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The Hindu Newspaper 01/07/2020

Consider the following statements with respect to World Trade Organisation (WTO)

WTO has defined the country as developed or developing.

 WTO allows member countries to classify themselves as developed or developing or least developed countries.

No WTO member can challenge the decision of a member country to be classified as developing.

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

a.  2 only

b.  1 and 2 only

c.  1 and 3 only

d.  None

Answer : d

There are no WTO definitions of “developed” and “developing” countries.

WTO allows member countries to classify themselves as “developed” or “developing”.

However, other members can challenge the decision of a country to be classified as “developing”.

Only the “least-developed countries” status is designated by the UN.

(i.e) WTO recognizes as least-developed countries (LDCs) those countries which have been designated as such by the United Nations.

2)Tricalcium Phosphate is commonly used for which of the following purposes?

a.  Weedicide

b.  Fire extinguisher

c.  Bone substitution

d.  Manufacture of crackers

Answer : c

Tricalcium Phosphate is a commonly used bone substitute material from natural sources.

3)Consider the following statements with respect to Parliamentary Committee

It is a panel that is formed for a specific period of time by the house or the speaker of the house. 

Consultative committees are also a part of the parliamentary committees.

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

a.  1 only

b.  2 only

c.  Both 1 and 2

d.  Neither 1 nor 2

Answer : a

A parliamentary committee means a committee that:

Is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker /Chairman.

Works under the direction of the Speaker / Chairman.

Presents its report to the House or to the Speaker / Chairman.

Has a secretariat provided by the Lok Sabha / Rajya Sabha.

The consultative committees, which also consist of members of Parliament, are not parliamentary committees as they do not fulfill above four conditions.

News:- 1st July: National Doctor’s Day:- 1st July the birth as well as the death anniversary of one of the renowned physicians in India, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was chosen to be celebrated as doctors day.

2)Malathion Technical: Locust control

News:- Core industry output contracts for third month:- coal contracted 14 per cent (1.7 per cent growth in May 2019); crude oil 7.1 per cent (-6.9 per cent); natural gas 16.9 per cent (-0.1 per cent); refinery products 21.3 (-1.5 per cent); steel output contracted 48.4 per cent (13.3 per cent); cement output 22.2 per cent (2.8 per cent) and electricity generation fell 15.6 per cent (7.4 per cent growth).

News:- India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s ‘missing females’, says UN report

News: United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) has released the State of World Population Report 2020.

Facts:

  • Title of the report: ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.
  • Focus of the report: The report focuses on the problem of child marriage, son preference, gender biased sex selection(GBSS) and female genital mutilation(FGM).

Key Takeaways:

  • Harmful practices: The report identifies 19 harmful practices against women out of which 3 are most widespread and persistent: Female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and son preference.
  • Missing Females: India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million missing females over the past 50 years due to gender based sex selection and preference for sons.
  • Child marriage: Globally, one in five girls is married by age 18.
  • Female Genital Mutilation: In 2020, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation.

Additional Facts:

  • UNFPA: It is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.It aims to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted,every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.Its headquarters is located at New York, United States

News:- India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s ‘missing females’, says UN report

News: United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) has released the State of World Population Report 2020.

Facts:

  • Title of the report: ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.
  • Focus of the report: The report focuses on the problem of child marriage, son preference, gender biased sex selection(GBSS) and female genital mutilation(FGM).

Key Takeaways:

  • Harmful practices: The report identifies 19 harmful practices against women out of which 3 are most widespread and persistent: Female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and son preference.
  • Missing Females: India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million missing females over the past 50 years due to gender based sex selection and preference for sons.
  • Child marriage: Globally, one in five girls is married by age 18.
  • Female Genital Mutilation: In 2020, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation.

Additional Facts:

  • UNFPA: It is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.It aims to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted,every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.Its headquarters is located at New York, United States

News:- World Bank approves fresh funds for Ganga cleaning mission

News: The World Bank has approved a five-year loan to the Namami Ganga or the National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG) under its second National Ganga River Basin project.

