Current Affair Analysis

9th August 2018 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Khangchendzonga 11th Biosphere Reserve added to UNESCO’s World Network; Panel to look into issues in jails across country; Harivansh Narayan Singh, new Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha; Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha; Niryat Mitra mobile app; What are ITC (HS) codes? Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO); Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Multi Option Payment Acceptance Device (MOPAD); Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve; What are Biosphere Reserves (BR)? UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere Programme; Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP); 9th August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples; ‘GoaMiles’; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 09, 2018


Polity & Governance

  • SC to constitute panel to look into issues in jails across country
  • Harivansh Narayan Singh elected as Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
  • Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu launches Mobile App Niryat Mitra


  • NITI Aayog and CII Launch Partnership on SDGs
  • SBI launches customer friendly multi option payment acceptance device – MOPAD

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Khangchendzonga is the 11th Biosphere Reserve added to UNESCO’s World Network

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Centre sets up GoM headed by Suresh Prabhu to decide on RCEP talks

Key Facts for Prelims

  • 9th August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
  • ‘GoaMiles’

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Polity & Governance

SC to constitute panel to look into issues in jails across country

The Supreme Court said that it would constitute a committee under the chairmanship of its retired judge to look into the problems in jails.


About the proposed committee:

  • The apex court stated that besides a retired SC judge as its Chairperson, the committee for prison reforms will comprise two or three officials from the Union Government.
  • The committee’s duties will include looking into the problems of jails across the country including overcrowding and women prisoners languishing in cells for years.
  • After studying the problems, the committee would be required to suggest measures to deal with them.


  • The apex court had expressed its displeasure that several states had not yet appointed the board of visitors who regularly inspect prisons to ensure that they are being run in accordance with the rules.
  • The current observance comes, as the court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.
  • The court had earlier taken strong exception to overcrowded jails across the country and said prisoners also have human rights and cannot be kept in jail like ‘animals’.
  • The apex court had also earlier passed a slew of directions over unnatural deaths in jails and on prison reforms across India.

Problem of Overcrowding prisons: 

  • Overcrowding is one of the biggest problems faced by prison inmates.
  • It results in poor hygiene and lack of sleep among other problems.
  • More than 65% of the undertrials spend three months to five years in jail before getting bail.
  • A fourth of all the under trials have been under detention for more than a year.

Who manages prisons in state? 

  • As per the seventh schedule of the constitution, the management of prisons falls exclusively under the domain of the state government.
  • In every state, the prison administrative machinery works under the chief of prisons who is a senior ranking IPS officer.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]


Harivansh Narayan Singh elected as Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha

JDU’s Harivansh Narayan Singh was elected as the new deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.

Harivansh Narayan Singh DC of RS

  • The post of the deputy chairman was lying vacant since June 2018 following the retirement of PJ Kurien, a Congress MP from Kerala.

Chairman and Deputy Chairman – presiding officers of Rajya Sabha  

  • The Presiding Officers of Rajya Sabha have the responsibility to conduct the proceedings of the House.
  • The Vice-President of India is ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha also chooses from amongst its members, a Deputy Chairman.
  • There is also a Panel of Vice-Chairmen in Rajya Sabha, the members of which are nominated by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. In the absence of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, a member from the Panel of Vice-Chairmen presides over the proceedings of the House.

Election of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha

  • The Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha is elected by the Rajya Sabha members from amongst themselves.
  • Whenever the office of the Deputy Chairman falls vacant, the Rajya Sabha members would elect another member to fill the vacancy.

Key facts about Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha:

  • Deputy Chairman is not subordinate to the Chairman and he is directly responsible to the Rajya Sabha.
  • To remain in office, the Deputy Chairman needs to remain a member of Rajya Sabha. He needs to vacate the seat if he loses the Rajya Sabha membership for whatsoever reasons.
  • He can resign from the office by giving in writing to the Vice-President.
  • He can also be removed by a resolution by Rajya Sabha members passed by absolute majority {majority of full membership of house}. When such resolution is under consideration, Deputy Chairman cannot preside over a sitting of the House, but he may be present and participate in proceedings.
  • The Deputy Chairman, like the Chairman, is also entitled to a regular salary and allowance. They are fixed by Parliament and are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Powers and functions of Deputy Chairman:

  • The Deputy Chairman, like the Chairman, while presiding over the House, cannot vote in the first instance; he can only exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie.
  • When the Chairman presides over the House, the Deputy Chairman is like any other ordinary member of the House.
  • He can speak in the House, participate in its proceedings and vote on any question before the House.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu launches Mobile App Niryat Mitra

Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has launched Niryat Mitra mobile application for exporters and importers of the country.


