Daily Current Affairs

18TH DECEMBER,2020 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

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UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS 

A) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

  1. Uniform Civil Code (TH)

  • Context: SC agreed to examine a plea to frame uniform guidelines on divorce, maintenance and alimony for all religions.
  • The petitioner referred to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and argued that laws on divorce, maintenance and alimony should be common.
  • He also highlighted the anomalies in laws varying from one religion to another, were violative of the right to equality (Article 14 of the Constitution) and right against discrimination (Article 15) on the basis of religion and gender and right to dignity.

Analysis

Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution says the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”
  • The objective of this endeavour should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices.
  • Ambedkar had said a UCC is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary.

How did it come about?

  • The Constituent Assembly lacked the consensus on what a potential uniform civil code would entail.
  • While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.
  • There were yet others who believed that the UCC would deny the freedom of religion.
  • It was this uncertainty that led it to be included in the Directive Principles of State Policy rather than the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.

Why does it matter?

  • The codification of personal laws have historically generated protests. The Hindu Code Bill, one of the foremost pieces of social legislation, had triggered enormous opposition.
  • The debate on the UCC is centred on the argument to replace individual personal customs and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption and successions with a common code.
  • Those in favour of one code argue that it will end discrimination in religions.
  • Detractors contend that it will rob the nation of its religious diversity and violate the fundamental right to practise religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • In fact, they hold that a state action to introduce the UCC is against the quintessence of democracy. The secular state is, after all, an enabler of rights rather than an inhibitor in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.

What next?

  • Legal experts say that the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to decide on the issue in 2017 when it outlawed triple talaq without addressing the core issue: whether personal law practices should prevail over the fundamental rights of life, dignity and non-discrimination.
  • In the Shah Bano case, the court lamented that Article 44 remained a “dead letter.” Chances are that it may continue to remain so.

Brief History of UCC in India

  • In Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira (2019),the Supreme Court yet again revived the debate on a uniform civil code (UCC) and referred to Goa as “a shining example of an Indian State which has a uniform civil code applicable to all…”.
  • The Goa Civil Code of 1867, which was given by the Portuguese, begins in the name of God and the King of Portugal.
  • While all Congress leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi voted for Pakistan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stood his ground and voted against it; overlooked V.D. Savarkar’s two-nation theory; and also overlooked the history of the Hindu Right’s resistance to the Hindu Code Bill.
  • As far as Muslims are concerned, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 has not been extended to Goa. Muslims of Goa are governed by Portuguese law as well as Shastric Hindu law.
  • The majority in Shayara Bano v. Union of India(2017) did hold freedom of religion subject to restrictions under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution as absolute.
  • Even the right to follow personal law had been elevated to the highest status of fundamental right. UCC is only one of the directive principles.
  • The Supreme Court rightly held in Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union Of India(1980) that “to destroy the guarantees given by Part III [fundamental rights] in order purportedly to achieve the goals of Part IV [directive principles] is plainly to subvert the Constitution by destroying its basic structure.”
  • Since personal laws are in the Concurrent List, they may differ from State to State.
  • The framers of the Constitution did not intend total uniformity or one law for the whole country.
  • States have made more than a hundred amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code.

 B) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

2.World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) (PIB)

  • Context: India has pledged a sum of USD 1 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) towards the global agency’s scientific research budget, which will allow WADA to develop innovative anti-doping testing and detection methods.
  • India’s contribution of USD 1 million is the highest among contributions made by other world governments, including China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Analysis

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

  • After the events that shook the world of cycling in the summer of 1998, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to convene the First World Conference on Doping in Sport held, in Lausanne, Switzerland, in February, 1999, and produced the Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport.
  • Pursuant to the terms of the Lausanne Declaration, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established on November 10, 1999, in Lausanne to promote and coordinate the fight against doping in sport internationally.
  • It is an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the sport movement and governments of the world.
  • Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code)the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.
  • WADA is a Swiss private law, not-for-profit Foundation. Its seat is in Lausanne, Switzerland, and its headquarters are in Montreal, Canada.
  • WADA’s Statutes were revised in 2019 in response to governance reforms approved by the Foundation Board (Board).
  • 38-member Foundation Board (Board), is the Agency’s highest policy-making body, with an equal number of representatives from the Sports Movement and Governments of the World.

What is the Court of Arbitration for Sport?

