Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 December 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 December 2017


 

Paper 1:

Topic: Role of women and women’s organization.

 

Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade

Context: For the first time in the history of the World Trade Organization, WTO members and observers have endorsed a collective initiative to increase the participation of women in trade. In order to help women reach their full potential in the world economy, 118 WTO members and observers agreed to support the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade, which seeks to remove barriers to, and foster, women’s economic empowerment.

Supporting WTO members and observers have specifically agreed to explore and find ways to best tackle barriers to trade, lack of access to trade financing and sub-optimal participation of women in public procurement markets.

 

India’s stand:

India, an influential WTO member, was among the minority group that chose not to endorse the move saying while it stoutly supports gender equality, it cannot concur with the view that gender is a trade-related issue. Agreeing to the proposition to link gender and trade could lead to advanced countries using their high standards in gender-related policies to not only curb exports from the developing world, but also indirectly restrict developing countries from incentivising their women citizens as part of measures to address developmental challenges.

India also observed that gender-related discussions should take place at appropriate fora and not at the WTO, which is purely a trade-related body. Otherwise, it will set a precedent to bring in other non-trade issues such as labour and environment standards into the WTO’s ambit.

 

Background:

Currently, many women worldwide stand on the sidelines of the economy. While women comprise about half of the global population, they generate only 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) and run only about a third of small and medium-sized enterprises. In some developing countries, female business ownership can dip as low as 3-6%. An International Trade Centre survey in 20 countries found that just one in five exporting companies is owned by women. In more than 155 countries, there is at least one law impeding economic opportunities for women. No country has managed to close the gender gap on economic participation and opportunity; progress is so slow it would take, at the current rate, 170 years to reach gender equality. It is also apparent that international trade and trade agreements affect women and men differently.

 

About Buenos Aires Women and Trade Declaration:

It was spearheaded by the governments of Iceland and Sierra Leone, as well as the International Trade Centre. It stemmed from efforts made by the Trade Impact Group of the International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings female and male decision-makers together to break down gender barriers. The declaration seeks women’s economic empowerment by expeditiously removing barriers to trade.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2:

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Government to regulate ads on pre-natal sex

Context: Nine years after it took upon itself the task of regulating ads and content relating to sex-determination tests banned under local law, the Supreme Court has now washed its hands of the matter and left it to the government to take care of such issues in consultation with the search engines. The court cited lack of expertise as a reason for this.

 

Background:

The case had begun in 2008, when an activist filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to get the search engines to abide by local law which bans such tests to arrest the falling sex ratio in the country. The government had then set up a nodal body to act as the interface with the search engines on such complaints. The court had passed umpteen orders in which the court warned the engines that they should either follow local law or shut shop.

 

About PCPNDT Act:

The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991. The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.

  • Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
  • The act was amended in 2003 to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection. The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
  • The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted. In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

SANKALP Project

Context: The government has signed a Financing Agreement for IBRD loan of USD 250 million (equivalent) for the “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) Project” with the World Bank.

 

About SANKALP scheme:

What is it? SANKALP is a Centrally sponsored scheme. It is an outcome focused scheme marking shift in government’s implementation strategy in vocational education and training from inputs to results. SANKALP will provide market relevant training to 3.5 crore youth.

Objective: The Objective of the project is to enhance institutional mechanisms for skills development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for the work force.

What it does? The scheme provides the required impetus to the National Skill Development Mission, 2015 and its various sub missions. It is aligned to flagship Government of India programs such as Make in India and Swachhta Abhiyan and aims at developing globally competitive workforce for domestic and overseas requirements.

The Key result areas for the project include Institutional Strengthening at the National and State Levels for Planning, Delivering, and Monitoring High-Quality Market-Relevant Training; Improved Quality and Market Relevance of Skills Development Programs; Improved access to and completion of skills training for female trainees and other disadvantaged groups; and Expanding skills training through private-public partnerships (PPPs).

 

Sources: pib.


 

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

Legatum Prosperity Index

 

Context: ‘The Legatum Prosperity Index 2017’, an annual ranking developed by the London-based Legatum Institute, has been released.

 

About the Legatum Prosperity Index:

The Legatum Prosperity Index is the world’s leading global measure of economic and social wellbeing that studies 104 indicators under these categories: Economic Quality, Business Environment, Governance, Personal Freedom, Social Capital, Safety and Security, Education, Health and Natural Environment. The Index offers a unique insight into how prosperity is forming and changing across the world.

