Polity & Governance
- Ladakh gets divisional status
- Government introduces Bill on northeast
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India to host 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS)
- Centre allocates Rs 59 crore for Asiatic Lion conservation in Gujarat’s Gir
Bilateral & International Relations
- Trump nominates David Malpass as next World Bank President
- US considers withdrawal of zero tariffs for India: Report
Defence & Security Issues
- INS Trikand participates in exercise Cutlass Express 2019
Science & Technology
- India’s DRDO flight tests SFDR propulsion based missile system
- India jumps 8 places to 36th on International IP Index
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Ladakh gets divisional status
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has granted Ladakh a divisional status. It will comprise Leh and Kargil districts, with headquarters at Leh. Earlier, Ladakh was a part of the Kashmir division.
What does this mean?
- With this, there shall be three administrative units of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in the State.
- The move leaves the Kashmir valley geographically the smallest division at 15,948 sq. km, Jammu division at 26,293 sq. km and Ladakh, the biggest division, at 86,909 sq. km.
- Ladakh will now get its own Divisional Commissioner and Inspector General of Police.
- During the winter months, the entire Ladakh region remains cut-off from the rest of the country for almost six months. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it eligible for establishing a separate division.
Government introduces Bill on northeast
The government introduced a Constitution Amendment (125th Amendment) Bill to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the north-eastern region.
Need for amendment:
- The Bill is one of the legislations announced in the wake of protests following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.
Highlights of amendments:
- The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grassroots level.
- The village councils will be empowered to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, minor irrigation, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
- The Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to them.
- The Autonomous Councils now depend on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects.
- At least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura
- Assam and other States like Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram have been protesting against the Bill that would make it possible to give Indian citizenship, mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in Assam, who came after March 1971, in violation of the 1985 Assam Accord.
Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019:
- The bill, introduced in 2016, attempts to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to allow illegal migrants citizenship on the basis of religion.
- The bill was aimed at helping Hindus and other minorities move to India from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
- Supporters of the bill defended it by saying Muslims were excluded as the bill offers Indian nationality only to religious minorities fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries which is against to Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees right to equality.
- The protests have been particularly vocal in the state of Assam, which saw four million residents left off a citizens’ register.
6th schedule of the constitution of India:
- There are some autonomous administrative divisions of India to which the central government has given different proportion of autonomy within the state legislature.
- The establishment and functions of most of these autonomous councils are based on 6th schedule of the constitution of India.
- The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts. Thus, he can increase or decrease their areas or change their names or define their boundaries and so on.
- If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.
- Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise. The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor. Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
- The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the governor.
- The district and regional councils within their territorial jurisdictions can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.
- The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district. It can also make regulations for the control of money lending and trading by non-tribals. But, such regulations require the assent of the governor. The district and regional councils are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.
- The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
- The governor can appoint a commission to examine and report on any matter relating to the administration of the autonomous districts or regions. He may dissolve a district or regional council on the recommendation of the commission.
North- east autonomous administrative divisions:
- The most paramount structural change in the administration was the grant of political autonomy in North East India.
- The Interim Government of India Constituent Assembly of North- East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Committee during British era.
- The committee suggested formation of autonomous district councils to provide due representative structures to the tribal population.
- The recommendation was later absorbed in to the Sixth Schedule article 244 (2) & Article 275(1) of the Indian Constitution.
- As per sixth schedule, states such as Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram are the states with tribal areas and are considered as technically different from the other areas.
- These areas fall under the jurisdiction of respective states although certain provisions are made to create some district and regional councils.
- Each district is an autonomous district and Governor can alter/divide the boundaries of the said tribal areas.
- Currently, there are ten such councils in the region.
Some of them are:
- Bodoland territorial council
- Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council
- Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council
- Tripura tribal areas autonomous district council
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India to host 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS)
The 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS is going to be hosted by India during 15th to 22nd February, 2020 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
- Parties and eminent conservationists and international NGOs working in the field of wildlife conservation attended the COP.
Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS):
- In order to protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme.
- Also referred to as the Bonn Convention, it provides a global platform for the sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.
- It brings together the States through which migratory animals pass and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures.
- India has been a Party to the CMS since 1983. The Conference of Parties (COP) is the decision-making organ of this convention.
- The convention complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.
- Under this convention, migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I and Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live.
- Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.
- India has also signed non legally binding MOU with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
- Migratory species are those animals that move from one habitat to another during different times of the year, due to various factors such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, etc.
- The movement between habitats, can sometimes exceed thousands of kilometres for some migratory birds and mammals.
- A migratory route can involve nesting and also requires the availability of habitats before and after each migration.
- India is temporary home to several migratory animals and birds. The important among these include Amur Falcons, Bar headed Gheese, Black necked cranes, Marine turtles, Dugongs, Humpbacked Whales, etc.
