Daily Current Affairs : 9th July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Open Skies Agreement
  2. Rental Housing Scheme for Migrants
  3. Foreign Contribution Regulation Act
  4. United Nations Special Rapporteurs, United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) & Convention against Torture
  5. Bharat Stage -4
  6. World Health Organisation

1 . Open skies agreement


Context: The UAE is keen to have an open sky agreement with India.

About the news

  • There are about 1,068 flights a week between India and the UAE operated by the airlines of the two countries under the bilateral Air Service Agreement.
  • India has a open skies policy with SAARC countries and those beyond the 5,000-km radius, which implies that nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between the two countries. It is this policy that the Ambassador wants India to revisit.
  • According to the ambassador this would not bestow the capability to operate flights from one country and fly them to a third country, which is also referred to as fifth and six freedoms of air, and where the interest of Indian airlines will be threatened by carriers like Emirates and Etihad.

About Open Skies Policy

  • ‘Open Sky’ Air Service Agreement allows the countries to fly unlimited number of flights to the selected cities of each other’s countries.
  • India has entered into an agreement with Japan, Greece, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland, Spain and Sri Lanka and also US. India had announced the ‘Open Sky’ Air Service Agreement with ASEAN nations during the 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali in 2003.
  • The National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016, allows the government to enter into an ‘open sky’ air services agreement on a reciprocal basis with SAARC nations as well as countries beyond a 5,000 kilometre radius from New Delhi.
  • The agreement encourages connectivity and passenger travel between the two countries and also results in reduction in airfares on these routes.

About International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). 
  • ICAO works with the Convention’s 193 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.
  • These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world. 
  • In addition to its core work resolving consensus-driven international SARPs and policies among its Member States and industry, and among many other priorities and programmes, ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.

Freedoms of the Air 

  • First Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right). 
  • Second Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to land in its territory for non-traffic purposes (also known as a Second Freedom Right). 
  • Third Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from the home State of the carrier (also known as a Third Freedom Right). 
  • Fourth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic destined for the home State of the carrier (also known as a Fourth Freedom Right). 
  • Fifth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down and to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from or destined to a third State (also known as a Fifth Freedom Right). ICAO characterizes all “freedoms” beyond the Fifth as “so-called” because only the first five “freedoms” have been officially recognized as such by international treaty.
  • Sixth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, of transporting, via the home State of the carrier, traffic moving between two other States (also known as a Sixth Freedom Right). The so-called Sixth Freedom of the Air, unlike the first five freedoms, is not incorporated as such into any widely recognized air service agreements such as the “Five Freedoms Agreement”. 
  • Seventh Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State, of transporting traffic between the territory of the granting State and any third State with no requirement to include on such operation any point in the territory of the recipient State, i.e the service need not connect to or be an extension of any service to/from the home State of the carrier.
  • Eighth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, of transporting cabotage traffic between two points in the territory of the granting State on a service which originates or terminates in the home country of the foreign carrier or (in connection with the so-called Seventh Freedom of the Air) outside the territory of the granting State (also known as a Eighth Freedom Right or “consecutive cabotage“). 
  • Ninth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege of transporting cabotage traffic of the granting State on a service performed entirely within the territory of the granting State (also known as a Ninth Freedom Right or “stand alone” cabotage).

2 . Rental housing scheme for migrants


Context: Union Cabinet has approved a scheme for providing affordable rental housing to about 3 lakh urban migrants. This is a part of the COVID-19 crisis package that was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 14.

Background

  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has initiated an Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs) for urban migrants/poor as a sub-scheme under Pradhan MantriAwasYojana (Urban).
  • The scheme was announced by the Hon’ble Finance Minister on 14 May, 2020. This scheme seeks to fulfill the vision of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat.
  • COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive reverse migration of workers/ urban poor in the country who come from rural areas or small towns for seeking better employment opportunities in urban areas. Usually, these migrants live in slums, informal/ unauthorized colonies or peri-urban areas to save rental charges. They spend lot of time on roads by walking/ cycling to workplaces, risking their lives to cut on the expenses.

