Table of Contents
Today’s Current Affairs Diary 18-05-2022
In News: upcoming G-7 summit (June 26-28) will be held in Germany and is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
About G7 Countries
- The G7 (Group of Seven) is an organisation of the world’s seven largest so-called “advanced” economies, which dominate global trade and the international financial system. They are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States.
- Russia joined in 1998, creating the G8, but was excluded in 2014 for its takeover of Crimea.
- China has never been a member, despite its large economy and having the world’s biggest population.
- The annual G7 summits have over the years developed into a platform for determining the course of multilateral discourse and shaping political responses to global challenges.
- Germany took over the G7 presidency in January 2022, which means it will host the organisation’s annual summit in June.
- The EU is not a member of the G7 but attends the annual summit.
Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
In News: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has expressed concern over the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
About Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- In December 2021, the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha, and was subsequently referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
- The Bill seeks to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to: (i) encourage the Indian system of medicine and cultivation of wild medicinal plants, (ii) facilitate fast-tracking of processes for research, patent application, and transfer of research results, (iii) decriminalise offences, and (iv) encourage foreign investment in the sector.
- The Bill also amends the Act to include references to the Nagoya Protocol.
- The Ministry is drawing a distinction between a registered AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) practitioner and a company, and exempting the former from the Act.
About National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
- The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established by the Central Government in 2003 to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002).
- The NBA is a Statutory Body and it performs facilitative, regulatory and advisory functions for the Government of India on issues of conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.
Supreme Court Collegium
In News: The Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana has recommended the elevation of five judges as the Chief Justices of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gauhati, and Telangana High Courts.
About Collegium System
- It is a system under which appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. It has no place in the Indian Constitution.
- The Collegium of the Supreme Court consists of 5 senior most Judges including the Chief Justice of India.
- They will consider the elevation of Chief Justices/Judges of High Court to Supreme Court, elevation of Judges of High Courts as Chief Justices and elevation of Judges.
- In case of difference of opinion, the majority view will prevail.
- Since Constitution mandates consultation with the Chief Justice of India is necessary for appointments to judiciary, the collegium model evovled.
- Article 124 and 217 deal with the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges respectively.
In News: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday inaugurated the country’s first 5G testbed.
About 5G testbed
- A 5G testbed will help companies test machine-to-machine 5G communication before rolling out their products commercially.
- In a testbed environment, a new 5G product tests how its network connectivity is performing in various real-world scenarios
- It will enable start-ups and industry players to test their products locally, thereby reducing dependence on facilities outside the country.
- 5G testbed had been set up at a cost of about ₹220 crore.
Public Health Engineering
- GS 2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Wastewater: A public health challenge
- According to UN, globally, around 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, posing a significant environmental and health threat
- In the absence of cost-effective, sustainable, disruptive water management solutions, about 70% of sewage is discharged untreated into India’s water bodies.
- A World Bank report revealed that 21% of diseases are caused by contaminated water in India.
- Moreover, Startup India also reported that one in five children die before their fifth birthday because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Public Health Engineers
- To address the various issues associated with water, it is essential to find and implement innovative ways of treating wastewater.
- Example: specialised cadre of public health engineers, also known as sanitation engineers or environmental engineers, are best suited to provide the growing urban and rural water supply and to manage solid waste and wastewater.
- Both as professions and as practice, engineering and public health have been traditionally understood as different fields.
How public health engineering can help?
- These fields can offer a wide range of opportunities for
- development of advanced wastewater treatment systems,
- understanding complex quality and monitoring processes,
- designing and managing septic tank systems,
- supplying good quality water in adequate quantities,
- maintaining hygiene and access to water, and
- ensuring that water supply is sustainable, including the study of relevant industry standards and codes of practices.
- The goal of reaching every rural household with functional tap water can be achieved in a sustainable and resilient manner only if the cadre of public health engineers is expanded and strengthened.
Public health engineering
- From promoting a robust understanding of processes, trends, and the latest technology in water and wastewater quality monitoring, treatment, and management, public health engineering can help decision/policy makers explore the available options.
