Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 March 2017
Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 March 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
International Diamond Conference “Mines to Market 2017”
International Diamond Conference “Mines to Market 2017” was recently held.
- The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India hosted the International Diamond Conference.
- The conference was held with an objective of bringing together the leading Miners, Diamantaires, Retailers, Bankers and Analysts from across the globe on a platform to discuss the supply and demand issues faced by the Global Diamond Industry.
- The conference witnessed Ministers from mining countries, delegates from Mining Companies, heads of Retail and Luxury brands, Int. Diamond heads of various banks and other prominent personalities of the Diamond industry.
India is the largest cut and polished diamond manufacturer in the world. 93 % of its production is exported.
The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) was set up by the Ministry of Commerce and industry, Government of India (GoI) in 1966. It was one of several Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) launched by the Indian Government, to boost the country’s export thrust, when India’s post-Independence economy began making forays in the international markets. Since 1998, the GJEPC has been granted autonomous status. The GJEPC is the apex body of the gems & jewellery industry and today it represents over 6,000 exporters in the sector.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Green nod for Neutrino project suspended
The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has suspended the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) that was to come up in Theni and asked the project proponent to make a fresh application.
Why was it suspended?
The Tribunal found that the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala was just about 4.9 km from the proposed project site and the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border was just a kilometre away, making it a Category ‘A’ project.
What the rules say?
Under the guidelines laid down by the Environment Ministry, any project that falls within 5 km from an inter-State boundary or within a notified national park or a sanctuary has to be considered a Category ‘A’ project that involves a number of processes before an EC is granted.
In this case, the MoEF had called it a Category ‘B’ project, for which an Environmental Impact Assessment is not necessary, but the department processed it as an additional measure.
Since the proposed project is near a national park, the INO has also been asked to get clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.
The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.
- When completed, the main magnetised iron calorimieter (ICAL) experiment include the world’s most massive magnet, four times larger than the 12,500-tonne magnet in the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
The project includes:
- Construction of an underground laboratory and associated surface facilities at Pottipuram in Bodi West hills of Theni District of Tamil Nadu.
- Construction of a Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector for studying neutrinos, consisting of 50000 tons of magnetized iron plates arranged in stacks with gaps in between where Resistive Plate Chambers (RPCs) would be inserted as active detectors, the total number of 2m X 2m RPCs being around 29000.
- Setting up of National Centre for High Energy Physics at Madurai, for the operation and maintenance of the underground laboratory, human resource development and detector R&D along with its applications. The underground laboratory, consisting of a large cavern of size 132m X 26m X 20m and several smaller caverns, will be accessed by a 2100 m long and 7.5 m wide tunnel.
What is INO being built for?
The initial goal of INO is to study neutrinos. Neutrinos are fundamental particles belonging to the lepton family. They come in three flavours, one associated with electrons and the others with their heavier cousins the muon and the Tau. According to standard model of particle physics, they are mass less. However recent experiments indicate that these charge-neutral fundamental particles, have finite but small mass which is unknown. They oscillate between flavours as they propagate. Determination of neutrino masses and mixing parameters is one of the most important open problems in physics today. The ICAL detector is designed to address some of these key open problems in a unique way. Over the years this underground facility is expected to develop into a full-fledged underground science laboratory for other studies in physics, biology, geology, hydrology etc.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Ganga, Yamuna termed ‘living persons’
In a first in the country, the Uttarakhand High Court has declared that the rivers Ganga and Yamuna were “living persons.” On March 15, New Zealand river Whanganui became the first in the world to be granted a legal human status.
What does this mean?
The Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams are declared as juristic or legal persons or living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna.
- Recognizing the rivers as a living entity grants them new found legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India.
- The two rivers thus have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed/destroyed. They can also be parties to disputes. The rights, experts say, can be used to protect the interests of the rivers.
What necessitated this move?
Both the rivers have been in a state of neglect and even though several government initiatives, including the Centre’s Namami Gange programme, are aimed at restoring their health, not much has been achieved yet.
Over 1500 million litres of raw sewage is discharged into the Ganga every day. This joins 500 million litres of industrial waste dumped by more than 700 highly polluting industries located along it.
The court ordered that the Director of the Namami Gange programme, the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, and the Advocate-General of Uttarakhand would serve as “parents” for the rivers and would be the human faces to “protect, conserve and preserve” the rivers and their tributaries.
