Current Affairs Analysis

6th October 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Remdesivir to Myanmar; Global Bioassay Laboratory; Ind-CEPI mission; Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); GST compensation cess; Protected Areas (PAs); New Caledonia; Location of Myanmar; Daring Cities 2020; Nobel Prize 2020 in Physiology or Medicine; Hepatitis; Nobel Prize; Science and Technology Ministers' Roundtable; Mecca; MiHOPE; etc.
By IASToppers
October 06, 2020

Contents

Issues related to Health & Education

  • DBT-THSTI recognized as a Global Bioassay Laboratory

Economy

  • GST compensation cess to stay beyond June 2022

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Daring Cities 2020
  • Protect & conserve model displaced 13,450 families

Bilateral & International Relations

  • New Caledonia rejects independence from France
  • India gives 3,000 vials of Remdesivir to Myanmar

Art & Culture

  • Nobel Prize 2020 in Physiology or Medicine

Science & Technology

  • Science and Technology Ministers’ Roundtable

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Mecca
  • MiHOPE

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Issues related to Health & Education

DBT-THSTI recognized as a Global Bioassay Laboratory

Translational Health Science And Technology Institute (an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology) has now been recognized by CEPI as one of the Global network of Laboratories for centralized assessment of COVID 19 Vaccines.

Objective:

  • The mandate of the bioassay laboratory at THSTI is to provide validated assays for vaccine development on par with global standards.

Major Highlights:

  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) network will initially involve six labs, one each in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India.
  • Under the CEPI Global network the Laboratory will use the same reagents and follow a common set of protocols to measure the immune response of multiple vaccine candidates under development and trial.
  • This will greatly harmonize the Vaccine trial process and allow different vaccine candidates to be compared and speed up the selection of the most effective candidate.

Ind-CEPI mission:

  • The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology has been implementing the IndCEPI mission (India Centric Epidemic Preparedness through Rapid Vaccine Development: Supporting Indian Vaccine Development).
  • The Ind-CEPI mission for establishment of BSL-3 facility, is a translational laboratory for platform technologies and a Bioassay laboratory for development of assays to measure clinical immunogenicity.
  • Aim: To strengthen the development of vaccines and associated competencies/technologies for the diseases of epidemic potential in India.
  • The objectives of this mission are aligned with the Global Initiative of Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness for Innovation (CEPI).

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI):

  • CEPI is a global partnership launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.
  • CEPI is focused on the World Health Organisation’s blueprint priority diseases which include: the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the Nipah virus, Chikungunya virus  etc.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

GST compensation cess to stay beyond June 2022

The Centre and states on could not reach a consensus on the issue of borrowing to make up for compensation shortfall at the 42nd Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meet.

  • The GST council has decided to meet again on 12 October.

What is the issue?

  • After joining hands with the states at the GST Council to extend the applicability of compensation cess on cars, coal and soft drinks beyond June 2022.
  • Decision was postponed to the next meeting on 12th of October.
  • 10 states demand that full compensation should be paid to the states during the current year as per clauses in the law and centre should borrow. The Finance Minster has assured that the entire compensation is going to be paid back to the states. The compensation shortfall which has arisen due to GST implementation or due to COVID19 is all going to be given back to the states.
  • The Indian government already has a very large borrowing requirement this year and any additional borrowing by the Centre may influence the yields on central government securities (g-secs) and have other macro-economic repercussions. Therefore, the compensation issue between Centre and States is likely to take some more time to be sorted out.
  • The total shortfall in collection of GST estimated at 2.35 lakh crore. Out of the total shortfall97,000 crore is on account of GST shortfall, while the rest is due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • During the last meeting in August, the Centre presented two options before states to meet the GST shortfall.

Options before states:

  • The two options before states were
    • A special window can be provided to the states, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, at a reasonable interest rate for borrowing of ₹97,000 crore. The amount can be repaid after five years (of GST implementation) ending 2022 from cess collection. The GST panel had increased the borrowing limit of ₹1.1 lakh crore instead of ₹97,000 crore on Monday.
    • The second option is to borrow the entire ₹2.35 lakh crore shortfall under the special window.
  • The dissenting states expect the Centre to borrow and compensate them. Kerala, Punjab and Delhi have asked for a dispute resolution mechanism to handle such differences.
  • This year’s compensation cess collected amounts to ₹20,000 crores which will be disbursed to the states.