- Given the population growth, diminishing resources and risky exploitation of natural resources, various State governments and not-for-profit organisations are looking to hire environmental engineers through whom public health problems can be addressed.
Public health engineering as a separate discipline
- In India, public health engineering is executed by the Public Works Department or by health officials. While, to manage a wastewater treatment plant in Europe, for example, a candidate must specialise in wastewater engineering.
- Introducing public health engineering as a two-year structured master’s degree programme or through diploma programmes for professionals working in this field must be considered to meet the need of increased human resource in this field.
- Public health engineering should be developed as an interdisciplinary field. Engineers can significantly contribute to public health in defining what is possible, identifying limitations, and shaping workable solutions with a problem-solving approach.
- Public health professionals can contribute to engineering through well-researched understanding of health issues, measured risks and how course correction can be initiated.
- Once both meet, a public health engineer can identify a health risk, work on developing concrete solutions such as new health and safety practices or specialised equipment, in order to correct the safety concern.
- Public health engineering’s combination of engineering and public health skills can also enable contextualised decision-making regarding water management in India.
- Diseases cannot be contained unless we provide good quality and adequate quantity of water.
- Training our young minds towards creating sustainable water management systems would be the first step.
- Currently, institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) are considering initiating public health engineering as a separate discipline.
- To leverage this opportunity even further, India needs to scale up in the same direction.
India Relaxes Wheat Export Ban
- GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Recently, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has announced some relaxations for traders saying that the consignments handed over and registered with Customs on or prior to May 13 — the day India banned the export — shall be allowed to be exported.
Wheat export ban India: Key points
- The government’s move came after a day when it was reported that over 4,000 wheat-laden trucks were stuck in a queue outside Kandla port and four ships were also stranded at the port.
- A quantity of more than 1.6 lakh tonnes was to be loaded on these ships but as soon the ban came into force, the loading was stopped.
- Till then, only around 80 thousand tonnes of wheat could be loaded on these ships.
- These ships were to carry wheat to Brazil, Bangladesh, Oman and Indonesia.
- Egyptian government asked the Indian Counterpart to permit the wheat cargo being loaded at the Kandla port, after which India allowed a wheat shipment headed for Egypt, which was already under loading at the Kandla port.
- Egypt has agreed to buy 5 lakh tonnes of wheat from India.
Wheat export from India: Why India banned wheat exports?
- Russia-Ukraine war: Due to the war, the demand for Indian wheat has increased overseas. In the current financial year 2022-2023, the government estimates about 45 lakh metric tonnes of wheat to have been contracted for exports. Of this, 14.63 lakh metric tonnes have been exported till April 2022, higher than 2.43 lakh metric tonnes exported in April 2021.
- Lower production: Due to heatwave, wheat production in India is expected to be lower than the earlier estimates. In February this year, the government estimated wheat production to reach 111 million tonnes, which was revised to 105-106 million tonnes.
- Lower procurement: Due to a lower production and a higher demand from the private buyers, the government’s procurement of wheat for the PDS is also expected to be much lower this year.
- Inflation: The ban was directed to control the price rise. Retail inflation has been ruling over 6 per cent for four straight months in calendar year 2022, higher than the upper band of RBI inflation target of 6 per cent.
Objective of wheat export ban
According to the commerce ministry, the ban serves three purposes:
- Maintaining the country’s food security,
- Helping those in distress, i.e., if countries make a specific request, the Indian government will take a call,
- India’s reliability as a supplier is being maintained by not reneging on any existing contract.
Impact of ban on wheat export from India
- Rise in international price of wheat: India’s decision to ban wheat exports has fuelled international prices by almost 6 per cent a bushel (60 pounds or one million kernels or 27.21 kg).
- Low-income countries: Research analysts said the impact of India’s export ban would be felt disproportionately by low income developing countries.
- Decline in local prices: Locally, prices dropped sharply by 4-8 per cent in different states — Rs 200-250 a quintal in Rajasthan, Rs 100-150 a quintal in Punjab, and about Rs 100 a quintal in Uttar Pradesh.
