Daily Current Affairs : 23rd June 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute
  2. Arms Trade Treaty
  3. Gold Monetization Scheme
  4. Kamakhya Festival
  5. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence
  6. Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra 
  7. High Altitude Warfare
  8. Study on reducing trade deficit with China

1 . Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute

Context: A local council in southern Japan voted on Monday to rename an area, including islands disputed with China and Taiwan, a move Beijing denounced as illegal and a “serious provocation”.

About the News

  • The local assembly of Ishigaki city approved a plan to change the name of the area covering the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands — known by Taiwan and China as the Diaoyus — from “Tonoshiro” to “Tonoshiro Senkaku”.
  • Another part of Ishigaki is also known as Tonoshiro, and the name change was cast as a bid to avoid confusion.
  • Uninhabited islands are at the centre of a dispute between Tokyo, Taiwan and Beijing
    • China says its claim to the islands extend back to 1400s, when they were used as a staging point for Chinese fisherman.
    • However, Japan says it saw no trace of Chinese control of the islands in an 1885 survey, so it formally recognized them as Japanese sovereign territory in 1895.
    • Self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a Chinese province, also claims ownership of the chain.

About Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute

  • The Diaoyu archipelago (known as the Senkakus in Japanese) is an uninhabited chain of islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan. 
  • The island chain, claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan, is made up of five islets and three barren rocks covering an area of 7 square kilometres
  • A long-standing controversy over the islands’ ownership has periodically soured relations between China and Japan.
  • In recent years, the increased presence of Japanese and Chinese vessels in nearby waters has heightened concerns about possible clashes between the two countries.

What is the dispute about?

  • The Japanese-administered island chain, formed by five islets and three barren rocks, covers an area of 7 square km. It is located about 200km southwest of Japan’s Okinawa island and a similar distance northeast of Taiwan.
  • Japan annexed the archipelago following China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war from 1894 to 1895. Yet the islands were left out of the Treaty of San Francisco at the end of the second world war that returned to China most of the territories previously occupied by Japan.
  • Under the terms of Japan’s surrender, the island chain was controlled by the US until 1971, when it was returned to Japan along with Okinawa and other surrounding islands.
  • Two years earlier, a report highlighting the potential for oil reserves in the area prompted China to reassert its territorial claims over the islands.
  • Japan does not recognise China’s claims nor the existence of a dispute over the islands’ sovereignty.

Importance of the islands

  • The United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East pointed out in 1969 that the region between Taiwan and Japan “appears to have great promise as a future oil province of the world”. Japan and China are among the world’s top importers of fossil fuels.
  • Abundant fishing resources can be found nearby, as can important shipping lanes used by Japan, South Korea and China for energy imports.
  • The islands have also become a focal point of the broader rivalry between the two countries.
  • In Japan, conservatives led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believe the country has made amends for its wartime imperialism and wish to rewrite the country’s “pacifist” constitution.
  • Chinese leaders, meanwhile, have been known to deploy anti-Japanese rhetoric and are increasingly assertive in their territorial claims.

Other disputes Territorial and Maritime disputes in which China is involved

  • The Senkakus island chain dispute with Japan is not the only territorial and maritime dispute that China has long had with many of its neighbours.
  • It has island and maritime border disputes with Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea and its extension.
  • The disputes include islands, reefs, banks and other features in the South China Sea including Spratly Islands (with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan), Paracel Islands (Vietnam), Scarborough Shoal (Philippines), and Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam).

2 . Arms Trade Treaty

Context: China will join a global pact to regulate arms sales towards its efforts to “enhance peace and stability” in the world.

About the News

  • The Communist Party leadership’s top legislative body voted recently to adopt a decision on joining the UN Arms Trade Treaty that is designed to control the flow of weapons into conflict zones. It comes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans last year to pull the U.S. out of the agreement — which entered into force in 2014.