 

Key findings:

Global prosperity at a record high: World prosperity increased in 2017 and now sits at its highest level in the last decade. It is now 2.6% higher than in 2007. Furthermore, prosperity growth has been faster from 2012 to 2017 than it was from 2007 to 2012. However, the gap between the highest and lowest scores in the Index has increased for five straight years and the spread between nations is growing, indicating that while prosperity as a whole may be increasing, not all countries are yet benefiting from the increase.

Asia-Pacific makes the greatest gains: While prosperity improved around the world in 2017, no region grew as fast as Asia-Pacific. Gains came through a fast-improving Business Environment, especially in the population centres of India (100th), China (90th), Pakistan (137th) and Indonesia (59th). It is now easier to access credit, and intellectual property rights have improved.

Improved government accountability: Every region in the world improved in Governance in 2017, with Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa rising fastest. Across the world judiciaries became more independent from state interference and the process of challenging governmental regulation became easier. People also became more confident in the outcome of elections.

Decreasing Safety and Security in the MENA region: Despite gains in Social Capital and a strengthening Business Environment, overall prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has suffered in recent years through worsening Safety and Security. Casualties from both war and terrorism have increased, along with a rise in state-sponsored violence.

 

Sources: toi.


 

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

 

Hambantota port

Context: Sri Lanka has formally handed over its southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, which government critics have denounced as an erosion of the country’s sovereignty.

 

Background:

Sri Lanka, in July 2017, cleared a revised deal for the Chinese-built port in Hambantota. The modified agreement is believed to be more profitable to Sri Lanka and also addresses security concerns raised by other countries. As per the deal, while the Chinese would manage port operations, no naval ship, including Chinese ones, can call at Hambantota without Sri Lanka’s permission.

 

Significance of Hambantota port for China:

Hambantota is right in the middle of vital energy supply lines in the Indian Ocean, connecting the Middle East and East Asia. For Beijing, the Hambantota project is a linchpin of the “One Belt One Road” project, which aims to build a new Silk Road of trade routes between China and more than 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. That project is underpinned by a network of harbours across the world that have put China in a position to challenge the US as the world’s most important maritime superpower. Other similar developments in the region include the Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is the centrepiece of the $55bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

 

Why is India concerned?

Hambantota, which sits on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, provides access to critical Indian Ocean sea lanes. The acquisition of the port by China has spurred particular alarm in India, which is concerned about Beijing’s growing strategic and economic footprint in the Indian Ocean region.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

International Court of Justice (ICJ)

 

Context: Pakistan has rejected India’s plea for consular access to death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav at the ICJ, claiming that New Delhi wants the access to get the information gathered by its “spy”. In its counter-memorial submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Pakistan said the provision of such an access under the Vienna Convention is only for legitimate visitors and not for spies.

India, however, maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.

 

About ICJ:

What is it?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial body of the UN. Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter.

It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.

 

Members of the Court:

The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election.

 

Who nominates the candidates?

Every state government, party to the Charter, designates a group who propose candidates for the office of ICJ judges. This group includes four members/jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (machinery which enables arbitral tribunals to be set up as desired and facilitates their work) also picked by the State. Countries not part of the statute follow the same procedure where a group nominates the candidates.

Each group is limited to nominate four candidates, two of whom could be of their nationality. Within a fixed duration set by the Secretary-General, the names of the candidates have to be sent to him/her.

 

What are the qualifications of ICJ judges?

  • A judge should have a high moral character.
  • A judge should fit to the qualifications of appointment of highest judicial officers as prescribed by their respective states or.
  • A judge should be a juriconsult of recognized competence in international law.

 

The 15 judges of the Court are distributed as per the regions:

  • Three from Africa.
  • Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Three from Asia.
  • Five from Western Europe and other states.
  • Two from Eastern Europe.

 

Independence of the Judges:

Once elected, a Member of the Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of that of any other State. Unlike most other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

In order to guarantee his or her independence, no Member of the Court can be dismissed unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other Members, he/she no longer fulfils the required conditions. This has in fact never happened.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

 

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

VoLTE services

 

Context: Telecom major Bharti Airtel, as part of expanding its services, has launched Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) facility for its customers in Chennai. Airtel VoLTE works over 4G services that will enable customers across the city to enjoy HD quality voice calls with faster call set up time.

 

Background:

Indian telecom players are battling tooth and nail to retain their competitive position in the market and VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) is their new mantra. It promises faster, better and wider data connectivity. India is witnessing a VoLTE revolution thanks to the competition stirred up by Reliance Jio.

 

What is VoLTE?

VoLTE stands for voice over Long Term Evolution. VoLTE is an Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) specification which enables a variety of services to operate seamlessly on the network rather than having to switch to different applications for voice or video.

