- Centre to raise with U.S. non-tariff barriers
Environment & Ecology
- Centre to tap MGNREGA funds to make Saraswati flow again
Bilateral & International Relations
- India unanimously elected to head UN-Habitat
- DIPP & WIPO to set up Technology and Innovation Support Centers
Defence & Security Issues
- Doctrine of “SAMADHAN” for use in security operations
- 2,000-strong CoBRA force for Sukma
Key Facts for Prelims
- Chinnar wildlife sanctuary
- Scientists use satellites to count endangered birds from space
- NBT to host Panchayat Pustak Mela
- 29th India–Indonesia CORPAT
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Centre to raise with U.S. non-tariff barriers
India is planning to take up with the Trump administration the “barriers” imposed by the U.S., which are hurting Indian goods exports to that country in sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other industrial products.
What are the U.S. “non-tariff/Sanitary & Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) barriers”?
- The U.S. “non-tariff/Sanitary & Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) barriers” include those imposed under laws concerning bio-terrorism, child-labour, national security, ‘Buy America’ norms preferring U.S.-made items and American suppliers in U.S. Government purchases, registration fee hikes (in sectors such as pharma), food safety as well as animal and plant health regulations.
Why India is opposing?
- The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has “arbitrarily” listed 23 items produced in India on the ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour’ — which is in effect a ban on their import. Indian industry is worried as the reports that the DOL relies upon are “not always accurate.”
- The U.S. Government measures envisaged within an initiative to counter potential terrorist threats to the international maritime container trade system. This included X-ray scanning of containers exported to U.S., a measure that would cause additional costs for Indian exporters across sectors.
- In addition, a law (the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 of the U.S.) allows American manufacturers to petition for curbing imports from third nations on national security grounds without providing proof from industry. This is a major Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) of the U.S. affecting Indian exports across sectors as the law — allowing invocation of ‘national security exceptions’ without having to apply any detailed criteria — in effect restricts foreign competition.
- India will raise this issue soon after the new U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) takes charge.
- This issue would also be on the agenda of the next India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF) — the main bilateral platform for discussing and resolving trade and investment issues. The date for the next TPF meeting will be fixed after the new USTR assumes office.
Environment & Ecology
Centre to tap MGNREGA funds to make Saraswati flow again
The Centre plans to tap rural employment guarantee funds to recharge remnants of ancient rivers — including the mythical Saraswati — in a bid to boost groundwater reserves.
- Reviving such palaeo-channels may not be useful for irrigation but it could improve groundwater storage.
- Palaeo-channels are old rivers that have dried up and filled with sediment.
- Last October, a committee of hydrologists, geologists and archaeologists — as part of study commissioned by the Water Resources Ministry — reported evidence on the course of the Saraswati, mentioned in the Rigveda and Hindu mythology.
- S. Valdiya, who led the team, concluded that the Sutlej river “represented the western branch of the Saraswati.”
About river Saraswati:
- Saraswati river passed through Haryana, Rajasthan and North Gujarat. It also passed through Pakistan before meeting Western Sea through Rann of Kutch and was approximately 4,000 km in length.
- One-third of the river stretch fell in present-day Pakistan. The longer, two-third stretch measuring nearly 3000 km in length fell in India.
- The river had two branches: western and eastern. The Himalayan-born Satluj “of the PAST”, which flowed through the channels of present-day Ghaggar-Patialiwali rivulets, represents the western branch of the ancient river.
- On the other hand, Markanda and Sarsuti represented the western branch of Saraswati, known as Tons-Yamuna.
- The confluence of the branches was near Shatrana, 25 km south of Patiala. And suddenly, it flows crossing the dessert (Rann of Kutch) and meet gulf of western sea.
Bilateral & International Relations
India unanimously elected to head UN-Habitat
India has been unanimously elected as the President of the UN-Habitat, an organ of the United Nations’ Organisation (UNO) that promotes socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements across the world, after 10 years.
- India has been elected as the President of UN-Habitat after a gap of 10 years.
- This is only the third time that India has been elected as the President of UN-Habitat after 2007 and 1988. The UN-Habitat was established in 1978.
- India will be represented by the Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation.
- Currently, the minister will chair the ongoing meeting of the 58 member Governing Council of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya.
- The theme of the meeting is “Opportunities for effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda”
What is the New Urban Agenda?
- The New Urban Agenda which was adopted by the world community at Quito, Ecuador would focus on inclusive, sustainable and adequate housing for a better future and sustainable urbanization and integrated human settlements.
UN-Habitat, also known as United Nations Human Settlements Program is a UN agency responsible for sustainable urban development and human settlements.
- It was established in 1978 and has its headquarters in the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya.
- UN-Habitat reports to the United Nations General Assembly.
- It is also a member of UNDP.
- The twin goals of the Habitat Agenda are adequate shelter for all and the development of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world.
- The Governing Council of UN-Habitat is an inter-governmental policy making and decision making body that aims to promote integral and comprehensive approach to human settlements, assist the countries and regions in addressing human settlement problems and strengthen cooperation among countries over the issue of human settlement.
- It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.
- The mandate of UN-Habitat derives from the Habitat Agenda, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996.
- The mandate of UN-Habitat is further derived from other internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, in particular
- The target on achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by the year 2020; and
- The target on water and sanitation of the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which seeks to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
- Member States committed themselves to continue working towards cities without slums, beyond current targets, by reducing slum populations and improving the lives of slum-dwellers.
- UN-Habitat works in more than 70 countries in five continents focusing on seven areas:
- Urban Legislation, Land and Governance;
- Urban Planning and Design;
- Urban Economy;
- Urban Basic Services;
- Housing and Slum Upgrading;
- Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation;
- Urban Research and Capacity Development.