About the Scheme

  • The Union Cabinetchaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for developing of Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (AHRCs) for urban migrants  / poor as a sub-scheme under Pradhan MantriAwasYojana – Urban (PMAY – U) by:
    • existing vacant government funded housing complexes will be converted in ARHCs through Concession Agreements for 25 years. Concessionaire will make the complexes livable by repair/retrofit and maintenance of rooms and filling up infrastructure gaps like water, sewer/ septage, sanitation, road etc. States/UTs will select concessionaire through transparent bidding. Complexes will revert to ULB after 25 years to restart next cycle like earlier or run on their own.
    • special incentives like use permission, 50% additional FAR/FSI, concessional loan at priority sector lending rate, tax reliefs at par with affordable housing etc. will be offered to private/ public entities to develop ARHCs on their own available vacant land for 25 years.
  • A large part of workforce in manufacturing industries, service providers in hospitality, health, domestic/commercial establishments, and construction or other sectors, labourers, students etc. who come from rural areas or small towns seeking better opportunities will be the target beneficiary under ARHCs.

Expenditure of the Project

  • An expenditure of Rs 600 Crore is estimated in the form of Technology Innovation Grant which will be released for projects using identified innovative technologies for construction. Approximately,three Lakh beneficiaries will be covered initially under ARHCs.

Benefits

  • ARHCs will create new ecosystem in urban areas making housing available at affordable rent close to the place of work.
  • Investment under ARHCs is expected to create new job opportunities. ARHCs will cut down unnecessary travel, congestion and pollution.
  • Government funded vacant housing stock will be converted into ARHCs for economically productive use. The scheme would create a conducive environment for Entities to develop AHRCs on their own vacant land which will enable new investment opportunities and promote entrepreneurship in rental housing sector.

3 . Foreign Contribution Regulation Act


Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to probe alleged violation of various legal provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Income Tax Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). by three NGOs — the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust (IGMT).

About the news

  • Probe against one of the three NGOs was initiated in 2017-18 as part the home ministry’s inquiry into the foreign contributions received by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT). The two other NGOs named by the ministry are Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust (IGMT).
  • As per the MHA website, both the RGF and the RGCT are registered FCRA associations which a pre-requisite for NGOs and other associations to receive foreign donations.
  • The Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust is not a FCRA registered association and so not eligible to receive foreign donations.

About Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)

  •  FCRA is a law enacted by Parliament to regulate foreign contribution (especially monetary donation ) provided by certain individuals or associations to NGOs and others within India.

Who can receive foreign contribution?

  • Any “Person” can receive foreign contribution subject to following conditions:-
    • a) It must have a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme.
    • b) It must obtain the FCRA registration / prior permission from the Central Government
    • c) It must not be prohibited under Section 3 of FCRA, 2010.

Acceptance of foreign funds for NGO’s

  • The Act permits only NGOs having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme to accept foreign contribution, that too after such NGOs either obtain a certificate of registration or prior permission under the Act. 

Registration Requirement for NGO’s

  • In order to be registered under the FCRA, an NGO must be in existence for at least three years and must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised. Further, it must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities. The registration certificate is valid for a period of five years and must be thereafter renewed in the prescribed manner.
  • NGOs not eligible for registration can seek prior approval from FCRA for receiving foreign funding. This permission is granted only for a specific amount of foreign funding from a specified foreign source for a specific purpose. It remains valid till receipt and full utilisation of such amount.
  • Further, it must have a separate bank account exclusively for the deposit of foreign contribution. No other fund can be credited to this account.

Use of Foreign Funding

  • All funds received by a NGO must be used only for the purpose for which they were received.
  • Such funds must not used in speculative activities identified under the Act.
  • Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.
  • Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.            

Reporting requirement 

  • Every NGO registered or having prior approval under the Act must file an annual report with the Authority in the prescribed form. This report must be accompanied by an income and expenditure statement, receipt and payment account, and balance sheet for the relevant financial year. For financial years where no foreign contribution is received, a ‘NIL’ report must be furnished with the Authority. 

