• Current Afairs, 30 April 2020

    A GREATER IMPACT ON WOMEN

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN SOCIETY | TOPIC: ROLE OF WOMEN AND WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION

    • A mother works from home despite the distractions of her family.
    • Early signs are that SARS-CoV-2poses a greater direct health risk to men, and particularly older men. But the pandemic is exposing and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. In the long term, its impact on women’s health, rights and freedoms could harm us all.
    • Women are already suffering the deadly impact of lockdowns and quarantines. These restrictions are essential, but they increase the risk of violence towards women trapped with abusive partners. Recent weeks have seen an alarming global surge in domestic violence; the largest support organisation in the U.K. reported a 700% increase in calls. At the same time, support services for women at risk face cuts and closures.
    • Coronavirus lockdown | N. chief urges governments to protect women against domestic violence
    • This was the background to my recent appeal for peace in homes around the world. Since then, more than 143 governments have committed to supporting women and girls at risk of violence during the pandemic. Every country can take action by moving services online, expanding domestic violence shelters and designating them as essential, and increasing support to front line organisations. The United Nations’ partnership with the European Union, the Spotlight Initiative, is working with governments in more than 25 countries on these and similar measures, and stands ready to expand its support.
    • But the threat to women’s rights and freedoms posed by COVID-19 goes far beyond physical violence. The deep economic downturn accompanying the pandemic is likely to have a distinctly female face.
    • The unfair and unequal treatment of working women is one reason why I went into politics. In the late 1960s, as a student volunteer doing social work in poor areas of Lisbon, I saw women in very difficult situations, doing menial jobs and carrying the weight of their extended families. I knew this had to change – and I have seen important change in my lifetime. But decades later, COVID-19 threatens to bring back these conditions and worse, for many women around the world.
    • Women are disproportionately represented in poorly paid jobs without benefits, as domestic workers, casual labourers, street vendors, and in small-scale services like hairdressing. The International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 200 million jobs will be lost in the next three months alone – many of them in exactly these sectors. And just as they are losing their paid employment, many women face a huge increase in care work due to school closures, overwhelmed health systems, and the increased needs of older people. And let’s not forget the girls who have had their education cut short. In some villages in Sierra Leone, school enrolment rates for teenage girls fell from 50% to 34% after the Ebola epidemic, with lifelong implications for their well-being and that of their communities and societies.
    • Many men, too, are facing job losses and conflicting demands. But even at the best of times, women do three times as much domestic work as men. That means they are more likely to be called on to look after children if businesses open while schools remain closed, delaying their return to the paid labour force.
    • ‘With lockdown, gender violence is a shadow pandemic’
    • Entrenched inequality also means that while women make up 70% of healthcare workers, they are vastly outnumbered by men in healthcare management, and comprise just one in every 10 political leaders worldwide – which harms us all. We need women at the table when decisions are taken on this pandemic, to prevent worst-case scenarios like a second spike in infections, labour shortages, and even social unrest.
    • Women in insecure jobs urgently need basic social protections, from health insurance to paid sick leave, childcare, income protection and unemployment benefits. Looking ahead, measures to stimulate the economy, like cash transfers, credits, loans and bailouts, must be targeted at women – whether they are working full-time in the formal economy, as part-time or seasonal workers in the informal economy, or as entrepreneurs and business owners.
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clearer than ever that women’s unpaid domestic labour is subsidising both public services and private profits. This work must be included in economic metrics and decision-making. We will all gain from working arrangements that recognise people’s caring responsibilities, and from inclusive economic models that value work at home.
    • This pandemic is not only challenging global health systems, but our commitment to equality and human dignity. With women’s interests and rights front and centre, we can get through this pandemic faster, and build more equal and resilient communities and societies that benefit everyone.

     