GST Compensation Cess:

  • The compensation cess is a cess that will be collected on the 187 supply of select goods and or services or both till 1st July 2022.
  • The cess will compensate the states for any revenue loss on account of implementation of GST.
  • This cess will not be payable by exporters and those persons who have opted for compensation levy.
  • The input tax credit of this cess can be only used to pay compensation cess and not the other taxes like CGST, SGCT or IGST.
  • The compensation cess on goods imported into India shall be levied and collected in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, at the point when duties of customs are levied on the said goods under section 12 of the Customs Act, 1962, on a value determined under the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.
  • Compensation Cess will not be charged on goods exported by an exporter under bond and the exporter will be eligible for refund of input tax credit of Compensation Cess relating to goods exported.
  • In case goods have been exported on the payment of Compensation Cess the exporter will be eligible for refund of Compensation Cess paid on goods exported by him.
  • Compensation cess shall not be leviable on supplies made by a taxable person who has decided to opt for composition levy.

Input Tax Credit:

  • The input tax credit in respect of compensation cess on supply of goods or services can be utilised only towards payment of the compensation cess on supply of goods or services.
  •  Valuation if Cess to be levied on value: In case the compensation cess is chargeable on any supply of goods or services or both with reference to their value, then for each such supply, the value has to be determined under section 15 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
[Ref: Livemint; Times of India]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Daring Cities 2020

The Chief Minister of Delhi will be among the five urban leaders from around the world to speak at the Daring Cities 2020.

About Daring Cities:

  • ‘Daring Cities’ is a global forum on climate change for urban leaders-including mayors and other decision-makers, technical staff, researchers, private sector representatives, and community organizers – to tackle climate emergency.
  • The event is hosted by the ICLEI and the City of Bonn, Germany.
  • The event showcases and catalyzes exemplary local climate action to tackle the climate emergency, including ambitious resilience-building and climate mitigation efforts.
  • ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development.

Daring Cities 2020:

  • The Daring Cities 2020 global virtual forum will be a three-week event.
  • The event will involve high level and visionary speakers, a series of informative workshops and personal networking opportunities in a variety of virtual formats to accommodate different topics, time zones, internet bandwidth limits, and languages.
  • The event will help to set the course to COP26, Daring Cities 2021 and beyond.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Protect & conserve model displaced 13,450 families

A study shows that total of 13,450 families from 26 protected areas (PA) across the country were displaced between 1999 and 2020 as a part of the Union government’s ‘protect and conserve model’.

Highlights of the study

  • A study titled “Losing ground: How are India’s conservation efforts putting the local communities in peril?” wasconducted.
  • The number of PAs increased to 870 in 2020 from 67 in 1988.
  • The study, uses an interactive map of the 26 PAs, and was developed by the Environmental Justice (EJ) Atlas in collaboration with Kalpavriksh, a non-profit organisation based in India.
  • It shows that India’s conservation model fails to recognise the fundamental and customary rights of local and indigenous communities who have inhabited these areas for centuries.
  • It claimed that community forest rights under FRA have been recognised in only three of the 26 studied PAs.
  • The model is often in violation of laws that aid conservation such as The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act [FRA], 2006, which recognises the need for a more inclusive form of forest governance, including co-management of PAs.

Protect and conserve model

  • The model involves creation of inviolate areas for the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife in the PAs — that comprise wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and conservation reserves.
  • The process includes displacing the populations inhabiting those areas.
  • The model also includes intensive hunting of tigers and other large animals by British and local rulers in the past, and the continuous decline in wildlife habitat due to continuous large-scale diversion of biodiversity-rich areas for mega infrastructural and ‘developmental’ projects like roadways and railways, dams, mining, etc.

Protected Areas (PAs)

  • Protected areas are those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited.
  • Protected Areas (PAs) are one of the oldest techniques used to protect places and resources for achieving conservation-related goals.
  • The definition that has been widely accepted across regional and global frameworks has been provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its categorization guidelines for protected areas.
  • There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved.
  • The term “protected area” also includes Marine Protected Areas, the boundaries of which will include some area of ocean, and Trans boundary Protected Areas that overlap multiple countries which remove the borders inside the area for conservation and economic purposes.
  • In order to be effective, PA systems, as well as individual PAs, must be supported by a firm legal infrastructure.
  • As a result of a joint effort led by the ELC, the IUCN Guidelines for Protected Areas Legislation were published in 2011.
  • The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the largest assembly of data on the world’s terrestrial and marine protected areas.