Niryat Mitra mobile app:

  • The Niryat Mitra mobile app has been developed by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), the largest exporters’ organisation of the country.
  • The app provides wide range of information required to undertake international trade from the policy provisions for export and import, applicable GST rate, available export incentives, tariff and market access requirements.
  • The app works internally to map the ITC HS code of other countries with that of India and provides all the required data without the users bothering about the HS code of any country.
  • The most interesting part is that all the information is available at tariff line.
  • It also makes available the export promotion programmes organised by FIEO and provides opportunity to the industry to participate in them, thus, helping and encouraging artisans, cottage, micro, small, medium enterprises to plan for exports.


Significance of the app:

  • This app will prove to be a gamechanger for the businessmen engaged in international business and will make exporters’ work easier with the wide range of features it offers ranging from knowledge about government policies, tariffs and export benefits.

What are ITC (HS) codes?

  • ITC (HS) codes are better known as Indian Trade Clarification (ITC) and are based on Harmonized System (HS) of Coding.
  • It was adopted in India for import-export operations. Indian custom uses an eight digit ITC (HS) code to suit the national trade requirements.
  • Any changes or formulation or addition of new codes in ITC-HS Codes are carried out by DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade).

About Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO):


  • Set up in 1965, FIEO is an apex body of the export promotion councils, commodity boards and export development authorities in India.
  • It represents the Indian entrepreneurs’ spirit of enterprise in the global market.
  • It provides the crucial interface between international trading community of India & the Central and State Governments, financial institutions, ports, railways and all engaged in export trade facilitation.
  • It serves the interests of over 1 lakh exporters from every goods and services sector in the country.
[Ref: PIB]



NITI Aayog and CII Launch Partnership on SDGs

The NITI Aayog and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and entered into a three-year partnership.


  • The CII has also launched the report ‘Indian Solutions for the World to Achieve SDGs’.

Focused activities:

This partnership focuses on specific activities that seeks to develop:

  • Vision and Action Agenda for businesses and industries to contribute to SDGs;
  • Annual Status Reports;
  • Sector-specific Best Practise Documents

About Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):


  • The SDGs are the set of 17 non-binding goals featuring 169 targets to be implemented from 2015 to 2030.
  • They were adopted by member countries of United Nations at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York.
  • These goals intend to achieve sustainable development and are more comprehensive than earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
[Ref: PIB]


SBI launches customer friendly multi option payment acceptance device – MOPAD

The State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest bank, has launched a Multi Option Payment Acceptance Device (MOPAD) for digital convenience of customers and merchants.


  • SBI will roll-out this new initiative on all SBI PoS terminals in a phased manner.

About MOPAD:

  • MOPAD It aims at providing digital convenience to customers and ease of doing business for merchants at the same time.
  • It allows the customer to make payments through “Cards, Bharat QR, UPI and SBI Buddy (e-wallet)” on a single PoS (Point of Sale) terminal.
  • MOPAD will help merchants to integrate different kinds of transaction through one PoS machine which will help in eliminating their operational inconvenience and streamline cash flow.


  • It is expected that this multipurpose initiative will enhance the digital ecosystem and help the bank in driving the economy towards a less-cash society.
[Ref: Indian Express, Business Standard]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Khangchendzonga is the 11th Biosphere Reserve added to UNESCO’s World Network

India’s Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, one of the highest ecosystems in the world, has been added to UNESCO’s list of World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WNBR).


  • This decision was taken at the recently concluded 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held at Palembang, Indonesia.

Key facts:


  • The Khangchendzonga reserve will be India’s 11th internationally designated WNBR.
  • With its inclusion in the WNBR list, the reserve joins other Indian biospheres such as Nandadevi, Simlipal, Sunderbans, and Nilgiri.
  • In total, India has 18 biosphere reserves, among which 11 have been internationally designated WNBR.
  • The remaining seven are domestic designated biosphere reserves and the Indian government is trying for their inclusion in the list as well.

