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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 12 June 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue.

2. A declared foreigner and foreigners’ tribunal.

3. International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Nature Index 2020.

2. New guidelines for import of exotic species.

3. Census of Asiatic Lion.

4. Border Adjustment tax.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Indian Gaur.

2. Anti-viral Viroblock textile technology.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

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

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue

Context: The Supreme Court has said it was “totally impermissible” for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to “misuse” a judgment of the Apex Court to demand ₹4 lakh crore in adjusted gross revenue (AGR) from public sector undertakings.

The Court has also questioned the viability of the government’s 20-year ‘formula’ for telecom companies to repay their AGR dues to the tune of ₹1.42 lakh crore.

What has the Court said?

The Court pointed out its October 2019 judgment which was completely silent with regard to public sector undertakings.

What has the government said?

The government told the Court that it would file an affidavit explaining as to why the AGR demands were raised against the PSUs.

Background:

Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the Department of Telecommunications.

The order by the top court means that the telecom companies will have to immediately clear the pending AGR dues, which amount to nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

What is AGR?

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively.

missed_call

 How is it calculated and what’s the contention?

As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco – including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales. Telcos, on their part, insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.

Challenges for telecom sector:

The AGR issue has triggered panic in the banking industry, given that the telecom sector is highly leveraged. Vodafone Idea alone has a debt of Rs 2.2 lakh crore that it has used to expand infrastructure and fund spectrum payments over the years. The mutual fund industry has an exposure of around Rs 4,000 crore to Vodafone Idea.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is AGR? How is it calculated?
  2. What was SC’s verdict on this?
  3. Composition of TRAI?
  4. How spectrum allocation is done in India?

Mains Link:

Discuss the challenges facing Indian telecom sector today. What should the Government of India do to save the telecom sector?

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

A declared foreigner and foreigners’ tribunal

Context: Siddeque Ali has become the last declared foreigner to be released from the only detention centre in Barak Valley in Assam as the beneficiary of a Supreme Court order.

What has the Court said?

In April this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court had directed the release of those detainees who were declared foreigners and have been lodged in the detention centres of Assam for two years or more.

The Court had also lowered the personal bond amount from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5,000.

So far, 339 DFs have been released from the detention centres since April 13.

Who is a declared foreigner?

A declared foreigner, or DF, is a person marked by any of the 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) in Assam for allegedly failing to prove their citizenship after the State police’s Border wing marks him or her as an illegal immigrant.

Why such measures are necessary?

  • There are a total of 802 declared foreigners in various detention centres of Assam.
  • Some people are declared foreigners on account of poor documentation or poor legal assistance and lack of resources. They have not been able to prove they are Indian citizens.
  • Some are either too poor to pursue their cases in higher courts or have their appeals turned down.
  • 29 declared foreigners have died in detention due to various ailments since 2016, with ten of them having died between March 1, 2019 and February 20 this year.

As human beings, they also have at least the basic human right to live and not to die of COVID-19 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions.

What is a Foreigners tribunal?

In 1964, the govt brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order.

Composition: Advocates not below the age of 35 years of age with at least 7 years of practice (or) Retired Judicial Officers from the Assam Judicial Service (or) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.

Who can setup these tribunals?

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies) to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.

Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.

Typically, the tribunals there have seen two kinds of cases: those concerning persons against whom a reference has been made by the border police and those whose names in the electoral roll has a “D”, or “doubtful”, marked against them.

Who can approach?

The amended order (Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019) also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals. Earlier, only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act vs Foreigners Tribunal (Order) 1964.
  2. Burden of proof under this order.
  3. Powers to approach the tribunal and kind of cases to be decided by the tribunal.
  4. Composition of the tribunal.
  5. Tribunals vs Courts.
  6. NPR vs NRC.
  7. Geographical location of Assam and other NE states.
  8. Refugee vs illegal Migrants.
  9. Fundamental Rights available for Foreigners and other constitutional provisions wrt to Foreigners.
  10. Human Rights vs Fundamental Rights.