Categories under Protected Areas:

  • National Parks
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • Conservation Reserves
  • Community Reserves
  • Marine Protected Areas
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

New Caledonia rejects independence from France

The Voters in the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia narrowly rejected independence in a referendum held recently.

  • The archipelago’s high commission said 53.26% voted no to breaking away from France, with around 70% of the ballots counted.

Major Highlights:

  • The referendum was part of the Noumea Accord, a decolonization plan set in motion in 1998.
  • It was aimed to end a deadly conflict between descendants of European settlers and the mostly pro-independence indigenous Kanak population, who continue to face widespread discrimination.
  • The first referendum was held in 2018, second in 2020 and the third vote can be held in two years’ time, in 2022, if the move is requested by at least a third of the local legislature.

New Caledonia:

  • New Caledonia lies in the South Pacific Ocean between Australia and Fiji.
  • It became a French colony in 1853 under Napoleon’s nephew, Emperor Napoleon III.
  • It was used as a prison for decades, before becoming an overseas territory after World War II.
  • French citizenship was granted to all Kanaks in 1957.
  • The indigenous Kanaks represent around 39% of the population, while Europeans, most of whom were born in the territory make up about 27%.
  • While the territory enjoys a certain degree of autonomy, it depends heavily on the €1.3 billion ($1.5 billion) that the French state contributes every year.
[Ref: Indian Express; Al Jazeera]

India gives 3,000 vials of Remdesivir to Myanmar

As part of India’s contribution to help Myanmar in its fight against COVID-19, India handed over 3,000 vials of Remdesivir to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

  • Army chief and Indian Foreign Secretary are on a two-day visit to Myanmar with an aim to further expand ties in a range of areas including connectivity, defence and security.

Details of the visit:

  • The Indian Army chief and the Foreign Secretary along with Ambassador of India to Myanmar, called on Suu Kyi at Naypyitaw during which they discussed important bilateral issues.
  • As part of India’s contribution to help a friendly neighbour Myanmar fight against COVID-19, India handed over 3,000 vials of Remdesivir to Suu Kyi.
  • The intravenous antiviral drug, Remdesivir, is used to treat COVID-19.
  • The visit assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the Indian Army’s bitter border standoff with the Chinese military in eastern Ladakh as well restrictions on foreign visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It is Gen. Naravane’s first visit to any foreign country after he took charge as the Chief of Army Staff on December 31 last year.

India- Myanmar relationship:

  • Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
  • The visit came four days after the two countries carried out a detailed review of their ties in a wide range of areas at a virtual meeting held under the framework of India-Myanmar foreign office consultations.
  • India and Myanmar are working towards operationalising the Sittwe Port by the first quarter of next year and that the tendering process for 69 bridges proposed under the ambitious India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will begin soon.
  • Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project which is being viewed as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia. The port will connect India’s landlocked northeastern region with the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram.
  • Myanmar’s handing over of 22 Indian insurgents has been deeply appreciated by India and sends a strong message of “deterrence to inimical elements on both sides.”
  • India has been concerned over some militant groups from the North-East region taking shelter in Myanmar. The country has been assuring India that it would not allow any insurgent group to use its territory against India.
  • In June, 2015 the Indian Army had carried out an operation in areas near the Indo-Myanmar against the NSCN (K) militants, days after the ultras had killed 18 Army men in Manipur.
  • The two countries have significantly ramped up defence and security cooperation in the last few years including in the maritime security sphere.
  • India has been assisting Myanmar in developing border areas under an agreement inked in 2012 that provided for granting $5 million each year over a period of five years. This MoU has already been extended till 2022.
  • India’s development cooperation in Myanmar is estimated at $1.4 billion.
  • The two countries are also expanding partnership in the area of energy cooperation.
  • With investments of over $1.2 billion, Myanmar has the highest Indian investment in any country in South Asia, a source said.
  • Recently, India approved an investment of over $120 million in the Shwe Oil and Gas project.
  • India shares religious, linguistic and ethnic ties with Myanmar. It is the only ASEAN country adjoining India and, therefore, is a gateway to South East Asia.
  • India is seeking to enhance its cooperation with Myanmar in line with our ‘Act East’ and ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policies.
  • India and Myanmar have several institutional mechanisms to ensure regular consultations between the two governments. The Foreign Office Consultations is led by Foreign Secretary and Permanent Secretary of Myanmar. The 18th Foreign Office Consultations were held on 6 December, 2019 in New Delhi.

