Daily Current Affairs 22

4th January 2021 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs   Date : 4th January,2021

 (30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)

Covers 4 Most relevant Sources

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express
  • PIB
  • Mint


Index

  1. A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  2. Pangong Tso (Lake): Geography and Land Dispute (TH, pg 1)
  3. B) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
  4. Inner Line Permit Vs Protected Area Permit (PAP)/Restricted Area Permit (RAP) Regime (TH, pg 8)
  5. C) Economic Developments: India and World
  6. Small Value Digital Payments in Offline Mode (TH, pg 12)
  7. Understanding the TRIPS waiver to facilitate the production of COVID-19 vaccines (TH, pg 12)
  8. D) International Relations
  9. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (TH, pg 11)
  10. Coup in Sudan & African Union (TH, pg 13)
  11. E) Art, Culture and History
  12. Who is Rani VeluNachiyar? (PIB)
  13. F) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  14. Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration(PIB)

 

  1. A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  2. Pangong Tso (Lake): Geography and Land Dispute (TH, pg 1)
  • Context:China is constructing a bridge in eastern Ladakh connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Tso (lake), which will significantly bring down the time for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to move troops and equipment between the two sectors.
  • The bridge is located around 25 km ahead of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Analysis

  • Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake (landlocked) that is partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibetwhere it is known as the Banggong Co.
  • An endorheic basin is essentially a closed drainage basin that retains water with no outlet in to rivers and oceans.
  • It is situated in the Himalayas near the Chushul Mountains across Changla Pass.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range, which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, with heights of over 6,000 metres including K2, the world’s second highest peak, ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso.
  • It is the world’s highest saltwater lake.Despite the high salt content of the lake, in winter its surface freezes completely. This is a very uncommon phenomenon but occurs since the temperatures are too low to avoid the freezing of water.
  • The presence of salt in water reduces the freezing point of water. The more salt in the water, the lower the freezing point will be.
  • The presence of salt makes it harder for water molecules to bond to the ice structure, because ice naturally repels salt molecules.
  • The salt also bumps into the ice, knocking water molecules off of the structure — and that’s how salt melts ice.
  • When salt molecules displace water molecules, the freezing rate slows down. This is why salt is often used on icy roads to slow down freezing and make them safer to travel upon.
  • Pangong Tso is also known to change colours, appearing blue, green and red at different times of a day.
  • Experts believe that change in sky colour and refraction at high altitudes causes this phenomenon.
  • The air is thin here. Besides, it is very deep and there is no atmospheric pollution to block out the sun’s rays. It is due to this interplay of factors that the lake water appears to look so blue and the colour keeps changing with the intensity and angle of the sun’s rays.
  • There are no fish, except for some small crustaceans, and very few micro-vegetation in the lake due to the high salinity and also the fact it remains frozen during the winters.
  • The lake is an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. The Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here.
  • Pangong Tso is in the process of being designated under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance, the first such transboundary wetland in South Asia.

World’s Largest Solar Telescope

  • Pangong Lake, the world’s highest saltwater lake, will soon notch up yet another record. Merak at the Pangong Lake has been chosen as the site for setting up the world’s largest solar telescope.
  • The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST), fitted with a 2-meter reflector, will help scientists in carrying out cutting edge research to understand the fundamental processes taking place on the sun.
  • It will also help the scientific community to study the long-term changes in the earth’s climate and environment and also provide useful data to carry out research in order to minimize or remove disruptions to communications network and satellites due to periodic solar winds.
  • The site was selected after studies showing that Pangong Tso lake site at Merak was “very promising and offered longer sunshine hours”.
  • Once installed, the telescope will take over the number one status from the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, which has a diameter of 1.6 meters in Kitt Peak National Observatory at Arizona in the US, as the biggest telescope.