Facts:

  • National Ganga River Basin project: Itis a World Bank assisted project approved in the year 2011.
  • Aim: To help rejuvenate the Ganga River by helping stem river pollution, and strengthening the management of the river basin.

Additional Facts:

  • Namami Gange: Itwas launched in 2014.It is an Integrated Conservation Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Aim: To achieve effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
    • Main Pillars: a) Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure b) River surface Cleaning c) Afforestation d) Industrial Effluent Monitoring, e) River-Front Development f) Biodiversity g) Ganga Gram and h) Public Awareness.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG): It has been established as an Authority under National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Act, 2016.
    • It is the implementing agency of the Namami Gange Programme at the national level.

News:- Plant thought to be extinct for more than 135 years found in Sikkim Himalayas

team of researchers from Pune and Kerala have “rediscovered” a rare and critically endangered plant species called Globba andersonii from the Sikkim Himalayas near the Teesta river valley region after a gap of nearly
136 years.
The plant, known commonly as ‘dancing ladies’ or ‘swan flowers was thought to have been extinct until its “recollection”, for the first time since 1875, by noted citybased botanist Sachin Punekar, founder of the citybased
environmental NGO Biospheres, during a field trip to Sevoke in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

Globba andersonii are characterised by white flowers non-appendaged
anthers (the part of a stamen that contains the pollen) and a “yellowish lip”. Classified as “critically endangered” and “narrowly endemic”, the species is restricted mainly to Teesta River Valley region which includes the Sikkim
Himalays and Darjeeling hill ranges.

News:- Extension of Operation Greens from TOP to Total

News: Union Minister for Food Processing has announced the extension of Operation Greens from TOP (Tomato-Onion-Potato) crops to all Perishable Fruits & Vegetables (TOP to Total).

Facts:

  • Operation Greens: It was announced in the Budget 2018-2019 to stabilize the supply of Tomato, Onion and Potato (TOP) crops.It is being implemented by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
  • The scheme has now been extended from tomato, onion and potato (TOP) crops to other all Perishable Fruits & Vegetables(TOP to Total).
  • Objective: To protect the growers of fruits and vegetables from making distress sale due to lockdown and reduce the post -harvest losses.
  • Duration of Scheme: for the period of six months from the date of notification i.e., 11/06/2020.
  • Eligible entities: Food Processors, Co-operative Societies, Individual farmers, Exporters, State Marketing/Co-operative Federation engaged in processing/ marketing of fruits and vegetables.
  • Pattern of Assistance: Ministry will provide subsidy 50 % of the cost of the following two components subject to the cost norms:
    • Transportation of eligible crops from surplus production cluster to consumption centre and/or
    • Hiring of appropriate storage facilities for eligible crops (for a maximum period of 3 months).

News:- About National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority(NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986. NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).

The Act envisages five tier structure at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga as below; 

  1. National Ganga Council under chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. 
  2. Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation). 
  3. National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG). 
  4. State Ganga Committees and 
  5. District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states

News:- About SAARC:- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.

The idea of regional cooperation in South Asia was first raised in November 1980. After consultations, the foreign secretaries of the seven founding countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—met for the first time in Colombo in April 1981.

Afghanistan became the newest member of SAARC at the 13th annual summit in 2005.

The Headquarters and Secretariat of the Association are at Kathmandu, Nepal.

News:- About MGNREGA : Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (or, NREGA No 42, later renamed as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”, MGNREGA), is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.

It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Unemployment allowance is provided if after 15 days of Application , work is not provided.

EDITORIALS :-

PCR testing is a double-edged sword

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3 Science and Technology

Context: The government has allowed SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in many government and private laboratories.

