Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Most Favoured Nation Status
- Vande Bharat Express
- US Emergency
- Eminent Persons in RTI Act
1 . Most Favoured Nation Status
Context : India revoked Pakistan’s MFN status
What does Most Favoured Nation mean?
- Article 1 of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1994, requires every WTO member country to accord MFN status (or preferential trade terms with respect to tariffs and trade barriers) to all other member countries.
- According to the Article countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners.
- If one country is granted a trade concession such as, for example, lower import duties, then all WTO members must be extended the same concessions.
- This principle is known as the Most Favoured Nation treatment.
- In accordance with the MFN principle and its obligations under the WTO, India accorded Pakistan MFN status in 1996.
- However, Pakistan is yet to transition fully to MFN status for India and it maintains a Negative List of 1,209 products that are not allowed to be imported from India. In addition, Pakistan permits only 138 products to be imported from India through Wagah/Attari border land route
- Despite these restrictions, India continues to maintain a substantial trade surplus with Pakistan.
What does revoking MFN mean?
- Revoking it means India can levy whatever import tariffs it wants.
- India can now make it very expensive for Pakistan to export its goods to India.
Will this hurt Pakistan?
- So far, India has only revoked the MFN status. It has not altered the import duties on Pakistan. However, if it does hike them, then this will likely have an impact on that country.
- The scale of that impact is questionable. India’s total trade with Pakistan stood at $2.4 billion in 2017-18, with just $488.56 million of this being imports from Pakistan, according to Commerce Ministry data. Pakistan’s exports to India made up only 2.1% of its total exports in 2017-18, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
- Revoking Pakistan’s MFN status seems to be more of a symbolic move, aimed at signalling to the world the change in India’s stance regarding Pakistan, rather than one aimed at doing economic damage.
2 . Vande Bharat Express
Context : The inaugural trip of India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat Express, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New Delhi railway station on Friday.
Features of Vande Bharat Express
- Vande Bharat Express can run up to a maximum speed of 160 kmph and
will cover the distance between New Delhi and Varanasi in 8 hours
- All coaches are equipped with automatic doors, GPS based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot Wi-Fi for entertainment purposes, and very comfortable seating. All toilets are bio-vacuum type.
- The lighting is dual mode, viz. diffused for general illumination and personal for every seat. Every coach has a pantry with facility to serve hot meals, hot and cold beverages. The insulation is meant to keep heat and noise to very low levels for additional passenger comfort.
- The total seating capacity is 1,128 passengers. It is much more than the conventional Shatabdi rake of equal number of coaches, it is due to the shifting of all electric equipment below the coaches and seats in the driving coach also.
- The train has regenerative braking system in the Vande Bharat Express coaches which can save up to 30% of electrical energy.
- In keeping with the vision of Prime Minister’s vision of “Make in India”, the major systems of the train have been designed and built in India.
3 . US National Emergency
Context : President Donald Trump formally declared a national emergency at the border on Friday to access billions of dollars to build a border wall that Congress refused to give him, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a fundamental confrontation over separation of powers.
What Is A National Emergency?
- A president can declare a national emergency under the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
- The act was passed after the Watergate crisis and it requires the White House to submit a justification to why the emergency is being declared.
- A national emergency gives the president the power to bypass the general processes in politics and governance.
- Power to declare a national emergency is an extraordinary power, which has in the past been used for grave situations like the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Congress has delegated at least 136 distinct statutory emergency powers to the President upon the declaration of an emergency.
- Only 13 require a declaration from Congress; the remaining 123 are invoked by an executive declaration with no Congressional input
- Emergency presidential powers range from suspending all laws regulating chemical and biological weapons, including the ban on human testing to suspending any Clean Air Act implementation plan or excess emissions penalty upon petition of a state governor; to authorizing and constructing military construction projects; using any existing defense appropriations for such military constructions to drafting any retired Coast Guard officers or enlisted members into active duty.
4 . Eminent Persons in RTI Act
Context : The apex court found that “official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees was evident from the very beginning of the process for appointment of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners. In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
What is the eligibility criteria and what is the process of appointment of CIC/IC?
- Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows.
(i) The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
(ii) The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha ; and
(iii). A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology,social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
- Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be , or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.
- There is and“official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees from the very beginning of the process for appointment of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners.
- In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
What the Court said
- The apex court directed the government to look beyond bureaucrats and appoint professionals from “all walks of life,” including eminent persons with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism as Information Commissioners.