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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 4th April 2019

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  • April 4, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 4th April 2019

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


State of Global Air 2019

Part of:  GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Government schemes and programmes; Air pollution; Health issues

In news:

According to a global study, State of Global Air 2019, published by Health Effects Institute (HEI) –

  • The current high level of air pollution has shortened the average lifespan of a South Asian child by 30 months. (while globally the reduction stands at 20 months)
  • Exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017.
  • Worldwide, air pollution was responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol abuse and physical inactivity.

Do you know?

  • In India, air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking.
  • Each year, more people globally die from air pollution-related diseases than from road traffic injuries or malaria.
  • The study found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths. (in 2017)
  • South Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan — led the world as the most polluted region, accounting for over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths.

Pic: https://d39gegkjaqduz9.cloudfront.net/TH/2019/04/04/DEL/Delhi/TH/5_07/2ad075e7_2847352_101_mr.jpg

On indoor pollution –

  • The report highlighted that nearly half of the world’s population were exposed to household air pollution in 2017.
  • Globally, there has been progress: the proportion of people cooking with solid fuels has declined as economies develop.
  • But in India, 60% of the population still used solid fuels; in Bangladesh that number rose to 79%, underscoring the importance of achieving success in government initiatives to address the problem.

Steps taken by India to address pollution sources:

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme
  • Accelerated Bharat Stage VI clean vehicle standards
  • new National Clean Air Programme

About National Clean Air Programme

  • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is the latest initiative taken by the government of India to create strategies for reduction in air pollution levels at both regional and urban scale.
  • NCAP aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • It is a five-year action plan with a tentative target of 20-30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 by 2024, with 2017 as the base year.
  • It is a ₹300-crore programme.

U.S. State Department approves $2.6 billion chopper sale to India

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Relations; India and the World; Defence ties

In news:

  • The U.S Department of State has approved the sale of 24 MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopters to India under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
  • The value of the potential sale is $2.6 billion.
  • The Indian government had submitted a Letter of Request for the Romeos last year.
  • The proposed sale will provide India the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions, including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.

Do you know?

  • India was granted the unique Major Defence Partner (MDP) designation in 2016 by the Obama administration — a step towards India accessing U.S. military technology at a level on par with those of the U.S.’s closest allies.
  • India was then given Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status by the U.S. in August last year, the third Asian country after South Korea and Japan (and 37th country globally) to acquire it.
  • This was to further facilitate the transfer of technology in the defence and space sectors.

About the four foundational agreements

  • India has signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) agreement with the U.S.
  • The agreement will provide a legal basis for the U.S. to transfer secure communication equipment to India, increasing military equipment interoperability and real time data sharing.
  • COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
  • Few other agreements signed by India with US are General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
  • India is yet to sign Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) with USA.

Apart from the foundational agreements, the U.S. is also keen on a broad based intelligence-sharing agreement with India as the two countries have vastly expanded their counter-terror cooperation. (needs signing of BECA)


Bleaching hits world’s southernmost coral reef

In news:

According to Australian scientists –

  • The world’s southernmost coral reef has been hit by bleaching.
  • Rising sea temperatures from climate change were affecting even the most isolated ecosystems.
  • The corals off Lord Howe Island — some 600 km offshore from Sydney — were affected by elevated temperatures.
  • It’s just another indicator that climate change is affecting everywhere around the world.

Do you know?

  • Severe bleaching had damaged the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.
  • Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.

Miscellaneous:

BSNL gets licence for WiFi on flights

In news:

  • State-owned telecom service provider BSNL has received licence from the Department of Telecommunications to provide Internet and mobile services on flights.
  • BSNL and its satellite partner, Inmarsat, will be able to offer in-flight connectivity to airlines later this year.
  • The DoT had notified its rules in December allowing airlines flying within and transiting through India to provide Internet and voice services on mobile phones along with an Indian telecom operator or licencee.
  • According to the rules, passengers can make phone calls or use Internet when a flight is at a minimum height of 3,000 m in Indian airspace to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks.

