Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 6th October -2020

 

1)QUAD:

Context: The Quad, whose foreign ministers are meeting today in Tokyo

  • Few of Delhi’s bilateral relations get as much attention as its growing engagement with Washington and none of its many global groupings generate as much political heat as the so-called Quad — the quadrilateral framework that brings India together with the US and its Asian allies, Japan and Australia.
  • The Quad could emerge as a critical element not only for India’s foreign and security policy but also a definitive moment in the evolution of post-War Asian economic and security architectures.

Nature of alliances:

  • Alliances are very much part of statecraft and as old as war and peace.
  • They are a means to enhance one’s power.
  • They are about deterring or defeating one’s adversaries.
  • They involve written (in a treaty) commitments to come to the defence of the other against a third party.
  • Beyond the pure version, alliances come in multiple shapes and forms — they could be bilateral or multilateral, formal or informal and for the long-term or near term.
  • How they work varies according to the distribution of power within the members of an alliance and the changing nature of the external threat.

History of alliances in India:

  • Alliances figure prominently in India’s ancient strategic wisdom embodied in the Mahabharata, the Panchatantra and the Arthashastra.
  • Contemporary Indian domestic politics is always about making and unmaking alliances — between different castes and communities.
  • Yet, when it comes to India’s foreign policy, alliances are seen as a taboo.

How is India Considering Alliances?

  •  Part of the problem is that India’s image of alliances is frozen in the moment when India became independent.
  • As the Western powers — the US, UK, and France — that joined Soviet Russia to defeat fascist Germany turned against Moscow after the Second World War, a newly-independent India did not want to be tied down by alliances.
  • That notion is seen as central to Indian worldview. However, Indian diplomatic practice, as everywhere else, is different from the declared canon.

Does India form any alliances?

A. Alliances in pre-Independent era:

  • Yes, Let us start with the Indian nationalist movement.
  • During the First World War, some nationalists aligned with Imperial Germany to set up the first Indian government-in-exile in Kabul.
  • In the Second World War, Subhas Chandra Bose joined forces with Imperial Japan to set up a provisional government in Port Blair, Andaman Islands.

B. Alliances in post- Independent era:

Jawaharlal Nehru, who unveiled the policy of non-alignment among the great powers, did not rule out alliances in a different context.
When the three Himalayan Kingdoms — Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim — turned to Delhi for protection amidst Maoist China’s advance into

Tibet during 1949-50, Nehru signed security treaties with them.

Nehru, who actively opposed US alliances in Asia, turned to the US for military support to cope with the Chinese aggression in 1962.
Delhi desperately sought, but did not get, security guarantees from the US, UK and Soviet Russia after China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964.

India does do alliances but the question is when, under what conditions and on what terms.

That brings us to the third question.

Is the US offering India an alliance against China?

  • To be sure, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun recently mused about the Quad turning into some kind of an alliance in the future.
  • But one speech does not an alliance make. In fact, the current political discourse in Washington is hostile to alliance-making.
  • In any case, formal commitments do not always translate into reality during times of war.
  • Pakistan, for example, thought its 1954 bilateral security agreement with the US was about dealing with India.
  • For the US, it was about countering communist aggression.
  • Pakistan was deeply disappointed that the US did not prevent its division by India in 1971.
  • Even within the long-standing US military alliances with Japan and the Philippines, there is much legal quibbling over what exactly is the US’s obligation against, say, Chinese aggression.
  • If you filter out the noise on the Quad, it is quite clear that Washington is not offering a military alliance. Nor is Delhi asking for one because it knows India has to fight its own wars.

Both countries, however, are interested in building issue-based coalitions in pursuit of shared interests.

The fourth question is about the instrumental nature of alliances.

  • Agreements for security cooperation are made in a specific context and against a particular threat.
  • When those circumstances change, security treaties are not worth the paper they are written.
  • Consider India’s security treaties with Nepal, Bangladesh and Russia.
  • The 1950 Treaty was designed to protect Nepal against the Chinese threat. But large sections of the political elite in Kathmandu no longer see a danger from its north.
  • India’s 1972 security treaty with Bangladesh did not survive the 1975 assassination of the nation’s founder, Mujibur Rahman.
  • India’s own enthusiasm for the 1971 treaty with Moscow waned within a decade, as Delhi sought to improve relations with Beijing and Washington

 

2) National Startup Awards 2020:

The Results of the first edition of National Startup Awards will be released by Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, at the National Media Centre, New Delhi.

