(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-II -International relations
Context: Indian Prime Minister will hold the first India-Central Asia summit, in a videoconference with five Presidents from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
- The major areas of focus would be:
- trade and connectivity
- building development partnerships
- enhancing cultural and people-to-people contacts,
- A number of global and regional developments will also form a large part of the discussions.
- Ways to increase trade between India and the region may also be proposed.
- India hopes to build on its trilateral working group on Chabahar with Iran and Uzbekistan to strengthen connectivity to the region.
- Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north
- It includes the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
- All five nations became independent states after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, post-Cold war.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy
Context: India has initiated an anti-dumping probe against imports of a certain type of tiles, used for covering the floors in residential and commercial buildings, from China, Taiwan and Vietnam following a complaint by domestic players.
- Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) is probing the alleged dumping of “vinyl tiles other than in roll or sheet form.
- If it is established that the dumping has caused material injury to the domestic players, the DGTR would recommend an anti-dumping duty on these imports.
What is Dumping?
- Dumping is a process wherein a company (Ex: Chinese Firm X) exports a product (for Ex: to India) at a price that is significantly lower than the price it normally charges in its home (China) market.
What is Anti-Dumping Duty?
- An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are dumped.
- This is done with the rationale that these products have the potential to undercut local businesses and the local economy.
- According to global trade norms, including WTO, a country is allowed to impose anti-dumping duty to provide a level-playing field to domestic manufacturers.
- The duty is imposed only after a thorough investigation by a quasi-judicial body, such as DGTR in India.
- While the intention of anti-dumping duties is to save domestic jobs, these tariffs can also lead to higher prices for domestic consumers.
- In the long-term, anti-dumping duties can reduce the international competition of domestic companies producing similar goods.
Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR)
- The Directorate General of Trade Remedies was named in May 2018 as an integrated single window agency for providing a comprehensive and swift trade defence mechanism in India.
- Roles and functions:
- DGTR deals with Anti-dumping, Countervailing Duty (CVD) and Safeguard measures.
- It also provides trade defence support to our domestic industry and exporters.
- DGTR provides a level playing field to the domestic industry against the adverse impact of unfair trade practices by using Trade Remedial methods under the relevant framework of WTO arrangements.
- DGTR functions as an attached office of the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Environment
Context: Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Delhi and Haryana to enforce the Environment Management Plans (EMP) that the two governments have prepared for the rejuvenation and protection of the Najafgarh jheel, a transboundary wetland.
- According to NGT, the implementation of these action plans is to be monitored by the National Wetland Authority through the respective State Wetland Authorities.
- The Union Environment Ministry set up a three-member committee to prepare an integrated EMP
- The panel suggested setting up a “Transboundary Najafgarh Jheel Management Committee”.
- According to this plan, the top priority would be to notify the Najafgarh jheel and its area of influence under The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
- The rules prohibit and regulate certain activities within wetlands and their ‘zone of influence’.
What is a Wetland?
- Wetland is transitional land between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where water table is usually at or near surface or it may be land covered by shallow water.
- Importance– Wetlands supports rich biodiversity and provides wide range of ecosystem services such as water storage and purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, aquifer recharge etc.
- In India there are 115 wetlands officially identified by Central Government.
- Out of these, 26 have identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention designated as Ramsar sites.
- The Ramsar list is a list of wetland sites that are deemed to be of “international importance” under the Ramsar Convention, 1971 (India is a signatory to it)
- The list aim “to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits”
About Najafgarh jheel/Marsh wetland
- Najafgarh Lake, fed by Sahibi River, used to be a vast lake in the south west Delhi
- It was connected to the river Yamuna by a natural shallow nullah or drain called the Najafgarh nullah.
- The presence of 281 bird species, including several threatened ones such as Egyptian vulture, Sarus Crane, Steppe Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle and those migrating along the Central Asian Flyway has been reported at the lake.
- It is the second largest water body in Delhi-NCR after the Yamuna.
- The lake is largely filled with sewage from Gurugram and surrounding villages of Delhi.
What is NGT?
- It is a statutory body established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act.
- It is a specialised judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country.
- The chairperson of the NGT is a retired judge of the Supreme Court
- It shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- Tribunal’s orders are binding and it has power to grant relief in the form of compensation and damages to affected persons.
News Source: IE
(News from PIB)
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-I: Indian culture
In news: PM condoles demise of noted Kathakali dancer Ms. Milena Salvini
About Kathakali dance
- Kathakali is a blend of dance, music and acting and dramatizes stories, which are mostly adapted from the Indian epics.
- One of the eight classical dances of India
- It is a stylised art form, the four aspects of abhinaya – angika, aharya, vachika, satvika and the nritta, nritya and natya aspects are combined perfectly.
- The dancer expresses himself through codified hastamudras and facial expressions, closely following the verses (padams) that are sung.
- Kathakali derives its textual sanction from Balarama Bharatam and Hastalakshana Deepika.
- Kathakali symbolizes sky or ether.
- State: Kerala; The face of a Kathakali dancer being the logo of Kerala tourism
- Practiced by only male dancers, however, the last few years have seen a leap in the involvement of women in Kathakali (Mrinalini Sarabhai).
