Daily Current Affairs : 13th, 14th & 15th

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Essential Commodities Act
  2. India-Sri Lanka double taxation avoidance
  3. Pesticides Management Bill, 2020
  4. How WHO names diseases
  5. Contraction of IIP
  6. Supreme Court orders parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates
  7. Future of Earth 2020
  8. United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 
  9. Indian Pangolin
  10. Future NASA Programme
  11. Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020
  12. Facts for Prelims

1 . Essential Commodities Act


Context : Bottled drinking water has come under a price cap in Kerala, with the State making it an essential commodity and fixing a ceiling of ₹13 per litre. The current retail price is ₹20.

Background

  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 was enacted to ensure the easy availability of essential commodities to consumers and to protect them from exploitation by unscrupulous traders.
  • The Act provides for the regulation and control of production, distribution and pricing of commodities which are declared as essential.
  • The Act aims at maintaining/increasing supplies/securing equitable distribution and availability of these commodities at fair prices.

Details of the Essential Commodities Act

  • The Act empowers the Central and state governments concurrently to control production, supply and distribution of certain commodities in view of rising prices.
  • The measures that can be taken under the provision of the Act include, among others, licensing, distribution and imposing stock limits.
  • The governments also have the power to fix price limits, and selling the particular commodities above the limit will attract penalties. B
  • The State Governments are fully empowered under the Act to regulate production, distribution, supply and prices of the food items which are declared as essential commodities in the respective States. Thus the States are the implementing agencies to implement the EC Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Black marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, to ensure adequate availability of essential commodities at reasonable prices, by exercising powers delegated to them. This is reviewed periodically at the National level.

Which commodities does it cover?

Seven major commodities are covered under the act. Some of them are:

  1. Petroleum and its products, including petrol, diesel, kerosene, Naphtha, solvents etc
  2. Food stuff, including edible oil and seeds, vanaspati, pulses, sugarcane and its products like, khandsari and sugar, rice paddy
  3. Jute and textiles
  4. Drugs- prices of essential drugs are still controlled by the DPCO
  5. Fertilisers- the Fertiliser Control Order prescribes restrictions on transfer and stock of fertilizers apart from prices
  • Through various amendments in the Act in the past, the government removed many products such as herbicides, fungicides and exercise books from its purview. Onions and potatoes will be added
  • In the past, several products such as iron and steel came under the ambit of the Act, but were removed later.
  • Onions and Potatoes are also added and removed considering the market situation

Powers of Central and states governments

  • The Act empowers the Centre to order states to impose stock limits and bring hoarders to task, in order to smoothen supplies and cool prices. Generally the Centre specifies upper limits in the case of stock holding and states prescribe specific limits. However in case there is a difference between states and the Centre, the act specifies that the latter will prevail.

Penal provisions

  • At present, section 7(1) a (1) specifies offences which include violations with respect to maintaining records, books, filing returns and so on. Such offences are punishable with a jail term of between three months and a year.
  • Section 7(1) a (2) applies for major offences and embraces a large part of violations where punishment can extend up to seven years in jail.

Who executes the Act

  • Food and civil supply authorities execute the provisions of the Act. They generally raid the premises of the businessmen to find out violations along with the local police, who have the power to arrest.
  • In case a state doesn’t want to accept the Centre’s suggestion on implementing any provision of the Act it can do so. There are reports of Maharashtra not imposing stock limits for onions and potatoes. UP is not enforcing the Act itself.

2 . India-Sri Lanka double taxation avoidance


Context : The Union Cabinet has approved the Signing and Ratification of the Protocol amending the Agreement between India and Sri Lanka for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

Impact

  • Updation of preamble text and inclusion of Principal Purpose Test, a general anti abuse provision in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) will result in curbing of tax planning strategies which exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules.

