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Sarat Chandra IAS Academy – UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 4th January 2022

CURRENT AFFAIRS 04-01-2022

Daily Current Affairs – Topics

         

  • India-Pakistan: Nuclear Installations
  • Report on Revision of EWS criteria
  • RCEP: Asia readies world’s largest trade deal
  • Semiconductor Shortage
  • Hamas and Gaza Strip

 

1.India-Pakistan: Nuclear Installations

#GS2-India and its Neighbourhood

Context

  • India and Pakistan have exchanged a list of their nuclear facilities.

In depth information

Agreement on Non-Nuclear Aggression

  • The Non-nuclear Aggression Deal is a bilateral nuclear weapons control treaty between India and Pakistan that focuses on nuclear arms reduction (or limitation).
  • Both promised not to attack each other’s nuclear sites and facilities, or to aid foreign forces in doing so.
  • The treaty was drafted in 1988 and signed on December 21, 1988, by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his counterpart Benazir Bhutto; it went into effect in January 1991.
  • The pact prohibited signatories from launching surprise attacks on one other’s nuclear installations and facilities (or assisting a foreign power in such an attack).
  • India and Pakistan have been exchanging lists of their respective military and civilian nuclear-related facilities every year since January 1992.

The Treaty is Required

  • The Indian Army conducted the major drill ‘Brasstacks’ in 1986-87, heightening fears of an Indian strike on Pakistan’s nuclear installations.
  • Since then, the foreign ministries of both countries have been in talks to negotiate an agreement on nuclear weapons control.

The Agreement’s Importance

  • The pact prohibited signatories from launching surprise attacks on one other’s nuclear installations and facilities (or assisting a foreign power in such an attack).
  • The pact creates a security environment that fosters trust.
  • Information on prisoners is shared.
  • Both countries share a list of convicts held in their respective prisons at the same time.
  • The rules of the Agreement on Consular Access, agreed in May 2008, allow for the sharing of these lists.
  • Every year on January 1 and July 1, the two countries should exchange detailed lists under this agreement (i.e. twice a year).

India-Pakistan Relations: Current Issues

1.Terrorism Across Borders:

  • Terrorism emerging from Pakistani-controlled areas continues to be a source of concern in bilateral relations.
  • India has often emphasised the importance of Pakistan taking real, irrevocable, and verifiable efforts to halt cross-border terrorism.

2.The Treaty of the Indus Waters:

  • Every now and then, there is a ruckus in India over abrogating the Indus Water Treaty in reaction to Pakistan’s persistence and cross-border terrorism.
  • It’s a convention negotiated by the World Bank that governs how the Indus River and its tributaries, which run through both countries, will be used.

3.Siachen Glacier

  • Siachen is often considered to be the world’s highest, deadliest, and most expensive battleground.
  • Military activity have harmed the glacier and its surroundings for decades.
  • However, due to the complexities of Indo-Pak relations and the mutual distrust between the two countries, no decision has been made.

4.Sir Creek:

  • It is a 96-kilometer stretch of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands that is disputed between India and Pakistan.
  • The point of contention is the interpretation of the Kutch-Sindh maritime boundary line.
  • Pakistan maintains the line should follow the estuary’s eastern shore, while India claims the line should go through the middle (differing interpretations of paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between the then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch).

5. Jammu and Kashmir’s Reorganization:

  • It also caused a dilemma in Kashmir-centric Pakistan by separating the huge territory of Ladakh from the Kashmir conflict all at once.
  • Pakistan’s dissatisfaction was evident in its desperate efforts to promote terrorism and failed efforts to rally world support against India’s actions.

Next Steps

  • With effect in February 2021, the two countries committed to strictly adhere to all agreements, understandings, and ceasefires along the LoC (Line of Control) and in all other sectors.
  • However, there is no chance for the countries’ future interaction unless there is a shared willingness, political will, and fortitude on both sides to make difficult decisions.
  • Pakistan’s never-ending quest to prove that it is on par with or better than India has prevented normalisation of relations between the two countries.
  • Because of the lack of actual democracy and consecutive impotent civilian governments, bilateral engagement with the civilian government has proven futile due to the manipulations of the Pakistani military.

