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Current Affair Analysis

7th June 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Free Travel For Women; Competition Commission of India (CCI); Competition Act, 2002; Cabinet Committees; U.S. visa process; Fixed dose combination (FDC); New START Treaty; Jat quota; ‘Ancient North Siberians’; World Food Safety Day 2019; African Union (AU); Wolbachia; Exercise Kharga Prahar;
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
June 07, 2019

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Why Cabinet Committees are formed, what are the functions of each
  • CCI imposes penalty on Chemists and Druggists Association and Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Haryana junks Jat quota to bring them under EWS

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Free Travel For Women In Delhi Buses, Metro For Safety

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Drug advisory body sub-committee asks to prove effectiveness of FDCs
  • First World Food Safety Day 2019 to outline sustainable solutions
  • Wolbachia bacterial strain that can combat dengue found in new Mosquito species

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • 596 new plant and animal species discovered in India last year

Bilateral & International Relations

  • S. visa process needs social media profiles now
  • African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown
  • Russia was prepared to drop the New START agreement

Defence & Security Issues

  • Indian Army’s training exercise in Punjab ends

Science & Technology

  • New group of ancient Siberians identified

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Polity & Governance

Why Cabinet Committees are formed, what are the functions of each

Cabinet-Committee-Economic-Affairs_0 Current Affairs Analysis

The Union government released the composition of eight Cabinet Committees, including two new ones — one on Investment, the other on Employment and Skill Development.

Cabinet committees restructured and formed by new government:

Why_Cabinet_Committees_are_formed_what_are_the_fun

  • Prime Minister will head all the committees except the committee on Parliamentary Affairs which will be led by Defence Minister and Cabinet Committee on Accommodation which will be led by Minister of home affairs.
  • Two new committees are added by the new government which are : Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth and Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development. These both new committees will be headed by the prime minister.
  • The Defence minister is member of all the cabinet committees except Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.

What are cabinet committees?

  • Cabinet committees are extra-constitutional bodies which derive their legality from the constitution.
  • The cabinet committees ensure smooth functioning between two departments or ministries of the government.
  • Cabinet committees work as organisations, which are instrumental in reducing the workload of the Union cabinet.
  • Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961 emerging out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
  • The Rules mandate the minister-in-charge of a department (ministry) to dispose of “all business allotted to a department under” him or her. However, “when the subject of a case concerns more than one department”, no decision can be taken “until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet”.

Who constitutes and assigns functions to these committees?

  • The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.
  • Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters.

Key Committees:

Appointments Committee of the Cabinet:

  • This panel makes appointments to posts of the three service chiefs, Director General of Military Operations, chiefs of all Air and Army Commands, Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Director General of Ordnance Factories, Director General of Defence Estates, Controller General of Defence Accounts, Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Solicitor-General, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Chairman and Members of the Railway Board, Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings and Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government.
  • This Committee decides on all important empanelments and shift of officers serving on Central deputation.

Cabinet Committee on Accommodation:

  • It determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation. It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organisations as also the rent to be charged from them.
  • It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament. It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs:

  • It is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects for evolving a consistent economic policy, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities.
  • It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deal with industrial licensing policies and review rural development and the Public Distribution System.

Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs:

  • It draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament.
  • It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs:

  • It addresses problems related to Centre-state relations.
  • It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.

Cabinet Committee on Security:

  • It deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications.
  • It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security.
  • It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure more than Rs 1,000 crore.
  • It considers issues related to the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Research and Development, Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for procurement of security-related equipment.

Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth:

  • It will identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing.
  • It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors.

Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development:

  • It is mandated to provide direction to all policies, programmes, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend.
  • The panel will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and to periodically review the progress in this regard.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

CCI imposes penalty on Chemists and Druggists Association and Pharmaceutical Companies

Competition Commission of India (CCI)3

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed penalties of over Rs 74 crore on two pharmaceutical companies as well as two Madhya Pradesh-based drug associations.

Reason for the Penalty:

  • The allegations were that the associations, through their practice of mandating a ‘No Objection Certificate’ prior to the appointment of stockists, were stifling competition, limiting access of consumers to various pharmaceutical products and controlling the supply of drugs in the market.
  • The investigation of CIC established contravention of the Competition Act, 2002 on the part of the above associations and certain pharmaceutical companies, who were found to be facilitating such anti-competitive practices.
  • It also identified certain individuals/ office-bearers/ officials of the associations and pharmaceutical companies to be liable under Section 48 of the Competition Act, 2002.
  • The CIC not only imposed a monetary penalty on the associations but to cease and desist directions issued under Section 27 of the Competition Act, 2002.