Mains Link:

Discuss briefly the laws that are in place to tackle illegal non-citizens in the country. Why was the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 amended? Explain.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

International Criminal Court (ICC)

Context: U.S. President Donald Trump has issued an executive order authorising sanctions against individuals involved in an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into whether U.S. forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

  • The order authorises Secretary of State to block assets in the U.S. of ICC employees involved in the probe
  • It also authorises to block entry into the U.S. of these individuals.

What’s the case?

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent, by U.S. forces and the CIA.

The ICC decided to investigate after prosecutors’ preliminary examination in 2017 found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the ICC has jurisdiction.

 Why the US is opposing?

Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked The Hague-based ICC set-up to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He says, the Court has jurisdiction only if a member state is unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities itself.

Besides, the U.S. government has never been a member of the court.

About ICC:

The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

It is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on July 1, 2002.

Funding: Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

Composition and voting power:

The Court’s management oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, consists of one representative from each state party.

Icj_vs_ICC

  • Each state party has one vote and “every effort” has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are made by vote.
  • The Assembly is presided over by a president and two vice-presidents, who are elected by the members to three-year terms.

Criticisms:

  • It does not have the capacity to arrest suspects and depends on member states for their cooperation.
  • Critics of the Court argue that there are insufficient checks and balances on the authority of the ICC prosecutor and judges and insufficient protection against politicized prosecutions or other abuses.
  • The ICC has been accused of bias and as being a tool of Western imperialism,only punishing leaders from small, weak states while ignoring crimes committed by richer and more powerful states.
  • ICC cannot mount successful cases without state cooperationis problematic for several reasons. It means that the ICC acts inconsistently in its selection of cases, is prevented from taking on hard cases and loses legitimacy.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Differences between ICJ and ICC.
  2. Geographical locations of these organisations and overview of surrounding countries.
  3. Doha accord between US and Taliban.
  4. What is Rome statute?
  5. Location of Afghanistan.
  6. US taliban peace deal- overview.

Mains Link:

Write a note on ICC.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 2


Nature Index 2020

Context: Nature Index ratings for the year 2020 have been released.

What is the Nature Index?

The Nature Index is a database of author affiliations and institutional relationships. The index tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural science journals, chosen by an independent group of researchers.

  • The database is compiled by Nature Research, a division of the international scientific publishing company Springer Nature that publishes academic journals.
  • The Index provides a close to real-time proxy of high-quality research output and collaboration at the institutional, national and regional level.
  • The Index is updated monthly and also releases annual tables of country.
  • It serves as an indicator of high-quality research in the Natural and Physical Sciences.

 Nature Index metrics:

The Index provides several metrics to track research output and collaboration.

These include article count, fractional count, and multilateral and bilateral collaboration scores.

 Performance of Indian institutions:

  • Three of the autonomous institutions of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India have found their place among top 30 Indian Institutions.
  • These are the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata at 7th position, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore at 14th position and S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata at 30th position.
  • Globally the top-rated Indian institutions in this list are Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a group of 39 institutions at the 160th position and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore at the 184th position.

Global Institutions:

The top five positions have gone to the United States of America, China, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

New guidelines for import of exotic species

Context: Union Government has issued advisory to streamline the process for import and possession of exotic live species in India.

The move comes as the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised global concern about illegal wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases.

What are exotic live species?

Exotic live species are animal or plant species moved from their original range to a new one most often by people.

Some of the most sought after exotic species in India are Ball python, Scarlet Macaw, sea turtles, sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), marmoset and grey African parrots.

What it includes? What it does not?

According to the advisory, the phrase “exotic live species” includes “animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora” and “does not include species from the Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972”. 

Need for regulation:

While import of live exotic animals is covered under Customs Act in India, wildlife experts have long been asking for stringent laws and guidelines to document and regulate numbers of exotic species being kept as pets by individuals and breeders in India.

  • Many citizens have kept CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) enlisted exotic animal species in their possession.
  • However, there is no unified information system available of such stock of species at the State or Central level.
  • Besides, often these species are illegally trafficked into the country to avoid lengthy documentation and scrutiny. 