    AFGHAN PEACE AND INDIA’S ELBOW ROOM

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: INDIA – AFGHANISTAN

    • Earlier this month, the United Nations Secretariat held a meeting of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan, a group that includes six neighbouring countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; global players the United States and Russia, and Afghanistan itself. India was conspicuous by its absence from the meeting on April 16, given its historical and strategic ties with Afghanistan, but not for the first time.
    • In December 2001, for example, the Indian team led by special envoy Satinder Lambah arrived in Germany’s Petersberg hotel near Bonn, where the famous Bonn agreement was negotiated, to find no reservations had been made for them at the official venue. In January 2010, India was invited to attend the “London Conference” on Afghanistan, but left out of the room during a crucial meeting that decided on opening talks with the Taliban.
    • Experts raise concerns for India over U.S.-Taliban agreement
    • In 2020, the reason given for keeping India out of regional discussions on Afghanistan was ostensibly that it holds no “boundary” with Afghanistan; but in fact it is because New Delhi has never announced its support for the U.S.-Taliban peace process. In both 2001 and 2010, however, India fought back its exclusion successfully. At the Bonn agreement, Ambassador Lambah was widely credited for ensuring that Northern Alliance leaders came to a consensus to accept Hamid Karzai as the Chairman of the interim arrangement that replaced the Taliban regime. After the 2010 conference, New Delhi redoubled its efforts with Kabul, and in 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghanistan President Karzai signed the historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was Afghanistan’s first such agreement with any country.
    • As planners in South Block now consider their next steps in Afghanistan, they must fight back against the idea that any lasting solution in Afghanistan can be discussed without India in the room, while also studying the reasons for such exclusions. To begin with, India’s resistance to publicly talking to the Taliban has made it an awkward interlocutor at any table. Its position that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled process can be allowed is a principled one, but has no takers. Kabul, or the Ashraf Ghani government does not lead, own or control the reconciliation process today, comprising the U.S.-Taliban negotiation for an American troops withdrawal, and intra-Afghan talks on power sharing. The U.S.-Taliban peace deal means that the Taliban, which has not let up on violent attacks on the Afghan Army, will become more potent as the U.S. withdraws soldiers from the country, and will hold more sway in the inter-Afghan process as well, as the U.S. withdraws funding for the government in Kabul.
    • S.-Taliban agreement| India hails peace deal in “contiguous neighbour”
    • New Delhi’s decision to put all its eggs in the Ghani basket has had a two-fold effect: its voice in the reconciliation process has been limited, and it has weakened India’s position with other leaders of the deeply divided democratic setup in Kabul such as the former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. Meanwhile, India’s presence inside Afghanistan, which has been painstakingly built up since 2001, is being threatened anew by terror groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), believed to be backed by Pakistan’s establishment. Intercepts showed that the brutal attack, in March, that killed 25 at a gurudwara in Kabul was meant for the embassy in Kabul, and intelligence agencies had warned of suicide car bomb threats to the consulates in Jalalabad and Herat last December.
    • While the government has said that the novel coronavirus pandemic prompted its decision to clear out both consulates this month, the truth is that a full security reassessment is under way for them. Either way, India’s diplomatic strength in Afghanistan should not appear to be in retreat just when it is needed the most.
    • The government must also consider the damage done to the vast reservoir of goodwill India enjoys in Afghanistan because of recent events in the country, especially the controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The building blocks of that goodwill are India’s assistance in infrastructure projects, health care, education, trade and food security, and also in the liberal access to Afghans to study, train and work in India. Above all, it is India’s example as a pluralistic, inclusive democracy that inspires many. Afghanistan’s majority-Muslim citizens, many of whom have treated India as a second home, have felt cut out of the move to offer fast track citizenship to only Afghan minorities, as much as they have by reports of anti-Muslim rhetoric and incidents of violence in India.
    • S.-Taliban agreement| A deal that increases uncertainty
    • While many of these are problems of perception, New Delhi must move swiftly to regain the upper hand in the narrative in Afghanistan. India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, trade of about $1 billion, a $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chabahar, as well as its support to the Afghan National Army, bureaucrats, doctors and other professionals for training in India should assure it a leading position in Afghanistan’s regional formulation.
    • Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma dam), along with hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented that position in Afghan hearts nationwide, regardless of Pakistan’s attempts to undermine that position, particularly in the South. As a result, it would be a mistake, at this point, to tie all India’s support in only to Kabul or the Ghani government; the government must strive to endure that its aid and assistance is broad-based, particularly during the novel coronavirus pandemic to centres outside the capital, even if some lie in areas held by the Taliban.
    • India must also pursue opportunities to fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan, starting with efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bringing together other major leaders with whom India has built ties for decades. It would be an utter tragedy if the Taliban were to enter the government in Kabul as the U.S. deal envisages, to find the opposing front collapse as it did in 1996.
    • The conversation India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had with the U.S.’s Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last week, where they discussed India’s “engagement” in the peace process, appears to open a window in that direction.
    • We will build ties in the neighbourhood: Taliban
    • An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for lasting peace as well, and India could play a mediatory part, as it did in order for the Chabahar project.
    • Finally, New Delhi should use the United Nations’s call for a pause in conflicts during the novel coronavirus pandemic, to ensure a hold on hostilities with Pakistan. This will be even more difficult than it sounds, given the abyss that bilateral relations have fallen into in the past year over Kashmir and the rise in firepower exchanged at the Line of Control.
    • However, if there is one lesson that the the U.S.-Taliban talks have imparted, it is that both have found it necessary to come to the table for talks on Afghanistan’s future. For India, given its abiding interest in Afghanistan’s success and traditional warmth for its people, making that leap should be a bit easier.
    • Above all, the government must consider the appointment of a special envoy, as it has been done in the past, to deal with its efforts in Afghanistan, which need both diplomatic agility and a firmness of purpose at a watershed moment in that country’s history.