- Originated as part of the bhakti movement and is believed to have been performed by soldiers of the kingdom, as the plays were written by a prince himself.
- Since they were well-trained in the martial art of kalari, troupes that followed in their footsteps all across the land also implemented rigorous exercises as part of the training process. And thence started the practice of body massages using the feet (chavitty uzhichil). This practice is believed to be one major reason why women were not welcome in exploring the art.
- Unique names
- Aharya: Make-up is suited to character like Krishna and Rama wear special crown decorated with peacock feathers.
- Todayam: It is a devotional number performed where one or two characters invoke the blessings of the gods
- Sopana sangeet: It is said to be the ritual singing of the Ashtapadis on the flight of steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
- Unique Features
- Costumes: Unlike other dance forms, the use of elaborate makeup and costumes are central to Kathakali. They used to differentiate between different characters in story telling such as a Noble, a Royalty, an evil etc.
- Facial expressions: While most other dance forms like Bharatnatyam and Odissi focus on hand gestures and body postures, a Kathakali dancer emphasizes on their facial expressions instead to depict various emotions. Here body movements are specifically controlled.
- Music: Heavy use of drums to create an overwhelming and loud environment to showcase the conflict between good and evil.
- Chakiarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Krishnattam and Ramanattam are few of the ritual performing arts of Kerala which have had a direct influence on Kathakali in its form and technique.
News Source: PIB
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The challenge to feed the 10 billion population by mid-century is being deliberated on several fronts.
- It demands efficient ways of production that are both economically viable and ecologically sustainable.
- Fortunately, technologies are emerging that revamp the traditional approach of agriculture with a lower environmental footprint.
India and Processed Food Industry
- Being one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world, India has formulated a unique Production-Linked Incentive Scheme (PLIS) to boost processed food in large quantities.
- The scheme incentivises firms for incremental sales and branding/marketing initiatives taken abroad.
- In export market, sales promotion is positively related to increased sales volume but inversely related to profitability. To bridge this gap government provides support for branding and marketing activities in foreign markets.
- A sum of ₹10,900 crores has been earmarked for the scheme.
- Beneficiaries have been obliged to commit a minimum investment while applying for the scheme. The sector is likely to witness at least ₹6,500 crore worth of investment by 2024.
- Higher investment is being concentrated in States such as AP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP, as these states have better public infrastructure.
- A study in the US concluded that a 1% increase in public infrastructure increased the food manufacturing output by 0.06% in the longer run
Pandemic & impact on Food Processing sector
- As a result of pandemic, significant number of people are now working from home which has accelerated the demand for ready-to-eat products (saw 170% increase in sales volume between March-June 2020)
- The pandemic has bolstered consumer awareness of functional foods, which is expected to provide a boost for health-orientated start-ups and micro-food processing units.
What should be the way forward?
- Address access to capital: The access of MSMEs to finance is a perennial problem in the country due to a lack of proper credit history mechanism for MSMEs. Smart financing alternatives such as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending hold potential for micro-food processors
- Reform TReDS platform: Access to working capital has in theory been addressed by the Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS). However, the platform requires considerable scaling-up and simultaneous enforcement of stringent measures for corporates to comply with.
- Integrating the TReDS platform with the Goods and Service Tax Network’s e-invoicing portal will make TReDS more attractive and give relief to financiers.
- International Collaboration: With growing populations, changing food habits and unrestricted use of natural resources, nations must come together and lay out a road map for a common efficient food value chain.
- Promote innovation in both food products and processes: There is a need to replace the staples of rice and wheat in the form of Nutri-cereals, plant-based proteins, fermented foods & health bars.
50 years hence, the progress of nations will be benchmarked to their ability to sustainably feed their populations.
Connecting the dots:
HEALTH/ FEDERALISM/ GOVERNANCE
- GS-2: Federal Challenges
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The recent Supreme Court judgement upholding the constitutionality of reservation for OBCs in NEET’s All-India Quota (AIQ) seats for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses is considered as landmark in the history of social justice in the country.
- “Merit should be socially contextualised and reconceptualised as an instrument that advances social goods like equality that we as a society value,” the apex court said.
Tamil Nadu’s Public Health Model
- Govt. in-Service doctor Reservation: The state provides reservation of 50% of the postgraduate and super-specialty medical seats for in-service government doctors
- Criteria of Rural Service: Serving for three years in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in rural areas is an eligibility criterion for graduates to avail themselves of this reservation policy.
- Bond of government service till retirement: The reservation Policy has unique superannuation bond for these government doctors to ensure that those who secure postgraduate or super-specialty seats by availing themselves of in-service reservation will serve the government till their retirement.
What are the merits of such Public Health Policy model?
- Increased Skilled manpower: The introduction of the reservation scheme ushered in a tectonic shift in providing tertiary health care in government hospitals by ensuring the availability of specialists in government hospitals.
- Regional development: It led to a steady rise in the availability of multi-specialty experts not only in metropolitan cities like Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, but also Tier-2 cities as early as the 1990s.