About Arms Trade Treaty

  • The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) establishes common standards for the international trade of conventional weapons and seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade.
  • Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, the treaty aims to reduce human suffering caused by illegal and irresponsible arms transfers, improve regional security and stability, as well as to promote accountability and transparency by state parties concerning transfers of conventional arms.
  • The ATT does not place restrictions on the types or quantities of arms that may be bought, sold, or possessed by states. It also does not impact a state’s domestic gun control laws or other firearm ownership policies.
  • The ATT covers all conventional weapons: from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. It includes ammunition and parts & components.
  • Only 130 of the 193 members of the UN have signed the treaty, and of them only 101 ratified it putting it just over the threshold of 100 to come into effect
  • India and Russia are not a signatory of the treaty, recently US also pulled out of the treaty

3 . Gold Monetization Scheme

Context : State Bank of India (SBI) has mobilised 13,212 kg of household and institutional gold through the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS), according to the bank’s annual report.


  • Monetization refers to a process of converting a commodity into domestic currency– rupee. Gold Monetization refers to unlocking the value of gold in terms of rupee.

About Gold Monetization Scheme

  • Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS) refers to a process wherein a depositor deposits gold (say jewellery, coin, etc.) with a bank which is then lent by the bank to its borrowers (say jewellery makers), after melting into gold bars. This is akin to a normal banking operation (like a savings bank account), but carried out in terms of gold instead of in rupee. 
  • GMS allows the depositors of gold to earn tax free market determined interest income (denominated in gold but recoverable either in gold or in rupee [mandatorily in rupee if it is deposited for a medium or long term]) from the pure gold they deposit with banks in their “Gold Savings Accounts” and permits the jewelers to obtain their raw material -gold bars created from the melting of the gold deposited with the banks- as loans in their “Metal account”.  In addition, Banks / other dealers would also be able to monetize their gold. 
  • Gold can be submitted in any form (bullion, jewellery etc) but the amount deposited with the bank is calculated on the basis of the pure gold content of that deposit (after removing the weights of precious stones in jewellery etc.), which is verified through an accredited assayer.
  • Both principal and interest to be paid to the depositors of gold, will be ‘valued’ in gold. For example if a customer deposits 100 gms of gold and gets 1 per cent interest, then, on maturity he has a credit of 101 gms. The customer will have the option of redemption either in cash or in gold, which will have to be exercised in the beginning itself (at the time of making the deposit).
  • Only Resident Indians (Individuals, HUF, Trusts including Mutual Funds/Exchange Traded Funds registered under SEBI (Mutual Fund) Regulations and Companies) can make deposits under the scheme, either individually or jointly.
  • While the minimum deposit at any one time shall be raw gold (bars, coins, jewellery excluding stones and other metals) equivalent to 30 grams of gold of 995 fineness, there is no maximum limit for deposit under the scheme.All Scheduled Commercial Banks (excluding RRBs) can accept these deposits.


The Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS) was announced in the Union Budget Speech of 2015-16 with the following objectives

  • To mobilize the gold held by households, trusts and various institutions in India and put it into productive use.
  • To provide a fillip to the gems and jewellery sector in the country by making gold available as raw material on loan from the banks.
  • To be able to reduce reliance on import of gold over time to meet the domestic demand, as India is one of the largest consumers of gold with virtually no domestic production. (India imports as much as 800-1000 tonnes of gold each year. Though stocks of gold in India are estimated to be over 20,000 tonnes, most of this gold is neither traded, nor monetized.)
  • To make the existing schemes for mobilising Gold (Gold Deposit Scheme and Gold Metal Loan Scheme) more effective and to broaden their ambit from merely mobilizing gold, to putting this gold into a broad range of productive uses including strengthening the reserve requirements of the Central Bank.

Benefits of the Gold Monetisation Scheme

  • The scheme will help in mobilizing the large amount of gold lying as an idle asset with households, trusts and various institutions in India and benefit the Indian gems and jewellery sector which is a major contributor to India’s exports. In fiscal year 2014-15, gems and jewellery constituted 12 per cent of India’s total exports and the value of gold items alone was more than $13 billion (provisional figures).
  • The mobilized gold will also supplement RBI’s gold reserves.
  • It will help in reducing the Government’s cost of borrowing.
  • Over the course of time this is also expected to reduce the country’s dependence on the import of gold.