     

     

    LIMITATIONS OF ONLINE LEARNING

    RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: EDUCATION AND RELATED ISSUES

    • India has been under lockdown in a desperate attempt to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when the lockdown gets lifted eventually, the government may not allow large congregations in restricted physical spaces, including campuses.
    • Universities and colleges were in the middle of the second semester of their academic year when the lockdown was enforced. There was anxiety, particularly about the graduating batches of students, lest the ongoing session should be declared a ‘zero semester’. This prompted a number of local initiatives. There were attempts from individual teachers to keep their students engaged. A few universities made arrangements for teachers to hold their classes virtually through video conferencing services such as Zoom. The transition to virtual modes was relatively less difficult for those institutions that had, even prior to the lockdown, adopted learning management system platforms. All the above were well-meaning attempts to keep the core educational processes going through this period.
    • Online learning out of reach for many
    • An April 13 report quoted the UGC Chairman as saying that to maintain social distancing, e-education was the only way out. This was clearly meant to prepare the higher education community for the exigencies of a protracted period of closure of campuses.
    • However, close on the heels of this, he was also quoted as saying that online education was likely to be adopted as a strategy to enhance the gross enrolment ratio in higher education. This prompts many questions about the appropriateness of what may be an effective contingency measure to tide over the pandemic crisis to be deployed as a long-term strategy for enhancing enrolment in higher education. One, how far will online education help support greater access to and success in higher education among those who are on the margins? Two, how equipped are digital forms of education to support the depth and diversity of learning in higher education? Three, is there an unstated political motivation for this shift in strategy?
    • Higher education has an influx of students who are first-generation aspirants. They have no cultural capital to bank on while struggling their way through college. Access is not merely enrolment. It also includes effective participation in curricular processes, which includes negotiating through language and social barriers. These students are also from the other side of the digital divide which makes them vulnerable to a double disadvantage if digital modes become the mainstay of education. Unless they receive consistent hand-holding and backstopping, they tend to remain on the margins and eventually drop out or fail. It is therefore necessary to think deeply and gather research-based evidence on the extent to which online education can be deployed to help enhance the access and success rates.
    • Coronavirus| In the time of the pandemic, classes go online and on air
    • Acquisition of given knowledge that can be transmitted didactically by a teacher or a text constitutes only one minor segment of curricular content. It is this segment that is largely amenable to online and digital forms of transaction. But learning in higher education means much more than this. It involves development of analytical and other intellectual skills, the ability to critically deconstruct and evaluate given knowledge, and the creativity to make new connections and syntheses. It also means to acquire practical skills, inquire, seek solutions to complex problems, and learn to work in teams. All these assume direct human engagement – not just teacher-student interaction, but also peer interactions. Deconstructing given knowledge in relative isolation is never the same as doing it in a group. Arguably, some of this can, to some extent, be built on to a digital platform. But curricular knowledge has a tendency to adjust its own contours according to the mode of transaction and the focus of evaluation. It gets collapsed into largely information-based content when transacted through standard structures of teaching-learning and examination. While digital forms of learning have the potential to enable students to pursue independent learning, conventional and digital forms of education should not be considered mutually exclusive. Online learning needs to be understood as one strand in a complex tapestry of curricular communication that may still assign an important central role to direct human engagement and social learning.
    • Institutions of open and distance learning (ODL), established during the mid-1960s to 1980s, were a consequence of explorations for less expensive models for provisioning access to higher education. ODL may also have been considered by governments at that time “as a safe strategy (in the light of instances of campus turbulence) for managing mass aspirations for higher education without necessarily effecting large congregations on campuses” (Menon, 2016). One wonders whether there is a similar motivation behind the enthusiasm for online education.
    • Shyam Menon is a Professor at the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi and former Vice Chancellor, Ambedkar University Delhi

