- Non-Aligned movement and India
- GST Council Meeting
- South China Sea
- Sunderbans and Cyclones
- Yellow Fungus:
1.Non-Aligned movement and India
Context: Recently, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare participated in NAM Health ministers virtual meeting.
- The meeting was chaired by Ogtay Shiraliyev, Minister of Health, Republic of Azerbaijan.
India’s stand at the meeting:
- Vaccine Maitri Initiative: India by living up to its reputation as the pharmacy of the world, especially for affordable medicines has provided medical supplies to over 123 partner countries, including 59 members of NAM.
- India have also extended help to other countries. In our immediate neighborhood, India have promoted coordination to counter COVID-19 and organised capacity building by sharing its medical expertise.
- Full immunization coverage is increasing at a rapid pace with a greater emphasis on village-based micro-plans that is aimed at enhancing coverage to 90% in a year.
- India added more capacity in terms of infrastructure as well as manpower. India now has a fleet of 10,000 dedicated COVID hospitals and Care Centers and a trained healthcare workforce of over two million.
- India followed the policy of micro Identification, mass Isolation and quick Treatment to prevent large scale spread and deaths due to COVID-19.
- India pushed for more democratic, transparent and representative governance of global institutions for them to be credible and effective.
- NAM emerged in the context of the wave of decolonization that followed World War II.
- It was created by Yugoslavia’s President, Josip Broz Tito, India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s second President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, and Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno.
- All five leaders believed that developing countries should not help either the Western or Eastern blocs in the Cold War.
- As a condition for membership, the states of the NAM cannot be part of a multilateral military alliance (such as the NATO) or have signed a bilateral military agreement with one of the “big powers” involved in Great Power conflicts.
- Six years after the Bandung Conference in 1955, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was founded on a wider geographical basis at the First Summit Conference of Belgrade, which was held in September 1961.
- The purpose of the organisation was enumerated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign subjugation.
- NAM’s flagship campaigns were de-colonisation, universal nuclear disarmament and against apartheid.
- NAM does not have a permanent secretariat or a formal hierarchy.
- Its administration is rotational and non-hierarchy.
- NAM takes decisions by consensus, which need not be universal, but only requires substantial agreement.
- It has a Coordinating Bureau which is based at the UN in New York City.
NAM meets every three years at the NAM Summit Conference of Heads of State.
- At the Summit, a chair is chosen, which is a post held for three years.In NAM, every member country has equal weight.
- The current chairperson of NAM is Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan. He holds the post till 2022.
Members and Observers:
- It had 120 members as of April 2018 comprising 53 countries from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 2 from Europe.
- India is a founding member of the organisation
- There are 17 countries and 10 international organisations that are Observers at NAM.
- After the UN, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.
- In 2020, the meeting was convened at the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev , in his capacity as chair of the Non Aligned Movement.
- GST Council Meeting:
Context: Recently, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman chaired the 43rd Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting on Friday.
- This was the first meeting of the GST Council in the financial year 2021-22. The council’s last meeting was held in October 2020.
Ad Hoc Exemptions for Covid-Related Equipment:
- As a COVID-19 relief measure, a number of specified COVID-19 related goods such as medical oxygen, oxygen concentrators and other oxygen storage and COVID-19 vaccines, etc., have been recommended for full exemption from IGST.
- This exemption shall be valid upto August 2021.
(It may be mentioned that these goods are already exempted from Basic Customs duty
- Further in view of rising Black Fungus cases, the above exemption from IGST has been extended to Amphotericin B.
- It also proposed to set-up a Group of Ministers (GoM) committee to look into further exemptions that can be provided on account of the Covid-19 relief measure.
- Those services supplied to an educational institution including anganwadi by way of serving of food including mid- day meals under any midday meals scheme, sponsored by Government is exempt from levy of GST irrespective of funding of such supplies from government grants or corporate donations.
- To clarify these services provided by way of examination including entrance examination, where fee is charged for such examinations, by National Board of Examination (NBE), or similar Central or State Educational Boards, and input services relating thereto are exempt from GST.
- GST Amnesty Scheme:
- Amnesty scheme recommended for reducing late fees payable by small taxpayers
- It will provide relief to small taxpayers who constitute 89% of GST payers.
- They can now file their pending returns & avail benefits of scheme, with reduced late fees.