As per the recently released guidelines:

  1. Environment Ministry will collect stock information from the holders of such species through voluntary disclosure in next six months.
  2. The registration will be done for the stock of animals, new progeny, as well as for import and exchange.
  3. The declarer would not be required to produce any documentation in relation to the exotic live species if the same has been declared within six months of the date of issue of the advisory.
  4. For any declaration made after six months, the declarer shall be required to comply with the documentation requirement under the extant laws and regulations.
  5. Further, a person trying to import a live exotic animal will have to submit an application for grant of a licence to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), under the provisions of the advisory.
  6. The importer will also have to attach a No Objection Certificate (NOC) of the chief wildlife warden of the state concerned along with the application.

Implications and significance of this move:

This will help in better management of the species and guide the holders about proper veterinary care, housing and other aspects of well-being of the species.

The database of exotic animals will also help in control and management of zoonotic diseases on which guidance would be available from time to time to ensure safety of animals and humans.

Exotic

What is missing?

Experts said the advisory did not provide answers to all problems.

  • Matters such as spread of invasive species as well as zoonotic diseases had not been taken care of in the advisory.
  • Limiting the scope of the latest advisory to only those species covered under CITES drastically limits the scope of the advisory itself.
  • There is also a growing domestic trade in exotic species of wildlife that is unfortunately not listed under the various appendices of CITES (such as sugar gliders, corn snakes).
  • There is no mention of the welfare standards of such captive facilities that could lead to ‘legal’ backyard breeding of wildlife with poor to no welfare concern of the wild animals involved.

cites

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are exotic species- definition in the advisory?
  2. What is CITES?
  3. Classification of species under CITES?
  4. What is Wildlife (Protection) Act? Species protected under various schedules of this act.
  5. As per the new guidelines, what is the procedure to be followed while importing new exotic species?
  6. What about the existing species in the country?
  7. About chief wildlife warden of the state.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of recently issued guidelines for import of exotic species in the country.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Census of Asiatic Lion

Context: Census of Asiatic lion was recently conducted by the Gujarat government and the details have been released.

About the lion census:

The census is conducted once every five years. This year it was delayed due to lockdowns.

The first Lion Census was conducted by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1936; since 1965, the Forest Department has been regularly conducting the Lion Census every five years.

growing_no

The 6th, 8th and 11th Censuses were each delayed by a year, for various reasons.

Key figures this year:

28% rise in population of Lions: Total estimated Lions in Gir region is 674. It was 523 in 2015.

36% Expanse in distribution: Today, Asiatic lions are present in Protected Areas and agro-pastoral landscapes of Saurashtra covering nine districts, over an expanse of about 30,000 sq. km. It was 22,000 sq. km in 2015.

Factors responsible for steady rise in population:

Over the last several years, the lion population in Gujarat has been steadily rising.

This is powered by:

  1. community participation
  2. emphasis on technology
  3. wildlife healthcare
  4. proper habitat management
  5. steps to minimise human-lion conflict

How was the census carried out this year? How is it different from previous census?

Reduced participation: Every year, the state Forest Department invites NGOs, experts and wildlife enthusiasts to join the Census for transparency and augmenting manpower. But this time, it was not advisable to send so many people inside the forest as the Bronx Zoo in New York had reported a case of transmission of novel coronavirus from a human to a tigress.

So, this year, the count was estimated not from a Census, but from a population “observation” exercise called Poonam Avlokan.

How it was carried out?

  • Poonam Avlokan (developed in 2014) is a monthly in-house exercise carried out every full moon.
  • Field staff and officers spend 24 hours assessing the number of lions and their locations in their respective jurisdictions.
  • Unlike previous census, which had nearly 2000 participants, this census had around 1400 staff and a few experts.
  • These staff kept moving in their respective territories and made their estimates based on inputs provided by lion trackers and on chance sightings.

What is Block counting method?

India uses this method to estimate the numbers.

In this method, census enumerators remain stationed at water points in a given block and estimate abundance of lions in that block, based on direct sighting of lions who need to drink water at least once in 24 hours during the summer.

There are inherent issues with this method. So, newer methods should be adopted- such as camera trapping and identifying lions based on permanent marks on their body, and statistical estimates based on the animals’ predatory patterns and numbers of their prey base.