Location of Myanmar:

  • Myanmar, also called Burma, country, located in the western portion of mainland Southeast Asia.
  • The English name of the city that served as the country’s capital from 1948 to 2006, Rangoon, also was dropped in 1989 in favour of the common Burmese name, Yangon.
[Ref: Economic Times]

Art & Culture

Nobel Prize 2020 in Physiology or Medicine

Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice from the United States of America and the British scientist Michael Houghton were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

Reasons:

  • Made blood transfusion safer.
  • Enabled rapid development of antiviral drugs and blood tests directed at hepatitis C. [Vaccine against Hepatitis C, not yet developed]
  • Saved lives and reduced costs.

Hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver.
  • It’s commonly caused by a viral infection.
  • There are 5 types of viral hepatitis namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year.

Nobel Prize

  • The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.
  • The will of the Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist Alfred Nobel established the five Nobel prizes in 1895.
  • Currently, the prize is awarded in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace, economics and medicine/physiology.
  • The Nobel award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over USD 1,118,000).
  • Awarded to individuals and organisations [Nobel Peace Prize]

Institutes involved:

  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences.
  • The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
  • The Swedish Academy grants the Nobel Prize in Literature
  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize.

For more information, please refer,

[Ref: The Hindu, The Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Science and Technology Ministers’ Roundtable

Science & Technology Ministerial Roundtable, organized in the 17th annual Science Technology and Society (STS) Forum.

  • The online Roundtable organised on 3rd October 2020 and hosted by Japan, deliberated on the role of international R&D collaboration, social sciences & humanities, and open science.

Highlights

  • Increasing attention given by India to sharing of scientific data as evident from India’s National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (INDSAP) and an open government data portal.
  • Scientific data sharing is being considered for inclusion in the New S T I P 2020 being framed.
  • S&T heads from about 50 countries around the world participated and explored the opportunities arising from international collaborations in science and technology to address the challenges posed by COVID 19.

India’s role

  • India is part of all the major multilateral and regional S&T platforms and groupings such as the EU, BRICS, ASEAN, G20, Africa Initiatives, UN and OECD S&T platform.
  • India is also part of international mega-science projects such as ITER, TMT, LIGO and so on.
  • Coalitions for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, International Solar Alliance and Mission Innovation are India’s global initiatives in the management of disasters and clean energy.

Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum

  • Science and Technology Ministers’ Roundtable was inaugurated in November 2004, holds an annual meeting starting on the first Sunday of October every year, in Kyoto, Japan.
  • The meeting is aimed at creating a global human network based on trust and providing a framework for open discussions regarding the further progress of science and technology for the benefit of humankind, while controlling ethical, safety and environmental issues resulting from their application: “The Lights and Shadows of Science and Technology.”
  • It provides a new mechanism for open discussions on an informal basis and to build a human network that would resolve the new types of problems stemming from the application of science and technology.
  • The forum gathers top leaders from different constituencies: policymakers, business executives, scientists and researchers, media – from all over the world.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Mecca

  • The Mecca city was partially opened for pilgrims, recently.
  • Located in Saudi Arabia, it is the holiest city in Islam
  • The Sirat Mountains and the Red Sea coast are located in the vicinity.
  • Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad.
  • Visiting Mecca for the Hajj is an obligation upon all able Muslims

Location:

[Ref: The Hindu]

MiHOPE

  • To address the growing issue of mental illness during Covid, Mental Health Foundation of India has launched an exclusive web portal for mental healthcare– MiHOPE.
  • The portal is meant to help people overcome stress-related disorders and prevent emotional and mental health problems through diet, yoga, meditation and other lifestyle changes.
  • The portal will be functional from October 10. People can access it for online consultations including with AIIMS doctors.
  • The announcement was made during the ongoing Mental Health Access Summit 2020, which is taking place between October 4 and 11.
[Ref: Indian Express]

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