Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 18 June 2019

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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 18 June 2019


Relevant articles from various news sources:

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

Operation sunrise and Kaladan Project

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the project, overview of Sittwe port, Operation Sunrise.

 

Context: Operation Sunrise: India-Myanmar target insurgent groups camp in North East.

  • Named Operation Sunrise, the strategy is aimed at hitting militant groups that are impacting both India and Myanmar.
  • It was carried out by the armies of India and Myanmar.
  • In the operation, Other than NSCN (K), the groups hit were Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), the the United Liberation Front of Assam, and the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

 

Background:

In February when the first phase of the Operation Sunrise was launched, the trigger was a threat to the mega Kaladan Project.

 

About Kaladan project:

The Kaladan project connects Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border.

The project was jointly initiated by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal platform for cargo shipments from the eastern ports to Myanmar and to the North-eastern parts of the country through Myanmar.

Significance: It is expected to open up sea routes and promote economic development in the North-eastern states, and also add value to the economic, commercial and strategic ties between India and Myanmar. This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km and will reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck.

 

Where is Sittwe located?

Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State (which has been in the news for the plight of Rohingya Muslims) in south-western Myanmar. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India.

 

Significance of this port for India:

India has for years sought transit access through Bangladesh to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States. At present, the only route to this region from the rest of India is a rather circuitous one through a narrow strip of Indian territory nicknamed the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. The new route through Sittwe would significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond.

Sources: the Hindu.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Brazil’s slavery ‘dirty list’

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Meaning of dirty list, features, what it contains and significance?

 

Context: Brazil’s “dirty list” is under scrutiny as major firms have been found to have used legal means to avoid being put on it.

 

What is the “dirty list”?

It is a registry of employers that have been found by the government to have engaged in slave labour. It gives transparency to a decision already reached by the Brazilian state. Created in 2004, it has been hailed by the United Nations as a key tool in Brazil’s anti-slavery drive.

The list is edited by the Division of Inspection for the Eradication of Slave Labor (DETRAE), a state body staffed by labour inspectors.

 

How does a company get added to it?

If a labour inspector fines someone for employing slave labour, it starts an internal government procedure where the employer can defend himself.

After all possibility of appeal is exhausted, if the employer is found guilty, his name or the name of his firm is added to the list.

 

Why is the “dirty list” feared by employers?

Beyond having their brand or names associated with slave labour, employers on the list have their access to credit lines by state banks restricted.

Private banks also use it to gauge credit risk. International buyers concerned with their supply chain also look up names on the list.

 

Sources: India’s Express.


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

 

Bt Cotton

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About GM crops, their production and other Genetic engineering related key facts.

For Mains: Concerns raised over the introduction of GM crops, arguments in favour and against.

 

Context: Recently, a group of more than 1,000 farmers gathered in a village in Akola of Maharashtra to sow seeds of an unapproved, genetically modified variety of cotton, defying government regulations. The government is now investigating what was planted.

 

What is allowed?

Bt cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in the country.

Developed by US giant Bayer-Monsanto, it involves insertion of two genes viz ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into cotton seeds. This modification codes the plant to produce protein toxic to Heliothis bollworm (pink bollworm) thus making it resistant to their attack. The commercial release of this hybrid was sanctioned by the government in 2002.

 

Role of GEAC:

In India, it is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry to assess the safety of a genetically modified plant, and decide whether it is fit for cultivation.

The GEAC comprises experts and government representatives, and a decision it takes has to be approved by the Environment Minister before any crop is allowed for cultivation.

Besides Bt cotton, the GEAC has cleared two other genetically modified crops — brinjal and mustard — but these have not received the consent of the Environment Minister.

 

What’s the concern now?

The farmers in Akola planted a herbicide-tolerant variety of Bt cotton. This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It is not cleared by GEAC. The farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, a herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.

 

Why it’s a concern?