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has conceived the first ever National Startup Awards to recognize and reward outstanding Startups and ecosystem enablers that are building innovative products or solutions and scalable enterprises, with high potential of employment generation or wealth creation, demonstrating measurable social impact.
  • The measure of success is not only the financial gains for the investors but also the contribution to the social good.
  • The first edition of the Awards invited applications across 12 sectors which were further sub-classified into a total of 35 categories.
  • These 12 sectors are Agriculture, Education, Enterprise Technology, Energy, Finance, Food, Health, Industry 4.0, Space, Security, Tourism and Urban Services.
  • Apart from these, startups are to be selected from those which create impact in rural areas, are women-led and founded in academic campuses.
  • The winning Startups will get cash prizes of Rs 5 lakh each, along with opportunities to present their solutions to relevant public authorities and corporates, for potential pilot projects and work orders.
  • As key building blocks of a robust Startup ecosystem, one exceptional Incubator and one Accelerator each will get a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh

 

3) Requirement of Minimum Qualifying Service Scrapped:

Requirement of Minimum Qualifying Service Scrapped for Enhanced Family Pension w.e.f. 01 October 2019

  • As per existing provision, there is a requirement of continuous qualifying service of 7 years for grant of Ordinary Family Pension at enhanced rate to NoK of Defence Forces personnel.
  • Ordinary Family Pension at enhanced rate is calculated @ 50% of last Emoluments and Ordinary Family pension is calculated @ 30% of last Emoluments.
  • Ordinary Family Pension at enhanced rate is payable for 10 years without any upper age limit from the date following the date of death of the personnel in service.
  • Where service personnel dies after release/retirement/discharge/invalidment with a pension, Ordinary Family Pension at enhanced rate is granted for a period of 7 years from the date of death or up to attaining the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The requirement of continuous qualifying service of 7 years is done away with w.e.f 1.10.2019 vide Govt. letter dated 05.10.2020
  • Further, Defence Forces personnel who died within ten years before the 1st day of October 2019 without completing continuous service of 7 years, his family shall also be eligible for family pension at enhanced rate w.e.f 1.10.2019

 

4) Successful Flight Test of SMART:

Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) has been successfully flight tested on 5th Oct 2020 from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha.

  • All the mission objectives including missile flight up to the range and altitude, separation of the nose cone, release of Torpedo and deployment of Velocity Reduction Mechanism (VRM) have been met perfectly.
  • The tracking stations (Radars, Electro Optical Systems) along the coast and the telemetry stations including down range ships monitored all the events.
  • SMART is a missile assisted release of lightweight Anti-Submarine Torpedo System for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations far beyond Torpedo range.
  • This launch and demonstration is significant in establishing Anti-Submarine warfare capabilities.
  • A number of DRDO laboratories including DRDL, RCI Hyderabad, ADRDE Agra, and NSTL Visakhapatnam have developed the technologies required for SMART.
  • SMART is a game changer technology demonstration in the Anti-Submarine Warfare

 

5) Plan for up gradation and expansion of Zoos across the country in PPP mode:

Marking the celebration of Wildlife Week 2020 Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, today congratulated the country for the diverse wildlife and said that the government is working towards the up gradation and development of 160 Zoos in Public Private Partnership (PPP) across the country to encourage interaction between wildlife and humans, and help people observe and understand wildlife behavior more closely.

  • The Union Minister informed that policy for up gradation and development of all the zoos in the country is underway and will be taken up during the upcoming budget.
  • Further said that state governments, corporations, businesses and people will all be key elements of the plan.
  • It will help give enhanced experience to the visitors especially the students and children and the future generation in order to nurture the connect between wildlife, nature and humans.
  • On the occasion also launched a report of the Central Zoo Authority CZA-TERI titled “Economic valuation of ecosystem services, National Zoological Park, New Delhi ‘.
  • The report highlights the importance of habitats such as zoos to human wellbeing and the need of replication across India.
  • The study first of its kind in India and perhaps the entire World, pegs the total annual economic value of the ecosystem services (biodiversity conservation, employment generation, carbon sequestration, education and research, recreational and cultural) at around 423 crore (2019-20) whereas, the total value of the one-time cost of services such as carbon storage and land value provided by the zoo is estimated to be around 55,000 crore.
  • The Minister also gave away the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) -Prani Mitra awards to encourage the zoo officers and staff towards working for captive animal management and welfare.
  • The awards were given in four categories viz. the Outstanding Director / Curator, Outstanding Veterinarian, Outstanding Biologist /Educationist, Outstanding Biologist /Educationist and Outstanding Animal keeper.