 

2. Report on Revision of EWS criteria

#GS2- Amendments, Significant provisions

Context

  • The government has adopted the findings of a three-member group formed to review the criteria for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS).

In depth information

  • The income requirements for the EWS quota in the NEET exam, which determines admissions to medical colleges, have been challenged in the Supreme Court.
  • A special committee was formed to assess the eligibility requirements for 10% reservations in government institutes and occupations for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).

The main points of the Panel’s report are as follows:

1.Maximum annual income:

  • The committee described the Rs 8 lakh gross family annual income cap as ‘reasonable and equitable in the current circumstances,’ because, unlike the OBC creamy layer reservation, the EWS system incorporates income from all sources, including agricultural income and household salaries.
  • The income criterion for the creamy layer in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category applies to gross yearly income for three consecutive years, whereas the EWS criteria apply to the financial year before to the year of application.
  • Despite the fact that both sets of criteria use the Rs 8 lakh cut-off, the committee decided that the standards for the EWS are substantially more strict than those for the OBC category.

2.Criteria for residential assets include:

  • Persons whose family owns or possesses 5 acres of agricultural land or a residential plot of 1,000 square feet or a residential plot of 100 square yards in notified municipalities, or a plot of 200 square yards and above in areas other than the notified municipalities, will be excluded from being identified as EWS, according to the Department of Personnel & Training’s EWS quota notification for 2019.
  • The group has proposed that the residential asset criteria be eliminated entirely, stating that simple possession of a residential residence may not accurately reflect the candidate’s or his family’s economic situation, especially if it is simply utilised as a living unit and does not generate any income.

Additional Suggestions

  • It was advised that the proposals be implemented only from the next admission cycle forward, rather than from the current one, because any abrupt change would cause significant disruption among educational institutions and produce issues for both recipients and authorities.
  • It has been proposed that the present admissions method, which has been in place since 2019, be maintained for the current admission cycle.
  • ‘A three-year feedback loop cycle may be utilised to monitor the actual outcomes of these criteria and then be used to change them in the future,’ the panel adds.
  • It’s also been suggested that data interchange and information technology be aggressively employed to check income and assets and improve EWS reservation targeting.

What questions does the court have concerning the criteria?

  • Reduction in the general category:
  • The EWS quota has sparked debate, with critics claiming that it diminishes the size of the open category while still exceeding the 50 percent total reservation restriction.
  • Arbitrariness in income restriction:
  • The income ceiling of Rs. 8 lakh per year has piqued the court’s interest. The same figure applies to the ‘creamy layer’ being excluded from OBC reservation advantages.
  • Social and educational backwardness:
  • Unlike those categorised as OBC, those in the general category, to whom the EWS quota applies, do not suffer from social or educational backwardness
  • Other problems include whether any effort was made to determine the exceptions, as well as why the flat criterion does not differentiate between metropolitan and non-metropolitan locations.
  • OBC-like criteria:
  • The court has posed the question of when the OBC category is socially and educationally backward, posing extra challenges to overcome.
  • Not based on relevant data:
  • This is in line with the Supreme Court’s well-established position that any reservation or exclusionary norms must be based on relevant facts.
  • Breaks the reservation cap:
  • According to the Indira Sawhney case, the reservation cap is set at 50%. Reservation is required under the idea of balancing equality.

What is the status of the EWS quota right now?

  • The Union Government is implementing the EWS reservation for the second year in a row.
  • The results of recruitment tests suggest that the category has a lower cut-off mark than the OBC, which has angered the traditional caste-based reservation recipients.
  • The reason for this is that only a limited number of people are now applying for EWS, which requires obtaining an income certificate from the tax authorities, therefore the cut-off is low.
  • However, as the number rises, the cut-off marks are projected to grow as well.