  • The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is an institution independent of any sports organization which provides for servic­es in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation.
  • It does this by pronouncing arbitral awards that have the same enforceability as judgments of ordinary ­courts.
  • The CAS sets up non-permanent tribunals, which it does for the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games or other similar major events.
  • Any disputes directly or indirectly linked to sport may be submitted to the CAS. These may be disputes of a commercial nature (e.g. a sponsorship contract), or of a disciplinary nature following a decision by a sports organisation (e.g. a doping case).
  • Any individual or legal entity with capacity to act may have recourse to the services of the CAS.
  • The CAS was created in 1984 and is placed under the administrative and financial authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).
  1. Human Development Report 2020 and Planetary Pressures-adjusted HDI, or PHDI (TH)

  • Context: India dropped two ranks in the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) this year, standing at 131 out of 189 countries — according to the Human Development Report (HDR) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). India’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.645 placing the country in the medium human development category.
  • However, if the Index were adjusted to assess the planetary pressures caused by each nation’s development, India would move up eight places in the ranking, according to the report.
  • For the first time, the United Nations Development Programme introduced a new metric to reflect the impact caused by each country’s per-capita carbon emissions and its material footprint, which measures the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services it consumes- called the Planetary Pressures-adjusted HDI, or PHDI.
  • Norway, which tops the HDI, falls 15 places if this metric is used, leaving Ireland at the top of the table.
  • In fact, 50 countries would drop entirely out of the “very high human development group” category, using this new metric, called the Planetary Pressures-adjusted HDI, or PHDI.
  • HDR-2020 is titled as The next frontier: Human development and the Anthropocene.
  • First Human Development Report was published in the year 1990.

Analysis

  • The HDI measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development —
  • life expectancy,
  • education and
  • per capita income.
  • HDI is calculated taking into consideration performance of countries on four broad parameters — life expectancy at birth (total population); expected years of schooling (ages 5 to 24); mean years of schooling (ages 25 and above); and per capita gross national income (PPP $).
  • The HDI assigns equal weight to all three-dimension indices; the two education sub-indices are also weighted equally.
  • Norway topped the index, followed by Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Iceland.

Why is this report significant?

  • This report says that “No country has yet been able to achieve a very high level of development without putting a huge strain on natural resources.
  • Although this year’s report covers 2019 only, and does not account for the impact of COVID, it projected that in 2020, global HDI would fall below for the first time in the three decades since the Index was introduced.
  • The Report presents an adjustment to the HDI for planetary pressures.
  • The PHDI adjusts the standard HDI by a country’s level of carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint, each on a per capita basis.
  • For countries on the lower end of the human development spectrum, the impact of the adjustment is generally small.
  • For high and very high human development countries the impact tends to become large, reflecting the various ways that their development paths impact the planet

India and HDI

  • According to the 2020 Human Development Report, life expectancy of Indians at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years while Bangladesh has a life expectancy of 72.6 years and Pakistan 67.3 years.
  • According to the report published by the United Nations Development Programme on December 15, India’s gross national income per capita fell to $6,681 in 2019 from $6,829 in 2018 on purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.
  • Purchasing power parity or PPP is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.
  • The report said evidence from Colombia to India indicates that financial security and ownership of land improve women’s security and reduce the risk of gender-based violence, clearly indicating that owning land can empower women.
  • It further said indigenous children in Cambodia, India and Thailand show more malnutrition-related issues such as stunting and wasting.
  • “In India different responses in parent behaviour, as well as some disinvestment in girls’ health and education, have led to higher malnutrition among girls than among boys as a consequence of shocks likely linked to climate change,” the report said.
  • The report said that under the Paris Agreement, India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP from the 2005 level by 33-35% by 2030 and to obtain 40% of electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
  • “As part of the plan, the National Solar Mission aims to promote solar energy for power generation and other uses to make solar energy competitive with fossil fuel—based options. Solar capacity in India increased from 2.6 gigawatts in March 2014 to 30 gigawatts in July 2019, achieving its target of 20 gigawatts four years ahead of schedule. In 2019, India ranked fifth for installed solar capacity,” the report said.

Why is it important to express GNI per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) international dollars?

  • The HDI attempts to make an assessment of 189 diverse countries and territories, with very different price levels.
  • To compare economic statistics across countries, the data must first be converted into a common currency.
  • Unlike market exchange rates, PPP rates of exchange allow this conversion to take account of price differences between countries.
  • In that way GNI per capita (PPP $) better reflects people’s living standards uniformly.
  • In theory, 1 PPP dollar (or international dollar) has the same purchasing power in the domestic economy of a country as $1 (USD) has in the US economy.