Different types of Tests used for Covid-19 diagnosis

There are mainly two types of tests being used for Covid-19 diagnosis

  1. Genetic test/Molecular Test: This test is done using the conventional real-time Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.It is a method of testing by taking a nasal/throat swab from a patient. It involves extracting ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. If it shares the same genetic sequence as SARS-CoV-2 virus, then it is deemed positive.
  1. Serological Test/Antibody Testing: It is a blood/serum/plasma test to detect the presence of antibodies against a microorganism. In the case of Covid-19 these antibodies are usually IgM (the first antibody that the body makes) and IgG antibodies. These antibodies when detected in the strip give a coloured response. The symptomatic individual then can be confirmed using the molecular test.
  • ELISA Test: ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay. It is a commonly used laboratory test to detect antibodies in the blood.
Pooled Testing:· It is a procedure where individual specimens (e.g., urine or blood) are combined into a common pool.· If the pooled test turns out to be positive, individual samples are tested. If there’s no positive result, all individual samples in the pool are regarded as negative.· This type of testing helps to reduce the cost of screening many individuals for infectious diseases and can help in tracing asymptomatic cases of the disease, thereby tracking community transmission.

Issues with RT-PCR Tests

  • It can only identify infections that are active and thus cannot detect and trace past infections.
  • It is expensive compared to serological tests.
  • It cannot be administered on-site and do not provide quick results.
  • It accurately detects the presence of virus but it is also prone to false negative and false positive results because of very nature of PCR. The viral load is lower in the throat than in the nasopharynx. Hence throat swabs are falsely negative in 60% of tests and nasopharyngeal swabs in 30%.
  • False PCR results underestimates the real extent of spread and mislead government thus augmenting the epidemic.

Steps to be taken

  1. Cross-contamination should be avoided when samples are handled in a laboratory. A laboratory technician’s proficiency is integral to quality assurance.
  2. Doctors should not be misled by false negative tests when COVID-19 is clinically diagnosed with specific criteria. The patient must be treated as COVID-19, and the PCR repeated.
  3. Laboratories should be checked for compliance with protocols and record-keeping.
  4. In order to avoid blind reliance on the PCR test result, clinical diagnosis by specific criteria, should be popularised among doctors.

Digitising Trade across borders

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 3 – Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc

Context – Pandemic has made it necessary to digitise procedures and lower human intervention to facilitate trade across borders.

Importance of digitised trade

Challenges in attaining digitisation in trade

  1. Functioning of digitised trading systems– Shortcomings in the functionality of the system and technical glitches result in limited use of the system or parallel use of hard copy. For example, the absence of a shipping line delivery order in customs and terminal systems results in usage of hard copy for cargo movement.
  2. Multiple stakeholders – Lack of connectivity/message exchanges between different stakeholders’ systems results in delayed cargo clearance.
  3. Capacity building in stakeholders– There are many issues with respect to training and capacity building amongst the users, restricting the optimal utilisation of digital platforms.
  4. High upfront costs of digitisation – Trade ecosystem including customs brokers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, transport operators, port custodians, container freight stations and border management authorities have been restricted. This indicates the need to further augment the digital infrastructure in the trade ecosystem which involves high upfront cost.

Steps taken by government to digitise cross border trading

Post India’s ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization in April 2016, following reforms focused on infrastructural upgradation, digitisation and automation.

  • Direct Port Entry and Direct Port Delivery
  • Radio Frequency Identification system and Single Window Interface
  • The Port Community System – It is aimed at seamlessly integrating all maritime trade-related stakeholders on a single platform.
  • e-SANCHIT (e-Storage and computerised handling of indirect tax documents) – Aimed at reducing human intervention.

Way Forward – With trade volumes contracting and economic indicators shrinking, the present crisis present an opportunity to develop new systems and enhance existing platforms while at the same time changing the attitude of stakeholders on the ground.

PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar yojana vs MGNREGA

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – Gs 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

Context – PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar yojana has raised several questions about intention of government to provide employment opportunities to vulnerable sections that also benefited under MGNREGA.

PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana –It aims to provide work to migrant workers in 116 selected districts of selected states.