- Strengthened Primary Health Centres: It encouraged young MBBS graduates to serve in rural areas as it was part of criteria to avail the reservation benefits. As a consequence, State PHCs and government hospitals never witnessed a shortage of doctors and people got better healthcare facilities at their doorsteps.
- Prevents Brain Drain: The superannuation bond has ensured that a vast majority of the specialists continues their service in the government sector throughout their career. This has prevented the brain drain either to the private sector or to places abroad.
What are the changes brought in with the introduction of NEET?
- The Medical Council of India (MCI) has framed a policy of giving only 50% of postgraduate diploma seats to service doctors, exempting postgraduate degrees.
- Also, it became compulsory for individual States to surrender all the seats of super-specialty courses to the central pool for common counselling, forgoing the domiciliary needs.
- 15% of MBBS seats, 50% of postgraduate seats but 100% of super-specialty seats are surrendered to Centre, which is known as AIQ
- It also became compulsory for abolishing government doctors’ reservation.
Criticism of new NEET Policy
- The Union government went to the extent of filing affidavits opposing in-service reservation before the Courts when the new rule was challenged by the Tamil Nadu. This is considered as against the Federal spirit, especially when it was done without adequate consultation with State.
- Tamil Nadu State government says that dismantling incentives to serving doctors would jeopardise healthcare delivery system in the State. It has also criticised that MCI which is a mere regulatory watchdog doesn’t any legal teeth to formulate such a policy.
Connecting the dots:
- Tamil Nadu’s Case against NEET
- Medical Education: Over-centralisation is harsh (Criticism of NEET)
- National Medical Commission
(Down to Earth: Pollution)
Jan 25: Is air pollution contributing to the ‘insect apocalypse’? – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/pollution/is-air-pollution-contributing-to-the-insect-apocalypse-yes-experts-tell-dte-81268
- GS-3: Biodiversity and Conservation
- GS-3: Pollution, Climate change
Context: There is an ‘insect apocalypse’ underway across the world. The threats to insects include habitat loss, climate change, land-use change and insecticides. But there appears to be another insidious contributor: polluted air.
Insects in the ecosystem
- Vital for India’s food security: Insects have an essential role to play in our ecosystem. They pollinate many of our fruits, flowers and vegetables, contributing significantly to the productivity of at least 75 per cent of global crop species. Their services are.
- Insects keep pests in check: For example, ladybird preys on aphids, that damage crops. Insects are also food sources for amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
- If we were to lose all pollinating insects tomorrow, we would no longer be able to produce cocoa beans, brazil nuts and some fruits (like melon and pumpkin)
Blame it on Air Pollution
Air pollution is likely an important, but currently overlooked, factor contributing to insect pollinator declines. A study in Bengaluru found a drastic reduction in honeybee health at levels which were target levels by the World Health Organization for cities
A. Impact of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) on health of Giant Asian honey bees:
- Giant Asian honey bees produce more than 80 per cent of the honey in India and pollinate more than 687 plant species.
- Over 80 per cent of bees survived for 24 hours at moderately polluted sites. Research in this area is relevant for India as nine of its cities rank in the top 10 most polluted cities globally. Most polluted Tier-2 cities are much more embedded in agricultural lands.
- RSPM is a complex mixture of particles measuring less than 10 or 2.5 micrometres in diameter. They are commonly called Particulate Matter.
B. How could pollution hurt insects?
- In the study, the health impacts of pollutants on bees were quite severe, Honey bees’ heart rates, stress, blood cells counts were affected.
- Air pollutants can do a lot more. They can mess with the insects’ ability to sniff flowers, lowering pollination services.
- Flowers release odour as chemicals called volatile organic compounds, which help insects locate flowers. Pollutants could react with and change the scents of flowers, making them harder to find.
- One study found that honey bees exposed to low medium and high air pollutant concentrations had an impaired ability to recollect odour.
- Pollutants might also mess with social bonds. Insects use odours for a huge variety of interactions with each other and their environment. For example, insects use airborne odours to attract a mate. If pheromone communication is disrupted similarly, it could result in insects struggling to find mates, which could have ramifications for insect biodiversity.
- Some insects like Beetles and parasitic wasps appeared resilient to pollutants. The researchers suspect that this could be because the above insects relied on visual cues rather than odour to reach flowers. Future experiments will need to explain why some species or groups of insects are more affected than others.
The Way Forward
- There is a need to relook and ascertain our regulations across the world
- Future studies should quantify the levels of pollutants safe for insects’ health
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Which of the following is/are true regarding the National Green Tribunal (NGT)?
- It is a Constitutional body established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act.
- The chairperson of the NGT is always an expert in the Ecology and Environment related field.
Select the correct answer:
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Antidumping duties are used to ?
- offset the margin of dumping
- punish domestic consumers for buying high-priced imported goods
- discourage foreign governments from subsidizing their exporters
- reduce the tariff revenue of the domestic government
Q.3 Najafgarh jheel wetland is located in which of the following state/Union territory of India?
- Both (a) and (b)
ANSWERS FOR 27th Jan 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On retroactive tax disputes:
On India-Pakistan ties: