World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) 2022
- The WSIS is being organized by International Telecommunications Unions(ITU) at its headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland from 30th May to 3rd June, 2022.
- The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community.
- The 2022 WSIS Forum provided an opportunity to serve as a platform to track the achievements of WSIS Action Lines in collaboration with the UN Agencies involved and provide information and analyses of the implementation of WSIS Action Lines since 2005.
- The Scheme for Residential Education for Students in Targeted Areas (SHRESHTA) has been formulated with the objective to provide quality education and opportunities for even the poorest Scheduled Caste students, as per the Constitutional mandate.
- SHRESHTA has been conceived to provide access to high quality residential education to the meritorious poor students from Scheduled Caste communities, whose parental annual income is up to Rs. 2.5 Lakh per annum, at free of cost from class 9th to class 12th.
- Under this, each year a specified number of meritorious SC students (Approx 3000) in States / UTs are selected through a transparent mechanism of a National Entrance Test for SHRESHTA (NETS), conducted by the National Testing Agency ( NTA ) .
- Selected students are admitted in the Best Private Residential Schools, affiliated by CBSE, in classes 9th and 11th for completion of education till 12th standard.
- Thereafter, the students may be connected to Post Metric Scholarship Scheme or Top – Class Education Scheme of the Ministry to continue their further studies with adequate financial aid from the Government of India.
National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC)
- Incorporated in 1958 as a Government of India public enterprise, NMDC is India’s largest producer of iron ore.
- Since inception, the corporation under the administrative control of the Ministry of Steel, has been involved in the exploration of a wide range of minerals including copper, rock phosphate, limestone, magnesite, diamond, tungsten and beach sands amongst others in some of the most remote corners of the country.
- NMDC is considered to be one of the low-cost producers of iron ore in the world.
- The Company is producing about 35 MTPA of iron ore from its major iron producing units i.e. from Bailadila Sector in Chhattisgarh and Donimalai in Bellary-Hospet region in Karnataka.
- It also operates the only mechanized diamond mine in India at Panna, Madhya Pradesh.
- NMDC is also setting up a 3 MT integrated steel plant at Nagarnar, Chhattisgarh.
- GeM is an online platform for public procurement in India.
- The initiative was launched on August 9, 2016 by Ministry of Commerce and Industry, GoI, with an objective to create an open and transparent procurement platform for government buyers.
- Created in a record time of 5 months, GeM facilitates online procurement of common use Goods and Services.
- According to an independent assessment made by the World Bank, average savings for buyers in Government e Marketplace portal is about 9.75% on the median price.
- Since inception GeM has shown impressive growth year on year with better prices, thus helping the state exchequer save substantial money.
- In an analysis in the Economic Survey 2021-22, cost comparison of various commodities on GeM with those of popular online platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart showed that GeM prices were 9.5% lower.
- 10 out of 22 commodities in the sample were cheaper on the GeM portal as compared to other platforms.
- GeM is integrating with Panchayati Raj Institutions to allow online buying and selling by the Panchayats at the grassroot level.
UN Report on Taliban
- GS 2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Taliban rule in Afghanistan: Context
- Recently, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has released a new report, which says that foreign terrorist organisations continue to enjoy safe haven under the new Taliban regime.
UN Report on Taliban Afghanistan: Key findings
- Terrorist attacks: The report finds that due to financial constraints, and under political pressure not to embarrass the Taliban internationally, the terrorist groups are not likely to launch major attacks outside Afghanistan before 2023.
- Three division in Taliban: There are three division in Taliban—Moderate, hardline, and Haqqani network.
- Moderates want working relationships with foreign partners and integration with the international system.
- Hardline want a more ideological stance, with little interest in international relations.
- Haqqani while being more aligned with the hardliners, is inclined towards a pragmatic rather than ideological approach to securing Taliban interests. According to the report, Haqqani Network are cornering most of the influential posts in the administration.
- Ethnic dynamics: The report believes the Kandahari (Durrani) Taliban to be in the ascendancy among the Taliban leadership, with Pashtuns getting precedence over non-Pashtuns.
- Issue in common goal: Internal cohesion within the Taliban was easier to maintain during the insurgency period, when there was a compelling common cause to expel foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Terrorist threat to India
- The report has said that two India-focussed terrorist groups, Jaish-i-Mohammed (JiM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), are reported to have training camps in Afghanistan.
- Both the groups enjoy close links with the Taliban leadership, with the LeT having a history of providing finance and training expertise to Taliban operations.
- The report also says that the al-Qaeda in Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) has 180-400 fighters in Afghanistan from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.
- At present, the terrorist outfit has been forced to adopt a “less aggressive posture” due to financial constraints.
- The report also notes that the name change of the AQIS magazine from ‘Nawa-i-Afghan Jihad’ to ‘Nawa-e-Gazwah-e-Hind’ suggests a “refocussing of AQIS from Afghanistan to Kashmir”.