The court has also directed the central government to constitute the Ganga Management Board within eight weeks to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining the river.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
SBI-Mahila bank merger okayed
The three-year-old Bharatiya Mahila Bank will be merged with the State Bank of India (SBI) to expedite the outreach of banking services to women. The SBI is already in the process of amalgamating its five associate banks.
About Bharatiya Mahila Bank:
Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) is an Indian financial services banking company based in Mumbai, India. It was launched in 2013 on the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
- India is the third country in the world to have a bank especially for women, after Pakistan and Tanzania.
- In the last three years since BMB was established, it has extended loans of Rs 192 crores to women borrowers.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
New Delhi, Kabul talks soon to boost trade
India will soon hold talks with Afghanistan on ways to boost bilateral trade and investment. This move is also aimed at mounting pressure on Islamabad to facilitate trouble-free transit of goods from India to Afghanistan through Pakistan (Wagah-Attari route).
Significance of transit through Pakistan:
This is to help in the development of Afghanistan which is a land-locked and Least Developed Country (LDC) as well as to boost trade and investment in South Asia through better regional connectivity. It will also help India to improve trade ties with Central Asian nations.
In the absence of transit route through Pakistan, India depends on other countries, including Iran, to send goods to Afghanistan even though it increases time and costs for Indian exporters.
Thanks to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), Afghanistan can use Pakistan’s territory for transit trade while Pakistan’s goods can move through Afghanistan to nations bordering Afghanistan. However, Islamabad has not agreed to allow using APTTA for goods to be transported from India to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s territory (via the Wagah-Attari route).
India is keen to join APTTA and Afghanistan has backed India’s readiness to be an APTTA member but Pakistan has so far rejected such a proposal.
In this regard, the ‘India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on Trade, Commerce and Investment’ meeting will discuss ways to make use of the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transport) Convention to boost trade between India and Afghanistan through Pakistan.
The TIR Convention facilitates trade and international road transport by permitting customs-sealed vehicles and containers to transit nations without them being generally inspected at border crossings. Pakistan and Afghanistan are also ‘contracting parties’ to the TIR Convention.
India-Afghanistan goods trade had jumped nearly 22% to $834.5 million in 2015-16 with India’s exports to Afghanistan being $526.6 million and its imports from Afghanistan worth $307.9 million. However, it is still far below potential. During April-December 2016-17, the bilateral trade was to the tune of $590.1 million with India’s exports to Afghanistan being $377.2 million and imports from Afghanistan worth $212.9 million. India’s main export items to Afghanistan are textiles, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, iron & steel and electrical machinery, while its imports from Afghanistan are fruits and nuts, gums and resins, coffee, tea and spices.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Norway is the world’s happiest country
World Happiness Report for the year 2017 has been released. The World Happiness Report is a measure of happiness published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
- The World Happiness Report 2017 was released by the United Nations on the International Day of Happiness (March 20th). It is the fifth such report since the first was published in 2012.
- The rankings are based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy with four factors from global surveys. In those surveys, people give scores from 1 to 10 on how much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is and how generous they are.
Performance of various countries:
- Norway occupies the top position. It surged from fourth place in last year’s UN assessment all the way to the top spot. Other top countries on the list included Nordic neighbours Denmark and Iceland, as well as nearby Switzerland.
- All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
- Rounding out the top 10 were Finland, in fifth place, the Netherlands (6), Canada (7), New Zealand (8), and Australia and Sweden tied for 9th.
- The entire top 10 were affluent, developed nations, although money is not the only ingredient for happiness. In fact, among the wealthier countries the differences in happiness levels had a lot to do with differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness.
- Another major country, China, has made major economic strides in recent years. But its people are not happier than 25 years ago. China ranked 79th in the study of 155 countries.
- India is ranked at 122 out of 155 countries, four notches below its previous rank of 118. India was behind the majority of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations, apart from war-ravaged Afghanistan, that stood at 141.
- Among the eight Saarc nations, Pakistan was at 80th position, Nepal stood at 99, Bhutan at 97, Bangladesh at 110 while Sri Lanka was at 120. However, Maldives did not figure in the World Happiness Report.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
Global Millennium Summit:
- The two-day Global Millennium Summit organised by the Shri Ram College of Commerce was recently held in Dubai.
- The theme of the summit is ‘Future of this Millennium’.
- The Global Millennium Summit is the first-of-its-kind initiative taken by students of Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi in association with the Office of International Programmes, SRCC.
- The Summit aims to provide the youth across the world with a platform to discuss, act and interact.
- The Summit witnessed students from the world’s leading universities and notable leaders from the fields of governance, business, technology and academia.