Can GNI per capita be used to measure human development instead of the HDI?

  • Income is a means to human development, not its end.
  • GNI per capita only reflects average national income.
  • It does not reveal how that income is spent, nor whether it translates to better health, education, and other human development outcomes.
  • Other composite indices in the Human Development Report (Inequality-adjusted HDI, Gender development index, Gender Inequality Index or Multidimensional Poverty Index).

Why is the geometric mean used for the HDI rather than the arithmetic mean?

  • In 2010, the geometric mean was introduced to compute the HDI.
  • Poor performance in any dimension is directly reflected in the geometric mean.
  • In other words, a low achievement in one dimension is not linearly compensated for by a higher achievement in another dimension.

Inequality-adjusted HDI

  • The IHDI will be equal to the HDI when there is no inequality but falls below the HDI as inequality rises.
  • The difference between the HDI and IHDI, expressed as a percentage of the HDI, indicates the loss in human development due to inequality.

Gender Development Index (GDI)

  • The GDI measures gender gaps in human development achievements by accounting for disparities between women and men in three basic dimensions of human development—health, knowledge (education) and living standards (command over economic resources) using the same component indicators as in the HDI.
  • The health dimension is captured by female and male life expectancy at birth.
  • Education is measured using two indicators – female and male expected years of schooling for children, and female and male mean years of schooling for adults ages 25 and older.
  • Command over economic resources is measured by female and male estimated earned income.
  • The GDI is the ratio of the HDIs calculated separately for females and males using the same methodology as in the HDI.
  • It is a direct measure of gender gap showing the female HDI as a percentage of the male HDI.
  • The GDI shows how much women are lagging behind their male counterparts and how much women need to catch up within each dimension of human development.
  • Countries are grouped into five GDI groups instead of being ranked according to the absolute deviation from parity.

Gender Inequality Index

  • It shows the loss in potential human development due to disparity between female and male achievements in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.
  • Overall, the GII reflects how women are disadvantaged in these dimensions.
  • The GII ranges between 0 and 1. Higher GII values indicate higher inequalities between women and men and thus higher loss to human development.

What are the strengths and limitations of the GII?

  • Like all composite measures, the GII has some limitations.
  • First, it does not capture the length and breadth of gender inequality.
  • For example, it captures national parliamentary representation but excludes participation at the local government level and elsewhere in community and public life.
  • The labour market dimension lacks information on employment and the quality of jobs.
  • The index misses other important dimensions, such as unpaid work, and the fact that many women carry an unfair burden of caregiving and housekeeping.
  • Asset ownership, child care support, gender-based violence and participation in community decision-making are also not captured in the GII, mainly due to limited data availability.

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index

  • The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) identifies multiple deprivations at the household and individual level in health, education and standard of living.

The MPI is said to measure “acute” poverty. Does this differ from “extreme” poverty?

  • UNDP has described the MPI as a measure of “acute” poverty because it reflects overlapping deprivation in basic needs and also to avoid confusion with the World Bank’s measure of “extreme” poverty that captures those living on less than $1.90 (in 2011 $PPP) a day.

Why has the principle of “diminishing returns” not been applied to other indicators?

  • The principle of ‘diminishing returns’ has been applied only to the income indicator.
  • There are arguments for and against transforming the health and education variables to account for diminishing returns.
  • It is true that health and education are not only of intrinsic value; they, like income, are instrumental to other dimensions of human development not included in the HDI (Sen, 1999). Thus, their ability to be converted into other ends may likewise incur diminishing returns.
  • The approach is to value each year of age or education equally, and therefore the principle has been applied only to the income indicator.

 C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

4.Global Positioning System (GPS)- based toll collection system (Livemint)

  • Context: The Union road transport and highways ministry has finalized a global positioning system (GPS)- based toll collection system to ensure seamless movement of vehicles across the country.