Competition Commission of India (CCI):

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

  • Competition Commission of India is a statutory body responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 (as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007) and to prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.
  • CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
  • It had replaced the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, 1969.

Role of CCI:

Competition Commission of India (CCI)1

  • To Prevent practices having adverse effect on competition
  • To Promote and sustain competition in markets
  • To Protect the interests of consumers and,
  • To Ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in markets, in India

Functions of the commission:

  • It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

CCI Act, 2002:

Competition Commission of India (CCI)2

  • Government of India appointed a committee in 1999 on “Competition Policy and Law” to examine Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practice (MRTP) Act, 1969 for shifting the focus of the law from curbing monopolies to promoting competition under the Chairmanship of Sri S.V.S. Raghvan.
  • In the year 2000, this committee submitted its report. Accordingly, the competition Act, 2002 was framed and passed on the basis of recommendation of this committee.
  • In accordance with the provisions of the Amendment Act, the Competition Commission of India and the Competition Appellate Tribunal have been established.
  • This Act was amended in 2007 and in 2012.

Objectives of CCI Act

 

  • To protect the interests of the consumers by providing them good products and services at reasonable prices.
  • To promote healthy competition in the Indian market.
  • To prevent the interests of the smaller companies or prevent the abuse of dominant position in the market.
  • To prevent those practices which have adverse impact on competition in the Indian markets.
  • To ensure freedom of trade in Indian markets.
  • To regulate the operation and activities of combinations (acquisitions, mergers and amalgamation).

Main Provisions of the Act

  • To prohibit anti-competitive agreements
  • To prohibit abuse of dominant position
  • To regulate combinations
  • Competition advocacy

Non-Applicability of Competition Act:

Competition Act is not applicable in the following cases:

  • Public Financial Institutions.
  • Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs)
  • Banks
  • Venture capital Funds (VCFs)
  • Agreements related to intellectual property rights (IPRs) such as trademarks, patents, copyrights etc
  • Central Government has the authority to exempt any class of enterprises from the provisions of Act in the common interest of national security or public interest
[Ref: PIB]

 

Haryana junks Jat quota to bring them under EWS

Haryana government withdraws EBPG quota

The Haryana government has withdrawn EBPG quota that will have impact on six castes which were included in backward class (Block-C) category.

Haryana government’s order

  • The Haryana government has withdrawn its quotas of posts kept reserved under the Economically Backward Persons in General Category (EBPG) and Backward Class (Block-C) in government jobs and state-run educational institutions.
  • Besides EBPG, the decision will have impact on six castes – Jats, Jat Sikhs, Muslim Jats, Tyagis, Rors and Bishnois – that were included in backward class (Block-C) category.
  • The Haryana government has asked all the departments having EBPG posts to release and order the initiate the requisition process for such posts.

Why the quota was withdrawn?

  • EBPG quota was withdrawn in view of already present reservation under the Economic Weaker Section (EWS) by the central government.

Background:

Haryana government withdraws EBPG quota1

  • The EBPG quota ensured reservation for economically-backward persons belonging to general category and the Backward Class (Block-C) quota provided reservation to Jats and five other communities — Jat Sikhs, Muslim Jats, Tyagis, Rors, and Bishnois.
  • In 2014, the Haryana government had prescribed reservation for EPBG category at 5 per cent for Group A and B posts; and 10 per cent for Group C & D posts.
  • Similarly, under the Backward Class (C) category, there was 6 per cent quota in Group-A and B posts and 10 per cent quota in Group-C and D posts.
  • The matter was reconsidered by the government in the light of reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) that was prescribed in February 2019.
  • Since the posts that were kept reserved for EBPG could not be merged/ converted to general/ unreserved category, the government had to withdraw the EPBG.

How will it impact Jats and other five castes?

  • Jats and five other castes were notified as Backward Class caste (Block-C) through The Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions Act), 2016.
  • It was challenged in high court, which imposed a stay on it. So the Jats could not benefit from quota in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions under this law.
  • The Jat reservation has now been withdrawn till the case challenging this quota is pending in the court.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

Free Travel For Women In Delhi Buses, Metro For Safety

Bus and Metro travel free for women in Delhi3

Delhi government’s proposal to make bus and Metro rides free for women has drawn reactions ranging from approval to rejection.