Terrorist groups in Afghanistan
- Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) constitutes the largest component of foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan. They are mostly located along the east and south-east Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas.
- Among all the foreign extremist groups in Afghanistan, it is the TTP that has benefited the most from the Taliban takeover.
- The report also finds that the Kabul airport attack of August 26 has elevated the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) to be the most prominent Da-esh affiliate in the region.
- While the activity of TTP declined towards the end of 2021, the group has grown in strength through prison releases and new recruitments.
- Meanwhile, al-Qaeda continues to enjoy a close relationship with the Taliban.
- The report noted that neither ISIL-K nor the al-Qaeda were believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest.
- The report concludes that their presence, along with the presence of other terrorist groups on Afghan soil, remain a matter of grave concern for neighbouring countries and the wider international community.
Government e-Marketplace (GeM)
Relevance for UPSC Exam
- 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.
Government e-Marketplace (GeM) in News
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for expanding the mandate of Government e-Marketplace (GeM) to allow procurement by Cooperatives as buyers on GeM.
Cooperative Societies to procure from GeM
- On-boarding Authority: The validated list of cooperatives to be on-boarded on GeM – for pilot as well as subsequent scale up will be decided by Ministry of Cooperation in consultation with GeM SPV.
- This will ensure that technical capacity and logistics requirement of the GeM system are taken into account while deciding the pace of on boarding of Cooperative as buyers on GeM.
- GeM will provide-
- A dedicated onboarding process for cooperatives,
- The technical infrastructure to support additional users on existing portal, and
- Assistance to cooperatives for onboarding and transaction journeys, via available contact centers, in-field training and other support services.
- Ministry of Cooperation would issue necessary advisories to encourage the Cooperative Societies to make use of the GeM platform for procurement of goods and services in order to benefit from increased transparency, efficiency and competitive prices.
- Payment Mechanism: To protect interests of the broader seller community on GeM and ensure timely payments, the modalities of payment systems shall be decided by GeM in consultation with the Ministry of Cooperation.
- GeM Platform Charges: GeM may charge an appropriate transaction fee from cooperatives, to be decided in mutual consultation with the Ministry of Cooperation.
- Such charges shall not be more than the charges which GeM would charge to other Government buyers.
- Expected Beneficiaries: With this, more than 8.54 lakh registered cooperatives and their 27 Crore members would be benefitted with this initiative.
- The GeM portal is open for all the buyers and sellers across the country.
Cooperative Societies to procure from GeM- Key Benefits
- Ensure Access to goods and services at competitive prices: Allowing Cooperative Societies to register on GeM as Buyers would help Cooperatives in getting competitive prices through an. open and, transparent process.
- Improving Credibility of Cooperatives: since the societies have more than 27 Crore members, procurement through GeM would not only economically benefit the common man, but it would also enhance the credibility of the cooperatives.
- Enhances Ease of Doing Business for Cooperatives: Onboarding of cooperatives on GeM is expected to enhance overall “Ease of Doing Business” for cooperatives, while providing a larger Buyer base to the GeM registered sellers also.
What is Government e-Marketplace (GeM)?
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a dynamic, self-sustaining and user-friendly portal for making procurement by Government officers. It is an online platform for public procurement in India.
- GeM Initiative was launched on August 9, 2016, by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, GoI.
- Development of GeM Portal: Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS&D) with technical support of the National eGovernance Division (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) has developed a GeM portal for procurement of both Products & Services.
- Government e-Market (GeM) is hosted by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal.
What is the Objective of Government e-Market (GeM)?
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) aims to create an open and transparent procurement platform for government buyers.
- Government e-Marketplace (GeM) facilitates online procurement of common-use Goods and Services.
Government e-Marketplace (GeM) Advantages
|For Buyers||For Sellers|
The Earth Since Stockholm Conference of 1972
- It has been 50 years since the Stockholm Conference of 1972, but the environmental problems are only increasing.
- By 2050, the world needs to produce at least 50 per cent more food to feed the projected global population of 10 billion people.
About Stockholm Conference of 1972
- Stockholm Conference of 1972 was the first worldwide convergence on planetary environment, with the theme “Only One Earth”.
- The participating 122 countries—70 of them developing and poor countries—adopted the Stockholm Declaration on June 16, 1972.
- They essentially committed to 26 principles and an action plan that set in a multilateral environmental regime.
- This was the first globally subscribed document that recog- nised the “interconnections between development, poverty and the environment.”
- The three dimensions of this conference were: countries agreeing not to “harm each other’s environment or the areas beyond national jurisdiction”; an action plan to study the threat to Earth’s environment; and establishment of an international body called the UN Environment programme (unep) to bring in cooperation among countries.
What has been changed since Stockholm Conference?