Details

  • The existing DTAA between India and Sri Lanka was signed on 22nd January, 2013 and entered into force on 22nd October, 2013.
  • India and Sri Lanka are members of the Inclusive Framework and as such are required to implement the minimum standards under G-20 OECD BEPS Action Reports in respect of their DTAAs with Inclusive Framework countries. Minimum standards under BEPS Action 6 can be met through the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) or through agreement bilaterally.
  • India is a signatory to the MLI. However, Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the MLI as of now. Therefore, amendment of the India-Sri Lanka DTAA bilaterally is required to update the Preamble and also to insert Principal Purpose Test (PPT) provisions to meet the minimum standards on treaty abuse under Action 6 of G-20 OECD Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project.

Background

  • The existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Sri Lanka was signed on 22nd January, 2013 and entered into force on 22nd October, 2013.
  • India and Sri Lanka are members of the Inclusive Framework and as such are required to implement the minimum standards under G-20 OECD BEPS Action Reports in respect of their DTAAs with Inclusive Framework countries. Minimum standards under BEPS Action 6 can be met through the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) or through agreement bilaterally. India is a signatory to the MLI.

3 . Pesticide Management Bill 2020


Context : Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Pesticides Management Bill, 2020, which, the government claims, will regulate the business of pesticides and compensate farmers in case of losses from the use of spurious agro chemicals.

Background

  • Currently the pesticide business is regulated by 1968 rules which have become age-old and need immediate rewriting

About the draft Pesticide Management Bill 2020

  • In February 2018, the Centre released a draft of the pesticides Bill that aims to replace the existing Insecticides Act of 1968.
  • A key proposal in the 2018 version of the Bill was to raise penalties on the sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides to ₹50 lakh and up to five years’ imprisonment, from the current ₹2,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment. It is unclear if these provisions have been retained in the latest version of Bill that was cleared by the Union Cabinet.
  • “If there is any loss because of the spurious or low quality of pesticides then there is a provision for compensations This is the unique feature of this Bill.

Criticisms of the 2018 draft bill

  • The Centre for Science and Environment, in 2018, had criticised the Bill for falling short. “State governments must have a greater role in case of decision making on pesticide management. The existing draft provides inadequate representation to States in both pesticide board and the registration committee. The States should have a say in final decision making on pesticide, as they have the best understanding on the agro-ecological climate, environment and soil conditions

4 . How WHO names diseases


Context : World Health Organization (WHO) gave an official name to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The disease will be called “COVID-19”; the “CO” stands for coronavirus, “VI” for virus and “D” for disease. The coronavirus itself is called “nCoV-2019”.

How WHO names diseases

  • The WHO, in consultation with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has identified best practices for naming new human diseases. These best practices apply to a new disease:
    • That is an infection, syndrome, or disease of humans;
    • That has never been recognised before in humans;
    • That has potential public health impact; and
    • Where no disease name is yet established in common usage
  • Names that are assigned by the WHO may or may not be approved by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) at a later stage. The ICD, which is also managed by the WHO, provides a final standard name for each human disease according to standard guidelines that are aimed at reducing the negative impact from names while balancing science, communication and policy.

Terms to avoid

  • “Under agreed guidelines WHO had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease. Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”
  • The agreed best practices include advice on what the disease names should not include, such as geographic location (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, Japanese encephalitis). Disease names should not include people’s names (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Chagas disease), the species or class of animal or food (swine flu, monkeypox etc.), cultural or occupational references (miners, butchers, cooks, nurses etc.) and terms that incite “undue fear” such as death, fatal and epidemic.
  • In a media note issued in May 2015, WHO had said that the use of names such as “swine flu” and “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” has had “unintended negative impacts” by stigmatising certain communities and economic sectors.