MGNREGA – The mandate of the MGNREGA is to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Need to strengthen MGNREGA

1.Issues with PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana

  1. Exclusion of States– States of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh be omitted when reverse migration is particularly high in these States
  2. Politicisation of scheme– Of the ₹4,794 crore spent between June 20 and June 28, Bihar received more than 50% of the fund which can be attributed to the fact tha Bihar elections are scheduled for later this year.
  3. Overlapping with MGNREGA– According to the list of 25 kinds of work available under this “scheme” it is clear that almost every single one of them is already covered under the convergence programmes of MGNREGA which leads to wastage of resources and duplication of efforts.
  4. Crony Capitalism– The nature of the work is manual work, mainly construction and earth work, including work to lay cables, ostensibly to take Internet connections to rural areas. It is unstated but clear that this will benefit private telecom companies.
  5. Lack of legal right – MGNREGA is a legal right, whereas the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan has no such legal binding on the administration.

2.Lack of work– According to figures available on the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, in this fiscal year, 8.07 crore workers demanded work, but work was provided only to 6.25 crore workers.

3.Insufficient funds– The Central government released ₹38,000 crore for MGNREGA work, of which 70% has already been utilised. With the return of migrant workers to their home States and with substantial numbers having completed the quarantine period, the demand for work is bound to increase. The remaining ₹8,000 crore fund available to the States is clearly insufficient.

Suggested Reforms for MGNREGA

  1. Household vs Individual– This will require a removal of the restriction of only one person per household to make every individual eligible.
  2. Increasing number of working days – The cap of 100 days should be removed to expand it to at least 200 days.
  3. Compensation to all – Unemployment allowance should be guaranteed for all those turned away from work.

Way Forward – MGNREGA should not be diluted in the name of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan. The potential for MGNREGA to provide relief to the suffering of rural India should be utilised to its fullest capacity especially in times of Corona when unemployment is at its highest.

Reviving SAARC to deal with China

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context: Analysing the role of SAARC in the backdrop of India-China tensions.

Background: Hegemonic China is looking towards global expansion to chipping away India’s interest in South Asia.· China has well known proximity with Pakistan which will increase with CPEC.· Nepal is moving closer to China for ideational and material reasons.· China is offering Bangladesh tariff exemption to 97% of Bangladeshi products.· China has intensified its ties with Sri Lanka through massive investments.· According to a Brookings India study, most South Asian nations are now largely dependent on China for imports despite geographical proximity to India.

Ignoring SAARC:

  • Isolating Pakistan: India has been trying hard to isolate Pakistan internationally for its role in promoting terrorism in India.
  • Alternatives to SAARC:
    • India started investing in other regional instruments such as BIMSTEC but it cannot replace SAARC for reasons such as lack of a common identity and history among all BIMSTEC members.
    • As BIMSTEC’s focus is on the Bay of Bengal region, it is an inappropriate forum to engage all South Asian nations.

Many foreign policy experts argue that India’s strategic dealing with China has to begin with South Asia.

Infusing life in SAARC by reviving the process of South Asian economic integration:

  • Trade:
    • South Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world with intra-regional trade teetering at 5% of total South Asian trade as compared to 25% of intra-regional trade in the ASEAN region.
    • Trade treaties:
      • While South Asian countries have signed trade treaties, the lack of political will and trust deficit has prevented any meaningful movement.
      • India should take the lead and work with its neighbours to slash the tariff and non-tariff barriers.
    • Investments:
      • There’s a need to rejuvenate the negotiations on a SAARC investment treaty which has been pending since 2007.
      • According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, intra-ASEAN investments constitute around 19% of the total investments in the region.
      • The SAARC region can likewise benefit from higher intra-SAARC investment flows.

There are certain domestic issues of India in reviving SAARC.

Domestic challenges in revitalising SAARC:

  • Ideological reasons:
    • There has been an anti-Pakistan and Bangladesh migrant rhetoric due to ideological reasons and to reap political dividends.
    • Denting soft power: Majoritarian politics dents India’s soft power of being a liberal and secular democracy which gives moral legitimacy to India’s leadership in the region.
  • Complexity in the economic vision:
    • There is a lack of clarity on the slogans of atma nirbharta (self-reliance) and ‘vocal for local’ mean.
    • Protectionism: The government is stating that India needs to cut down its dependence on imports which signal a return to the obsolete economic philosophy of import substitution. This questions India’s interests in deepening South Asian economic integration.

Way Forward

Deeper regional economic integration will create greater interdependence with India acquiring the central role which would serve India’s strategic interests.

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