Additional Regulations

  • It has been made mandatory for NGO “office-bearers and key functionaries and members” to certify that they have not been “prosecuted or convicted” for “conversion” from one faith to another and for creating “communal tension and disharmony”, according to the notification. Earlier, as per the FCRA 2010, only the applicants such as directors who were seeking permission to receive foreign contributions were required to make such a declaration.
  • In addition, every member of an NGO must also now, under oath, through an affidavit, certify that they have never been involved in “diverting” foreign funds or propagating “sedition” or “advocating violent means.”

4 . United Nations Special Rapporteurs


Context: United Nations Special Rapporteurs have made public their third communication forwarded to India since the August 5, 2019, decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, expressing “grave concern over alleged excessive use of force, ill-treatment during arrests and detentions”.

About the news

  • The four rapporteurs have brought to light the continued deterioration of human rights conditions in J&K following severe restrictions imposed after August 5, 2019, particularly on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on minority issues; and on freedom of religion or belief — had forwarded a joint communication to India on May 4, 2020, and made it public recently, after 60 days of response time.
  • The first communication was forwarded on August 16, 2019, on “restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly”.
  • The second was communicated on February 27, 2020, on alleged “mass crackdown targeting those expressing dissent against the decision taken”.
  • The UN urged the Indian government “to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation, if it has not done so already, into the allegations of arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators under articles 6 and of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and articles 7 and 12 of the Committee Against Torture (CAT)”.

What are U.N. Special Rapporteurs?

  • Special Rapporteurs (“SRs”) are independent experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council (formerly the U.N. Commission on Human Rights) with the mandate to monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries (country mandates) and on human rights violations worldwide (thematic mandates).
  • The thematic mandates cover a wide range of issues relating to civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, including the human rights of migrants, violence against women, the rights of internally displaced persons, freedom of religion and arbitrary detention, among many others.

What do Special Rapporteurs do?

  • The functions of Special Rapporteurs include responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation and undertaking country visits to assess specific human rights situations. Most Special Rapporteurs also receive information on specific allegations of human rights violations and send urgent appeals or letters of allegation to governments asking for clarification and concrete measures to end rights violations.

About UNHRC

  • The Human Rights Council, which replaced the Commission on Human Rights
  • This intergovernmental body, which meets in Geneva 10 weeks a year, is composed of 47 elected United Nations Member States who serve for an initial period of 3 years, and cannot be elected for more than two consecutive terms.
  • The Human Rights Council is a forum empowered to prevent abuses, inequity and discrimination, protect the most vulnerable, and expose perpetrators.
  • The Human Rights Council is a separate entity from OHCHR.

About United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

  • The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty, providing a range of protections for civil and political rights.
  • The ICCPR, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, are considered the International Bill of Human Rights.
  • The ICCPR obligates countries that have ratified the treaty to protect and preserve basic human rights, such as: the right to life and human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, and association; religious freedom and privacy; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention; gender equality; the right to a fair trial; right family life and family unity; and minority rights.
  • The Covenant compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy.
  • The Covenant was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. As of December 2018, 172 countries have ratified the Covenant.
  • Article 6 deals with Right to Life

What is the Convention Against Torture?

  • The Convention Against Torture is the most important international human rights treaty that deals exclusively with torture.
  • The Convention obligates countries who have signed the treaty to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all circumstances.
  • The Convention compels governments who ratified it to investigate all allegations of torture, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to provide a remedy to victims of torture.
  • The Convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1984 and went into force in 1987. As of April 2006, 141 countries have ratified the Convention.
  • Each State party shall ensure that its authorities make investigations when there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed (article 12)
  • Each State party shall either extradite a person suspected of the offence of torture or submit the case to its own authorities for prosecution (article 7)

What is the Committee Against Torture

  • The Committee Against Torture is a body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention Against Torture. Committee members are elected for a term of four years and must be from countries that have ratified the Convention.
  • The current members of the Committee come from: Chile, Spain, Norway, Senegal, Morocco, United States, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, and Russia.