- Late fee capped to a maximum of Rs 500/- (Rs. 250/- each for CGST & SGST) per return for taxpayers, who did not have any tax liability for the said tax periods.
- This will provide long-term relief for small GST taxpayers.
- GST Compensation Cess (States’ Dues):
- Same formula as in 2020 will be adopted this year too.
- GST panel decided that the Centre will borrow Rs 1.58 lakh crore and pass it on to the states to make up for the shortfall in their revenues from the implementation of the GST.
- A special session of the Council will be held soon to consider extending the five-year GST shortfall compensation period to states beyond 2022.
- Advance Payment to Vaccine Manufacturers:
- 4,500 crore rupees were paid to two vaccine manufacturers as advance payment.
- The country is engaging with suppliers and manufacturers including from Japan, and Europe for vaccines.
- All central government vaccine supply to states is free of cost
- Annual Return Filing:
- Annual Return Filing will continue to be optional for 2020-21, for small taxpayers with turnover less than Rs 2 Crore rupees.
- Annual return filing has been simplified. The Council has recommended amending the Central Goods & Services Tax (CGST) Act 2017 to allow for self-certification of reconciliation statements, instead of getting it certified by Chartered Accountants.
- To support the Lympahtic Filarisis (an endemic) elimination programme being conducted in collaboration with WHO, the GST rate on Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) tablets has been recommended for reduction to 5% (from 12%).
- It is a constitutional body set up under Article 279A for making
recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax (GST).
- The predominant responsibility of the GST Council is to ensure to have one uniform tax rate for goods and services across the nation.
- It is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and other members include Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States.
- One-half of the total number of Members of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall constitute the quorum at its meetings.
- Every decision is taken by a 75 % majority with the centre having one-third weightage and states having two-thirds weightage of the total votes cast.
3.South China Sea:
Context: Philippines protests against China’s ‘illegal’ South China Sea presence.
- This was 84th diplomatic protest since Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.
- Tensions between Manila and Beijing have escalated over the months long presence of hundreds of Chinese boats in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
- Philippines lodged the diplomatic protest on may 28th over the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of Thitu island.
- Thitu, known as Pagasa in the Philippines, is 451 km from the mainland and is the biggest of the eight reefs, shoals and islands it occupies in the Spratly archipelago.
- China has built a mini city with runways, hangars and surface to air missiles in the Subi Reef about 25 km from Thitu.
- It demands the withdrawal of Chinese vessels from the vicinity.
About South China Sea Dispute:
- Location: South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo.
- It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
- Strategic Importance: This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Malacca).
- The South China Sea is considered to be one of the busiest waterways in the world and is a significant gateway for trade and merchant shipping.
- Dispute is over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.
- The countries party to these disputes are China, Brunei, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia and are geopolitically located in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
- China has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its assertion as without basis.
Who Claims What?
- China: The country claims that ancient history records show that China held control over the entire waterway and it was only during the modern era that the dispute began. China also raises legal concerns and rights over the Sea. However, China has not been successful in proving its claim over the region.
- Vietnam: The country raises its claims based on inheritance grounds. It was only in the 1970s that Vietnam raised its claim after its relations with China deteriorated.
- Malaysia: The country claims the feature in the southern Spratley falls inside the border of Malaysia’s continent which makes their claim acceptable on legal grounds.
- Indonesia: The country claims only the part of the sea which comes under its exclusive special economic zones.
- Philippines: The country bases its claims on historical grounds. They only demand the part that comes under their exclusive economic zone.
- Brunei: Its claims are based on EEZ as mentioned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets into artificial islets to bring it under UNCLOS (examples would include Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef).
- China has been changing the size and structure of the reefs by modifying their physical land features. It has also established airstrips on Parcel and Spratly.
- Chinese fishing fleets are engaged in paramilitary work on behalf of the state rather than the commercial enterprise of fishing.
- India has a legitimate commercial interest in the South China Sea (SCS) region. But India follows the policy of not involving itself in the disputes between sovereign nations.
- India has maintained that it is not a party to the SCS dispute and its presence in the SCS is not to contain China but to secure its own economic interests, especially that of its energy security needs.
- As a key element of the Act East Policy, India has started internationalizing disputes in the Indo-Pacific region to oppose China’s threatening tactics in SCS.
- Further, India is using its Buddhist legacy to make a strong bond with the Southeast Asian region.