 

How it works?

VoLTE is a technology update to the LTE protocol used by mobile phone networks. Under LTE, the infrastructure of telecom players only allows transmission of data while voice calls are routed to their older 2G or 3G networks. This is why, under LTE, one cannot access 4G data services while on a call. This leads to problems such as slow internet speeds and poor voice clarity. VoLTE allows voice calls to be ‘packaged’ and carried through LTE networks. This would mean 4G data accessibility even during calls.

 

Benefits of VoLTE:

  • VoLTE provides a more efficient use of spectrum than traditional voice and increases handset battery life.
  • VoLTE ensures that video services are fully interoperable across the operator community, just as voice services are, as demand for video calls grows.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Electronic/electrical waste in India

Context: The UN, in its latest report- Global E-waste Monitor 2017, has warned about the health and environmental dangers from the processing of e-waste — the discarded electronic and electrical material — by the informal sector in India without proper safeguards.

 

The UN has made the following observations in its report:

  • Over 1 million poor people in India are involved in manual recycling operations, but “most of these people have very low literacy levels with little awareness of the dangers of the operations.
  • Severe health impacts and environmental damage are widespread in India, due to the final step of the e-waste processing by the informal sector. The dangers come from “improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through open burning or in dumpsites.
  • The value of recoverable precious materials like gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium contained in last year’s e-waste was $55 billion and much of it was going to waste.

 

Background:

Domestically India produced 1.95 million tonnes of e-waste last year — or about 1.5 kg per person — and it also imports it from developed countries. Last year, the world produced 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste or 6.1 kg per person, which is four times more than the e-waste produced by each Indian. Only 8.9 million tonnes — or 20 per cent — per cent of total global e-waste was recycled.

E-waste includes a whole variety of small and large appliances, and electronic equipment including cell phones, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, computers and lamps, small appliance and large appliances, lamps.

 

Efforts by India:

A formal e-waste recycling sector is now being developed in major Indian cities and under the country’s rules producers have extended responsibility for the handling the waste that ultimately results from their products. The main features of the regulations are a refundable deposit scheme that incentivises recycling and parallel to that is the creation of Producer Responsibility Organisations to handle the waste.

 

Why it is difficult to manage e waste in India?

  • The producers/manufacturers do not have adequate information on their website regarding e waste management.
  • Customer care representatives do not have inkling about any take back or recycling programme and even if they have set up collection centres, they are simply not enough for a geographically vast country like India.
  • India being a vast country, setting up collection mechanism is a big challenge. If any of the brands try individually to reach out to all corners of the country, it will economically not be sustainable or feasible.
  • Improper enforcement of the existing laws is another hurdle.

 

Way ahead:

Looking ahead, the problem could become more acute with cheaper cell phones and other equipment becoming available. This means that more people will be able to afford purchasing new equipment, and that more equipment will eventually be discarded. Therefore, there is need for developing systems to safely handle the e-waste and recycle it.

 

Sources: ET.


 

Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

 

Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari

Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari

Context: India’s first modern conventional submarine, INS Kalvari, has been commissioned into Navy’s fleet.

 

INS Kalvari- key facts:

  • The diesel-electric submarine is designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS. The submarine is named after the dreaded tiger shark, a deadly deep sea predator of the Indian Ocean.
  • The submarine boasts of superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimised shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision-guided weapons.
  • The submarine, which has a speed of 20 knots, is equipped with sea-skimming SM-39 Exocet missiles and heavy-weight wire-guided surface and underwater target torpedoes.

 

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:

 

Amarnath cave declared a ‘silent zone’:

In a bid to preserve the eco- sensitive Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, the National Green Tribunal has declared it a “silence zone” and prohibited religious offerings beyond the entry point. Declaring the area around the Amarnat cave shrine a “silence zone” would be helpful in preventing avalanches and maintaining its pristine nature.

Significance of this move: The Amarnath cave shrine is considered to be one of the holiest in Hinduism. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. The Amarnath cave is located in a delicate ecosystem. The directions would make the Amarnath Yatra safe and convenient for the devotees. This would protect the shrine from degradation and ensure it is protected for the coming generations.

 

Rajasthan becomes first in country to offer e-mail IDs in Hindi:

Rajasthan has become the first state in the country to offer free e-mail address in Hindi to its residents. The facility —name@rajasthan.bharat (in Devanagari script) — will lead to millions of new users who are not comfortable with English e-mail ids. The initiative will ensure maximum participation of people towards e-governance and also that maximum facilities are available in vernacular language.