Issues with the EWS Quota in Practice

  • The EWS quota will be reviewed by the courts soon. But it’s not just a concern for the courts; India’s Parliament should review the legislation as well.
  • Hasty legislation:
  • This bill was rushed through. It passed both houses in less than 48 hours and received presidential approval the next day.
  • Appeasement of minorities:
  • It is widely assumed that the law was enacted to pacify a particular segment of upper-caste society and to quell calls for minority reservations.
  • Morality is called into question:
  • Imagine! Without consulting the targeted community, a constitutional change was enacted after only a few hours of consideration. This is unquestionably immoral and improper under the Constitution.
  • There isn’t enough support:
  • This amendment is based on a faulty or unsubstantiated assumption. Because the government has not provided any facts to support this claim, it is at best a wild guess or a hypothesis.
  • Under-reservation of Backward Classes:
  • The claim is founded on the fact that we have different data to show that SC, ST, and OBCs are underrepresented. This means that the ‘higher’ castes are disproportionately represented (with 100 minus reservation).
  • The ten percent rationale is as follows:
  • In this sense, there is one more issue. The quotas for SC and ST are calculated based on their overall population. The rationale for the 10% quota, on the other hand, was never considered.
  • Equality Principle:
  • Economic backwardness is a nebulous concept. It has nothing to do with the Backward Classes’ historical wrongdoings and liabilities.

a path forward

  • Preserving merit: We cannot rule out the possibility that our country’s lamentable state of economic backwardness is impeding merit.
  • Rational criteria: In order to construct the concept of economic justice, collective wisdom is required to define and quantify the economic weakness of particular groups of society.
  • Advice from the courts: Judicial interpretation will pave the way for determining the EWS Quota criteria.
  • Beneficiaries who have been identified. For determining who should benefit from this reservation system, the centre should use more rational criteria. Data from the Caste Census can be helpful in this regard.
  • Income study: While a single income ceiling was developed for the entire country, the per capita income or GDP, or the differential in purchasing power between rural and urban areas, should be taken into account.

 

3. RCEP: Asia readies world’s largest trade deal

#GS2- India & Foreign Relations

Context

  • As the world’s largest free trading bloc begins for business on January 1, trade restrictions between most Asia Pacific countries will be drastically reduced. China is included, but the United States is not.

In depth information

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand).
  • GDP: The RCEP will include over 30% of global GDP, or $26.2 trillion, as well as nearly a third of the world’s population, or 2.2 billion people.
  • China’s role: Although China has a number of bilateral trade agreements, this is the first time it has joined a regional multilateral trade deal.

What will the RCEP’s response be?

  • Eliminate a variety of tariffs: Within 20 years, the RCEP is expected to eliminate a variety of levies on imports.
  • The following provisions were made: Intellectual property, telecommunications, financial services, e-commerce, and professional services are all covered.
  • The RCEP will also establish common standards for trade, intellectual property, e-commerce, and competition, bolstering the Asia Pacific region’s role as a “centre of gravity” for global trade, according to the United Nations.

Problems and Obstacles

  • It’s not very thorough:
  • The RCEP isn’t as extensive as the TPP’s successor and doesn’t lower tariffs as much.
  • Many member nations already have free trade agreements (FTAs) with one another, but these agreements have limits.
  • Multi-country components:
  • Companies with worldwide supply chains may suffer tariffs even if they are part of an FTA if their products contain components made in other countries.
  • In the ASEAN free trade zone, a product created in Indonesia that contains Australian components, for example, may be subject to duties.
  • Anti-China sentiment:
  • Because of both anti-trade and anti-China sentiment, ratification in national legislatures is expected to be difficult.
  • Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, Asia’s least developed countries, currently benefit from inter-ASEAN trade, which could be “eroded” by RCEP commerce.
  • Influence of new “rules of origin”:
  • It’s probable that the new “rules of origin,” which formally identify where a product comes from, will have the greatest impact.
  • Smaller ASEAN nations, such as South Korea and Japan, may lose some of their benefits from trade preference programmes that allow them to export tariff-free products outside of ASEAN.
  • The RCEP is considered as being China-centric, and it is projected to increase China’s economic and political power in the area. India has a negative trade balance with China.
  • Ratification:
  • However, it may take some time for any country to reap the benefits because it must be ratified by six ASEAN countries and three other countries before it can take effect.

Significance

  • Huge market size:
  • The sheer scale of the RCEP market makes it more significant.
  • Leaders hope the pact will hasten recovery from the corona virus outbreak.
  • Both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union will be dwarfed by the emerging free trade bloc.
  • The US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USTR) accounts for 28% of global commerce, while the Single Market of the European Union accounts for almost 18%.
  • Equal treatment: Under the RCEP, parts from any member nation will be treated identically, perhaps encouraging RCEP members to hunt for suppliers within the trade bloc.