Genetic changes made in a plant can make it unsafe for consumption, have adverse impacts on human or animal health, or introduce problems in the soil or neighbouring crops. There is an elaborate process of tests and field trials to be followed. Critics of GM technology argue that some traits of genes start expressing themselves only after several generations, and thus one can never be sure about their safety.

 

What the law says?

Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1989. Also, sale of unapproved seeds can attract action under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957. The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts.

 

Sources: Indian express.


 

Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: The office of Speaker, powers, roles, appointment and functions.

 

Context: Om Birla has been named as the new Lok Sabha Speaker by the NDA. He is elected Member of Parliament from Kota, Rajasthan.

 

Speaker of the Lok Sabha:

The chairman or the Presiding Officer of Lok Sabha is called Speaker.

The speaker of the Lok Sabha is elected from all other members by simple majority.

Any member of Parliament is eligible to be nominated as a speaker but most commonly the candidate of ruling party or the party with majority wins this post.

However, there are certain cases when the elected Speaker does not belonged to the majority ruling party of Lok Sabha (G. M. C. Balyogi, Manohar Joshi, Somnath Chatterjee).

 

Functions and Powers of Lok Sabha Speakers:

  • Speaker of Lok Sabha is basically the head of the house and presides over the sittings of Parliament and controls its working.
  • The constitution has tried to ensure the independence of Speaker by charging his salary on the consolidated Fund of India and the same is not subject to vote of Parliament.
  • While debating or during general discussion on a bill, the members of the parliament have to address only to the Speaker.
  • Whenever there is a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha) the Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over this meeting.
  • The Speaker of Lok Sabha comes at sixth position in the Order of Precedence of Government of India.
  • In the normal circumstances the Speaker does not casts his vote over any matter in Lok Sabha. But when ever there is a tie on votes between the ruling party and opposition, the Speaker at that time can exercise his vote.
  • It is the Speaker who decides the agenda of various discussions.
  • The speaker has the power to adjourn or suspend the house/meetings if the quorum is not met.
  • The Speaker ensures the discipline and decorum of the house. If the speaker finds the behaviour and a member of Parliament is not good, he/she can punish the unruly members by suspending.
  • The Speaker decides weather a bill brought to the house is a money bill or not. In the case Speaker decides some bill as a money bill, this decision can not be challenged.
  • Speaker is the final and sole authority to allow different types of motions and resolutions such as No Confidence Motion, Motion of Adjournment, Censure Motion etc.
  • The Speaker of Lok Sabha does not leave the office just after dissolution of the assembly. He continues to be in the office till the newly formed assembly takes its first meeting and elects the new Speaker.

 

The Speaker of Lok Sabha automatically disqualifies from his post if:

  • he is no longer the Member of Parliament.
  • if he tenders his resignation to the Deputy Speaker.
  • if he holds the office of profit under central government or any state government.
  • if he is of unsound mind and that too declared by the court of law.
  • if he is declared undischarged insolvent.
  • if he is no longer the citizen of India or voluntarily accepts the citizenship of any other country.
  • if he is removed from the post of Speaker by passing a resolution by majority of the members of Lok Sabha. This is to note that during resolution for removal of Speaker, the Speaker is not in position to cast his vote even if there is tie.

 

Speaker and the Committees:

  • The Committees of the House function under the overall direction of the Speaker. All such Committees are constituted by her or by the House.
  • The Chairmen of all Parliamentary Committees are nominated by her.
  • Any procedural problems in the functioning of the Committees are referred to her for directions.
  • Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committee work directly under her Chairmanship. 

Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
  3. Cyber security related issues.

 

Data Localization

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What is data localization, Highlights of Srikrishna panel report.

For Mains: Data localisation- Why government wants this? Concerns expressed by stakeholders and possible solutions.

 

Context:  Commerce & Industry Minister Meets Industry Stakeholders on E-Commerce & Data Localization.

Common issues for discussion include opportunities for India in the growing digital economy, value addition in Indian GDP due to advent of e-commerce, understanding data flows from four aspects – privacy, security, safety and free choice, ownership and sharing of data, gains and costs of cross border flow of data and means to monitor use of data.