    ONE NATION, ONE RATION CARD: IT WILL GIVE A CUSHION TO MIGRANT WORKERS – EDITORIALS – HINDUSTAN TIMES

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    • The Supreme Court (SC), on Tuesday, asked the Union government to examine the feasibility of implementing the “one nation one ration card” (ONORC) scheme during the national lockdown. The scheme, which allows beneficiaries to access food grains that they are entitled to under the National Food Security Act, 2013, from any fair-price shop in the country, was announced last June.
    • The SC’s nudge to expedite the ONORC is critical. Millions of out-of-work migrant workers are stuck in host cities due to the lockdown. Many have run out of money to buy food and don’t have a proof of identity like ration cards to access subsidised food grains via the well-stocked public distribution system (PDS). States where they are stuck prefer offering relief to their own residents first, and cite the lack of identity documents to deny benefits. And among those states which have opened community kitchens for out-of-job migrant workers, there have been complaints of the quantity, quality and type of food. Some feel that the ONORC scheme will not be of much help during the present crisis since many migrant workers have left their PDS cards in their villages. Instead, the Union government must expand the well-stocked PDS system to cover all individuals, irrespective of whether they have a ration card or not, for at least six months.
    • While this must be done, the government must also fast-track the ONORC scheme because India’s present rights-based regime is based on the assumption that people are sedentary. This is not true given the high rates of inter- and intra-state migration. Without any safety net, migrants depend either on their employers or labour contractors for food provisions or purchase food in the open market. This increases their cost of living and reduces the additional earnings they might hope to remit to their families. During the lockdown, the crisis has become even more acute. But even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, this will be useful. Migration is bound to restart because of unemployment. When migrant workers again start boarding trains and buses for the destination cities, they must have their PDS cards that are valid across India with them.

     

    RIGHTS OF MINORITY INSTITUTES NOT ABSOLUTE: SC

    RELEVANT FOR:- SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS :- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY, JUDGEMENTS & CASES, EDUCATION, ISSUES RELATED TO MINORITIES

    • Recently, the Supreme Court of Indiagave its judgement on the admission criteria of minority institutions.
    • It held that National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is mandatory for admission to all the medical colleges and the right of minority institutions is not absolute and is amenable to regulation.

    Important Points

    Background:

    • Few colleges challenged the notifications issued by the Medical Council of India(MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) under Sections 10D of the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 and the Dentists Act of 1948 for uniform entrance
    • The management of such minority-run medical institutions held that uniformly bringing them under the ambit of NEETwould be a violation of their fundamental right to occupation, trade and business [Article 19(1)(g)] and would violate their fundamental rights of religious freedom and to manage their religious affairs (Article 25-28) and to administer their institutions (Article 30).
    • Few petitioners claimed that rules notified by Andhra Pradesh government are violative of rights of minority educational institutionsunder Article 30(1) of the Constitution.
    • Highlights of the Judgement:
    • The SC held that the fundamental and religious rights of minoritiesand rights available under Article 30 are not violated by provisions carved out in Section 10D of the MCI and Dentists Act.
    • The right to freedom of trade or business is not absolute.It is subject to reasonable restriction in the interest of the students’ community to promote merit, recognition of excellence, and to curb the malpractices. A uniform entrance test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable.
    • The NEET is mandatory for admission to medical colleges run by religious and linguistic minority communitiesand it would apply for both aided and unaided medical colleges administered by minorities.
    • NEET was started to check several malpractices in the medical education,to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education.
    • Uniform entrance exams willensure improvement in future public health by encouraging merit which will further enhance the Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution.
    • The SC also upheld rules framed by the Andhra Pradesh governmentmaking Secondary School Certificate (SSC)/Transfer Certificate (TC) the basis for a candidate’s claim of minority status for admission to B.Ed courses. The rules also require minority institutions to allot vacant seats under management quota to non-minority students on merit.

    Major Issues:

    • It was noted thatconversion certificates were obtained by students from other communities for admission under the management quota.
    • According to statistical data, minority seats are highly disproportionateand far in excess due to the number of colleges and total seats availability.
    • Upholding the Andhra Pradesh government’s rules will safeguard the interests of genuine minority studentsagainst the false overnight conversions.
    • Providing admission to non-minority students will also not interfere with the right of a Minority Educational Institutionto manage its affairs for the benefit of the Minority Community.

    Minority Educational Institutions

    • The term ‘minority’ has not been defined anywhere in the Constitution.
    • Article 30 grants the following rights to minorities, whether religious or linguistic:
    • All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
    • The compensation amount fixed by the State for the compulsory acquisition of any property of a minority educational institution shall not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed to them. (added by the 44th Amendment Act of 1978)
    • In granting aid, the State shall not discriminate against any educational institution managed by a minority.

    Minority educational institutions are of three types:

     

    • Institutions that seek recognition as well as aid from the State.
    • Institutions that seek only recognition from the State and not aid.
    • Institutions that neither seek recognition nor aid from the State.
    • The institutions of first and second type are subject to the regulatory power of the state with regard to syllabus prescription, academic standards, discipline, sanitation, employment of teaching staff and so on. The institutions of third type are free to administer their affairs but subject to operation of general laws like contract law, labour law, industrial law, tax law, economic regulations, and so on.
    • The SC allowed the minority educational institutions to admit eligible students of their choice and to set up a reasonable fee structure in the judgement delivered in the Secretary of Malankara Syrian Catholic College case (2007).
    • However, it also held that the right to establish and administer educational institutions is not absolute. Nor does it include the right to maladminister.
    • There can be regulatory measures for ensuring educational character and standards and maintaining academic excellence.