 

  1. B) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
  2. Inner Line Permit Vs Protected Area Permit (PAP) /Restricted Area Permit (RAP) Regime (TH, pg 8)
  • Context: The Supreme Court recently asked the Union and the Manipur governments to respond to a plea challenging the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in the State.
  • Manipur is the forurth state where ILP is applicable. The plea contended that the ILP provides unrestrained power to the State to restrict entry and exit of non-indigenous people or those who are not permanent residents of Manipur.

Analysis

What is the Inner Line Permit?

  • A concept drawn by colonial rulers, the Inner Line separated the tribal-populated hill areas in the Northeast from the plains.
  • The policy of exclusion first came about as a response to the reckless expansion of British entrepreneurs into new lands which threatened British political relations with the hill tribes.
  • On the other hand, the Inner Line also protects the commercial interests of the British from the tribal communities.
  • After Independence, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”.
  • The main aim of ILP system now is to prevent settlement of other Indian nationals in the States where ILP regime is prevalent, in order to protect the indigenous/tribal population.
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.
  • It is obligatory for Indians residing outside those states to obtain permission prior to entering the protected areas.
  • Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • These States have also been exempted from the Citizenship legislation.
  • The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.
  • It can be issued for travel purposes solely.
  • Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions. However, there might be a different set of rules for long term visitors, though they are not valid for central government employees and security forces.
  • Any rubber, wax, ivory or other forest product (or any book, diary, manuscript, map, picture, photograph, film, curio or article of religious or scientific interest) found in the possession of any person convicted of any offence under this Act may be confiscated to State Government.

How is it connected to the Citizenship Amendment Act?

  • The CAA, which relaxes eligibility criteria for certain categories of migrants from three countries (Pakisan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) seeking Indian citizenship, exempts certain categories of areas, including those protected by the Inner Line system.
  • Amid protests against the Act, the Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019, issued by the President, amended the BEFR, 1873, extending it to Manipur and parts of Nagaland that were not earlier protected by ILP.

Protected Area Permit (PAP)/Restricted Area Permit (RAP) Regime

  • Inner Line Permit is for domestic tourists and Restricted Area Permit is for foreigners.

Protected Area Permit (PAP)/Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime

  • Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the ‘Inner line’, as defined in the said order, and the International Border of the State have been declared as a Protected Area.
  • Currently, Protected Areas are located in the following States: –
  • (i) Whole of Arunachal Pradesh
  • (ii) Parts of Himachal Pradesh
  • (iii) Parts of Jammu & Kashmir
  • (iv) Whole of Manipur
  • (v) Whole of Mizoram
  • (vi) Whole of Nagaland
  • (vii) Parts of Rajasthan
  • (viii) Whole of Sikkim (partly in Protected Area and partly in Restricted Area)
  • (ix) Parts of Uttarakhand
  • Under the Foreigners (Restricted) Areas Order, 1963, the following areas have been declared as `Restricted’ Areas:
  • (i) Andaman & Nicobar Islands – Part of the Union Territory; Even in those parts where no permit is required, citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals having their origin in these countries would continue to require RAP to visit the Union Territory. For visiting Mayabunder and Diglipur, citizens of Myanmar will continue to require RAP.
  • (ii) Sikkim – Part of the State
  • The Home Ministry has decided to relax the Protected Area Permit regime from Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur.
  • Foreign tourists, except those from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, would now be allowed to visit the hitherto restricted areas in these States.

 

  1. C) Economic Developments: India and World
  2. Small Value Digital Payments in Offline Mode (TH, pg 12)
  • Context:The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come out with the framework for facilitating small-value digital payments in offline mode, a move that would promote digital payments in semi-urban and rural areas.The RBI said the framework took effect ‘immediately’.

Analysis

  • An offline payment means a transaction which does not require internet or telecom connectivity to take effect.
  • Under this new framework, such payments can be carried out face-to-face (proximity mode) using any channel or instrument like cards, wallets and mobile devices.
  • Such transactions would not require an Additional Factor of Authentication.
  • Since the transactions are offline, alerts (by way of SMS and / or e-mail) will be received by the customer after a time lag.
  • There is a limit of ₹200 per transaction and an overall limit of ₹2,000 until the balance in the account is replenished.
  • The customers shall have recourse to the Reserve Bank – Integrated Ombudsman Scheme, as applicable, for grievance redressal.

