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Daily Current Affairs

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 16th December – 2021

CURRENT AFFAIRS 16-12-2021

 Daily Current Affairs – Topics

  • WTO Dispute over India’s Sugar Export Subsidies
  • Amendment to the NDPS Act
  • Pacific ring of fire
  • Great Indian Bustard (GIB)
  • Log4j Vulnerability

1. WTO Dispute over India’s Sugar Export Subsidies

#GS3- Indian Economy

Context

  • The WTO’s dispute resolution panel has ruled against India’s sugar subsidies and in favour of complainants Brazil, Guatemala, and Australia.

In depth information

  • In 2019, Brazil, Australia, and Guatemala filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) accusing India of providing claimed internal support to sugarcane and sugar producers, as well as all sugar and sugarcane export subsidies (export subsidy measures).
  • Australia requested the formation of a panel, which was formed on August 15, 2019 by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB).

The WTO Report’s Key Points

  • The panel found that India gave non-exempt product-specific domestic support to sugarcane producers in excess of the permissible amount of 10% of total sugarcane production for five consecutive sugar seasons, from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
  • As a result, it was determined that India was not complying with its duties under the Agricultural Agreement (AoA).
  • The panel further determined that the challenged programmes are export subsidies under Article 9.1(a) of the Agricultural Agreement.
  • Between 2014 and 2019, India broke the WTO agriculture agreement by providing excessive non-exempt product-specific subsidies to sugarcane producers.
  • In contravention of the SCM Agreement, India has granted subsidies based on export performance.
  • India’s FDI policy “remains vague and could be strengthened,” according to the report.
  • Companies must go through extensive approval processes to invest here, with “targeted limitations that remain in place in important industries,” according to the report.

Recommendations

  • It was suggested that India eliminate its subsidies under the Production Assistance, Buffer Stock, Marketing, and Transportation Schemes within 120 days of the Report’s acceptance.
  • India’s Reaction
  • India finds the Panel’s findings “totally unacceptable.”
  • India thinks that its actions are in accordance with its duties under WTO accords.
  • India has taken all essential steps to safeguard its interests.
  • To preserve the interests of its farmers, it filed an appeal with the WTO against the report.

Impacts

  • Because the Indian government does not provide any aid for shipments, the WTO Panel’s findings on sugar will have no influence on any of India’s existing and ongoing policy actions in the sugar industry.
  • Because of decreasing output and supply issues, worldwide sugar prices are rising.

Next Steps

  • The first stage in resolving a conflict is bilateral consultation. If neither party is able to address the issue through consultation, either party might request the formation of a dispute resolution panel.
  • A WTO member or members can submit a dispute with the Geneva-based global body if they believe a particular measure violates WTO regulations, according to WTO rules.
  • Continuing on the reform route would boost Indian businesses’ competitiveness both at home and internationally.

 

2. Amendment to the NDPS Act

#GS2- Governance

Context

  • Lok Sabha passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, is intended to be replaced.

The NDPS Act

  • In 1985, Congress passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, sometimes known as the NDPS Act.
  • It makes it illegal to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, buy, transport, store, and/or use any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

What is the amendment of 2021?

  • The 2021 Bill proposes to correct a drafting “anomaly” generated by a 2014 update to the parent legislation by amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
  • It includes a legislative proclamation about the subject matter of one section.
  • Since 2014, when the legislation was initially enacted, it says Section 2 clause viii(a) conforms to Section 27 clause viii(b).
  • Financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders are both punishable under Section 27A of the NDPS Act of 1985.
  • An earlier change was made in 2014.
  • The NDPS Act was significantly amended in 2014 to allow for improved medical access to narcotic drugs.
  • It defined “essential drugs” and authorised the manufacturing, possession, transportation, importation, exportation, sale, acquisition, consumption, and use of essential narcotic narcotics under Section 9 of the Act.
  • However, prior to the 2014 change, there was a Section 2(viii)a that comprised a list of offences for which punishment is stipulated in Section 27A.

What does Section 21A entail?

  • Section 27A states that anyone who finances, directly or indirectly, or harbours anyone engaged in any of the aforementioned actions is subject to strict imprisonment.
  • The tenure must be at least ten years and may be extended up to twenty years.
  • The accused will also be subject to a fine of not less than one lakh rupees but not more than two lakh rupees.

What was the “anomaly” in the drafting?

  • In 2014, when defining “essential medications,” the legislature renamed Section 2.
  • The list of offences, which had previously been mentioned under Section 2(viii)a, had been moved to Section 2(viii)b.
  • Section 2(viii)a of the amendment defined necessary narcotic substances.
  • However, the drafters failed to convert Section 2(viii)a to Section 2(viii)b in the enabling provision in Section 27A.

What was the outcome of the drafting mistake?

  • Section 27A dealt with the offences listed in sub-clauses i-v of Section 2(viiia).
  • However, with the 2014 change, Section 2 (viiia) sub-clauses i-v, which were supposed to comprise the catalogue of offences, no longer exist. Section 2(viiib) is now in effect .
  • Because of this grammatical issue, Section 27A has been inactive since 2014.

When did the error become apparent?

  • The Tripura High Court, while hearing a reference from the district court in June, pointed out the drafting error and urged the Centre to make a modification to correct it.
  • In 2016, an accused sought bail before a special judge in Agartala, West Tripura, alleging this writing error.

Why isn’t it possible to apply it retroactively?

  • According to Article 20(1) of the Constitution, no one can be convicted of a crime unless it is a breach of the law in effect at the time the crime was committed.
  • The person shall not be subjected to a punishment that is larger than the maximum penalty that could have been imposed under the legislation in effect at the time the offence was committed.
  • This safeguard ensures that no one can be prosecuted for an offence that was not considered a “crime” at the time it was committed.