    FINAL REPORT ON NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE PIPELINE

    RELEVANT FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS: – INFRASTRUCTURE

    • Recently, thetask force headed by Atanu Chakraborty (economic affairs secretary) on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) submitted its final report to the Finance Minister.

    Important Points

    • Revised Investment Need:The taskforce has forecast an investment need of ₹111 lakh crore over the next five years (2020-2025) to build infrastructure projects and drive economic growth.
    • The final report has revised up NIP from earlier Rs 100 lakh crore in light of additional data provided by central ministries/state governments since the release of summary NIP report.
    • Bulk Share: Energy, roads, railways and urban projectsare estimated to account for the bulk of projects (around 70%).
    • Measures Suggested:
    • Aggressive push towards asset sales
    • Monetisation of infrastructure assets
    • Setting up of development finance institutions
    • Strengthening the municipal bond market
    • Streamlining Process:The task force has also recommended to set up of three committees:
    • Timely Execution:Panel to monitor NIP progress and eliminate delays.
    • Follow Up:Steering committee in each infrastructure ministry for following up implementation
    • Raising Financial Resources:Committee in the Department of Economic Affairs for raising financial resources for the NIP

    Background

    • Thetask force was set up after the Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech of 2019, promised to roll out an infrastructure push worth ₹100 trillion over five years to make India a $5 trillion economy.
    • The summary report for, National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), 2020-25 was released by the finance minister on 31 December, 2019.
    • Out of the total expected capital expenditure of Rs 111 lakh crore
    • Projects worth Rs 44 lakh crore (40 % of NIP) areunder implementation.
    • Projects worth Rs 33 lakh crore (30 % of NIP) are at conceptual stage.
    • Projects worth Rs 22 lakh crore (20 % of NIP) are under development.

    National Infrastructure Pipeline

    • NIP will enable a forward outlook on infrastructure projects which will create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, thereby making growth more inclusive.
    • NIP includes economic and social infrastructure projects.
    • It also includes both greenfield and brownfield projects.
    • It will help in stepping-up annual infrastructure investment to achieve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $5 trillion by 2024-25.
    • The Centre and states are expected to have almost equal share in implementing NIP, while the private sector contribution is expected to be around 21%.

     

    INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRES AUTHORITY

    RELEVANT FOR:- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- INVESTMENT MODELS, INFRASTRUCTURE, GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

    • The central government has established International Financial Services Centres Authorityto regulate all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) with headquarters in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).

    Important Points

    Functions:

      • The authority will regulate financial products such as securities, deposits or contracts of insurance, financial services, and financial institutions which have been previously approved by any appropriate regulator such as Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) etc., in an IFSC.
      • It will also regulate any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions in an IFSC, which may be notified by the central government.
      • It may also recommend to the central government any other financial products, financial services, or financial institutions, which may be permitted in an IFSC.

    Members:

      • The International Financial Services Centres Authority will consist of nine members, appointed by the central government.
      • They will include chairperson of the authority, a member each from the RBI, SEBI, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA); and two members from the Ministry of Finance. In addition, two other members will be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
      • Term: All members of the IFSC Authority will have a term of three years, subject to reappointment.

    Possible Benefits:

      • Unification under one authority: The banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC which are regulated by multiple regulators – the RBI, SEBI, and IRDAI will be unified under the IFSC authority.
      • The single window regulatory institution would accelerate the development of India’s first IFSC at GIFT City, Gandhinagar.
      • Both national and international institutions dealing with international financial services would utilise the IFSC platform for inbound and outbound investments with improved ease of doing business, thereby making GIFT IFSC a global financial hub.

    International Financial Services Centre:

    • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Financial Institutions (such as banks, insurance companies, etc.) to India.
    • It offers a business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centres in the world like London and Singapore.
    • IFSCs are intended to provide Indian corporates with easier access to global financial markets, and to complement and promote further development of financial markets in India.
    • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

    NATURAL PRODUCT BASED ALZHEIMER INHIBITOR

    RELEVANT FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS: – HEALTH

    • Scientists fromJawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have modified the structure of Berberine into Ber-D to use as an Alzheimer’s
    • JNCASR is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India.
    • Berberine is a chemical found in several plants. It is a natural and cheap product similar to curcumin (a substance in turmeric). It is found in India and China and used in traditional medicine and other applications.