Do you know?

  • South Korea first to roll out 5G services, beating U.S. and China.

(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL/POLITY

TOPIC: General studies 2 

  • Functions and responsibilities of the Government; Separation of powers between various organs
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Governance issues

Issues with existing Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013

Why effective implementation of this act is very important?

  • To enhance the accountability of those in high posts.
  • To make public administration clean and fair.
  • To curb the growing menace of corruption of public servants in India.

What are the current laws relating to corruption cases against public servants?

  • Currently, public servants (such as MPs, government employees, judges, armed forces and police personnel) can be prosecuted for acts of corruption under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • This includes offences such as bribery, embezzlement, abuse of official position and unlawful purchase of property .

Actors against corruption

There are now three principal actors at the national level –

  1. the Lokpal,
  2. the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and
  3. the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

Corruption cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code can be investigated either by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in each state.

  • The CBI can investigate all corruption cases related to all the departments under the central government and in the union territories.
  • It can also investigate cases referred to it by state governments.
  • The state ACBs investigate corruption cases within the states. The investigating agencies can initiate the prosecution process only after they have got the prior sanction of the central or state governments.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an independent body that monitors corruption in government departments. It supervises the functioning of the CBI.

The CVC refers cases (under the Prevention of Corruption Act) for investigation either to the CBI or to the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) in each department of the central government.

Based on the inquiry report, the CVC or the CVO recommends the action to be taken against a public servant. The decision to take any disciplinary action against a civil servant rests with the department authority.

Jurisdiction issues

The main issues are related to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, the composition and manner of appointment and the powers vested in the body.

  • The Lokpal has jurisdiction over Group A and B public servants. This does not deprive the CBI of its own jurisdiction over these two groups.
  • The Lokpal Act permits using the CBI for examining a complaint against a public servant for misconduct.
  • Although the Lokpal has its own Inquiry Wing, it can nevertheless forward a complaint to the CBI for a preliminary inquiry, and thereafter for registering a regular case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • However, it is not clear what happens when such a complaint is already being inquired into by the CBI.
  • In addition to the Lokpal, the government is also competent to order a preliminary inquiry and permit the CBI to proceed with a regular case.
  • CBI can also register a case even without the government’s nod in instances in which a public servant is caught red-handed while receiving a bribe.
  • The Lokpal Act also creates a Prosecution Wing exclusively for the Lokpal.

Therefore, it is not sure –

  • How will Lokpal’s prosecution body coordinate with the CBI’s Director of Prosecution in respect of a matter handled by both of them?
  • If an individual lodges a complaint with the government and the Lokpal, what should the Lokpal do?
  • Does Lokpal have the authority to give direction to the CBI to keep its hands off the matter and wait for the Lokpal’s own Inquiry Wing to handle the matter?
  • Can the Lokpal order the CBI to suspend its inquiry in respect of a complaint and report on it to the exclusion of the government?

In crux, there is overlap in jurisdiction and functions of CVC, Lokpal and even CBI in certain areas, which can create serious functional problems.

Connecting the dots:

  • The Lokpal could create more problems than it will solve. Critically comment.
  • Lokpal in its existing form creates functional problems. Do you agree? Analyze whether integrating anti-corruption wings of CBI, CVC with Lokpal will solve the problems.

ECONOMY

TOPIC: General studies 2 and 3

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

India’s new foreign direct investment rules for e-commerce

Context:

  • India has released its draft e-commerce policy for stakeholders’ comments, after tweaking its foreign direct investment (FDI) rules on e-commerce.
  • At the recent World Economic Forum’s Davos gathering, 76 countries – including China, the US, and of the European Union – agreed to negotiate international rules on e-commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • India, too, should join the talks and align its domestic policy with the contours of an international agreement in line with our vision of becoming a $10 trillion economy.

Why India should join WTO talks on e-commerce?