Is the most recent amendment retroactive?

  • The administration introduced an ordinance in September to correct the drafting error, which was approved by the Lok Sabha. The Bill states, “It shall be deemed to have entered into force on the 1st day of May 2014.”
  • Clarificatory changes allow for retrospective application.
  • Because the 2021 amendment is not a significant one, the retrospective application is permitted.

 

3. Pacific ring of fire

#GS1-geographical features and their location.

Context:

  • An earthquake of a magnitude of 7.3 rocked eastern Indonesia.
  • The epicenter was north of East Nusa Tenggara province, in the Flores Sea.

In depth information

Why is Indonesia so prone to earthquakes?

  • Indonesia is located in the Ring of Fire, which is home to the majority of the world’s volcanic eruptions. In recent days, the Ring of Fire has experienced a lot of activity, but Indonesia has been particularly heavily struck due to its location on a huge grid of tectonic plates.
  • Indonesia is located at the confluence of three major continental plates: the Pacific, Eurasian, and Indo-Australian plates, as well as the smaller Philippine plate. As a result, several Indonesian volcanoes are on the verge of erupting. Indonesia has about 400 volcanoes, with 127 of them active right now, accounting for about a third of the world’s active volcanoes.

What is the meaning of the Ring of Fire?

  • The Ring of Fire is a Pacific region with over 450 volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens in the United States, Mount Fuji in Japan, and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which are three of the world’s four most active volcanoes. The circum-Pacific belt is another name for it.
  • The Ring of Fire is home to 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 80 percent of the world’s greatest earthquakes.

Location:

  • It stretches along the Pacific Ocean’s shores, where the Pacific Plate collides with other, smaller tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust, such as the Philippine Sea Plate and the Cocos and Nazca Plates.
  • The 40,000-kilometer horseshoe-shaped ring circles from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the Asian and American coasts along the route.

Risk:

  • People on the west coast of the United States, Chile, Japan, and island nations such as the Solomon Islands are the most vulnerable to Ring of Fire activity. These locations are particularly vulnerable because they are located on so-called subduction zones, which are the points where two of the planet’s tectonic plates collide.

How did the Ring of Fire come to be?

  • Subduction of oceanic tectonic plates beneath lighter continental plates creates the Ring of Fire. A subduction zone is the location where these tectonic plates collide.

What causes earthquakes in the Ring of Fire?

  • As tectonic plates scrape against each other, the world’s deepest earthquakes occur in subduction zone areas, and the Ring of Fire has the world’s highest concentration of subduction zones.
  • As energy is released from the earth’s molten core, tectonic plates are forced to move and collide with one another, generating friction. Friction builds up energy, which is released at the end of the process, resulting in an earthquake. If this occurs at sea, it could result in disastrous tsunamis.
  • Tectonic plates move only a few centimetres per year on average, but when an earthquake happens, they accelerate dramatically and can move at speeds of several metres per second.

 

4. Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

#GS3- Conservation, Species in News

Context

  • The Centre has petitioned the Supreme Court to change its ruling requiring all transmission cables in the Great Indian Bustard’s (GIB) habitat to be placed underground.
  • SC has already directed those overhead electrical lines be buried whenever possible in 2021.

In depth information

Implementation Challenges/Difficulties

  • It has consequences for the power sector and leaves renewable energy unused.
  • Discoms’ financial difficulties have a negative impact on jobs.
  • A major chunk of the country’s overall solar and wind energy potential is located in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • The cost of renewable energy production would rise when electricity lines are laid underground, putting India’s renewable energy ambitions at risk.
  • By 2022, India wants to have 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) and 450 GW by 2030.
  • These were desert locations that necessitated the use of electricity to obtain water. As a result, eliminating cables is challenging.
  • Undergrounding of high-voltage cables is not possible. Diverters are also extremely expensive to install and maintain.

Great Bustard of India (GIB)

  • About One of the largest endemic to the Indian subcontinent flying birds.
  • Rajasthan’s State Bird
  • Untamed, arid grasslands are its natural habitat.
  • The most GIBs were discovered in Jaisalmer and a field firing range controlled by the Indian Army near Pokhran, Rajasthan.
  • Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh are some of the other states.
  • Critically Endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act lists this species.
  • Hunting, agricultural intensification, and power lines are all threats to the bird.

Ahead of Schedule

  • Install Firefly Flight Bird Diverters and underground cables wherever practical, as well as declare an Inviolate Area and levy a fine.

 

5. Log4j Vulnerability

#GS3- Cyber Crime & Security

Context

  • Log4 Shell, a new vulnerability, is being hailed as one of the biggest cybersecurity weaknesses ever identified.

In depth information

Concerning the Log4j flaw

  • Log4 Shell is the official name for the vulnerability, which is CVE-2021-44228.
  • Each vulnerability identified around the world is assigned a unique CVE number.
  • It is built on an open-source logging library that is utilised in most commercial and government applications.
  • Hackers are already testing exploits for this weakness, which provide them access to an application and might potentially allow them to run malicious software on a device or servers.
  • The issue affects Log4j 2 versions, a popular logging library used by applications all throughout the world.
  • Logging allows developers to see all of an application’s activity.

Concerns:

  • It’s a major issue because it might allow hackers to take control of java-based web servers and launch “remote code execution” (RCE) assaults.
  • To put it another way, the flaw might allow a hacker to take control of a system.
  • It considers this vulnerability to be highly serious.
  • The bug “may be exploited through HTTP or HTTPS (encrypted form of browsing),” which exacerbates the issue.

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