    Important Points

    • Berberine is poorly soluble and toxic to cells. So scientists modified berberine to Ber-D,which is a soluble (aqueous), antioxidant. They found it to be a multifunctional inhibitor of multifaceted amyloid toxicity of Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Amyloidis a protein that is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues in certain diseases.
    • In case of Alzheimer’s disease, Amyloid beta (Aβ) accumulates in the brain.
    • Ber-D inhibits aggregations of metal-dependent and -independent Amyloid beta (Aβ).Further, Ber-D treatment averts mitochondrial dysfunction and corresponding neuronal toxicity contributing to premature apoptosis (cell death).
    • These multifunctional attributes make Ber-D a promising candidate for developing effective therapeutics to treat multifaceted toxicity of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Alzheimer’s disease

    • Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die.
    • It is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder and accounts for more than 70% of all dementia.
    • Dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
    • Memory loss is an example.

     COVID-19 RELATED DISEASE

    RELEVANT FOR:- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- HEALTH

    Recently, the Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) of the United Kingdom has observed an apparent rise in the number of children suffering from a multi-system inflammatory state. Doctors believe that it could be related to Covid-19.

    Important Points

    • Multi-system Inflammatory State
    • It is a rareillness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels leading to low blood pressure. It affects the entire body as it causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other organs.
    • Patients suffering from it require intensive care to supportthe lungs, heart and other organs.
    • Symptoms:
    • Abdominal and gastrointestinal symptoms.
    • Cardiac inflammation.
    • Overlapping symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)and Kawasaki disease as well.
    • Toxic Shock Syndrome
    • It is a rarecondition which is caused by certain bacteria which enter the body and release harmful toxins.
    • It could be fatal if not treated in time.
    • Symptoms:High temperature, headache, sore throat, cough, diarrhea, dizziness or fainting, difficulty breathing and confusion.
    • Kawasaki Disease
    • It is anacute inflammatory disease of the blood vessels and usually occurs in children below the age of five.
    • The inflammationin the coronary arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to the heart results in enlargement or in the formation of aneurysms (swelling of the wall of an artery), leading to heart attacks.
    • Symptoms:Fever, rashes, redness of the cornea, red and cracked lips, a red tongue and lymph node enlargement of the neck.
    • Relation to Covid-19
    • Only a few childrenwith the symptoms of the multi-system inflammatory state tested positive for Covid-19. So, it remains unclear if and how the inflammatory syndrome is related to the virus.
    • It is suggested by some doctors that the illnessmay be a post-infection inflammatory response, where the immune system gets over-stimulated.
    • A syndrome associated with an overstimulated immune system responseis the Cytokine Storm syndrome.
    • This syndrome may develop as a response tocoronavirusleading to sepsis, multiple organ failures and even death.
    • This could be the reason for the negative Covid-19 test results in some children with this illness because they could have already recovered from the virus before the inflammation set inor the tests simply did not detect the virus.
    • These diseases and conditions are rare but it is importantthat clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so that they are able to give children and young people the right care swiftly on time.

    NEW LIST OF NAMES OF TROPICAL CYCLONES

    RELEVANT FOR: – GEOGRAPHY/ TOPICS: – CYCLONE, IMPORTANT GEOPHYSICAL PHENOMENA, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    • The India Meteorological Department (IMD)has released a list with the names of 169 tropical cyclones that are likely to emerge over the north Indian Ocean, including the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
    • The report was adopted by WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) with consensus in April, 2020.
    • The current list has a total of 169 names including 13 names each for 13 WMO/ESCAP member countries.

    Important Points

    • IMD, one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres (RSMC) in the world, is mandated to issue advisories and name tropical cyclones in the north Indian Ocean region.
    • The advisories are issued to 13 member countries under WMO/ESCAP Panel including Bangladesh, India, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
    • Benefits of naming : Naming of tropical cyclones helps the scientific community, disaster managers, media and general masses to
      • Identify each individual cyclone.
      • Create awareness of its development.
      • Remove confusion in case of simultaneous occurrence of tropical cyclones over a region.
      • Remember a tropical cyclone easily,
      • Rapidly and effectively disseminate warnings to a much wider audience.

    Naming of the Tropical Cyclones

    • The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC)at its 27th Session held in 2000 in Muscat, Oman agreed in principle to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
    • The naming of the tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean commenced from September 2004.
    • This list contained names proposed by theneight member countries of WMO/ESCAP PTC, viz., Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
    • The requirement for a fresh list of tropical cyclones including representation from five new member countries:Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (total 13 member countries) was tabled during the 45th session of WMO/ESCAP, held in September 2018. The session was hosted by

    Panel on Tropical Cyclones

    • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) jointly established the Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC)in 1972 as an intergovernmental body.
    • Its membership comprises countries affected by tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
    • The Panel is one of the five regional tropical cyclone bodies established as part of the WMO Tropical Cyclone Programme (TCP) which aims at promoting and coordinating the planning and implementation of measures to mitigate tropical cyclone disasters on a worldwide basis.
    • For this purpose, there are Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC)- Tropical cyclone and Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWC) for different regions.
    • The main objective of the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones is to promote measures to improve tropical cyclone warning systems in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
    • Tropical Cyclone
    • Tropical cyclone is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
    • A characteristic feature of tropical cyclones is the eye, a central region of clear skies, warm temperatures, and low atmospheric pressure.
    • Storms of this type are called hurricanes in the North Atlantic and eastern Pacific and typhoons in SouthEast Asia and China. They are called tropical cyclones in the southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean region.
    • Formation: Tropical cyclones form near the equator and gain their energy from the heat that is released when water vapour condenses into rain.
    • In the southern hemisphere storms rotate clockwise and anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.