Who is most likely to gain?

  • Increase global national income:
  • By 2030, the agreement might add $186 billion to global national income and 0.2 percent to the economies of its member states.
  • Some observers believe the agreement will benefit China, Japan, and South Korea more than other members.
  • China presently has no bilateral agreements with Japan or South Korea, its third and fifth largest economic partners, respectively.
  • South East Asia and North East Asia:
  • While the deal’s economic advantages may be minor in South East Asia, North East Asia’s trade and tariff dynamics are worth keeping an eye on.

What are the distinctions between the RCEP and CPTPP?

  • There is a significant disparity in terms of quality, coverage, depth, and breadth.
  • You willingly joined TPP because you wanted to be held to a high standard of excellence.
  • You joined RCEP because you had no choice, because you are an ASEAN member or have an existing agreement with ASEAN.
  • RCEP is truly different in every way: population size, wealth, landlocked versus archipelago countries, services versus trading products, imports versus exports.

Impact of India’s withdrawal from the RCEP

  • Loss of flexibility: India would have lost its ability to hike tariffs if the RCEP had been signed.
  • India’s trade deficit with China has increased, and China’s worldwide dominance in several areas has made India concerned.
  • India was concerned that joining the RCEP will expose indigenous producers to a deluge of low-cost Chinese imports.
  • Agriculture, dairy, and textile industries: The RCEP was expected to have a negative impact on India’s agriculture, dairy, and textile industries, which employ millions of people.
  • Pulling out of the RCEP would be an act of economic self-harm, as India would be isolated and continue to under perform in terms of exports and growth.

 

4. Semiconductor Shortage

#GS3-Technology and Industrial Policy

Context

  • There has recently been an acute and cascading scarcity of semiconductors all throughout the world.

In depth information

Semiconductors are a type of semiconductor.

  • Semiconductors are materials that carry electricity between conductors (usually metals) and nonconductors (insulators) (such as most ceramics). Semiconductors are made up of pure elements like silicon and germanium, as well as compounds like gallium arsenide and cadmium selenide.
  • The ease with which an electric charge or heat can travel through a material is measured by conductivity.
  • Chips, often known as integrated circuits or simply chips, are the tiniest and most precise products ever created on a worldwide scale.
  • It’s a semiconductor wafer-based electric circuit with several components such as transistors and wires. Integrated Circuits (ICs) are electrical devices that contain a large number of these components. They can be found in computers, smartphones, appliances, gaming hardware, and medical equipment.
  • These gadgets are used in practically every industry, particularly in the automobile industry.
  • Electronic parts and components now make nearly 40% of the cost of a new internal combustion engine car, compared to less than 20% two decades ago.
  • The majority of this increase is due to semiconductor chips.

Global chip industry behemoths

  • Taiwan Semiconductor Production Company (TSMC) in Taiwan and Samsung Electronics in South Korea now dominate semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, has announced plans to invest $20 billion in two new chip facilities in Chandler, Arizona.
  • These new fabrication facilities will also produce semiconductors created by Amazon, Qualcomm, and other clients.

The following are the reasons behind the shortage:

  • Work from Home as a result of Covid:
  • Sales of laptops soared to their greatest level in a decade as a result of the lockdowns.
  • While office work moved out of the office, home networking gear, webcams, and monitors were in high demand, and laptops were in high demand for a while as schools closed.
  • False Predictions:
  • Early in the pandemic, automakers who severely reduced production underestimated how quickly sales would revive. Late in 2020, they hurried to re-up purchases, only to be rejected down since chipmakers were already overburdened servicing computing and smartphone giants.
  • Early in 2020, computer manufacturers began warning about supply shortages. Then, in the middle of that year, Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese smartphone maker that also controls the global market for 5G networking gear, began stockpiling inventory to guarantee it could withstand US penalties that threatened to cut it off from its main suppliers.
  • Other businesses followed Huawei’s lead, and China’s semiconductor imports increased to about USD 380 billion in 2020, up from around USD 330 billion the year before.
  • Production operations in the United States were harmed by the cold, while wildfires ravaged Japan.
  • Difficult Manufacturing:
  • Producing modern logic chips necessitates extreme precision as well as large long-term bets in an area that is always changing.
  • Plants cost billions of dollars to construct and equip, and they must operate continuously to recoup their costs.