Delhi government’s scheme:

Bus and Metro travel free for women in Delhi2

  • As per the Delhi government’s scheme, women will have the option to not pay for Metro/Government bus rides.

Objective behind the move:

  • To make it easier for women to move from informal and more unsafe modes of transport such as shared autos and cabs to more formal and safer modes such as the Metro.
  • To help more women enter the workforce.

Similar schemes around the world:

  • Cities in the United States and Europe have experimented with the idea of free public transport since at least the 1950s.
  • Germany, France, Belgium, and Estonia have taken initiatives to make public transport free, either for the entire population or for sections such as students or senior citizens.
  • In 1991, the Netherlands introduced a seasonal free-fare travel card for higher education students.
  • Hasselt (Belgium) made public transport free in 1996. However, rising operational costs forced Hasselt to do away with the scheme in 2014.
  • The German town of Templin made public transport free in 1997, and continues with the policy even today.
  • In 2008 and 2013, Gothenburg (Sweden) offered motorists free public transport for a limited period. Later, 25% of motorists were recorded as having moved to public transport as primary commuting mode.
  • Luxembourg has pledged to become the first country to make public transport free for everybody by 2020.
  • However, the proposal to make public transport free for women has no well-known precedent anywhere in the world, and could be the first of its kind.

Challenges:

  • It is hard to copy the framework of free ride from European countries as Average income levels are not comparable, and the public transportation system in Delhi is weaker than in most European countries.
  • The Western countries has implemented this type of scheme to fight road congestion and pollution. However, there is no written record of such schemes in developing countries.
  • According to the Delhi government, the cost of subsidising women’s travel will be around Rs 1,200 crore annually. However, studies show that operational costs frequently rise in the long run, and schemes become increasingly less viable.
  • Delhi is looking at special passes for women. But the Metro has automated fare collection (AFC) gates that require tokens or Metro cards hence, the Metro will have to either isolate entry and exit points for women where AFC gates can be done away with, or come up with special cards or tokens for women.
  • Last mile connectivity is a big problem. For women, walking to and from the nearest bus stop or Metro station, especially during the early mornings and late evenings, remains unsafe in many places in the city.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

Drug advisory body sub-committee asks to prove effectiveness of FDCs

drugs_3545

A drug advisory body sub-committee has asked pharmaceutical companies to prove that 324 combination medicines are safe and effective for patients to consume in order to decide whether these drugs should continue to be sold in India.

What is the issue?

  • A committee headed by C K Kokate discussed a total of 418 FDCs in detail in consultation with subject experts of relevant therapeutic areas, examined all the data submitted by the companies before it declared these 324 FDCs irrational,
  • As a result, the committee has sought various details from pharmaceutical companies, including of whether the combinations were approved by apex drug regulator, which other countries they are sold in and proof that they are safe for consumption.

Background:

Fixed Dose Combinations (FDCs)2

  • In 2007, the government ordered states to withdraw 294 combinations that were in the market without the approval of the central government.
  • In 2016, total 344 FDCs were banned by the central government on the suggestion of the panel formed under the chairmanship of C K Kokate as they had no therapeutic justification and likely to involve risk to human beings.
  • As of April, the CDSCO had approved 1,288 FDCs. This is disproportionately high compared with the availability in a tightly regulated market like USFDA, which has only a few hundred approved FDCs.

Concerns:

  • There are multiple deficiencies in the CDSCO’s approval process for FDCs. Main amongst them are institutional problems such as understaffing, lack of skills, and inadequate infrastructure.
  • However, the most significant issue is the issuance of manufacturing licenses by the State Licensing Authority without the prior clearance of the Drug Controller General of India DCG(I), the head of CDSCO.

What are fixed dose combination (FDC) medicines? 

  • A fixed dose combination (FDC) is one that contains two or more drugs combined in a fixed ratio of doses and available in a single dosage form.
  • They are widely used to improve patient compliance as it is easier for them to take one drug than several.
  • They are acceptable only when the drugs so combined have a therapeutic advantage.
  • India is one of the world’s largest markets for FDC drugs that make up almost half the market share.
  • In September 2018 the health ministry pruned a list of banned combination medicines and added restrictions to the dosages or uses for six more types of such drugs.

Why are they popular in India?

  • FDCs’ popularity in India is due to advantages such as increased efficacy, better compliance, reduced cost and simpler logistics of distribution.
  • FDCs have shown to be particularly useful in the treatment of infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, where giving multiple antimicrobial agents is the norm. FDCs are also useful for chronic conditions especially, when multiple disorders co-exist.

Concerns:

  • When multiple drugs from the same therapeutic group, like antibiotics, are clubbed together, it may lead to resistance.
  • Rampant introduction of irrational FDCs not only exposes the patients to unnecessary risk of adverse drug reactions but also creates health problem in larger groups of people.
  • A lot of FDCs sold in India are unapproved, given the lack of coordination between state and central regulators.
  • The problem of unapproved FDCs mainly affects those who get treated in the private sector. In the absence of a strong pharmacovigilance mechanism in India, there is no data on adverse events of these unapproved FDCs.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

 

First World Food Safety Day 2019 to outline sustainable solutions

World Food Safety Day

The first-ever World Food Safety Day, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018, will be celebrated on 7 June 2019 under the theme “Food Safety, everyone’s business”.

World Food Safety Day 2019

World Food Safety Day2

  • It will be organized in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
  • The day aims to create awareness about the importance of maintaining safe food standards and also reduce the burden of deaths due to foodborne diseases.

UN Suggestions on how food safety could be achieved:

World Food Safety Day1

  • Safe governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all
  • Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices
  • Business operators must make sure food is safe
  • All consumers have a right to safe, healthy and nutritious food
  • Food safety as a shared responsibility between regional governments, UN organisations, development agencies etc.

Key Facts:

  • As per the WHO data, almost 1 in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated, with almost 1,25,000 deaths of children under 5 years.
[Ref: DownToEarth, Indian Express, WHO]

 

Wolbachia bacterial strain that can combat dengue found in new Mosquito species

Aedes_mosquito

Researchers have been artificially infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacterium that prevents replication of disease-causing virus in the guts of mosquitoes.

About the New Discovery:

  • One of the ways being experimented to control dengue and chikungunya is to release mosquitoes infected with a bacteria, Wolbachia, which prevents replication of disease-causing virus in the guts of mosquitoes.
  • Previously Wolbachia bacteria was only found in Culex mosquito and Anopheles mosquitoes. Now, Indian scientists in Coimbatore have found that a strain of wolbachia naturally occurs in Aegypti mosquito species.
  • Wolbachia is shown to hinder the replication and dissemination of pathogens in mosquito besides, inducing reproductive abnormalities. Therefore, researchers have been artificially infecting mosquitoes with wolbachia and exploring if such mosquitoes may be released to for controlling dengue.

About Wolbachia

Wolbachia bacterial strain that can combat dengue found in new Mosquito species 1

  • Wolbachia, genus of gram-negative bacteria, are natural bacteria present in up to 60% of insect.
  • Wolbachia is common among arthropods, including insects, spiders and other small animals without backbones.
  • Wolbachia was first identified in 1924 during dissections of household mosquitoes.
  • Wolbachia is safe for humans, animals and the environment.
  • It can only live inside host cells, but not in the environment. It cannot be transmitted between insects. Instead Wolbachia is transmitted to the offspring by the mothers.
  • Many mosquitoes, including some of the major disease-transmitting species, carry Wolbachia naturally.
  • Of the two main mosquito vectors of dengue in Asia, Aedes albopictus carries two Wolbachia strains that occur together, while Aedes aegypti (the primary species responsible for transmitting human viruses such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever) does not carry any Wolbachia.
  • The World Mosquito Program(WMP) uses Wolbachia, to help protect communities from harmful mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
  • WMP’s research has shown that when introduced into the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Wolbachia can help to reduce the transmission of these viruses to people.
  • When a Wolbachia infected male mates with a normal female mosquito, Wolbachia is transferred to the female. When the female lay eggs, all eggs cannot hatch. This effect is known as Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI).
  • Dengue and other viruses, such as Zika virus, cannot grow in Wolbachia infected female mosuquitoes. This is known as pathogen interference.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

596 new plant and animal species discovered in India last year

Scientists and taxonomists have documented 596 new species of flora and fauna from India in the year 2018.

About the New plant and animal species:

Zoological-Survey-of-India

  • The details of the discoveries were made public by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in the publications Plant Discoveries 2018 and Animal Discoveries 2018.
  • Of the 596 species, 372 come under fauna (311 invertebrates and 61 vertebrates). Of the 61 species of vertebrates discovered, 30 species were of reptiles.
  • Kerala recorded the highest number of discoveries with 59 species. West Bengal, a state with both Himalayan and coastal ecosystems, recorded 38 and Tamil Nadu recorded 26.
  • The newly identified 224 plant species include seed plants, pteridophytes, bryophytes, fungi and lichen.
  • About 31% of the plant species were discovered in the Himayalas. In the case of animals, the Western Ghats remained a biological hotspot from where about 50% of the species were found.
  • With these new discoveries, the updated list of animal species in India has risen to nearly 101,00 which is about 6.49% of all the species in the world and nearly 49,000 which is 11.5% of all flora in the world.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

U.S. visa process needs social media profiles now

us-visa
The revised US visa forms require most visa applicants to furnish their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers as part of the application process.

US move to require Social media profile as a part of Visa process

visa-flow-process

  • In a significant move to increase surveillance of those seeking to enter the US, The US government updated visa application forms to require nearly all applicants to provide their social media usernames, email addresses, and phone numbers for the past five years.
  • The new policy, which was first proposed in March 2018, will affect roughly 15 million US visa applicants around the world every year.

How will it work?

Social-media-logos

  • The change affects the non-immigrant visa online application form (DS-160), the paper back-up non-immigrant visa application (DS-156), and the online immigrant visa application form (DS-260).
  • Applicants have to choose from 20 online platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Vine and YouTube, and provide their usernames on the platforms. Social media platforms based outside the United States are also on the list.

Need for changes in Visa process

  • To enhance the security screening of persons entering in US
  • To protect US citizens by supporting legitimate travel to the US
  • To strengthen process for vetting applicants and confirming their identity.

Earlier Policy

  • The new requirement marks a shift away from the voluntary disclosure of social media profile information under the Barack Obama administration.
  • In early 2014, the Obama administration had prohibited social media profile evaluations during visa application processes. Later that year, the policy was loosened, but social media checks were not standard practice until a shooting in California in 2015.

Concerns:

  • Social media is an intricate map of its users’ contacts, associations, habits and preferences. Full information on accounts will give the US government access to a visa applicant’s pictures, locations, birthdays, anniversaries, friendships, relationships, and a whole trove of personal data that is commonly shared on social media, but which many may not like to share with agencies of state.
  • Research shows that this kind of monitoring has chilling effects, meaning that people are less likely to speak freely and connect with each other in online communities that are now essential to modern life.

Elsewhere in the world

  • In 2015, Indians faced scrutiny in Schengen (an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control) visas after it was made mandatory to provide biometric data through fingerprints and a digital photo.
  • That requirement was already in place in the US and Britain. Currently, the UK and Canada do not have any policy of collecting social media information form visa applicants.
[Ref: Indian express, Business today]

 

African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown

African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown

The African Union (AU) has suspended Sudan’s membership days after the military launched a brutal crackdown on protesters that killed dozens of people.

What is Sudan Protest?

African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown 1

  • In December 2018, a series of demonstrations broke out in several Sudanese cities, due in part to rising costs of living and deterioration of economic conditions at all levels of society.
  • The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
  • As a result, recently, the president of Sudan declared a national state of emergency, dismissed the federal government, sacked all state governors and banned protests.
  • Organisers of the protests have vowed to continue demonstrating until the president leaves his post.
  • Al-Bashir has ruled the Sudan since 1989, when he led a successful coup against the elected, but increasingly unpopular, prime minister of the time, Sadiq al-Mahdi. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Al-Bashir for war crimes.

African Union (AU):

African Union

  • The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 countries of the continent of Africa.
  • The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa.
  • Headquarter of the AU is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union.
  • They have adopted a gold, green and red based emblem and flag to represent the continental union.
  • Parent organisations of the AU are Organisation of African Unity, African Economic Community.
  • The African Union (AU) adopted the ‘Agenda 2063’ in 2015 with the aim of having a roadmap for a strong and prosperous Africa by 2063, 100 years after the establishment of AU’s predecessor, the Organization for African Unity (OAU).
  • The Chairperson of the African Union is selected by the Assembly following consultations by Member States. The office of the Chair of the African Union is held for a period for one year.
  • The current Chairperson of the African Union is from Egypt till February 2020.