Analysis

  • Toll barriers will cease to exist in the country when this is implemented.
  • The toll amount will be deducted directly from the bank account based on the movement of vehicles.
  • All commercial vehicles being manufactured nowadays have vehicle tracking systems and the government will come up with a mechanism to install GPS technology in older vehicles.
  • As a result of the initiative, the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI’s) toll income could rise to ₹1.34 trillion in five years using GPS technology.
  • Over the last one year, the Centre has been aggressively pushing the mandatory use of FASTag at national highways to reduce traffic congestion at toll plazas and unnecessary fuel consumption, thereby curbing pollution.
  • Use of electronic toll collecting device also enables cashless transactions, making toll collection transparent and helping the government plug revenue leakages.
  1. Desalination plants for drinking water (PIB)

  • Context: Prime Minister will undertake a visit to Dhordo in Kutch, Gujarat, to lay the Foundation Stone of several development projects including a desalination plant.
  • Harnessing its vast coastline, Gujarat is taking a significant step towards transforming seawater to potable drinking water with the upcoming Desalination Plant at Mandvi, Kutch.
  • This Desalination Plant, with 10 crore litre per day capacity (100 MLD), will strengthen water security in Gujarat by complementing Narmada Grid, Sauni network and treated waste water infrastructure. It will be an important milestone for sustainable and affordable water resource harvesting in the country.
  • There are also proposals to set up desalination plants in Dwarka, Dahej, Somnath, Bhavnagar and Pipavav, which are all coastal areas in Gujarat.
  • The other 2 states that have proposed these plants are Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Andhra Pradesh.
  • In India, Tamil Nadu has been the pioneer in using this technology, setting up two desalination plants near Chennai in 2010 and then 2013. The two plants supply 100 million litres a day (MLD) each to Chennai.
  • Worldwide, desalination is seen as one possible answer to stave off water crisis.
  • Desalination has largely been limited to affluent countries in the Middle East and has recently started making inroads in parts of the United States and Australia.

Analysis

What is desalination technology?

  • To convert salt water into freshwater, the most prevalent technology in the world is reverse osmosis (RO). A plant pumps in salty or brackish water, filters separate the salt from the water, and the salty water is returned to the sea. Fresh water is sent to households.
  • RO desalination came about in the late 1950s. While the principle is simple, engineering such plants have to factor in various constraints, for instance, salt levels in the source water that is to be treated, the energy required for the treatment and disposing of the salt back into the sea.
  • Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.
  • A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurised against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.
  • Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity — close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water. An effective network of RO plants reduce this down to about 200-500 ppm. There are about 18,000 desalination plants in the world across 150 countries and nearly half of Israel’s water is sourced through desalination.

How popular is it in India?

  • Years of water crises in Chennai saw the government set up two desalination plants between 2010 and 2013. Together they meet little under a fourth of the city’s water requirement.
  • Buoyed by the success of these plants, the city’s water authorities are planning to install two more plants with capacities of 150 MLD (to be operational by 2021) and 400 MLD, funded by the German agency, KfW and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, respectively.
  • In November 2018, Gujarat Chief Minister announced plans of setting up a 100 MLD RO plant at the Jodiya coast in Jamnagar district. This would go a long way in ‘solving’ the water availability problems in the drought-prone Saurashtra region.
  • Other plants of a similar size are expected to come up in Dwarka, Kutch, Dahej, Somnath, Bhavnagar and Pipavav, which are all coastal places in Gujarat. There are also a slew of desalination plants that cater to industrial purposes. For now, India’s real-world experience with desalination plants is restricted to Chennai.

What are the problems with RO plants?

  • Because RO plants convert seawater to fresh water, the major environmental challenge they pose is the deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.
  • Ever since the Chennai plants have started to function, fishermen have complained that the brine being deposited along the seashore is triggering changes along the coastline and reducing the availability of prawn, sardine and mackerel.
  • Environmentalists second this saying that hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species.
  • Moreover, the high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.
  • Another unexpected problem, an environmentalist group has alleged, was that the construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater.
  • This was freshwater that was sucked out and has since been replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Is RO water healthy?

  • In the early days of RO technology, there were concerns that desalinated water was shorn of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates.
  • They are collectively referred to as TDS. Higher quantities of these salts in desalination plants tend to corrode the membranes and filtration system in these plants. So ideally, a treatment plant would try to keep the TDS as low as possible.
  • Highly desalinated water has a TDS of less than 50 milligrams per litre, is pure, but does not taste like water. Anything from 100 mg/l to 600 mg/l is considered as good quality potable water.
  • Most RO plants, including the ones in Chennai, put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l. Several of the home-RO systems that are common in affluent Indian homes, too employ post-treatment and add salts to water.

Are there technological alternatives?