    GLOBAL REPORT ON INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT 2020

    RELEVANT FOR :- SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS :- DISASTER MANAGEMENT

    • The ‘Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020’revealed that conflict, violence and disasters led to 50.8 million internal displacement across the world at the end of 2019.
    • Internal Displacement refers to the forced movement of people within the country they live in due to conflict, violence, development projects, disasters and climate change.
    • Report is published by Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

    Important Highlights

    • Displacement due to conflict
    • All regions are affected by conflict displacement, but it is highly concentrated in a few countries.Of the global total of 45.7 million people displaced due to conflict and violence in 2019, three-quarters or 34.5 million, were in just 10 countries
    • Top Five countries with highest displacement by conflict and violence are:Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Afghanistan.
    • Displacement related to disasters
    • Nearly 1,900 disasters sparked 9 million new displacementsacross 140 countries and territories in 2019.
      • This is the highest figure recorded since 2012.
      • Out of the 24.9 million displaced due to disasters, 23.9 were weather-related, and “much of this displacement took place in form of pre-emptive evacuations”.
    • Noted efforts to prevent and respond to internal displacement
    • Countries such as Niger and Somalia improved their policy frameworks on internal displacement.
    • Others, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines, incorporated displacement in their development plans,in their reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals, or when updating risk management strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
    • The combination of official monitoring of disaster displacement in the Philippineswith mobile phone tracking data and social media analysis helped improve planning for shelters, reconstruction and long term urban recovery.
    • Improvements in the quantity and quality of data available also enabled better reporting and analysis, which in turn informed more effective responses and risk mitigation measures.

    Data Related to India

    • Nearly five million peoplewere displaced in India in 2019
    • It is thehighest in the world.
    • Reasons:The displacements were prompted by increased hazard intensity, high population and social and economic vulnerability.
    • Southwest Monsoon:More than 2.6 million people suffered displacement due to the southwest monsoon. 2019 was the seventh warmest year since 1901 and the monsoon was the wettest in 25 years.
    • CyclonesFani and Bulbul also led to huge displacements.
    • Evacuations save lives, but many evacuees had their displacement prolonged because their homes had been damaged or destroyed.
    • Over19,000 conflicts and violence also prompted the phenomenon.
    • Political and electoral violence, especially in Tripura and West Bengal, led to the displacement of more than 7,600 people.

    1.6 BILLION RISK LOSING JOBS: ILO

    RELEVANT FOR:- ECONOMY/ TOPICS:- EMPLOYMENT, HUMAN RESOURCE, GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

    Recently, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned that nearly half of the entire global workforce is in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Important Points

    • Informal workers at risk:Due to Covid-19 lockdown, three-quarters of workers (some 1.6 billion people) engaged in the informal economy have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living.
    • Further, without alternative income, these workers and their families would have no means to survive.
    • The global workforce is 3.3 billion people, of which more than two billion people work in the informal economy.
    • Hard-hit Sectors:The worst-affected sectors would be accommodation and food services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate and business activities.
    • Suggestions
    • The ILO calls for urgent, targeted and flexible measures to support workers and businesses those in the informal economyand others who are vulnerable.
    • Measures for economic reactivation should follow a job-rich approach,backed by stronger employment policies and institutions, better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems.
    • International coordination onstimulus packages and debt relief measures will also be critical to making recovery effective and sustainable.
    • International labour standards, which already enjoy tripartite consensus, can provide a framework.

    Informal Sector

    • The informal sector, also known as the unorganised sector, is the part of any economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government.
    • The informal sectorprovides critical economic opportunities for the poor.
    • The informal sector is largely characterized by skills gained outside of a formal education, easy entry, a lack of stable employer-employee relationships, and a small scale of operations.
    • Unlike the formal economy, the informal sector’s components are not included in GDP computations.
    • The government of India has launched Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Yojanaas a social security for the unorganised workers.
    • It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme.