 

6) 42nd GST Council Meeting:

Context: The 42nd GST Council met under the Chairmanship of Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister
The GST Council has made the following recommendations:

  • Levy of Compensation Cess to be extended beyond the transition period of five years i.e. beyond June, 2022, for such period as may be required to meet the revenue gap.
  • Centre is releasing compensation of ? 20,000 crore to States today towards loss of revenue during 2020-21 and an amount of about ? 25,000 crore towards IGST of 2017-18 by next week.
  • The cess Collections will be used to repay borrowings to be made this year for meeting the compensation shortfall and will remain for such period as may be required to meet the revenue gap

The GST Council failed to iron out differences between States ruled by non NDA parties and the Centre over a plan to get the states to borrow from the market to meet an estimated rupees 2.35 lakh crore shortfall in compensation cess collections this year

 

7) Anti-air pollution campaign:

Context: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday launched anti-air pollution campaign as a measure for a clean and green Delhi

  • An anti-dust campaign is being initiated by Delhi Government to settle dust, especially at construction sites
  • As monsoon season withdrew from Delhi, the air quality in various parts of the national capital has started deteriorating
  • Delhi Chief Minister today launched the anti-pollution campaign for a clean and green Delhi.
  • From today, we are starting a campaign against pollution, “Yudh Pradushan Ke Virudh” to reduce pollution levels in the national capital.
  • As part of the campaign, we’ll be using a technology developed by Pusa Agriculture Institute, to curb the menace of stubble burning
  • Campaign will include the release of Green Delhi App
  • Launching the anti-air pollution campaign, Kejriwal said that the polluted air can be life threatening this year in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Kejriwal said that 13 pollution hot spots have been identified in Delhi, and customized plans of action are being made for each area, according to their respective causes of pollution.

 

8) K.V. Kamath Committee report:

Report on recommendations to bail out sectors affected by the COVID-19 stress.

  • A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan noted that an additional affidavit filed by the government late last week did not address “several issues” raised in writ petitions highlighting the plight of borrowers, small and big, who were being charged compound interest, post the pandemic moratorium, which expired on August 31.

‘Hand-hold’ small borrowers

  • The additional affidavit informed the Supreme Court about the government’s decision to “hand-hold” small and vulnerable borrowers and waive the compound interest (interest on interest) accumulated against their loans during the six-month moratorium period.
  • But the waiver of compound interest is only applicable for loans up to ?2 crore, the Ministry of Finance told the court.
  • The waiver will be for MSME, education, housing, consumer durables, credit card, auto, personal and consumption loans, all up to ?2 crore.
  • During the hearing, the court went on to ask the government whether it had so far issued any circulars, policy decisions and so on, based on the Kamath panel report, which has made suggestions for a loan resolution or restructuring scheme for 26 pandemic-distressed sectors.

Real estate left out

  • Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram said the real estate sector had been completely left out.
  • The court said the government and the RBI had brought nothing on record to show what been done to implement the Kamath panel report.
  • Senior advocate V. Giri, also for the RBI, said the government was deliberating on further improvements in the loan resolution plans.

Charging of compound interest post moratorium had hit hard the ordinary person

  • The court found there was no resolution or policy decision, by individual banks, on the manner in which they should implement the various decisions taken by the Centre and the RBI.

Objective

  • The committee will start to recommend parameters for one-time restructuring of corporate loans
  • Formulate sector specific resolution plans for all accounts with total loan exposure of Rupees 1500 crore and above
  • Deadline: It will submit its recommendations to RBI in 30 days

Background:

  • In the recent monetary policy report RBI has allowed banks to restructure loans to reduce the rising stress on income in balance sheet of class corporate, micro small and medium enterprises as well as individuals

Reasons:

  • A large number of firms that otherwise maintain a good track record are facing the challenges as their debt burden is becoming disproportionate, relative to their cash flow generation abilities
  • This can potentially impact their long-term viability and pose significant financial stability risks if it becomes widespread.
  • It may also lead to an increase in non-performing assets

Eligibility:

  • Only those borrowers will be eligible for restructuring whose accounts were classified as standard and not in default for more than 30 days with any institution as on 1st March 2020

 

9) 2020 Nobel in Medicine:

Harvey J Alter, Charles M Rice, and Michael Houghton share the Medicine Nobel for their work that helped explain a major source of blood-borne hepatitis.