4 . Kamakhya Temple & Ambubachi Festival

Context: Ambubachi, the festival marking the annual ‘menstruation’ of the presiding Goddess, began at the Kamakhya temple on June 22 without mendicants, hermits and devotees for the first time in almost 500 years.

About Kamakhya Temple

  • Kamakhya Temple is a temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya
  • It is situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam
  • Kamakhya is one of 51 Shaktipeeths or holy sites for the followers of the Shakti cult, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion. The temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses the yoni.
  • Legends say the temple atop the Nilachal Hills, whose northern face slopes down to the Brahmaputra river, was built by demon king Narakasura. But records are available only from 1565, when Koch king Naranarayana had the temple rebuilt in 1565.
  • Being the centre for Tantra worship this temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees in an annual festival known as the Ambubachi Mela

About Ambubachi Festival

  • Ambubachi Mela is one of the biggest congregations of eastern India. It is the most important festival of the Kamakhya temple and is celebrated in the month of June every year.
  • There is no idol of the presiding deity but she is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like stone instead over which a natural spring flows
  • It is the celebration of the yearly menstruation course of goddess Kamakhya.
  • The belief is that Kamakhya embodies the mother cult, the Shakti. During the period of Ambubachi from the seventh to the tenth day of the Hindu month of “Asadha”, the doors of the shrine are closed to all as it is believed that Goddess Kamakhya goes through the annual cycle of menstruation. 
  • On the twelfth day, the doors are opened ceremonially and a big fair held at the temple premises on that day.

5 . Directorate of Revenue Intelligence

Context : The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has busted a wildlife smuggling syndicate with the arrest of two persons and seizure of a consignment of exotic macaws which had been smuggled from Bangladesh to Kolkata and was on its way to Bengaluru.

About Directorate of Revenue Intelligence

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence is the apex anti-smuggling agency of India, working under the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • It is tasked with detecting and curbing smuggling of contraband, including drug trafficking and illicit international trade in wildlife and environmentally sensitive items, as well as combating commercial frauds related to international trade and evasion of Customs duty.
  • DRI with its presence across India and abroad has been carrying out its mandate of countering organised crime groups engaged in smuggling of contraband goods such as arms, ammunitions & explosives, narcotic drugs& psychotropic substances, gold & diamonds, counterfeit currency notes, wildlife items, hazardous & environmentally sensitive materials and antiques.
  • DRI also has expertise in unearthing commercial frauds, plugging leakage of Government’s tax revenue and countering trade based money laundering and black money. 
  • DRI has also been at the forefront in international Customs collaboration and has Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements with over 60 other countries, where thrust is on information exchange and learning from the best practices of other Customs administrations.

Legal Provisions

  • Illegally imported birds are confiscated under Section 111 of the Customs Act, read with the CITES provisions and the Foreign Trade Policy.
  • Sections 48 and 49 of the Wildlife Protection Act prohibit trade or commerce in wild animals, animal articles or trophies.
  • The accused can be sentenced to seven years of jail for the offence.

About Macaw

  • Macaws are long-tailed, often colorful, New World parrots
  • Proportionately larger beaks, long tails, and relatively bare, light-coloured, medial (facial patch) areas distinguish macaws from other parrots. 
  • Most species are associated with forests, especially rainforests, but others prefer woodland or savannah-like habitats
  • The largest macaws are the hyacinth, Buffon’s (great green) and green-winged macaws. 
  • Macaws are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), with hyacinth macaw being accorded the highest protection

6 . Puri Jagannath Yatra

Context : The Supreme Court on Monday lifted its June 18 ban on the conduct of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra after ensuring a complete lack of public attendance for the festival to avoid spread of infection amid a pandemic.