- The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, and covers 182 migratory water bird species, including 29 globally threatened species.
- India has also launched the National Action Plan for conservation of migratory species under the Central Asian Flyway.
Centre allocates Rs 59 crore for Asiatic Lion conservation in Gujarat’s Gir
In a bid to protect and conserve lions, Ministry of Environment launched a three-year Asiatic Lion Conservation Project in collaboration with the state of Gujarat, which is the last habitat of the big cat.
- It is identified as one of the endangered species by the government.
About the project:
- The project aimed to protect over 600 lions in the state’s Gir sanctuary in its first year.
- It will focus on better management of the lion habitat, disease control and veterinary care for them.
- The project will use modern information and communication technology for conservation and protection efforts of the Greater Gir Region. ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.
- It will include GPS-based animal and vehicle tracking, automated sensor grid with movement sensors.
- Night vision capability and real-time monitoring and report generation will also be included under this project.
- Government will improve the structure and facility of specialised veterinary hospitals and ambulances for lions.
Efforts for the relocation of lions:
- The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened. This was ordered after several recommendations by expert groups, including the Wildlife Institute of India.
- It emphasised that the long-term survival of the lion as a species was best served if they could be present outside Gujarat, too, so that they are protected against, say, a forest fire, a disease, or calamities.
- The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, according to a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee, but there has been no progress on the proposal.
- There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.
About Asiatic Lions:
- Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions. Both are subspecies of the same species.
- Asiatic Lions are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List.
- Its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India.
- As per the 2015 census, there were a total of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network.
- With serious conservation efforts of the State and the Union Government, the population of Asiatic lions have increased to over 500 which used to be around 50 by late 1890s.
[Ref: The Economic Times]
Bilateral & International Relations
Trump nominates David Malpass as next World Bank President
United States President Donald Trump nominated David Malpass for the candidature in the elections to appoint the next president of the World Bank.
- The US holds a 16% share of board voting power hence more often it is the US-backed candidate gets elected for the post of the president.
Eligibility to become World Bank President:
As per the guidelines of the World Bank, a World Bank president to have:
- A proven track record of leadership.
- Experience managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector.
- Ability to articulate a clear vision of the Bank’s development mission.
- A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation.
- Effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality, and objectivity.
The candidate must be citizens of one of the bank’s member countries and cannot be a bank governor, executive director or alternate.
- To win the presidency of the World Bank, a candidate must win approval from the institution’s executive board, which has 25 members.
US considers withdrawal of zero tariffs for India: Report
India could lose a vital US trade concession – Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States.
- This sets a background of a widening dispute over its trade and investment policies.
- India is the world’s largest beneficiary of the scheme that has been in force since the 1970s.
- The trigger for the latest downturn in trade ties was India’s new rules on e-commerce that restrict the way Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart-backed Flipkart do business in a rapidly growing online market set to touch $200 billion by 2027.
- Moreover, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has courted foreign investment as part of his Make-in-India campaign to turn India into a manufacturing hub and deliver jobs to the millions of youth entering the workforce.
- To force global card payments companies such as Mastercard and Visa to move their data to India and the imposition of higher tariffs on electronic products and smartphones.
- With this, India could lose a vital U.S. trade concession, under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States.
- If the United States eliminates duty-free access for about 2,000 Indian product lines, it will mostly hurt small businesses such as jewellery.
- The number of goods qualifying for preferential treatment could be reduced or the whole programme could be withdrawn.
- Removal of GSP indicate a tough trade position by the US; especially for countries like India who benefited much from the scheme. India is the 11th largest trade surplus country for the US and India enjoyed an annual trade surplus of $ 21 bn in 2017-18.
Generalised System of Preferences (GSP):
GSP is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
- GSP was instituted on January 1, 1976 by the Trade Act of 1974.
- The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries.
- GSP promotes sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping these countries to increase and diversify their trade with the United States.
- GSP provide opportunities for many of the world’s poorest countries to use trade to grow their economies and climb out of poverty.
- It is a preferential tariff system which provides for a formal system of exemption from the more general rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- It is a system of exemptions from the most favoured nation principle (MFN) that obliges WTO member countries to treat the imports of all other WTO member countries no worse than they treat the imports of their “most favoured” trading partner.
- In essence, MFN requires WTO member countries to treat imports coming from all other WTO member countries equally by imposing equal tariffs on them.
Difference between GSP and the usual trade arrangement under WTO:
- Under the normal trade laws, the WTO members must give equal preferences to trade partners. There should not be any discrimination between countries. This trade rule under the WTO is called the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause.