- Dents India’s image: Many Asian countries is likely to feel the burnt, with Bangladesh taking the maximum share as it is the biggest buyer of India’s wheat. Moreover, the G-7 countries have also raised objections on the ban.
- Impact on food inflation: The export ban is a pre-emptive step and may prevent local wheat prices from rising substantially; however, with domestic wheat production likely limited by the heatwave, local wheat prices may not moderate materially. If India’s wheat ban leads to higher price of substitutes like rice, then there could be upward pressure on other food prices.
Democracy Cohort on Election Integrity
- GS Paper 2: International Relations- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Summit for Democracy in News
- As part of ‘Summit for Democracy’, a decision has been taken to request India to lead the ‘Democracy Cohort on Election Integrity’ and share its knowledge, technical expertise and experiences with other democracies of the world.
- ECI has been requested to also provide-
- Training and capacity building programmes to Election Management Bodies (EMBs) across the world and
- Technical consultancy as per needs of other EMBs.
Democracy Cohort Platform
- About: Democracy Cohort platform is a thematic, multi-stakeholder group, open for official government and civil society participation.
- Themes: Few themes to be discussed under democracy cohort platform in the Summit for Democracy initiative are-
- Election Integrity,
- Free and Independent media,
- Fighting corruption,
- Bolstering democratic reformers,
- Advancing technology for democracy,
- Digital governance,
- Inclusive democracy,
- Anti-discrimination, etc.
- Significance: These Democracy Cohorts would refine Summit’s commitments, demonstrate progress on implementing those commitments, and develop new commitments for the follow up Summit.
Democracy Summit- Important Details
- About: The Summit for Democracy is an initiative the US President with an aim to “renew the spirit and shared purpose” of the nations of the Free World.
- Global Summit for Democracy is to be an annual summit. Summit for Democracy 2022 is expected to be an in-person meeting.
- Key Objective: Global Summit for Democracy aims to bring together the world’s democracies-
- To strengthen their democratic institutions,
- Honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and
- Forge a common agenda to address threats to our common values.
- Key Themes of Democratic Summit: Global Summit for Democracy will be held around three themes:
- Defending against authoritarianism,
- Fighting corruption,
- Promoting respect for human rights.
- Participation: This virtual Democratic Summit envisages the participation of leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.
- The invitees from the Asia-Pacific region to the Democratic Summit 2021 included India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Pakistan, Maldives, and the Philippines.
- Countries like China and Bangladesh were not invited to the first Summit for Democracies.
About Election Commission of India (ECI)
- About: The ECI is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- Mandate: The Election body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
Constitutional provisions Regarding Election Commission of India
- Part XV of the Indian constitution: deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
- Article 324 to 329 of the constitution: deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc. of the commission and the member.
Articles related to Elections 324 Superintendence, direction, and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission. 325 No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste, or sex. 326 Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage. 327 Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures. 328 Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature. 329 Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.
National Startup Advisory Council
- GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Recently, Ministry of Commerce & Industry has chaired the 4th meeting of National Startup Advisory Council (NSAC) in New Delhi.
- The Council deliberated upon important matters relating to startup ecosystem including protecting ownership of startups with original promoters, incorporating in India, listing in India, developing innovation hubs, etc.
- The members also shared progress on programs presented in earlier NSAC meetings including National Mentorship Program, Investor-Startup Matchmaking Portal, Incubator Capacity Development Program, etc.
- Members of the council have also been visiting states and interacting with startup entrepreneurs and students in educational institutions to understand and find ways to energize the startup ecosystem.
About National Start Advisory Council
- Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had constituted the National Startup Advisory Council to advise the Government on measures needed to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country to drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities.
- Besides the ex-officio members, the council has non-official members, representing various stakeholders such as founders of successful startups, veterans who have grown and scaled companies in India, representatives of industry associations, among others.
NavIC Grand Challenge
- The Ministry has also launched NavIC Grand Challenge which aims at promoting adoption of NavIC as geo-positioning solution, a key proponent for digital Aatmanirbharta.