Terms to include

  • The best practices include using generic descriptive terms such as respiratory diseases, hepatitis, neurologic syndrome, watery diarrhoea. They include using specific descriptive terms that may indicate the age group of the patients and the time course of the disease, such as progressive, juvenile or severe.
  • If the causative pathogen is known, it should be used as part of the disease name with additional descriptors such as the year when the disease was first reported or detected. For example, novel coronavirus respiratory syndrome. The names should also be short (rabies, malaria, polio) and should be consistent with the guidelines under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Content Model Reference Guide.
  • As per the WHO, “severe” should be used only for those diseases that have a very high initial case fatality rate. “Novel” can be used to indicate a new pathogen of a previously known type. In the case of the novel coronavirus, “recognizing that this term will become obsolete if other new pathogens of that type are identified”, the WHO has now changed its name.

5 . Index of Industrial Production


What is IIP?

  • The IIP is an index used to track the performance of the industrial sector in the Indian economy. It does this by mapping the volume of production. But since it is an “index”, it targets a basket of industrial products — ranging from the manufacturing sector to mining to energy — and allocates different weights to them. Then, depending on the production of this basket, it throws up an index value.
  • The index value is then compared with the value of the index in the same month a year ago to arrive at a percentage growth or decline figure.

How is IIP data read?

  • There are two ways to understand the IIP data. One can either drill down the IIP data and look at the sectoral performance — where the whole industrial sector is divided into three sub-sectors, namely manufacturing, mining and electricity — or look at the use-based classification.

What is the sectoral classification?

  • In the sectoral classification, manufacturing has the highest weight of 77.6%, mining has 14.4% share and electricity has 8% weight. In December, while production in mining grew by 5.4%, in manufacturing, which is the biggest chunk, production contracted by 1.2%; electricity contracted too, albeit marginally.

What is use-based classification?

  • Within the use-based classification, data is provided for six categories. These are :-
    • Primary Goods (consisting of mining, electricity, fuels and fertilisers) — this has a weight of 34%
    • Capital Goods (e.g. Machinery items) — this has a weight of 8%
    • Intermediate Goods (e.g. yarns, chemicals, semi-finished steel items, etc) — this has a weight of 17%
    • Infrastructure Goods (e.g. paints, cement, cables, bricks and tiles, rail materials, etc) — this has a weight of 12%
    • Consumer Durables (e.g. garments, telephones, passenger vehicles, etc) — this has a weight of 13%
    • Consumer Non-durables (e.g. food items, medicines, toiletries, etc) — this has a weight of 15%.
  • In December, while production of primary goods and intermediate goods has picked up, that of capital goods has contracted heavily. This shows there is little demand for new machinery, which in turn shows there is little enthusiasm in the economy to make new investments. The other three categories also witnessed contraction.

What about green shoots of the economy?

  • Observers who have tracked IIP for long argue that the key variable from the point of view of sustained growth or decline is the category of “intermediate goods”.
  • That’s because it tallies with the order books. If intermediate goods are growing at a sustained pace month after month, then the domestic economy cannot continue to flounder for long.
  • Similarly, if this category shows contraction, sustained growth appears far away. In December, this category has grown by 12.5%; in November it grew by over 17%, in October it grew by over 22% and in September by 7%. As such, there is hope that perhaps the economy has seen its worst.
  • However, the weakness across most other categories continues to be a matter of worry.

6 . Supreme Court orders parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates


Context :The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.

Background

  • Over the last four general elections, there had been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics.
  • In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.
  • The 2018 Constitution Bench judgement that formed the basis for the recent verdict said “Rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by cleansing political parties.”

Current Case

  • The four-page judgment was based on a contempt petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay about the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India) to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.

Verdict

  • The Bench ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.
  • The information should be published in a local and a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at the Central and State levels.
  • The published information on the criminal antecedents of a candidate should be detailed and include the nature of their offences, charges framed against him, the court concerned, case number, etc.
  • A political party should explain to the public through their published material how the “qualifications or achievements or merit” of a candidate, charged with a crime, impressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his criminal background.
  • A party would have to give reasons to the voter that it was not the candidate’s “mere winnability at the polls” which guided its decision to give him ticket to contest elections.