Their work make possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives

Explained:

  • 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health
  • Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C
  • For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year.
  • The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.
  • The prestigious Nobel award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over USD 1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
  • The Nobel Committee often recognizes basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today.
    Hepatitis
  • Hepatitis refers to any inflammation of the liver- the irritation or swelling of the liver cells from any cause.
  • It can acute (inflammation of the liver that presents with sickness- joint is fever vomiting), or chronic (inflammation of the liver that last more than 6 months, but essentially showing no symptoms).

Causes

  • Usually caused by a group of viruses known as the hepatotropic (liver directed).
  • Viruses including A, B, C, D and E
  • Other viruses may also cause it, such as varicella virus that causes chickenpox.
  • SARS-Cov-2, the virus causing COVID-19 may injure the liver, too.
  • other causes include drugs and alcohol abuse, fat Build up in the liver(fatty liver hepatitis) or an autoimmune process in which a person’s body makes antibodies that attacked liver (autoimmune hepatitis)

Treatment:

  • Hepatitis A and E are self-limiting diseases that is they get cured on their own hence require no specific antiviral medication
  • For hepatitis B and C, effective medications are available
  • Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A,B for others vaccine is not available

Indian Scenario:

  • 40 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus and 6 to 12 million are infected with Hepatitis C virus
  • Indian government launched National Viral Hepatitis Program, the Program is the largest program for hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world
  • Hepatitis B is included under India’s Universal immunization programme , which provides free of cost vaccination against 11 vaccine preventable diseases- Tuberculosis , Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, pneumonia and meningitis due to haemophilus influenza type b (hib) measles, rubella, Japanese encephalitis and rotavirus diarrhoea.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand became the first four countries in the World Health Organisation’s South East Asian region to have successfully controlled Hepatitis B

 

10) Trans fat hazard:

Despite an increase in cardiovascular diseases in the rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of consumers in the villages in Rajasthan are unaware of the hazards of trans fats, which are responsible for heart ailments by raising the cholesterol levels.

  • Very few consumers know about the sources of trans fats, according to a survey.
  • The sample survey, conducted by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS)-International in 12 districts of the State recently, has found that the consumption of industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils had increased by 19% from its pre-lockdown level in the rural areas.
  • The survey was taken up in the backdrop of the release of World Health Organisation’s second progress report on global trans-fat elimination, which had reminded India of its commitment to eliminate trans fats from food supply by 2022.
  • In the urban areas, 46% of the consumers were found unaware of the health harms associated with trans fats, though 21% of them had heard the term.
  • The awareness level was a little higher when the correlation of trans fats was made with ‘Dalda’, which is a brand name of vansapati ghee, but not much of the consumers were aware of the margarine and bakery shortenings

 

11) CEPI network:

Indian lab among 6 world institutes for COVID-19 vaccine testing

  • THSTI, chosen by CEPI, comes under a network that initially involves labs in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India
  • The Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), has been chosen by the international non-profit, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), as one of the ‘Global network of Laboratories for centralized assessment of COVID-19 Vaccines’.
  • The CEPI network will initially involve six labs, one each in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India.
  • All the labs would use the same reagents and follow a common set of protocols to measure the immune response of multiple vaccine candidates under development and trial.
  • This will greatly harmonise the vaccine trial process and allow different vaccine candidates to be compared and speed up the selection of the most effective candidate
  • The Ind-CEPI mission for the establishment of BSL-3 (Bio-safety level 3) facility, is a translational laboratory for platform technologies and a Bioassay laboratory for development of assays to measure clinical immunogenicity.
  • The mandate of the bioassay laboratory at the THSTI is to provide validated assays for vaccine development on a par with global standards.
  • According to current projections, about 25 crore Indians are likely to be vaccinated by July next. A vaccine is likely to be available by early next year, he added.

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