- The applications for the grand challenge are open on Startup India’s website and it aims to identify and handhold solutions of startups which are engaged in developing NavIC enabled drones.
Government initiatives to promote startups
- Startup India Action Plan: An Action Plan for Startup India was unveiled in 2016. The Action Plan laid the foundation of Government support, schemes and incentives envisaged to create a vibrant startup ecosystem in the country.
- Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS: The Scheme aims to provide financial assistance to startups for proof of concept, prototype development, product trials, market entry and commercialization. Rs. 945 crore has been sanctioned under the SISFS Scheme for period of 4 years starting from 2021-22. It will support an estimated 3,600 entrepreneurs through 300 incubators in the next 4 years.
- Fund of Funds for Startups (FFS) Scheme: The Government has established FFS with corpus of Rs. 10,000 crore, to meet the funding needs of startups. DPIIT is the monitoring agency and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is the operating agency for FFS. It has not only made capital available for startups at early stage, seed stage and growth stage but also played a catalytic role in terms of facilitating raising of domestic capital, reducing dependence on foreign capital and encouraging home grown and new venture capital funds.
- Startup India Hub: The Government launched a Startup India Online Hub in 2017, which is one of its kind online platforms for all stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India to discover, connect and engage with each other.
- National Startup Awards: National Startup Awards is an initiative to recognize and reward outstanding startups and ecosystem enablers that are building innovative products or solutions and scalable enterprises, with high potential of employment generation or wealth creation, demonstrating measurable social impact.
- International Access to Indian Startups: One of the key objectives under the Startup India initiative is to help connect Indian startup ecosystem to global startup ecosystems through various engagement models. This has been done though international Government to Government partnerships, participation in international forums and hosting of global events.
- Support for Intellectual Property Protection: The Government launched Start-ups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP) which facilitates the startups to file applications for patents, designs and trademarks through registered facilitators in appropriate IP offices by paying only the statutory fees. The Government bears the entire fees of the facilitators for any number of patents, trademark or designs, and startups only bear the cost of the statutory fees payable. Startups are provided with an 80% rebate in filing of patents and 50% rebate in filling of trademark vis-a-vis other companies.
- Faster Exit for Startups: Ministry of Corporate Affairs has notified Startups as ‘fast track firms’ enabling them to wind up operations within 90 days vis-a-vis 180 days for other companies.
Cotton Council of India (CCI)
- GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Cotton Council of India (CCI) in News
- Recently, Union Minister of Textiles, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has announced formation of Cotton Council of India, under Chairmanship of Shri Suresh Bhai Kotak.
About Cotton Council of India (CCI)
- About: Cotton Council of India (CCI) will discuss, deliberate and prepare a robust action plan for bringing out a tangible improvement in this field.
- The first meeting of proposed Cotton Council of India (CCI) has been scheduled on 28th May 2022.
- Composition: Cotton Council of India (CCI) will have a chairman along with representation from-
- Ministry of Textiles,
- Ministry of Agriculture,
- Ministry of Commerce,
- Ministry of Finance,
- Cotton Corporation of India and
- Cotton Research Institute.
- Mandate: Cotton Council of India (CCI) aims to streamline and eliminate various challenges face by the cotton and yarn industry in the country and ensure a sustainable growth and progress of the sector.
Cotton Industry in India
- About: Cotton yarn and fabrics export account for about 23% of India’s total textiles and apparel export.
- In 2019-20, India’s cotton production was 36.04 million bales of 170 kgs each.
- During 2019-20, export of cotton yarn, cotton fabrics, cotton made-ups and handloom products reached US$ US$ 10.01 billion.
- Associated Concerns:
- Price Rise: There is a price rise witnessed in the current season due to poor productivity despite a large area under cotton production in the Country.
- Poor Cotton Productivity: Cotton productivity is the biggest challenge in the country, resulting thereby less cotton production despite largest area under cotton cultivation.
- Addressing Price Rise: All stakeholders must deliberated for softening cotton and yard prices on urgent basis, to address unprecedented price rise.