About Jagannath Temple

  • The Jagannath Temple in Puri was built in 12th century AD by Chodaganga Deva of the Ganga dynasty.
  • The presiding deity is Lord Jagannath, along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The temple also has statues of deities Sudarshan, Madhaba, Sridevi and Bhudevi. Jagannath is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology.
  • Jagannath temple is on a raised platform and stands at a height of 65 m, while the main gate is guarded by the ‘Simha Dwara’, a structure with two lions.
  • Jagannath temple does not permit non-Hindus to enter.
  • In the past, the temple was plundered 18 times. In 1692, Mughal king Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of the temple. However, according to ‘The Origins of Religious Violence: An Asian Perspective’ by Nicholas F. Gier, the temple was not destroyed as local officials were bribed. Instead, it was shut and reopened in 1707 after Aurangzeb’s death.

About Rath Yatra

  • Rath Yatra, or the Chariot festival, is a 10-12-day annual celebration during which Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken in chariots to stay in the Gundicha Temple, 3 km away from the Jagannath temple, for nine days.
  • There are varying accounts in Hindu mythology as to why the deities are taken to Gudincha. One legend has it that the deities go to meet Gudincha, the queen of King Indrayumna, who is believed to have built the temple. Another legend has it that on the fourth day of the festival, Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Jagannath visits the Gundicha temple to meet her husband.
  • At the end of the nine-day period, the deities are brought back to the Jagannath Temple. The journey is called Bahuda Jatra or the Jagannath Yatra, and the chariots are pulled by devotees.
  • The procession of the three chariots from Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple is called pahandi.
  • The size of the chariots vary, and indicate a hierarchy between the three deities.
  • Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosh and has 16 wheels. His elder brother Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is called Taladvaja, and moves on 14 wheels, while Subhadra has the smallest chariot, called Padmadhvaja, which has 12 wheels.
  • According to researcher of Jagannath culture, the festival did not take place 32 times between 1558 and 1735 due to Mughal invasions. It, however, was held during the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1919. It was not held for the first time in 1568 when General Kala Chand Roy, the general of Bengal King Suleiman Kirrani, attacked the temple. From 1733 to 1735, the festival was not held because the deputy governor of Odisha, Mohammed Taqi Khan, attacked the temple, forcing the idols to be shifted to Ganjam district in the state

Supreme court order

  • It limited the festival to being held only in Puri, and attached a few stringent conditions to how the famous yatra would be conducted.
    • First, there can be no large-scale public attendance. Only 500 people are permitted to pull each chariot, provided they had tested negative for coronavirus.
    • Second, all entry points into Puri have to be closed during the yatra, and there must be a curfew during the festival.
    • Furthermore, the top court said an interval of an hour was to be given between the procession of two chariots.

7 . High Altitude Warfare

Context : The violent standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley of Ladakh region has thrown the spotlight on high-altitude warfare and the challenges that troops face, particularly when advantageous positions on the heights are occupied by the other side.

How is high-altitude warfare fought?

  • High-altitude warfare is fought keeping the terrain and weather in mind.
  • The kind of infrastructure and training that the troops require for high-altitude warfare are key factors.
  • The evolution of such warfare goes back a long way: European countries had mountain brigades in view of the kind of terrain prevalent in those countries. The harshness of the terrain calls for a specialised kind of training to prepare soldiers in terms of mindset and acclimatisation.
  • “To begin with, the troops are imparted training in basic and advance training in mountaineering to make them equipped for mountain warfare,” said Kargil veteran and Maha Vir Chakra awardee Col Sonam Wangchuk, who is based in Leh.

How is India equipped in such warfare?

  • Generally, India is considered a hub of mountain warfare skills since most of the country’s north and northeast requires such skills. Ladakh Scouts are considered the best in this kind of warfare.
  • Mountain chop, a tactic involved in such warfare, evolved in India where the mountainous terrain is very difficult to scale.

Strategies used

  • The mindset of the enemy sitting above needs to be assessed. Taking stock of the entire situation, one needs to find out the easiest approaches.
  • Especially when there are vertical cliffs, it is generally perceived that the enemy that has taken defensive positions will be less guarded from the side of difficult approaches…
  • Basically, the most difficult approaches where the enemy is likely to give the least resistance need to be used efficiently”.