 

  1. Understanding the TRIPS waiver to facilitate the production of COVID-19 vaccines (TH, pg 12)
  • Context:Context: India has sought an emergency meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva to deliberate upon the world trade body’s proposed response package, including patent waiver proposal, to deal with the pandemic amid rising coronavirus infections globally, an official said.
  • Expressing disappointment over no progress on TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal to deal with the pandemic, India has called for including this proposal into WTO’s proposed response package.
  • The General Council agreed on 26 November 2021 to postpone the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) after an outbreak of a particularly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus.

Analysis

  • The 1995 agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is a key legal instrument that harmonises intellectual property (IP) protection by imposing binding obligations on member countries to ensure a minimum level of protection and enforcement of IP rights in their territories.
  • As a part of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s legal regime, the TRIPS agreement also polices the enforcement of IP rights through a compulsory and enforceable dispute settlement mechanism.
  • It is well-known that in the Uruguay Round of negotiations, held from 1986-1994 that led to the formation of the WTO in 1995, the discussions on the TRIPS agreement were contentious.
  • Developed countries considered that higher cross-border IP protectionwould bring in greater rents for their pharmaceutical corporations.
  • On the other hand, developing countries were not keen on an agreement on IP in the WTO.
  • Since then, the debate on TRIPS’ impact on people’s right to health has not ceased.
  • Proponents say that IP protection incentivises innovation and should therefore be strengthened through a network of national and international laws.
  • Meanwhile, critics argue that IP rights, especially those on patents, hinder the introduction of affordable vaccines and drugs in developing countries and deny people their right to health.
  • Today the debate takes centre-stage, as the world grapples with Covid-19. The vaccines and other treatments that have been developed to combat Covid-19 are subject to patent protection under the TRIPS agreement.
  • The patent holders have the exclusive right to manufacture, sell, and use the vaccine or the drug for the entire term of patent protection of 20 years from the date of the filing of the patent.
  • Such protection could impede wider accessibility of vaccines and prolong the pandemic.
  • The entire vaccination exercise, and not the vaccines themselves, will end the pandemic, and the challenge is to ensure that it is universalised.
  • It is in this context India, Indonesia and South Africa have proposed that the WTO’s TRIPS Council recommend to the General Council “a waiver from the implementation, application, and enforcement of” certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.
  • The TRIPS Agreement itself contains flexibilitiesthat allow for a balancing of the rights of the patent holder with the people’s right to health.

TRIPS Waiver: The Legal Basis 

  • The Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO (or the WTO Agreement) provides that in “exceptional circumstances”, the Ministerial Conferencemay waive an obligation imposed on a WTO member country by the WTO Agreement or any other multilateral trade agreement.
  • It also provides that such a waiver be supported by three-quarters of the members.
  • The waiver should also have an end date and be reviewed annually by the Ministerial Conference if granted for more than a year.
  • The term “exceptional circumstances” has not been defined in the WTO Agreement.
  • A waiver may be granted to an individual WTO member country or even collectively.

The Insufficiency of TRIPS Flexibilities 

  • Those who oppose India, Indonesia and South Africa’s proposal for a TRIPS waiver argue that since the TRIPS Agreement contains several flexibilities that can be used to address public health exigencies, the demand to suspend IP obligations is superfluous.
  • One such important flexibility is compulsory license– the right of a government to issue a license to make use of a patent during the patent term without the patent holder’s consent, which is regulated by Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement.
  • Under Article 31, public non-commercial use is also possible—i.e. a government can authorise the use of a patent for its purposes.
  • Likewise, a large number of least-developed countries (LDCs) made use of the long transition period available to them to comply with the TRIPS Agreement – another important TRIPS flexibility.
  • It would be erroneous to conclude, however, that these flexibilities would be sufficient in dealing with all public health challenges especially one as massive as the current pandemic.
  • In 2005, the TRIPS agreement was amended to include Article 31 to allow countries to export drugs manufactured under compulsory licensing to countries that lacked the manufacturing ability.
  • While this amendment has been touted as having solved the problem of countries with insufficient manufacturing ability to access drugs at affordable prices, concerns remain about the cumbersome process that countries need to follow to import and export such medicines.
  • There are other flexibilities as well such as voluntary licenses—i.e. licenses given by patent holders to generic companies on mutually agreed terms.
  • The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, for instance, that has been licensed to India’s Serum Institute is an example of a voluntary license.