- Providing Quality Seeds: There is a need for making available better quality of seeds to improve productivity of cotton farmers.
- Collaborative Approach: all stakeholders must resolve cotton and yarn price issue, in the spirit of collaboration rather than competition and super profiteering.
- Insuring Farmers Welfare: There is a need for hand holding of cotton farmers who is the weakest part of cotton value chain, besides extending all possible support to stakeholders engaged in the backward and forward integration.
Seoul Forest Declaration
- GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Recently, the XV World Forestry Congress, held in Seoul, South Korea adopted the Seoul Forest Declaration identifying priority areas with potential to lead to a green, healthy and resilient future.
About World Forestry Council
- The World Forestry Congress is held every six years.
- The theme of World Forestry Council was Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future.
- It was hosted by the Republic of Korea and co-organized with FAO.
- It was the second congress held in Asia, with Indonesia hosting the first Congress in Asia in 1978.
- The gathering drew more than 15 000 participants from over 140 countries either in person or online, in the first event of its kind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seoul Forest Declaration
- The congress adopted the Seoul Forest Declaration with a key focus on how forests can help combat the multiple crises humanity faces, including climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, hunger and poverty.
Priority areas of action
- Since forests transcend political, social and environmental boundaries, it is imperative that responsibility for forests should be shared and integrated across institutions, sectors and stakeholders.
- According to the Declaration, investment in forest and landscape restoration globally needs to triple by 2030 to meet internationally agreed commitments and targets on restoring degraded land.
- The Declaration also states that emphasis should be given to move towards a circular bioeconomy and climate neutrality.
- The Declaration called for innovative green financing mechanisms to upscale investment in forest conservation, restoration and sustainable use, and highlighted the potential of sustainably produced wood as a renewable, recyclable and versatile material.
- Healthy, productive forests must also be maintained to reduce the risk of future pandemics and to provide other essential benefits for human physical and mental health.
- The Declaration also urged the continued development and use of emerging innovative technologies and mechanisms to enable evidence-based forest and landscape decision-making.
Inclusivity and cooperation
- To address challenges like forest management that transcend political boundaries, Congress has launched new partnerships such as the Assuring the Future of Forests with Integrated Risk Management (AFFIRM) Mechanism, and the Sustaining an Abundance of Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) initiative.
- The outcomes of the Congress, which also included the Youth Statement on Forests and the Ministerial Call on Sustainable Wood, will be transmitted to the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP15), taking place this week, as well as the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Conventions on Biodiversity (CBD) and Climate Change (UNFCCC), and other important fora.
National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology
- GS 2: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
- Recently, Ministry of Electronics & IT inaugurated National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) Centre Leh, Extension Centre Kargil and IT Enabled Incubation Centre for Handicraft and Handloom Sector.
NIELIT: Key points
- NIELIT Leh has been made an independent centre which would play a very important role to augment IT enablement in the youngest UT of the country.
- The minister has emphasized that NIELIT Leh, apart from offering its normal courses, has contributed towards to Digital Literacy of the UT of Ladakh.
- He opined that the local artisans working in the Wood and Handloom industry after getting hands on training at IT Enabled Incubation Centre would benefit hugely by learning the digital marketing, entrepreneurship and packaging skills.
- Through this initiative their art would not be restricted to local market but could make inroads in the Global market.
Development in Leh and Ladakh
- The Ministry has informed that after the abrogation of Article 370 and the formation of new UT, the path of development in this area has opened manifolds.
- Any proposal related to IT Education, Training, Incubation for the development of UT of Ladakh will be approved immediately by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- He also complimented NIELIT for starting the Leh and Kargil Centres and setting of IT Enabled Incubation Centre in record time which needs to be scaled up at faster pace.
- The minister further elaborated that the whole of UT of Ladakh would be covered by mobile connectivity.
- He also emphasized that rail connectivity to Leh is of utmost importance for long term sustainable development of UT of Ladakh. Many options are being evaluated and govt of India is hopeful that with the continuous effort all stakeholders, it would become a reality very soon.