25 June 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Consider the following statements about Tax inspectors without Borders initiative

It is a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

India is a partner jurisdiction of this initiative that aid Bhutan in strengthening its tax administration.

Which of the above statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

2)Which of the following organizations has published the House Price Index (HPI)?

a.   NITI Aayog

b.   Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

c.   Reserve Bank of India

d.   Ministry of Tribal Affairs

3)Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary is located in which of the following states?

a.   Maharashtra

b.   Gujarat

c.   Uttar Pradesh

d.   Rajasthan 

Map of the Day :- Black Sea and Surrounding Countries

Prelims Specific Factual News Items

What is AgriStack? :- The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has entered into an MoU with Microsoft Corporation to start a pilot project in 100 villages to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services

The AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector.

The central government has claimed that these new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.

Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.

The digital repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, services and policies, the officials added.

Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings.

Alongside, the government is also developing a unified farmer service platform that will help digitise agricultural services delivery by the public and private sectors.

Issues with the move :-

Agriculture has become the latest sector getting a boost of ‘techno solutionism’ by the government.

But it has, since then, also become the latest sector to enter the whole debate about data privacy and surveillance.

2)Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) programme has been recently launched.

TIWB Program

TIWB is a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

India was chosen as the Partner Jurisdiction and has provided the Tax Expert for this programme.

It aims to aid Bhutan in strengthening its tax administration by transferring technical know-how and skills to its tax auditors, and through sharing of best audit practices.

The focus of the programme will be in the area of International Taxation and Transfer Pricing.

This programme is another milestone in the continued cooperation between India and Bhutan and India’s continued and active support for South-South cooperation.

3)All about Narcotics Control Bureau

It was constituted by the Government of India in 1986 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

It is the apex coordinating agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is based on Article 47 of the Indian Constitution which directs the State to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health.

Drug abuse control is the responsibility of the central government.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

It provides for the penalty of property derived from or used in illegal traffic in narcotic drugs.

The Act made an express provision for constituting a Central Authority for the purpose of exercising the powers and functions of the Central Government under the Act.

4) What is Project SeaBird :- The largest naval infrastructure project for India, it involves creation of a naval base at Karwar on the west coast of India. Upon completion, this $3 billion program and effort will provide the Indian Navy with its largest naval base on the west coast and also the largest naval base east of the Suez Canal.

5) 60 Years of Antarctic Treaty :-

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty (wef 1961) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Antarctic Treaty

  • The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements are collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).
  • It regulates international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth’s only continent without a native human population.
  • For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.
  • The treaty entered into force in 1961 and currently has 54 parties.
  • The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent.
  • The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.
  • India is a signatory of this treaty since 1983.

Why is it significant?

  • Negotiated during the middle of the Cold War by 12 countries with Antarctic interests, it remains the only example of a single treaty that governs a whole continent.
  • It is also the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continent without a permanent population.

Key provisions

  • The treaty is remarkably short and contains only 14 articles.
  • Principal provisions include promoting the freedom of scientific research, the use of the continent only for peaceful purposes, and the prohibition of military activities, nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste.

What the treaty says about territorial claims

  • The most important provision of the treaty is Article IV, which effectively seeks to neutralise territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.
  • For the Antarctic territorial claimants, this meant a limit was placed on making any new claim or enlargement of an existing claim.
  • Likewise, no formal recognition was given to any of the seven territorial claims on the continent, by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.
  • Russia, the United States and China — signatories with significant Antarctic interests who have not formally made territorial claims — are also bound by the limitations of Article IV.
  • And one sector of Antarctica is not subject to the claim of any country, which effectively makes it the last unclaimed land on earth.
  • The treaty also put a freeze on any disputes between claimants over their territories on the continent.

How the treaty has expanded

  • Though the compact has held for 60 years, there have been tensions from time to time.
  • Argentina and the UK, for instance, have overlapping claims to territory on the continent.
  • When combined with their ongoing dispute over the nearby Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, their Antarctic relationship remains frosty.
  • Membership of the treaty has grown in the intervening years, with 54 signatories today.