  • The alternative desalination technology used is thermal energy sourced from the ocean.
  • There is a low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique for instance which works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water. So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source).
  • This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber. Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.
  • The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), a research organisation based in Chennai, has been working on this technology for decades. In 2005, it set up a 100,000 litre-a-day plant in Kavaratti, Lakshwadeep islands and this has been providing water to about 10,000 residents.
  • However, the most ambitious research project is a 10 million litre a day plant that is proposed to be built in the deep ocean, 50 kilometres away from the Chennai coast. This exploits an approach called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.
  • While the LTTD technique draws power from diesel sets, this massive new plant will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process.
  • This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially.
  • For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland. The NIOT has in the past had significant problems in managing such a pipe. Then, RO is commercially proven and the dominant technology and therefore it could be hard to convince private players to invest in such a technology.

The Way Forward

  • What we need is improved desalinisation technologies which can be deployed locally instead of large scale desalinisation plants.
  • For example, David Binns of early-stage innovation company Epicuro uses solar collectors which heat water to boiling point, then condense it separately from the salt or dirt that rendered it undrinkable. A small photovoltaic system is attached to power the processors necessary to regulate the machine.
  • This method can be used not just for desalination, which requires the users to be near the coast or another source of saltwater, but also in areas where water is available but grossly contaminated, which involves a much bigger slice of the global water-stressed population.
  • Newer technology is also coming to the assistance of desalination advocates. The wonder substance graphene is inevitably one avenue being explored. A graphene “sieve” was created two years ago at the University of Manchester which cleans salts from brine and, if it can be scaled up, could be used for cheap desalination.

Going the Israel Way!

  • Israel holds the crown for long-term investment in the technology as a strategic public service. The country is home to the world’s biggest reverse-osmosis desalination plant, and can now produce more water than it needs from desalination and water recycling.
  • This could potentially allow for freshwater exports to the surrounding region, and more importantly for the export of “virtual water” – that is, agricultural goods from vegetables and grains to clothing fibres, and manufactured products – to boost its economy.
  • As much as 80% of Israel’s drinking water comes from coastal desalination plants, depending on the time of year and the weather. This is proving so energy-intensive that the biggest plants operate mainly at night, to avoid overloading the power grid. Crucially, however, the country has also invested heavily over decades in the treatment of waste water, recycling nearly 90% of its waste water through sewage treatment plants which then redirect the treated water to irrigation.
  • The sludge byproduct is also used as fertiliser and to generate biogas. This strategy highlights the need for desalination, as it is in Cape Town, to be integrated into an overall water management plan. There is no point in relying on such an expensive way of generating water while wasting the resource in other ways.

Conclusion

  • Even in areas where water is physically in short supply, there are alternatives that should be explored as a matter of urgency.
  • Improved water management that prioritises household water supplies could have a huge impact, with very low economic costs.
  • Desalination is expensive, causes pollution and has a number of limitations. Therefore, although it definitely has a role to play in certain areas, there are often much more appropriate solutions available.

D) International Relations

6.US labels India as ‘currency manipulator’ (TH)

  • Context: The United States has once again included India in its monitoring list of countries with potentially “questionable foreign exchange policies” and “currency manipulation”.
  • Currency manipulation is when a country is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • The US Department of the Treasury Office of International Affairs, in its latest report to the US Congress, has included India, Taiwan and Thailand to its Monitoring List of major trading partners that “merit close attention” to their currency practices on macroeconomic policies.
  • Other countries in the latest list comprise China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore & Malaysia.
  • India was last included in the currency watchlist in October 2018, but removed from the list that came out in May 2019.

Analysis

What does the term ‘currency manipulator’ mean?

  • This is a label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • Artificially lowering the value of its currency is done to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.
  • The designation of a country as a currency manipulator does not immediately attract any penalties, but tends to dent the confidence about a country in the global financial markets.

E) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

7.Malabar Tree Toad (TH)

  • Context: The Habitats Trust awards conservation grants to revive the population of the Malabar Tree Toad that is found only in the Western Ghats
  • It is found only in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats and nowhere else in the world.
  • They can be sighted only when they descend to the ground at the beginning of the Southwest monsoon to breed in forest streams.

Analysis

  • The Malabar tree toad (Pedostibes tuberculosis) is considered an endemic toad of the Western Ghats with endangered status according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It is found only at three places of the Western Ghats – Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra.

Habitat and threat

  • It is semi-arboreal (arboreal: living in trees), and it inhabits the montane moist evergreen forests and wetlands of the Western Ghats of India.
  • The threat to its persistence comes from habitat disturbances due to the conversion of forests into non-timber plantations and other human encroachment.
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