 Objectives of the AU:

  • To achieve greater unity, cohesion and solidarity between the African countries and African nations.
  • To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent.
  • To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.

Members:

  • All UN member states based in Africa and on African waters are members of the AU.
[Ref: The Hindu, Aljazeera]

 

Russia was prepared to drop the New START agreement

Russia was prepared to drop the New START agreement

President of Russia said that Russia was prepared to drop a nuclear arms control agreement with the US, known as New START, if there was a lack of interest in renewing it.

What is the issue?

eim

  • Despite the several attempts of Russia convincing US to extend the New START agreement, US was not ready to extend it till now.
  • The Russia was firmly trying to convince US to extend this treaty as both nations had already dropped the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 2019 amid mutual recriminations.
  • Russia believed that the potential implications of letting the other treaty expire would be huge suggesting its results would fuel a nuclear arms race.

New START Treaty:

Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among several dismantled Pershing II missiles as they view the destruction of other missile components.  The  missiles are being destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

  • New START (New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russia with the formal name of ‘Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms’.
  • The treaty was signed in Prague in 2010 and came into force in 2011.
  • New START replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired December 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which terminated when New START entered into force.
  • The agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits, is set to expire in 2021. It can be extended for an additional five years.

Key features of the treaty:

  • It put limits on deployed strategic nuclear warheads missiles and bombs.
  • The number of strategic nuclear missile launchers will be reduced by half.
  • A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism.
  • The number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads is limited to 1,550, which is down nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty, as well as 10% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
  • It will also limit the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 800. The number of deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments is limited to 700.

Deadline:

  • These obligations must be met within seven years from the date the treaty enters into force.
  • The treaty will last ten years, with an option to renew it for up to five years upon agreement of both parties.
[Ref: The Hindu, Business-standard]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Indian Army’s training exercise in Punjab ends

Indian Army's training exercise in Punjab ends 1

A major training exercise named Kharga Prahar conducted by the Indian Army in Punjab ended.

Exercise Kharga Prahar:

Kharga Prahar

  • This exercise was undertaken in the plains of Punjab by various units and formations of Army’s Kharga Corps.
  • Validation of latest operational concepts designed to deliver a swift punitive blow to the enemy were the key features of this exercise.
  • The components of the Indian Air Force also participated in the exercise.
  • The exercise setting also incorporated aspects of joint training wherein para drops from Indian Air Force aircraft were carried out and simulated battlefield air strikes were conducted in support of ground forces

Kharga Corps:

  • Ambala (in Haryana) based 2-Corpa, popularly called as Kharga Corps, possesses 50% of the Indian Army’s offensive capabilities.
  • It has the mandate to launch offensive attack in case any conflict or war breaks out with neighbouring Pakistan.
  • The Corps was formed in 1971 in West Bengal. Later, it was moved to Ambala, Haryana, in 1985.
[Ref: Economic Times, Business Today]

 

Science & Technology 

New group of ancient Siberians identified

the-archaeological-site-near-the-yana-river-image

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of ancient people who lived in north eastern Siberia during the last Ice Age that lasted from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago.

  • Scientists named the group ‘Ancient North Siberians’ and described them as the ‘missing link’ in the Native American ancestry

About the early Siberian people:

north-submariya11

  • About 200,000-300,000 years ago, homo sapiens (the modern humans) evolved from their early hominid predecessors in Africa. They migrated out of Africa about 70,000-100,000 years ago to parts of Europe and Asia.
  • During the Last Glacial Maximum (about 26,500 to 19,000 years ago), hunter-gatherer populations made their way from Siberia to North America through a land bridge at what is now Bering Strait. It was submerged at the end of the last Ice Age.
  • The people, known as the Ancient North Siberians, endured extreme conditions during the late Pleistocene (often referred to as the Ice Age) and survived by hunting woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and bison.
  • They were ancestors both to the first humans who inhabited the Americas and to a subsequent Siberian group (the Ancient Palaeo-Siberians).
  • They also possessed the genetic look of modern-day people inhabiting across northern Eurasia and the Americas. These ancient Palaeo-Siberians got 75 per cent their DNA from East Asians, while for the first people in the Americas it was 63 per cent.
  • These people were a significant part of human history, they diversified almost at the same time as the ancestors of modern-day Asians and Europeans.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

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