  • According to its domestic e-commerce policy, India endeavors to give an advantage to domestic platforms, but without distinguishing between small and big domestic firms.
  • Further, the draft e-commerce policy doesn’t disallow large domestic firms from adopting an inventory-based model for e-platforms, which is out of bounds to foreign platforms.
  • The vision of the draft e-commerce policy of India includes “providing a level-playing field to all stakeholders, including the individual consumers and MSMEs and start-ups”.
  • To push the interests of its small businesses at the multilateral level, it will be good for India to join the international negotiations and participate actively.
  • India should join hands at the negotiating table and may even consider balancing their stand on data for gains on rules that could aid the growth and development of their small businesses.

Background: What is the issue?

The demand for a national e-commerce policy was triggered, inter alia, by two factors:

  1. Big multinationals like Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. entering the online retail market with small retailers howling, and
  2. Second, the call for multilateral rules on cross-border e-commerce.

At the heart of the problem is India’s view on the two e-commerce models that exist today: marketplace and inventory.

  • India allows 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the marketplace model of e-commerce, which it defines as a tech platform that connects buyers and sellers.
  • India has not allowed FDI in inventory-driven models of e-commerce. The inventory model, which Walmart and Amazon use in the United States, is where the goods and services are owned by an e-commerce firm that sells directly to retail customers.

The restriction is aimed largely at protecting India’s vast unorganized retail sector that does not have the clout to purchase at scale and offer big discounts.

It means that Amazon and Flipkart can only operate the marketplace model in India. Both companies have wholesale units that bulk purchase goods and sell them to vendors listed on their platform. These vendors in turn sell to retail customers.

What are the restrictions on controlling inventory?

  • Existing regulations state that e-commerce firms cannot exercise ownership over the goods sold on their online marketplace.
  • Both Amazon and Flipkart developed complicated seller structures that helped them comply with the inventory control rule while exercising some level of control over inventory.
  • Traders and small online sellers have accused Amazon and Flipkart of violating the spirit of the law and of using the structures to offer deep discounts, accusations they deny.

Therefore, the new rules state that the inventory of a seller or vendor will be seen as being controlled by a marketplace if the vendor purchases more than 25 percent of its inventory from the marketplace, or any of its group firms.

The rule would not allow sellers on Flipkart and Amazon to make bulk purchases from the wholesale units of the companies.

The new regulation replaces a rule that said an e-commerce firm could not permit one vendor’s retail sales to overshoot 25 percent of the overall sales of the marketplace by value in a fiscal year.

Connecting the dots:

  • Indian market is not yet ready for opening up e-retail space to foreign investors. Do you agree? Comment.
  • Discuss how the recent draft FDI guidelines on e-commerce impact online as well as brick and mortar retail?
  • The advent of e-commerce companies and the exponential rise in their reach require effective regulation in order to not only protect consumer interests but also support their own growth. Elucidate.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) LEMOA, GSOMIA, COMCASA and BECA are often in news. It deals with –

  1. Four foundational agreements that helps the U.S. to intensify its defence cooperation with a partner nation.
  2. Super Computers developed by NASA.
  3. Trade Agreements that help India and Italy to augment collaboration in areas of mutual benefit.
  4. 4 approaches suggested for India-China ties.

Q.2) Consider the following statements

  1. India and the US recently signed Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
  2. S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was recently renamed Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM)

Which of the above statement[s] is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3) Consider the statements regarding ‘Coral bleaching’

  1. It is the loss of zooxanthellae through either expulsion or loss of algal pigmentation.
  2. It happens due to increase in ocean temperature only
  3. All the corals undergoing bleaching are dead corals

Select the correct code

  1. 1 and 3
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 only
  4. 2 and 3

Q.4) Coral bleaching can occur due to which of the following reasons?

  1. Elevated sea temperatures
  2. High sediment loading in the ocean
  3. Increased solar irradiance
  4. Ocean acidification

Select the correct answer using the codes below.

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2, 3 and 4 only
  3. 1, 3 and 4 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4

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