7 . Future of Earth 2020


Context : Five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create a global systemic crisis have been listed by “The Future of Earth, 2020”, which was released by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.

Details

  • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.
  • The report, released by K. Kasturirangan, former Chairman, ISRO, lists five global risks:
    • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
    • Extreme weather events
    • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
    • Food crises
    • Water crises
  • Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/or food scarcity.
  • The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises, they point out.

Politics, biodiversity and climate change

  • It is pointed out that over the last 18 months, major assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all argued that time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • This has inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments.
    • Yet, during 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm.
    • Five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880.
  • Right-wing populism, a breed of politics that exploits people’s fears during times of economic decline and growing inequality, and that which focuses on nationalist tendencies to clamp down on borders and reject immigrants is on the rise around the world.
    • It is argued that this often leads to a denial of climate change facts or impacts.
  • The report highlights that humans have now “significantly altered” 75% of our planet’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened.
  • Strains on food production are expected to increase, as a result of various forces including climate change, biodiversity loss, and a global population on the rise.

8 . United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 


About UNPFII

  • The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is a high- level advisory body to the Economic and Social Council.
  • The Forum was established on 28 July 2000 with the mandate to deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
  • The first meeting of the Permanent Forum was held in May 2002, with yearly sessions thereafter. The Forum usually meets for 10 days each year, at the UN Headquarters in New York.
  • In addition to the six mandated areas (economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights), each session is thematically focused on a specific issue.
  • The Permanent Forum is one of three UN bodies that is mandated to deal specifically with indigenous peoples’ issues. The others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

More specifically, the Permanent Forum:

  • provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council, as well as to programmes, funds and agencies of the United Nations, through ECOSOC;
  • raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system;
  • prepares and disseminates information on indigenous issues;
  • promotes respect for and full application of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and follow up the effectiveness of this Declaration (Art. 42 UNDRIP).

Functioning

  • The Permanent Forum’s engagement and role in promoting indigenous peoples’ rights are made possible through the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, which overall facilitates follow-up to the Forum’s recommendations, awareness raising and outreach on indigenous issues as well as representation and participation of Permanent Forum members at international meetings of significance for its mandate.
  • In addition, the trust fund provides support for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • DESA is charged with the overall management of the Trust Fund, which is placed under the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch-Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

9 . Indian Pangolin


Context : Scientists have, for the first time, radio-tagged the Indian pangolin, an endangered animal, that is rarely sighted in forests here.

About Indian Pangolin

  • The Indian pangolin, which resembles an ant-eater but dons a thick scaly skin, is hunted for meat and use in traditional Chinese medicine. Pangolins are among the most trafficked wildlife species in the world.
  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature says these toothless animals have seen a rapid reduction in population. The projected population declines range from 50% to 80 % across the genus.
  • Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India.
  • Both these species are listed under Schedule I Part I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Pangolin can curl itself into a ball as self-defense against predators such as the tiger.
  • World Pangolin Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in February, is an international attempt to raise awareness of pangolins and bring together stakeholders to help protect these unique species from extinction.

About Radio Tagging

  • Radio-tagging involves attaching a transmitter to an animal to monitor its movements. Several wild animals — tigers, leopards and migratory birds — have been tagged over decades.
  • Researchers say tagging the animal will help understand the habits of the reclusive, nocturnal animal.

10 . Future NASA Programmes


Context : NASA announced it has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for possible new missions. Two proposals are for trips to Venus, and one each is for Jupiter’s moon Io and Neptune’s moon Triton. After the concept studies are completed in nine months, some missions ultimately may not be chosen to move forward. Final selections will be made next year.