DIPP & WIPO to set up Technology and Innovation Support Centers
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have signed an agreement to establish Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC).
About TISC program:
- TISCs will be set up under WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) program.
- The programme provides innovators in developing countries with access to locally based, high quality technology information and related services, helping them to exploit their innovative potential and to create, protect, and manage their intellectual property (IP) rights.
Services offered by TISCs may include:
- Access to online patent and non-patent (scientific and technical) resources and IP-related publications;
- Assistance in searching and retrieving technology information;
- Training in database search;
- On-demand searches (novelty, state-of-the-art and infringement);
- Monitoring technology and competitors;
- Basic information on industrial property laws, management and strategy, and technology commercialization and marketing.
- The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is designated as the National Focal point for the TISC national network.
- As the national focal point, CIPAM shall identify potential host institutions, assess their capacities and support them in joining the TISC project.
- CIPAM will also act as the main intermediary between WIPO and TISC host institutions and coordinateall the activities of the national TISC network.
Created in 1967 “to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 17 specialized agencies of the United Nations.
- It has currently 188 member states, administers 26 international treaties, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Non-members are the states of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and Timor-Leste. Palestine has observer status.
- India is a member of WIPO and party to several treaties administered by WIPO.
Defence & Security Issues
Doctrine of “SAMADHAN’ for use in security operations
The Home Minister has enunciated an operational strategy ‘SAMADHAN’ to fight Left Wing Extremism.
The new doctrine, ‘SAMADHAN’ will have 8 pillars and they are:
- S for Smart Leadership.
- A for Aggressive Strategy.
- M for Motivation and Training.
- A for Actionable Intelligence.
- D for Dashboard-based Key Result Areas and Key Performance Indicators.
- H for Harnessing Technology.
- A for Action Plan for Each Theatre.
- N for No access to Financing.
Need for the doctrine:
- There are 10 LWE affected states- Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
- As many as 12,000 citizens had lost their lives in Maoist violence over the last two decades. Of these, 2,700 were jawans of security forces and 9,300 were innocent common people.
Government’s strategy to tackle left wing extremism:
- Alongside aggressive operations, road construction works, setting up of telecommunication, power and railway facilities in the remote areas will be expedited.
- The home minister has also stressed for befitting strategies during the security operations and enhanced intelligence in tackling the Maoists.
- Economic resources play an important role in any war — only when money is available is it possible to buy, eat, drink and possess ammunition and weapons. Therefore, choking the financial resources of the left wing extremists is the most basic mantra in this fight.
2,000-strong CoBRA force for Sukma
The CRPF will soon deploy a fresh squad of about 2,000 commandos from its special guerrilla warfare CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) battalions in and around the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh to defang the Maoists and their arsenal.
- The paramilitary has prepared a blueprint to mobilise at least 20 to 25 companies of the CoBRA from their present locations in West Bengal, Bihar, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh to the Bastar region that has some of the worst Maoist violence-hit districts.
- Sukma and its adjoining areas have witnessed some of the deadliest ambushes on security forces recently like the one where 25 CRPF men were killed in the Burkapal area of the district on April 24.
About CoBRA force:
- COBRA (backronym for Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) is a specialised unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) of India proficient in guerrilla tactics and jungle warfare.
- Originally established to counter the Naxalite problem, CoBRA is deployed to address any insurgent group engaging in asymmetrical warfare.
- Currently numbering ten battalions, CoBRA is ranked among one of India’s more experienced and successful law enforcement units.
Key Facts for Prelims
Chinnar wildlife sanctuary
- Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) is located in the Idukki district of Kerala.
- It was in news as an ambitious project of the Kerala Forest Department at the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) to rehabilitate Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) seized from smugglers has turned into a major success. This makes the CWS the only rehabilitation centre for star tortoises in the country.
- The CWS is one of twelve wildlife sanctuaries among the protected areas of Kerala.
- It is under the jurisdiction of and contiguous with Eravikulam National Park to the south.
- Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary is to the north and Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary is to the east.
- It forms an integral part of the protected forests straddling the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in the Annamalai Hills.
- The Western Ghats, Anamalai Sub-Cluster, including all of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
- The CWS is the only place in Kerala where star tortoises are known to occur in the wild. The sanctuary is now a haven for at least 450 such tortoises seized from poachers in less than two years.
- Indian star tortoises are considered auspicious for gaining wealth. It is the reason why Indian star tortoises, which are protected under the Wildlife Act, are poached and smuggled. It is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.
Scientists use satellites to count endangered birds from space
- Scientists from Britain and New Zealand have started counting individual Northern Royal Albatrosses from space, the first time ever that the global population of a species has been assessed from orbit.
- Using the highest-resolution satellite images available, scientists are calculating the number of the endangered albatrosses, which breed on New Zealand’s remote and virtually inaccessible Chatham Islands.
- The study used the DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 satellite, which can observe objects as small as 30 cm across, to locate and count the birds.
NBT to host Panchayat Pustak Mela
- The National Book Trust (NBT) is planning to launch Panchayat Pustak Mela with the aim of organising regular book fairs in rural areas across the country.
- The main objective behind introducing this new scheme at the panchayat level is to encourage the growth of reading habit in villages.
- National Book Trust (NBT) is an Indian publishing house, founded in 1957 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Education of the Government of India.
- NBT now functions under aegis of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India.
29th India–Indonesia CORPAT
- The 29th India–Indonesia CORPAT has commenced at Port Blair under the aegis of Andaman and Nicobar Command.
- It will demonstrate India’s commitment to its ties with Indonesia and to maritime security in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- The two navies have been carrying out Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) on respective sides of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) twice a year since 2002.
- The main aim of CORPAT is to keep the vital part of the Indian Ocean Region safe and secure for commercial shipping, international trade and legitimate marine activities.