Challenges involved in warfare in a high-altitude place like Galwan Valley?

  • A big factor is who has taken defensive positions and who is sitting on higher ground. Once troops are sitting on high ground, it becomes very difficult to dislodge them from there. In a place like Galwan Valley, which is absolutely barren, there is not much concealment.
  • The soldier on high ground is absolutely stationary, which makes those on lower terrain easy targets; the enemy can pick them up one by one. Normally in mountain warfare, troops on lower ground use a combat ratio of 1:6, but in circumstances as in Galwan, it may go up to 1:10.
  • Generally, mountain warfare is fought using the period of darkness to reach the opposing army, engage and overpower them before the first light of day. In case troops do not have the capabilities, fitness or strategies to do so before dawn, then it is a lost cause.

Other challenges faced by soldiers in high altitudes?

  • The first major factor is acclimatisation since the oxygen supply reduces drastically. Next, the load carrying capacity of individuals reduces drastically. Things move very slow in the mountains and mobilisation of troops consumes time. Thus, time and place need to be kept on top priority when deciding where the troops have to be stationed and how they have to be mobilised.
  • At every stage when an assault progresses, the troops require access to maintenance. One needs to identify tactical points (which are passes in the current scenario) where troops can build roads and take defensive positions, and where those troops need to be maintained.
  • Normally, advance troops may be able to carry packed rations or other required equipment that can last for 48-72 hours, but then constant supplies are required to reach them.
  • Generally, troops carry a 30-35 kg load including weapons, ammunition, communication equipment, rations etc. It is difficult to negotiate such terrains carrying such loads; it is difficult even to raise one’s hand.

Logistical challenges

  • One major challenge is that weapons jam, particularly in high-altitude areas. When a soldier is at a height of 17,000 ft or above, it is very cold, and he needs to grease the weapons and clean the barrels at least once a week to ensure they function efficiently. But at the time of combat, this becomes difficult.
  • Vehicles do not start when fuel jams. If the fuel is diesel, it won’t ignite unless it is mixed with thinners or other chemicals to make them thin enough to fire the engine. Planning has to be done in advance, with recces carried out, which again is difficult in the mountains. There has to be a contingency plan to first identify the tactical points that need to be used in case of an assault.
  • In Galwan, which is an extremely tactical area and strategically important, reinforcement plays a vital role, particularly when the Indian troops are not in a position of advantage. For communication equipment, troops need to carry more batteries because they drain very quickly at high altitude. While a battery tends to last for 24 hours in the plains, it will drain in 1-2 hours in these severely cold areas . Transport animals such as mules need to be used to maintain adequate supplies, which is not an easy task. Weather constraints play a major factor.

8 . India can reduce trade deficit with China by $8.4 bn: study

Context: India can potentially reduce its trade deficit with China by $8.4 billion over FY21-22, which is equivalent to 17.3% of the deficit with China and 0.3% of India’s GDP, Acuité Ratings & Research said in a study.

How it can be achieved

  • This can be achieved by the rationalisation of just a quarter of India’s imports from that country in select sectors where India has well-established manufacturing capabilities.
  • Without any significant additional investments, the domestic manufacturing sector can substitute 25% of the total imports from specified sectors in the first phase.
  • With an import of $65.1 billion and export of $16.6 billion, India recorded a trade deficit of $48.5 billion with China in FY20. While imports from China have moderately declined by 15% since FY18 due to imposition of anti-dumping duties on some products, the dependence of the domestic economy on Chinese imports remains high with direct contribution to over 30% of India’s aggregate trade deficit.
  • Over the past 3 decades, India’s exports to China grew at a CAGR of 30% but its imports expanded at 47%, leading to lower capacity utilisation of domestic players in a few sectors.
  • Nearly 40 sub-sectors of India had the potential to lower their import dependency on China. The sectors include chemicals, automotive components, bicycles parts, drug formulations, cosmetics, consumer electronics and leather-based goods.

Leave a comment

error: Content is protected !! Copying and sharing on Social media / websites will invite legal action