- The MFN instructs non-discrimination that any favorable treatment to a particular country. At the same time, the WTO allows members to give special and differential treatment to from developing countries (like zero tariff imports). This is an exemption for MFN. The MSP given by developed countries including the US is an exception to MFN.
Advantages of GSP:
- Reduction or removal of import duty on an Indian product makes it more competitive to the importer – other things (e.g. quality) being equal.
- This tariff preference helps new exporters to penetrate a market and established exporters to increase their market share and to improve upon the profit margins, in the donor country.
- Indian exporters benefit indirectly through the benefit that accrues to the importer by way of reduced tariff or duty free entry of eligible Indian products.
Defence & Security Issues
INS Trikand participates in exercise Cutlass Express 2019
INS Trikand, a front-line warship of the Indian Navy, participated in a multinational training exercise ‘CUTLASS EXPRESS – 19’ held from 27 Jan to 06 Feb, 2019.
Objective of the exercise:
- The aim of the exercise was to improve law enforcement capacity, promote regional security and progress inter-operability between the armed forces of the participating nations for the purpose of interdicting illegal maritime activity in the Western Indian Ocean.
Highlights of exercise:
- It is an exercise designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa as well as information sharing, planning and operating.
- It is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and is conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa.
- INS Trikand is a Talwar-class frigate of the Indian Navy. Talwar-class ship uses BrahMos missiles in place of the Klub-N missiles in the earlier ships.
- It is built by Russia and commissioned to Indian Navy service in 2013.
- Her sister ships INS Teg and INS Tarkash were commissioned in 2012.
- It is equipped with a versatile range of sensors and weapons enabling her to address threats in air, surface and sub-surface.
- It is capable of carrying out Surveillance missions and Anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Western Arabian Sea.
Science & Technology
India’s DRDO flight tests SFDR propulsion based missile system
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested the second indigenously developed ‘Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR)’ propulsion based missile system in Integrated Test Range (ITR) from Chandipur, Odisha.
- Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) is a missile propulsion technology jointly developed by India and Russia.
Significance of the test:
- It will help both India’s surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles to perform better and enhance their strike range, making them more lethal.
- With it, India can have fastest long-range missiles in two categories, providing full-fledged and multi-layered aerial protection from hostile attacks.
- Its successful use in missiles will mark India’s entry into select club of nations that use next-generation missile technology against manoeuvring targets, compromising effectiveness of conventional missiles.
What is ramjet?
Ramjet is a form of air-breathing jet engine that uses the vehicle’s forward motion to compress incoming air for combustion without a rotating compressor.
- Ramjets work best at speeds of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) and higher. Since ramjets develop no static thrust, some means for launching them at high velocity is required.
- Above Mach 5, ramjet propulsion becomes very inefficient. The new supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, solves this problem by performing the combustion supersonically in the burner.
- While rockets can operate in the near vacuum of space, ramjets must fly through the atmosphere. In other words, ramjets make allies of shock waves and compression forces that once opposed high-speed flight.
How Ramjet works?
- It uses forward motion to draw in air and on a specially shaped intake passage to compress the air for combustion – the natural air compression brought on by an aircraft’s high speed.
- Fuel is injected in the combustion chamber where it mixes with the hot compressed air and ignites. As in other jet engines, forward thrust is obtained as a reaction to the rearward rush of hot exhaust gases.
- A ramjet-powered vehicle requires an assisted take-off like a rocket assist to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.
India jumps 8 places to 36th on International IP Index
India jumped eight-point on International IP Index in 2019 from 44th position in 2018 is the highest increase among 50 nations mapped by the index.
- It is the highest gain for any country this year.
International IP Index:
- This index analyses the IP climate in 50 global economies, is brought out by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC).
- The indicators encompass 8 categories of IP protection: patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, commercialization of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency, and membership and ratification of international treaties.
- The 2019 Index demonstrates the close correlation between effective IP protection and economic growth, global competitiveness, and the creation of 21st century knowledge-based economies.
Highlights of the index:
- The U.S., UK, several European economies, Japan, and Singapore remain atop the global IP rankings with the United States seeing a slight increase in its overall lead.
- Recognition of international standards of copyright protection and incentives for intellectual property have helped India to secure the 36th rank on International Intellectual Property (IP) Index.
- In 2018 India was on 44th position on International Intellectual Property (IP) Index.
- The 2019 Index shows progress in developing countries. India experienced its second consecutive year of growth in the IP global ranking as well as Latin America, Mexico and Argentina’s overall scores increased substantially as a result of positive IP reforms.
- For the second year in a row, India’s score represents the largest gain of any country measured on the Index.
- India’s overall score has also increased substantially from 30.07% (12.03 out of 40) in the previous edition to 36.04% (16.22 out of 45) in the present edition.