Conclusion 

  • Given the enormous demand, the production of vaccines has to be increased manifold and followed by ensuring wider and equitable distribution. An IP waiver alone cannot accomplish such task.
  • Increasing the production of vaccines and ensuring their equitable access would also require building the institutional capacity in several countries, overcoming systemic bottlenecks, and undertaking the necessary reforms in the administrative machinery and the legal framework.
  • Nonetheless, a TRIPS waiver could be an important step in scaling up the production of the vaccines.
  • Voluntary efforts like COVAX that aim to accelerate the development and production of vaccinesmight not be enough, given the enormity of the challenge.
  • While countries that have manufacturing capability can make use of TRIPS flexibilities like compulsory licenses, the same cannot be said about those that lack such capacity especially LDCs in Africa and Asia.
  • The argument that suspending IP rights would be a disincentive for the pharmaceutical sector is untenable: given the huge demand, these companies are assured of returns.
  • Moreover, pharmaceutical companies often benefit from public grants and public moneyincluding in the development of Covid-19 vaccines. Therefore, it is legitimate that the benefits should be shared with the society at large.
  • As the World Health Organization rightly says, “with a fast-moving pandemic, no one is safe, unless everyone is safe. Therefore, the global community needs to pull out all stops including a temporary TRIPS waiver.

Ministerial Conferences Vs General Council

  • The topmost decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which usually meets every two years.
  • It brings together all members of the WTO, all of which are countries or customs unions.
  • The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.
  • The General Council is the WTO’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva, meeting regularly to carry out the functions of the WTO.
  • It has representatives (usually ambassadors or equivalent) from all member governments and has the authority to act on behalf of the ministerial conference which only meets about every two years.
  • The General Council also meets, under different rules, as the Dispute Settlement Body and as the Trade Policy Review Body.

 

  1. D) International Relations
  2. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (TH, pg 11)
  • Context:Five global nuclear powers and the five permanent UN Security Council members China, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S., pledged to prevent atomic weapons spreading and to avoid nuclear conflict.
  • The statement was issued after the latest review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — which first came into force in 1970.
  • The NPT review conference is held in a five-year cycle (once in 5 years).

Analysis

  • The objectives of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) are:
  • to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology,
  • to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and
  • to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.
  • The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
  • The Treaty entered into force in 1970, the treaty’s term was originally 25 years, but it was extended indefinitely at a review conference in 1995.
  • A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.
    • South Sudan, India, Pakistan, and Israel have never joined the NPT.
    • North Korea joined the NPT in 1985, but withdrew in 2003.
    • India and Pakistan have publicly disclosed their nuclear weapon programs, and Israel has a long-standing policy of deliberate ambiguity with regards to its nuclear program.
  • More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement in the world.
  • The Treaty also establishes a safeguards system under the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the IAEA.
  • The Treaty promotes cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and equal access to this technology for all States parties, while safeguards prevent the diversion of fissile material for weapons use.

Nuclear-Weapon States

  • The nuclear-weapon states (NWS) are the five states—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States—officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the NPT.
  • The treaty legitimizes these states’ nuclear arsenals, but establishes they are not supposed to build and maintain such weapons in perpetuity.
  • NPT only recognises those states that conducted a nuclear test before 1968 to be nuclear weapon state.