    International Labour Organization (ILO)

    • Established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations.
    • League of Nations was disbanded in 1946 and powers and functions of ILO transferred to United Nations
    • Became the first affiliated specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946.
    • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
    • Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.
    • For improving peace among classes.
    • Pursuing decent work and justice for workers.
    • Providing technical assistance to other developing nations.
    • The organization has played a key role in
    • Ensuring labour rights during the Great Depression of 1929.
    • Decolonization process.
    • The creation of Solidarność (trade union) in Poland.
    • The victory over apartheid in South Africa.
    • It is the only tripartite U.N. agency. It brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

    U.S. Priority Watch List for IPR

    Relevant For:- Indian Economy/ Topics :- Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests

    India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for lack of adequate Intellectual Property (IP) rights protection and enforcement, according to the USTRs Annual Special 301 Report.

    Important Points

    Concerns:

    • Copyright laws not incentivising the creation and commercialisation of content.
    • An outdated trade secrets framework.
    • India restricted the transparency of informationprovided on state-issued pharmaceutical manufacturing licenses.
    • India continues to applyrestrictive patentability criteria to reject pharmaceutical patents.
    • Absence of an effective system for protecting against theunfair means to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceuticals and certain agricultural chemical products.
    • India maintains extremely high customs dutiesdirected to IP-intensive products such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) products, solar energy equipment, and capital goods.
    • India was ranked among thetop five source countries for fake goods by the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in 2019.
    • The government’s 2019 draft Copyright Amendment Rules,if implemented, would have “severe” consequences for Internet-content rights holders as the proposed rules broadened the scope of compulsory licensing from radio and television broadcasting to online broadcasting.
    • Trademarks:Trademark counterfeiting levels were “problematic” and there were “excessive delays” in obtaining trademarks due to a lack of examination quality.
    • It urged India to join theSingapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, a treaty that harmonises trademark registration.

    Progress Noted

    • India had made“meaningful progress” to enhance IP protection and enforcement in some areas in 2019 and had acceded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties and the Nice Agreement.
    • The Nice Agreement establishes a classification of goods and services for the purposes of registering trademarks and service marks (the Nice Classification).
    • Online IP enforcement:Online IP enforcement in India has improved but progress is undercut by factors including :
    • Weak enforcement by courts and the police.
    • Lack of familiarity with investigative techniques.
    • No centralised IP enforcement agency.

    Special 301 Report

    • The Special 301 Report identifies trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce Intellectual Property (IP) rights or otherwise deny market access to U.S. innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights.
    • The report is released annually by the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
    • Trading partners that currently present the most significant concerns regarding IP rights are placed on the Priority Watch List or Watch List. USTR identified 33 countries for these lists in the Special 301 Report:
    • Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Venezuela are on the Priority Watch List.
    • Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam are on the Watch List.

    DAMS IN CHINA OVER TRANSBOUNDARY RIVERS

    RELEVANT FOR:- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :- WATER RESOURCES, INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD, EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS

    • Recently, aUS-funded study has highlighted the possible impact of China’s dams on the Mekong river (known as Lancang river in China) and countries downstream.
    • The study was published by the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership in Bangkokand the Lower Mekong Initiative.
    • The Lower Mekong Initiative is a US partnership with all the downstream countriesof Mekong besides Myanmar.
    • The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

    Important Points

    Key Findings of the Study

    • It also raised questions on other Chinese damson rivers which originate in China like Brahmaputra and their similar impact on neighbouring countries like India.
    • China’s southwestern Yunnan provincehad above-average rainfall from May to October 2019. However, there was severe lack of water in the lower Mekong in 2019 in comparison to 1992, based on satellite data.
    • The Mekong River Commissionhas emphasised on the need of more scientific evidence to establish whether dams caused a 2019 drought.
    • The Mekong River Commissioncomprises of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam,
    • According to the study, six damsbuilt since the commissioning of the Nuozhadu dam in 2012 had altered the natural flow of the river.

    China’s Stand

      • It has called the study groundless and highlighted the drought faced by Yunnan because Lancang only accounts for 13.5% of Mekong’s flows.
      • China has maintained that the dams, it is building, are run of the river dams which store water for power generation.

    India’s Stand

    • According to Indian experts, the study isnot conclusive because it only considers the water flowing into the lower basin at one station in Thailand.
    • Itdid not consider other dams and water-use along the course of the river.
    • The lower basin is not entirely dependent on flows from China,but also receives water from tributaries in all other countries it flows in, which the study did not account for.

    India’s Other Concerns

    • India has been expressing concerns on Brahmaputrasince 2015 when China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu. Currently, three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed.
    • For India, quantity of water is not an issuebecause these are run of the river dams and will not impact the Brahmaputra flow.
    • More importantly, Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flowsand an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
    • However, India is concerned about the Chinese activities affecting the quality of water, ecological balance and the flood management.
    • India and Chinado not have a water sharing agreement. Both nations share hydrological data so it becomes important to share genuine data and have continuous dialogue on issues like warning of droughts, floods and high water discharges.

     

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