 

 

What does Data Localization mean?

Data localization is the act of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a specific country where the data was generated.

 

Why data localization is necessary for India?

  • For securing citizen’s data, data privacy, data sovereignty, national security, and economic development of the country.
  • Recommendations by the RBI, the committee of experts led by Justice BN Srikrishna, the draft ecommerce policy and the draft report of the cloud policy panel show signs of data localisation.
  • The extensive data collection by technology companies, has allowed them to process and monetize Indian users’ data outside the country. Therefore, to curtail the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data, data localization is necessary.
  • Digital technologies like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) can generate tremendous value out of various data. It can turn disastrous if not contained within certain boundaries.
  • With the advent of cloud computing, Indian users’ data is outside the country’s boundaries, leading to a conflict of jurisdiction in case of any dispute.
  • Data localization is an opportunity for Indian technology companies to evolve an outlook from services to products. International companies will also be looking at the Indian market, and this will benefit the growth of the local ecosystem.
  • More data centres in India could mean new, power-hungry customers for India’s renewable energy market. That means Data localisation could boost India’s renewable energy.

 

Policies that imply data localization:

  1. The Srikrishna Committeewants to localise data for law enforcement to have easy access to data, to prevent foreign surveillance, to build an artificial intelligence ecosystem in India, and because undersea cables through which data transfers take place are vulnerable to attacks.
  2. In April, the Reserve Bank of India imposed a hard data localisation mandate on payment systems providers to store payment systems data only in India.
  3. Barring limited exceptions, telecom service providers are not allowed to transfer user information and accounting information outside India.
  4. Goals set in the Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, and the Guidelines for Government Departments for Contractual Terms related to Cloud Storage 2017, draft e-commerce policy and the draft report of the cloud policy panel show signs of data localization.

 

Concerns / Challenges:

  • Several of the recommendations in including the draft e-commerce policy, falter on a key ground like they gloss over the negative economic impact of data localization. This approach exhibits lack of evidence-based policy making.
  • Having data in India does not mean that domestic companies will be able to access this data. Localization might aid the growth of the data centre and the cloud computing industry in India, but as matter of wider public policy, such an approach is extremely myopic.
  • Mandating localization is less of a solution for data protection and might be less relevant to promote e-commerce.
  • Given the comparative trade advantages enjoyed by one section of Indian industry in this context, mandating a strict data localization regime could be perceived as a restrictive trade barrier and spur retaliatory measures.
  • There is a possible rise in prices of foreign cloud computing services in case of a data localisation, and its impact on MSMEs as well as start-ups relying on these services.
  • The possibility of triggering a vicious cycle of data localisation requirements by other countries as a response to India’s possible data localisation will be detrimental for the global data economy.
  • Growth will be restricted if data cannot be aggregated internationally. Infrastructure in India for efficient data collection and management is lacking.

 

Need of the hour:

  • There is an urgent need to have an integrated, long-term strategy for policy creation for data localisation.
  • Data localisation needs to integrate a wide range of social, political and economic perspectives.
  • Creating an opportunity for local data centres all over the country.
  • Devising an optimal regulatory and legislative framework for data processors and data centres operating in the country.
  • Adequate infrastructure in terms of energy, real estate, and internet connectivity also needs to be made available for India to become a global hub for data centres.
  • Adequate attention needs to be given to the interests of India’s Information Technology Enabled Services (ITeS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, which are thriving on cross border data flow.

Paper 2 and 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
  2. Conservation related issues.

 

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: FLR and Bonn challenge- features and significance.

 

Context: The centre has launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India, through a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka.

 

Background:

At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030. India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.

 

What is Bonn Challenge? What is FLR approach?

The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

The 2020 target was launched at a high level event in Bonn in 2011 organised by the Government of Germany and IUCN, and was later endorsed and extended to 2030 by the New York Declaration on Forests of the 2014 UN Climate Summit.