Concerns over the estimates:

Few experts are doubtful about the estimated numbers. They say it could be an overestimation. It is because:

  1. 12 lions were killed in a flash flood in Amreli just a month after the 2015 census.
  2. More than two dozen lions in an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) and babesiosis in 2018.
  3. A babesiosis outbreak was reported this summer too, and around two dozen lions are reported killed.

Why we need to relocate the lions to other regions?

Presently, Asiatic lions are confined only to Gujarat. A single epidemic could wipe the entire population and the species might become extinct. Hence, introduction of species to new areas and states might be a good idea.

Additional information:
Asiatic Lion Conservation Project: Announced in Feb this year by the centre and Gujarat state government. Key aspects of the conservation project includeundertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region.
Relocation of lions: 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.
Supreme Court order: The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.
About Asiatic Lions: Listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List.
Its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India.
Wildlife under constitution: In 1976, the 42nd amendment incorporated protection of wildlife and forests in the Directive Principles. It also included forests and protection of wild animals in the Concurrent List – Seventh Schedule (Article 246) of the Constitution.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Asiatic lions vs African lions- conservation status and distribution.
  2. When was the first census conducted?
  3. Census- male- female numbers, growth in numbers, expansion in area.
  4. What is Poonam Avlokan?
  5. What was SC’s verdict on relocation of lions? Which place was chosen?
  6. What is Asiatic lion conservation project?
  7. Wildlife under 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  8. What is CDV?
  9. What is babesiosis?
  10. About Gir Forest.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of Asiatic Lion Conservation project.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

Border Adjustment tax

Context: A NITI Aayog member has favoured imposing a border adjustment tax (BAT) on imports to provide a level-playing field to domestic industries.

This suggestion comes in the backdrop of the USA-China trade tensions (trade war) which are expected to rise even further post-Covid-19.

What is BAT?

BAT is a duty that is proposed to be imposed on imported goods in addition to the customs levy that gets charged at the port of entry.

BAT is a fiscal measure that imposes a charge on goods or services in accordance with the destination principle of taxation.

Generally, BAT seeks to promote “equal conditions of competition” for foreign and domestic companies supplying products or services within a taxing jurisdiction.

Need for:

The Indian industry has been complaining to the government about domestic taxes like electricity duty, duties on fuel, clean energy cess, mandi tax, royalties, biodiversity fees that get charged on domestically produced goods as these duties get embedded into the product.

But many imported goods do not get loaded with such levies in their respective country of origin and this gives such products price advantage in the Indian market. 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


Indian Gaur:

Context: The first population estimation exercise of Indian gaur carried out in the Nilgiris forest division in February has revealed that more than an estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs inhabit the 300 sq. km range.

Threats: On an average, a total of 60 gaurs die each year in the Nilgiris forest division, many due to accidents, owing to their proximity to human habitations.

About Indian Gaur:

  • The gaur, Bos gaurus, also called the Indian bison, is one of the largest extant bovines.
  • It is native to South and Southeast Asia and has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986.
  • Distribution: In India, the population was estimated to be 12,000–22,000 in the mid-1990s. The Western Ghats and their outflanking hills in southern India constitute one of the most extensive extant strongholds of gaur, in particular in the Wayanad – Nagarhole – Mudumalai – Bandipur complex.

Bandipur complex

Anti-viral Viroblock textile technology:

Context: Textile major Arvind Limited has announced the launch of an anti-viral textile technology for its fabric and garment products.

Significance:

Research shows that viruses and bacteria, can remain active on textile surfaces for up to two days. Arvind claims that garments treated with HeiQ Viroblock actively inhibit viruses and kill them upon contact, helping to minimize the potential for re-transmission of pathogens through clothing.

What is HeiQ Viroblock?

HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 is an intelligent Swiss textile technology that is added to the fabric during the final stage of the textile manufacturing process. It is a special combination of advanced silver and vesicle technology.

  • It has proven effective against SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 causing virus
  • Suitable for all fiber types, from medical nonwovens (e.g. face masks) to fabrics for clothing and home textiles.

 

Articles to be covered tomorrow:

  1. PMKSY
  2. UBI
  3. NIRF rankings.