Biosphere Reserves in india info

About Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:

  • Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve located in Sikkim, India.
  • The park is named after the mountain Kangchenjunga, which with a height of 8,586 metres (28,169 ft), is the third-highest peak in the world.
  • It is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level.
  • It includes a range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, which support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.
  • The core zone – Khangchendzonga National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category.
  • The core zone of the biosphere alone has over 150 glaciers and 73 glacial lakes with the most prominent one being the famous 26-km-long Zemu glacier.

Flora & Fauna:

  • The flora here includes temperate broadleaf, oaks, fir birch, maple and willow.
  • It also has some 550 bird species including the Tibetan snowcock, blood pheasant, osprey, satyr tragopan, Himalayan griffon, lammergeier, green pigeon, Tibetan snowcock, snow pigeon and Asian emerald cuckoo.
  • It is home to a number of globally threatened fauna including musk deer, snow leopard, red panda and Himalayan Tahr and many ethnic communities including Lepcha, Nepalese, and Bhutia.

What are Biosphere Reserves (BR)?

Biosphere Reserves info

  • Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems which promote the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
  • In BRs, protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions and their ways of life.
  • In India, BRs protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more National Parks.
  • They are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme and nominated by national governments.

Objectives of BRs:

The biosphere reserve should fulfill the following three objectives:

  • In-situ conservation of biodiversity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes
  • Contribution to sustainable economic development of the human population living within and around the Biosphere Reserve.
  • Provide facilities for long term ecological studies, environmental education and training and research and monitoring.

In order to fulfill the above objectives, the Biosphere Reserves are classified into zones like the core area, buffer area. The system of functions is prescribed for each zone.

About UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere Programme:

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that was launched in 1971.

UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere Programme logo

  • It aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
  • It proposes interdisciplinary research, demonstration and training in natural resources management.
  • Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts more than 600 sites in 122 countries all over the world, including 20 transboundary sites.
  • The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
  • Under the programme, pProtection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

Centre sets up GoM headed by Suresh Prabhu to decide on RCEP talks

The Centre has constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu to decide on 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.

Suresh Prabhu RCEP

Mandate of the GoM:

  • It has been mandated to find way forward from current deadlock over issues of joining RCEP or not.
  • It will also help fine tune India’s strategy for the upcoming RCEP ministerial meet in August 2018 in Singapore.

About RCEP:

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).


  • RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two is:
    1. The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and
    2. The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
  • RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.


India’s concerns associated with RCEP:

India is not comfortable with the ambitious dismantling of import tariffs being pushed for by the ASEAN, especially as it would also mean allowing duty-free access to Chinese goods.

  • The Indian industry does not want the country to commit to high levels of liberalisation as it fears that it could get out-priced in the domestic market.
  • India has also stressed on the need for other RCEP members to deliver in the area of services to arrive at an agreement. So far proposals in the area of services, including on work-visas for movement of professionals, have been disappointing with no member ready to make meaningful contributions.
  • Emphasis of RCEP is on trade in goods and the same enthusiasm is not shared for trade in services. The reluctance in giving market access for trade in services is a big challenge for India.
  • While there is immense pressure on India in the RCEP negotiations to commit to opening up (90%) of its traded goods, what is troubling the government is the fact that other RCEP countries have so far been lukewarm to India’s demands for greater market access in services, particularly on easing norms on the movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.
  • India, which is defensive regarding opening up its goods sector, is currently virtually isolated in the RCEP talks. Also, existing huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India.
  • Significantly, while the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement was inked and enforced from January 1, 2010, India’s goods trade deficit with ASEAN widened from $4.98 billion in 2010-11 to $14.75 billion in 2015-16, and then narrowed to $9.56 billion in 2016-17. The huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India.
[Ref: The Hindu, Live Mint]


Key Facts for Prelims

9th August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


  • The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was observed across the world on August 9, 2018.
  • The theme of 2018 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was ‘Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement’.
  • Its aim is to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, education, health and social development.


Origin of the day:

  • The United Nations General Assembly on December 23, 1994 proclaimed 9 August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples through its resolution 49/214.
  • The date marks the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 1982.



GoaMiles launched

  • It is recently launched app-based taxi service of Goa Tourism Development Corporation.
  • The app attempts to ensure that commuters are not cheated, and at the same time make sure that earnings of taxi drivers increase by two to three times.
  • The GoaMiles service is aimed at bringing about transparency in fares for customers.


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