The Bonn Challenge is an implementation vehicle for national priorities such as water and food security and rural development while simultaneously helping countries contribute to the achievement of international climate change, biodiversity and land degradation commitments.

 

Underlying the Bonn Challenge is the forest landscape restoration (FLR) approach, which aims to restore ecological integrity at the same time as improving human well-being through multifunctional landscapes.

It will create approximately USD 84 billion per year in net benefits that could bring direct additional income opportunities for rural communities.

 

What is FLR?

  • Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the on-going process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
  • FLR is more than just planting trees – it is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs.
  • It is long-term because it requires a multi-year vision of the ecological functions.
  • The majority of restoration opportunities are found on or adjacent to agricultural or pastoral land. In these situations, restoration must complement and not displace existing land uses.
  • This result in a mosaic of different land uses including: agriculture, agroforestry systems and improved ecological corridors.
  • It integrates a number of guiding principles, including: Focus on landscapes, restore functionality, Involve stakeholders, Tailor to local conditions and Avoid further reduction of natural forest cover.

 

Facts for prelims:

 

World Food India 2019:

The government initiated a biennial event– World Food India to promote food processing sector at global level.

  • The first such event was conducted in 2017 and received wide success.
  • The event created Brand India in global food map by positioning India as a World Food Factory.
  • It was for the first time in India that all major policy makers and top industrialists across the globe in Food Processing Industries were together under one roof.

 


Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Unleashing the potential of urban India:

Context: Metropolises are going to be a key feature of India’s urbanisation and will play a crucial role in fuelling growth.

Significance:

The Global Metro Monitor 2018 reports that 36% of employment growth and 67% of GDP growth were contributed by the 300 largest global metros, with those in emerging economies outperforming those in advanced economies.

Nine Indian metros feature in the top 150 ranks of the economic performance index. By 2030, India will have 71 metropolitan cities, of which seven would have a population of more than 10 million.

 

Definition:

Article 243P(c) of the Constitution defines ‘metropolitan areas’ as those having “population of ten lakhs [a million] or more, comprised in one or more districts and consisting of two or more municipalities/panchayats/ other contiguous areas, specified by the governor through public notification to be a metropolitan area”.

 

Constitutional provisions:

  • It recognises metropolitan areas as multi-municipal and multi-district entities.
  • It mandates the formation of a Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) for preparing draft development plans, considering common interests between local authorities, objectives and priorities set by Central and State governments, and investments likely to be made in the area by various agencies.
  • To ensure the democratic character of the MPC, it is mandated that at least two-thirds of the members of the committee must be elected by and from among the elected members of the municipalities and chairpersons of the panchayats in the metropolitan area, proportionate to the ratio of their respective populations.
  • The size and manner of filling such seats are left to the State’s discretion.

 

Issues with MPCs:

  • Only nine out of 18 cities mandated to form MPCs have constituted them. 
  • Where constituted, their functionality is questionable, with the limited role of local elected representatives raising further questions on democratic decentralisation. 
  • Thus, the provision for an MPC has not introduced robust governance of metropolises, as the metropolises continue to be a collection of parastatals and local bodies in an entirely fragmented architecture.

 

What can we learn from the UK model?

The U.K. has rolled out ‘City Deals’, an agreement between the Union government and a city economic region, modelled on a ‘competition policy style’ approach. 

The city economic region is represented by a ‘combined authority’.

This is a statutory body set up through national legislation that enables a group of two or more councils to collaborate decisions, and which is steered by a directly elected Mayor. 

This is to further democratise and incentivise local authorities to collaborate and reduce fragmented governance, drive economic prosperity, job growth, etc. 

‘City Deals’ move from budget silos and promote ‘economic growth budget’ across regions.

 

What India needs to do?

It is time India envisions the opportunities and challenges from a ‘city’ level to ‘city-region’ level.

The Central government must create a platform to build consensus among State governments.