; the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) on the China border; the Sashastra Seema Bal along the Nepal border; and the Assam Rifles stationed along the Myanmar border would provide independent feedback on the projects.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Virtual Global Vaccine Summit 2020

PM Modi addressed the virtual Global Vaccine Summit hosted by UK PM Boris Johnson, which saw participation of leaders from over 50 ​countries.

India’s contribution:

  • India has pledged 15 Million US Dollars to Gavi, the international vaccine alliance.
  • India is the World’s foremost producer of vaccines and contributes to the immunization of about 60 percent of the World’s children.
  • India’s support to GAVI is not only financial but that India’s huge demand also brings down the Global price of vaccines for all, saving almost 400 Million Dollars for GAVI over the past five years.
  • India stands in solidarity with the world along with its proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost, its own domestic experience in rapidly expanding immunization and its considerable scientific research talent.
  • It is an established fact that 50 per cent of the world’s vaccine production is currently in India, which makes it an important partner in the area.

Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation:

  • GAVI or the Vaccine Alliance was formed in 2000 as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
  • The alliance was initiated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partners with WHO, UNICEF, World Bank and governments all over the world.
  • It is a global health partnership of public and private sector organizations dedicated to “immunisation for all”.
  • GAVI works in the area of improving access to vaccines for the most vulnerable children.
[Ref: PIB]

India-Australia meeting strengthens ties

India and Australia signed an important deal for reciprocal access to each other’s military bases for logistical support at their first ever virtual summit recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The countries have upgraded their relations to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.
  • The two sides announced that seven agreements had been signed, including the long-awaited Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.
  • Under MLSA the countries will be extending support to each other in combined exercises, training, humanitarian, disaster relief operations and access to each other’s military bases for logistical support.
  • The two countries also released a declaration on ‘Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific’ that advocated for a rules-based maritime order that is based on respect for sovereignty and international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law.
  • There was also no discussion on the possibility of Australia being invited to the Malabar naval exercise.

Malabar Naval Exercise:

  • Malabar exercise is an annual trilateral maritime exercise between the Naval forces of India, Japan and the United States.
  • The exercise aims to further strengthen India – Japan – US Naval cooperation and enhance interoperability, based on shared values and principles.
  • It was a bilateral naval exercise between India and the USA in 1992, which was expanded by the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • India is still hesitant to invite Australia to the Malabar exercise, while Australia has shown its willingness in the past.
  • India is wary that the move will further infuriate China, who views Quad as an anti-China grouping in the region.

Key Fact:

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
[Ref: The Wire]

Philippines’ U-turn on U.S. pact

Security issues in the disputed South China Sea convinced the Philippines to delay quitting the Visiting Forces Agreement, a key US military pact.

Major Highlights:

  • The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the country had suspended plans to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement, a deal that is important to Washington’s moves to counter Beijing’s rising regional power.
  • The Philippines, a long-term US ally and its former colony, has drawn closer to China in search of trade and investment, sparking concerns of the US.
  • Since taking power in 2016, Mr. Duterte has moved closer to Beijing, but has faced push back from the Philippine public and concern in the military wary of China’s territorial ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.

Visiting Forces Agreement:

  • A visiting force agreement (VFA) is an agreement between a country and a foreign nation having military forces visiting that country.
  • The US military has the largest foreign presence and therefore accounts for most VFAs.
  • The Philippines–United States Visiting Forces Agreement is a bilateral visiting forces agreement between the countries.
  • The agreements came into force on May 27, 1999, upon ratification by the Senate of the Philippines. 
  • On February 11, 2020, the Philippine government officially notified the U.S. that it would be terminating the VFA.
  • However, on June 2, the Philippine government decided on suspending its termination.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

World Environment Day 2020

  • World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on 5 June since 1974.
  • It engages governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.
  • Theme 2020:  Biodiversity–a concern that is both urgent and existential.
  • The day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change and the need of a global community for a global change.

Periodic Labour Force Survey

  • The National Statistical Office has launched the Annual Report of Periodic Labour Force Survey.
  • The Survey is the first computer-based survey of India.
  • The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% in the period July 2018 to June 2019 as compared to 6.1% in the same period 2017-18.
  • As per the report, the worker population ratio increased to 35.3% in 2018-19 as compared to 34.7% in 2017-18.
  • Labour Force participation rate increased to 37.5% as compared to 36.9% in 2017-18.
  • In Urban India, the unemployment rate fell to 7.7% in 2018-19 from 7.8% earlier.
  • The female participation rate improved in both rural and urban India from 17.5% to 18.6%.

CSIR-SRTP-2020

  • The North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) is working towards ameliorating the stagnancy created in the academic scenario of the nation due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Jorhat-based CSIR-NEIST got the mandate to organize a country-wide CSIR-Summer Research Training Programme (CSIR-SRTP-2020).

MTP Act, 1971

  • The Bombay High Court has allowed a 23-year-old unmarried woman to terminate her 23-week pregnancy and observed that continuing it will lead to a risk of grave physical and mental injury to her.
  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, permits termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks, beyond which the courts have to decide.

Holographic principle

  • For the first time, scientists were able to capture an image of a black hole – a point in space that has immense gravity – in 2019.
  • Now, researchers are of the opinion that black holes could be more like a hologram.
  • To study black holes, researchers used an idea almost 30 years old called the “holographic principle” which allowed them to describe gravity without using the concept in itself, thus avoiding friction with quantum mechanics.
  • Black holes being three-dimensional also aligns with Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
  • Essentially, black holes “appear” as three dimensional, just like holograms.
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