Future NASA Programmes

  • DAVINCI+: Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus. This will analyse Venus’s atmosphere to understand how it was formed and evolved, and if it ever had an ocean. This will advance understanding of the formation of terrestrial planets.
  • IVO: Io Volcano Observer is a proposal to explore Jupiter’s moon Io, which is extremely volcanically active. This will try to find out how tidal forces shape planetary bodies. The findings could further knowledge about the formation and evolution of rocky, terrestrial bodies and icy ocean worlds in the Solar System.
  • TRIDENT: This aims to explore Neptune’s icy moon, Triton, so that scientists can understand the development of habitable worlds in the Solar System.
  • VERITAS: Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy will aim to map Venus’s surface to find out why Venus developed so differently from Earth.

11 . Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020


Context : On January 11, the South African oceanographic research vessel SA Agulhas set off from Port Louise in Mauritius, on a two-month Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020. On 14th Feb the vessel was at Prydz Bay, in the coastal waters of “Bharati”, India’s third station in Antarctica.

Details of the Mission

  • On board the vessel are 34 scientific staff from India, apart from technical hands, seamen and a chef who are all from South Africa.
  • This is the 11th expedition of an Indian mission to the Southern Ocean, or Antarctic Ocean. The first mission took place between January and March 2004.

Objectives

  • The 18-institution team, led by Dr Anoop Mahajan from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, are collecting air and water samples from around 60 stations along the cruise track. These will give valuable information on the state of the ocean and atmosphere in this remote environment and will help to understand its impacts on the climate
  • A key objective of the mission is to quantify changes that are occurring and the impact of these changes on large-scale weather phenomenon, like the Indian monsoon, through tele-connection,
  • Study mainly aims to understand the influence of the Southern Ocean across eco-system and atmospheric changes and how it affects the tropical climate and weather conditions

Main Objectives

  • Carbon dioxide is getting emitted into the atmosphere, and through atmospheric circulation goes to the Antarctic and polar regions. Since the temperature is very low there, these gases are getting absorbed and converted into dissolved inorganic carbon or organic carbon, and through water masses and circulation it is coming back to tropical regions. Since it is warmer in these areas, it re-enters the atmosphere
  • It is this cycle that the mission will help understand better. “How much carbon dioxide is going to those regions, and how much is coming back. That is the main objective.”

Six core projects

  • Study hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean; involves sampling sea water at different depths. This will help understand the formation of Antarctic bottom water.
  • Observations of trace gases in the atmosphere, such as halogens and dimethyl sulphur from the ocean to the atmosphere. Will help improve parameterisations that are used in global models.
  • Study of organisms called coccolithophores that have existed in the oceans for several million years; their concentrations in sediments will create a picture of past climate.
  • Investigate atmospheric aerosols and their optical and radiative properties. Continuous measurements will quantify impact on Earth’s climate.
  • Study the Southern Ocean’s impact on Indian monsoons. Look for signs in sediment core taken from the bottom of the ocean.
  • Dynamics of the food web in the Southern Ocean; important for safeguarding catch and planning sustainable fishing.

12 Facts for Prelims


Yara Virus

  • Scientists have discovered a new virus in Lake Pampulha. Lake Pampulha is an artificial lagoon in the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil.
  • The new virus has been named Yaravirus after “Yara,” the mother of waters — an important character in the mythological stories of the Tupi-Guarani indigenous tribes
  • Over 90% of the Yaravirus genome has never been documented in viral research
  • The virus infects amoeba. It does not infect human cells.

Facts for Prelims

Konark Temple

  • Konark Sun Temple is located in East Odisha near the sacred city of Puri.
  • It is a 13th century temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984.
  • It had been filled with sand and sealed by the British authorities in 1903 to stabilise the structure.
  • The temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot. Dedicated to the sun god, the temple marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture.

Vivad se Vishwas

  • Future postings of income tax officers will be linked with their performance under the recently announced direct tax amnesty scheme, Vivad se Vishwas, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in an internal communication .
  • Also, the officers would have to report their performance details under the scheme such as number of disputed cases, number of cases resolved and the amount collected under the scheme in their annual appraisal reports
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