Where to from here?

  • While the Antarctic Treaty has been able to successfully respond to a range of challenges, circumstances are radically different in the 2020s compared to the 1950s.
  • Antarctica is much more accessible, partly due to technology but also climate change.
  • More countries now have substantive interests in the continent than the original 12.
  • Some global resources are becoming scarce, especially oil.

Editorial of the Day :-

Re-energising India’s Africa policy

Need for review of India’s foreign policy for Africa

  • Africa is considered a foreign policy priority by India.
  •  Even as the COVID-19 era began in March 2020, New Delhi took new initiatives to assist Africa through prompt despatch of medicines and later vaccines.
  • But now the policy implementation needs a critical review.

Four factors that explain need for a review of policy implementation

1) Declining trade

  • Declining trade: Bilateral trade valued at $55.9 billion in 2020-21, fell by $10.8 billion compared to 2019-20, and $15.5 billion compared to the peak year of 2014-15.
  • Decline in investment: India’s investments in Africa too saw a decrease from $3.2 billion in 2019-20 to $2.9 billion in 2020-21.
  • The composition of the India-Africa trade has not changed much over the two decades.
  • Mineral fuels and oils, (essentially crude oil) and pearls, precious or semi-precious stones are the top two imports accounting for over 77% of our imports from Africa.
  • India’s top five markets today are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Togo.
  • The countries from which India imports the most are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola and Guinea.

2) Covid impact

  • COVID-19 has brought misery to Africa.
  • As on June 24, 2021, Africa registered 5.2 million infections and 1,37,855 deaths.
  • A recent World Health Organization survey revealed that 41 African countries had fewer than 2,000 working ventilators among them.
  • Despite these shortcomings, Africa has not done so badly.
  •  Sadly though, with much of the world caught up in coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic’s ill effects, flows of assistance and investment to Africa have decreased.
  • While China has successfully used the pandemic to expand its footprint by increasing the outflow of its vaccines.
  • Unfortunately India’s ‘vax diplomacy’ has suffered a setback. 

3) Global competition for influence

  • Africa experienced a sharpened international competition, known as ‘the third scramble’, in the first two decades of the 21st century.
  • A dozen nations from the Americas, Europe and Asia have striven to assist Africa in resolving the continent’s political and social challenge.
  • These nations, in turn, stand to benefit from Africa’s markets, minerals, hydrocarbons and oceanic resources, and thereby to expand their geopolitical influence.

4) Geopolitical tensions in Asia

  • Geopolitical tensions in Asia and the imperative to consolidate its position in the Indo-Pacific region have compelled New Delhi to concentrate on its ties with the United Kingdom, the EU, and the Quad powers, particularly the U.S.
  • Consequently, the attention normally paid to Africa lost out.
  • This must now change.

Way forward for India-Africa relation

  • For mutual benefit, Africa and India should remain optimally engaged.
  • The third India-Africa Forum Summit was held in 2015.
  • The fourth summit, pending since last year, should be held as soon as possible, even if in a virtual format.
  • Fresh financial resources for grants and concessional loans to Africa must be allocated, as previous allocations stand almost fully exhausted.
  • The promotion of economic relations demands a higher priority.
  • Industry representatives should be consulted about their grievances and challenges in the COVID-19 era.
  • To impart a 21st-century complexion to the partnership, developing and deepening collaborations in health, space and digital technologies is essential.
  • India should continue its role in peacekeeping in Africa, in lending support to African counter-terrorism operations, and contributing to African institutions through training and capacity-enhancing assistance.
  • To overcome the China challenge in Africa, increased cooperation between India and its international allies, rates priority.
  • The recent India-EU Summit has identified Africa as a region where a partnership-based approach will be followed.
  •  When the first in-person summit of the Quad powers is held in Washington, a robust partnership plan for Africa should be announced. 

Conclusion

India should review the policy implementation and make changes in line with the changing geopolitical realities.

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