Impact

  • In 2021, the global automotive sector is predicted to lose $210 billion in revenue due to the problem.
  • Many businesses have been affected by the worldwide semiconductor shortage for more than a year, and as a result, they have been obliged to either pay more for products or wait a little longer.
  • The use of integrated circuits in products is rising all the time, and a big manufacturing sector for these circuits is a part of the supply chain.
  • Smartphones, personal computers, game consoles, vehicles, and medical gadgets have all been affected by the scarcity.

Next Steps

  • Across industries, emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, augmented and extended reality, and blockchain are gaining traction. The demand for specialised sensors, integrated circuits, improved memory, and enhanced processors is growing as these applications gain traction across industries.
  • As part of its ‘Make in India’ push, India is finalising plans to mass-produce semiconductor chips. Each semiconductor business that establishes a manufacturing unit in the country will receive more than $1 billion in cash from the government.
  • Chips created in the United States will be classified as “trusted sources” and can be utilised in a variety of goods, from CCTV cameras to 5G equipment.
  • In December 2021, India encouraged chip makers to submit “expressions of interest” for the establishment or acquisition of fabrication units in the country.
  • All of this is being done to achieve semiconductor manufacturing self-sufficiency, improve data security, and prevent countries throughout the world from being held hostage by specific members of the present semiconductor supply chain.
  • In our modern, fast-paced environment, semiconductors are undeniably altering the game. As a result, India could consider designating semiconductors as “essential infrastructure” in most countries in the near future.

 

5.Hamas and Gaza Strip

#GS2-Indian diaspora.

Context

  • The Israeli military has launched strikes against militant targets in Gaza, a day after rockets were fired from the Hamas-controlled enclave.

In depth information

What exactly is the problem?

  • The cease-fire, which Egypt and other mediators established, has proven shaky. When the Islamic organisation gained control of the coastal enclave in 2007, Hamas claims Israel did not take serious moves to relieve the embargo it imposed on Gaza with Egypt’s support.

What is Hamas?

  • Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political and militant movement that has waged war on Israel since its foundation in 1987, primarily through suicide bombers and rocket assaults.
  • It aims to depose Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state. It also rules Gaza on its own, without the help of the Palestinian Authority.

An agreement is required:

  • Since 2007, Gaza has been under a strengthened Israeli siege, with most basic goods still subject to severe restrictions.
  • In May, an Israeli onslaught in Gaza killed almost 260 Palestinians and injured hundreds more, leaving a massive trail of damage in its wake. Palestinian militant organisations retaliated by firing rockets into Israeli territory, killing at least 13 Israelis.

What happened to the Gaza Strip?

  • The Gaza Strip is a man-made entity that arose in 1948 when about three-quarters of Palestine’s Arab inhabitants was moved, and in some cases expelled, as part of Israel’s establishment. And the majority of the refugees were dispersed around the area, in countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
  • Some migrated to Jordan, which took control of the West Bank after 1948. And a big number of them travelled to Gaza, which is a tiny coastal area between Egypt and what is now Israel. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s population is now made up of refugees.

Who is in charge of it?

  • In 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip by force. The Israelis then enforced a complete closure on Gaza’s borders shortly after. They designated Gaza as a hostile entity. Gaza, of course, is not a country.
  • Because of its history of assaults on civilians and other crimes, Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and many of the international community, including the United States.

Situation right now:

  • Israel continues to occupy the West Bank, and the UN still considers Gaza to be part of occupied territory despite Israel’s withdrawal.
  • The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, while Israel claims the entire city of Jerusalem as its capital.
  • Only a few countries, including the United States, recognise Israel’s claim to the entire city.

What’s going on right now?

  • Tensions between Israel and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank are frequently high.
  • Gaza is headed by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that has attacked Israel numerous times. Israel and Egypt maintain strict control over Gaza’s borders in order to prevent weaponry from reaching Hamas.
  • Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe Israeli measures and restrictions are causing them pain. Israel claims it is just acting in self-defense against Palestinian violence.
  • Since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, things have gotten worse, with nightly skirmishes between police and Palestinians.
  • The potential of eviction for certain Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has sparked further outrage.

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