What does the Committee Against Torture do

  • The Committee Against Torture meets twice a year in Geneva, in May and November. Countries who have ratified the Convention Against Torture are obliged to report to the Committee every four years. At its twice yearly sessions, the Committee reviews these country reports.
  • Five to seven countries are invited to present their reports at each session. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the country in the form of “concluding observations.”

5 . Bharat Stage -IV vehicles


Context: The Supreme Court has recalled its March 27 order which allowed automobile dealers 10 days’ time, immediately after lockdown is lifted, to sell 10% of their stock of BS-IV emission norm compliant vehicles. But the automobile dealers figures show that they have sold more BS-IV vehicles during the lockdown.

Background

  • India switched to BS-VI emission standards on April 1 from BS-IV.
  • The top court had earlier rejected the demand of automobile dealers to extend the deadline to clear their existing inventories of BS-IV vehicles, it allowed them to sell up to 10 per cent of such inventory in a short window after the lockdown restrictions were eased.
  • The 10-day window was given by the court because the lockdown was imposed suddenly on March 25, 2020.
  •  The court had allowed the 10-day leeway to the dealers, except those in Delhi-NCR, to make good any loss they may have suffered due to the unexpected national lockdown.
  • However, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra was surprised by sales figures submitted by dealers. Justice Mishra said the figures show “more vehicles were sold during the lockdown” than post lockdown.
  • According to Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) the automobile dealers are claiming to have stuck with  ₹7,000 crore of unsold BS-IV vehicles.

About Bharat Stage

  • Bharat Stage norms are the automotive emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, fourwheelers and construction equipment vehicles.
  • The norms were introduced in 2000. With appropriate fuel and technology, they limit the release of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter (PM) and sulphur oxides from vehicles using internal combustion engines. As the stage goes up, the control on emissions become stricter.
  • To curb growing menace of air pollution through the vehicles emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020.
  • Only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India from 1st April 2020 onwards,which comply to these norms. The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.

Difference betwen BS IV and BS VI

  • The extent of sulphar is the major difference between Bharat Stage IV and Bharat Stage VI norms.
  • BS-IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, the BS-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur. BS VI can bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 per cent .
  • The  new norms will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 per cent and in petrol cars by 25 per cent.
  • BS VI also make on-board diagnostics (OBD) mandatory for all vehicles. OBD device informs the vehicle owner or the repair technician how efficient the systems in the vehicle are.

6 . World Health Organisation


Context: US has formally started the withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO), making good on threats to deprive the UN body of its top funding source over its response to the coronavirus. As per 1948 Congress resolution, the US can withdraw but must give a year’s notice and should pay outstanding fees.

Background

  •  On May 29 the U.S. had decided to leave the WHO because of its undue deference to China and failure to provide accurate information about the coronavirus.
  • US is the global health agency’s largest single contributor, providing more than $400m (£324m; €360m) in 2019, around 15% of its total budget and has also been at the forefront in the fight against smallpox and polio, as well as other diseases such as Ebola, Zika and measles and so without its participation the progress made in the fight against cornavirus will be slowed and vital programs decimated.
  • The withdrawal will call into question the WHO’s financial viability and the future of its many programmes promoting healthcare and tackling disease.

About WHO

  • World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations’ specialized agency for Health.
  •  It is an inter-governmental organization and works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.
  • The World Health Organization is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
  • It began functioning on April 7, 1948-  date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day.
  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948. 

Four strategic priorities of WHO in India

  • Strategic Priority 1: Accelerate progress on UHC
  • Strategic Priority 2: Promote health and wellness by addressing determinants of health
  • Strategic Priority 3: Better protect the population against health emergencies
  • Strategic Priority 4: Enhance India’s global leadership in health

Where does WHO get its funding?

  • WHO gets its funding from two main sources: Member States paying their assessed contributions (countries’ membership dues), and voluntary contributions from Member States and other partners.
  • Assessed contributions (AC) are a percentage of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (the percentage is agreed by the UN General Assembly). Member States approve them every two-years at the World Health Assembly. They cover less than 20% of the total budget.
  • The remainder of WHO’s financing is in the form of voluntary contributions (VC), largely from Member States as well as from other United Nations organizations, intergovernmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, the private sector, and other sources.