- India has also deployed its navy with Vietnam in the South China Sea for protection of sea lanes of communication (SLOC), denying China any space for assertion.
- Also, India is part of Quad initiative (India, US, Japan, Australia) and lynchpin of Indo-Pacific narrative. These initiatives are viewed as a containment strategy by China.
- Since the South China Sea Dispute has been affecting many territories, the concerned authorities need to come to a resolution to solve the dispute so that the economic growth of the countries is not affected. Also, it is important that the claimant nations do not escalate the issue, but work on arriving at a consensus through effective diplomacy.
- All claimants can perhaps limit their claim to the areas of 200 nautical miles of the Special Economic Zone following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thus, by agreeing to such a proposal, the claimants can also reach an agreement to leave international waters for free navigation.
- Another possible solution would be for the parties concerned to establish common ownership of the disputed areas whereby all the revenues from the South China Sea are equitably shared among the littoral countries.
- Disputing countries can specifically lay out their claims and allow a neutral party to adjudicate based on the UNCLOS or any other relevant international laws
- China has put forward a bilateral negotiation point of view but it has not been accepted by the other countries. This is because the other countries believe that China because of its size may have an unsaid advantage in the distribution of the water body.
- Sunderbans and Cyclones
Context: Cyclone Yaas and surging tides damages Sunderbans.
- The Sunderbans is home to close to five million people.
- Over just the past three years, it has faced four tropical cyclones
-Fani( May 2019)
How Sundarbans was affected?
- Though Cyclone Yaas made landfall about 200 kilo meters south of Sundarbans in Odisha, it inundated large areas of Sundarbans.
- The cumulative effect of full moon tide on May 26th and the cyclone led to overflowing and breach of embankments in large areas of Sundarbans.
- The lives of the estimated 5 million people in the region are tied to the fragile ecosystem. Farming, fishing, collecting honey and tourism are the few employment opportunities available. But climate change and its outcome like frequent cyclones has been making their lives harder.
- Mud homes were swept away, rendering thousands homeless.
- Breaking of embankments, results in salt water pouring onto the land, which will have the most durable impact on livelihoods. Saline water kills freshwater fish in ponds in a day, most sources of drinking water disappear, and land can’t be used for cultivation for up to five years.
Impact of COVID 19 pandemic:
- The corona virus is complicating relief work as well. During the cyclone, villagers huddled in crowded storm shelters, which authorities feared could spread the virus.
- The impact of climate change, including increasingly furious storms and coastal erosion from rising oceans, has forced many to migrate to the cities in recent years. But now with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down businesses and limiting mobility, villagers don’t have the option of moving to other places in search of work.
(Ghoramara is one of the islands that has been sinking due to rising sea levels, where a few dozen houses and acres of land go under water every year).
How the Sundarbans is dying and making Bengal prone to cyclones?
- The delta’s mangrove forests have historically protected the state from cyclones. But deforestation and climate change have taken a heavy toll.
- Deforestation, and a black market for timber:
In 2012, the Bengal State Action Plan on Climate Change noted that five percent of its forest cover had been lost since 1989, in spite of the area being designated as a protected biosphere reserve.
A noticeable indication of this loss is the vanishing Sundari tree, the dominant species of mangroves in the Sundarbans which gives the area its name. The tree is now a rarity, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Sundari is dying from a “top dying” disease. There are numerous reasons for this like excessive flooding, increased soil salinity, and cyclone-induced stress.
The Sundarbans mangrove forest has shrunk from 16,700 sq km to 9,630 sq km in the last 200 years, across both India and Bangladesh, leaving it unprotected from the annual cyclones.
- Rising temperatures and salinity:
Mangroves grow in water with a temperature between 10 and 19 degrees Celsius. If the temperature fluctuates even slightly from this happy medium, the trees begin to die.
- Poor Construction of Embankments due to engineering and planning failure.
- It is a vast contiguous mangrove forest ecosystem in the coastal region of Bay of Bengal spread over India and Bangladesh on the delta (world’s largest) of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
- Located on the southwestern part of the delta, the Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
- Sundarbans National Park, established in 1984, constitutes a core region within the tiger reserve; it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
- Sunderbans was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2001.
- Sundarban Wetland, India was recognised as the ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention in January 2019.
- Sunderban National Park is known for its wide range of fauna, including 260 bird species and is home to many rare and globally threatened wildlife species such as the Estuarine Crocodile, Royal Bengal Tiger, Water Monitor Lizard, Gangetic Dolphin and Olive Ridley Turtles.
- Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here.
- Yellow Fungus:
After Black and White Fungus, a case of Yellow Fungus infection has been reported in Delhi NCR amid COVID-19.
- Yellow fungus, which grows internally is said to be more dangerous than the other two types and it is recommended to seek early treatment in case symptoms begin to appear.
- Yellow fungus, also called mucor septic, initially develops by the presence of moulds (a type of fungi) in the environment.
- It may be present with unnecessary fatigue, rashes, burning sensation on skin etc.
- Humidity levels below 30-40% can promote the growth of fungus.
- It may not start from the lungs but it invades internal organs of the body and affects the entire functioning.
- Causes can range from high humidity to old food.
- The primary cause is said to be poor hygiene. Getting rid of old food, proper disposal of faeces can prevent the bacteria and fungus from expanding. Humidity in a closed space (house or office) should not be above the 30-40% range as high moisture environments promote the growth of fungus.
Yellow Fungus Symptoms:
- Lethargy, weight loss, low appetite, or no appetite at all are said to be common Yellow Fungus symptoms.
- More severe symptoms of Yellow Fungus can be sunken eyes or the formation and leakage of pus.
- The fungus is said to hinder the healing of wounds, prolonging the process, and can also result in organ failure, malnutrition and eventually lead to necrosis in extreme cases.
- Till now the only known treatment for yellow fungus is Amphotericin B injection, which is an antifungal drug also being used to treat black fungus.
- Health experts state that healing Yellow Fungus takes longer compared to Black or White Fungus.
- Maintaining hygiene, not consuming stale food, keeping the humidity in the room in check, etc.
- Veer Savarkar:
Context: On 28th May, India paid tribute to the freedom fighter, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) on his birth anniversary.
About Veer Savarkar and his contributions to Indian Freedom Struggle:
- Veer Savarkar was born on 28 May, 1883 in Bhagpur village, Maharashtra and died on 26th February 1966 due to fasting on his own wish of death.
- He was a freedom fighter, politician, lawyer, social reformer, and formulator of the philosophy of Hindutva.
- He is also known as Swatantryaveer Savarkar.
Related Organisations and Work:
- In Pune, Savarkar founded a secret society called “Abhinav Bharat Society”.
- He was also involved in the Swadeshi movement and later joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party.
- He was against foreign goods and propagated the idea of Swadeshi. In 1905, he burnt all the foreign goods in a bonfire on Dussehra.
- Went to the United Kingdom in 1906 to became a Barrister and there he was involved with organizations such as India House and the Free India Society(founder)
- He believed and advocated the use of arms to free India from the British and created a network of Indians in England, equipped with weapons
- In 1908, brought out an authentic informative researched work on The Great Indian Revolt, which the British termed as “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857. The book was called “The Indian War of Independence 1857”.
- The British government immediately enforced a ban on the publication in both Britain and India. Later, it was published by Madame Bhikaiji Cama in Holland, and was smuggled into India to reach revolutionaries working across the country against British rule.
- Arrested in 1909 on charges of plotting an armed revolt against the Morley-Minto reform (Indian Councils Act 1909).
- He was implicated in the murder of then Nasik Collector Jackson citing his connections with India House. Savarkar was arrested in London on March 13, 1910 and sent to India.
- Following the two trials, Savarkar was convicted and sentenced to 50-years imprisonment also known as Kala Pani and transported in 1911 to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Savarkar was a president of Hindu Mahasabha from 1937 to 1943. When congress ministries offered resignation on 22nd oct 1939, Hindu Mahasabha under his leadership cooperated with Muslim league to form government in provinces like Sindh, Bengal and NWFP.
- He also wrote the book ‘Hindutva: who is hindu?’.
- He championed atheism and rationality and also disapproved orthodox Hindu belief. In fact, he even dismissed cow worship as superstitious.
- He also Worked on abolishment of untouchability in Ratnagiri.
- It was a political party formed in 1933.
- It was founded by Veer Damodar Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya.
- The organisation was formed to protect the rights of the Hindu community, after the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the British India government’s creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909.
- It was founded by Shyamji Kishan Verma in 1905 in London.
- It was opened to promote nationalist views among Indian students in London.
- It published a newspaper “The Indian Sociologist”