Non-NPT Nuclear Weapons Possessors

  • India, Israel, and Pakistan never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons.
  • Israel has not publicly conducted a nuclear test, does not admit or deny having nuclear weapons, and states that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Do you know?

  • A number of multilateral treaties have been established with the aim of preventing nuclear proliferation and testing, while promoting progress in nuclear disarmament. These include:
  • the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),
  • the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT),
  • the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was signed in 1996 but has yet to enter into force, and
  • the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), opened for signature in 2017 but has yet to enter into force.

 

  1. Coup in Sudan & African Union (TH, pg 13)
  • Context: Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned, more than two months after a coup.
  • In October 2021, the African Union had suspended Sudan until civilian rule is restored, saying it rejected the military takeover as an “unconstitutional” seizure of power.

Analysis

  • Sudan shares borders with seven countries including Libya and Egypt to the North, Chad to the West, the Central African Republic to the South-West, South Sudan to the South, Ethiopia to the South-East and Eritrea to the East.
  • The White and Blue Niles meet in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, and merge to become the Nile River that flows all the way to the Mediterranean Sea via Egypt.
  • Sudan has a Sahelian belt with the desert in the far north, fertile land in the Nile valleys, the Gezira and across the rest of the country from Darfur to Kassala via Blue Nile and Kordofan States for farming and livestock herding.
  • For most of its independent history, the Sudan has been beset by internal conflicts that weakened its ability to play a leadership role in the region.
  • Under the terms of a comprehensive peace agreement in 2005, South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 and became the 54th independent State of Africa.

African Union (AU)

  • AU is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent.
  • It was officially launched in 2002 in Durban, South Africa as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
  • African Union Headquarters is situated at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • The work of the AU is implemented through several principal decision making organs:- The Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council, the Peace and Security Council and The African Union Commission.
  • The AU structure promotes participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).

Agenda 2063

  • Agenda 2063 calls for greater collaboration and support for African led initiatives to ensure the achievement of the aspirations of African people.

 

  1. E) Art, Culture and History
  2. Who is Rani VeluNachiyar? (PIB)
  • Context: The Prime Minister of India paid his tribute to Rani VeluNachiyar on her birth anniversary on 3 January.

Analysis

  • Rani VeluNachiyar is the 18th century queen from Sivagangai district inTamil Nadu, who fought against the British rule to recapture her kingdom.
  • She was known as the first queen to fight against the colonial power during that time.
  • As she had no brothers, she was brought up like a prince. She was trained in archery, horse riding, martial arts, and even handling different weapons. She was also educated in several languages like French, Urdu and English.
  • In 1772, the British troops and the Nawab of Arcot came together and invaded Sivagangai. During the KalaiyarKoil war, her husband Muthuvadugananthur died fighting for his kingdom.
  • Shocked and broken, VeluNachiyar somehow escaped with her daughter Vellachi and lived in Dindugal for a few years. During her stay in Dindugal, VeluNachiyar formed an alliance with other kingdoms and plotted her revenge against the British.
  • Following a strong fight, VeluNachiyar was successful in recapturing her kingdom and hence becoming the queen of Sivagangai again. During her reign, the queen also formed a women’s only army called Udaiyaal.
  • For more than 10 years, VeluNachiyar proudly ruled Sivagangai before she died in 1796 of an illness.
  1. F) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  2. Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration(PIB)
  • Context: Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singhlaunched the web portal for PM’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration for the year 2021-22

Analysis

  • Government of India has instituted a scheme in 2006 namely, “The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration” – to acknowledge, recognize and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by Districts/ Organizations of the Central and State Governments.
  • For the year 2021, the scheme for Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration aims to recognize the contribution of civil servants in:
  • a) Promoting “Jan Bhagidari” or Peoples‟ participation in Poshan Abhiyan
  • b) Promoting excellence in sports and wellness through Khelo India scheme
  • c) Digital Payments and good governance in PM SVANidhi Yojana
  • d) Holistic Development through One District One Product scheme
  • e) Seamless, End to End Delivery of Services without Human Intervention
    f) Innovations