- The Stockholm Conference of 1972 had put environmental issues on the global agenda for the first time.
- Today, over 176 countries have environmental framework laws; 150 countries have enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions; and 164 countries have created cabinet-level bodies responsible for environmental protection, as per the United Nations.
- From about 3.85 billion people in 1972, the global population has increased to 7.8 billion in 2022.
- The world population will continue to grow, the average age will increase, populations will become more urban, and household sizes will become smaller.
- Globally, the highest annual average concentrations of PM 2.5 are seen in areas affected by windblown sand and dust (northern Africa and west Asia), fires (central Africa and Latin America) and anthropogenic pollution (south and east Asia).
- Cities with the highest levels were clustered in east-central China and the Indo-Gangetic Plain
PM 2.5 exposure
- Even in 2050, a perceptibly high population of the wold will continue to remain exposed to PM2.5, which remains the highest environmental risk factor for global burden of distance.
The world saw an average 68 per cent decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016, suggesting that biodiversity is being destroyed by humans at an unprecedented rate.
Conservation is critical but not enough to restore biodiversity loss.
- Agriculture and food production are still responsible for most of the changes of land use, including forests and other types of ecosystems.
Land /Soil Degradation
- Human-induced land degradation remains a fundamental environmental problem affecting food security, livelihoods and lives of the people.
The world now needs to also transform food production and consumption patterns. Such a transformation would also provide large co-benefits for the environment, through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, fertiliser application and irrigation water consumption.
Also Read: Analysis Of DTE Magazine: Stockholm+50
Relevance for UPSC Exam
Liquid-Mirror Telescope has been recently unveiled in India. Liquid-Mirror Telescope is relevant for UPSC examination as it is part of science and technology and its applications in India.
International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) in Devasthal, Nainital is the only liquid-mirror telescope operational anywhere in the world.
What is Liquid-Mirror Telescope?
- About: International Liquid-Mirror Telescope is India’s first liquid-mirror telescope, which has now entered the commissioning phase.
- Liquid-Mirror Telescope is expected to start scientific observations sometime in October 2022.
- International Liquid-Mirror Telescope is built by astronomers from India, Belgium and Canada
- Liquid-Mirror Telescope Location: International Liquid-Mirror Telescope is located on the campus of the Devasthal Observatory of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) in Nainital.
- ARIES IS an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India in Nainital district, Uttarakhand.
- Objectives: International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) will observe asteroids, supernovae, space debris and all other celestial objects from an altitude of 2,450 metres in the Himalayas.
International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) Significance
- ILMT will also hold the unique tag of being the maiden liquid-telescope globally to be designed exclusively for astronomical purposes.
- ILMT will be the third telescope to be operating from Devasthal after-
- The 3.6-metre Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT) — the largest in India commissioned in 2016 and
- The 1.3-metre Devasthal Fast Optical Telescope (DFOT) inaugurated in 2010.
- International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) is the first liquid mirror telescope in the country and the largest in Asia.
- ILMT will help in surveying the sky making it possible toobserve several galaxies and other astronomical sources just by staring at the strip of sky that passes overhead.
How Liquid-Mirror Telescope works?
- Liquid-Mirror Telescope is a novel instrument that employs a 4-meter-diameter rotating mirror made up of a thin film of liquid mercury to collect and focus light.
- Scientists spun a pool of mercury which is a reflective liquid, so that the surface curved into a parabolic shape which is ideal for focusing light.
- A thin transparent film of mylar protects the mercury from wind.
- The reflected light passes through a sophisticated multi-lens optical corrector that produces sharp images over a wide field of view.
- A large-format electronic camera located at the focus records the images.
- The rotation of the earth causes the images to drift across the camera, but this motion is compensated electronically by the camera.
- This mode of operation increases observing efficiency and makes the telescope particularly sensitive to faint and diffuse objects.
WTO Reforms: 60 Nations back New Method on Food Subsidies
WTO UPSC: Relevance
- GS 3: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India and WTO: Context
- 60 developing countries have proposed a new method to calculate subsidies given to purchase, stockpile and distribute food to ensure food security for developing and poor nations.
WTO reforms: Key points
- The 60 developing country includes India, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa.
- The G33, African Group and the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group have also recently submitted a joint proposal to the WTO for a new methodology.
- Egypt, Antigua, Nigeria, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago too have supported the proposal, that would be discussed at the WTO in the next few days.
WTO reforms: Significance of the proposal
- The proposal comes ahead of a key ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this month.
- Developing and poor countries are seeking a permanent change in the WTO’s agriculture rules to ensure policy space for their food security programmes.
WTO reforms: Recommendations
- Permanent solution for public stockholding should account for inflation
- Should be based on a recent reference price instead of an old one based on 1986-88 prices.
- Exports of food grain from public stocks should be allowed for international food aid and humanitarian purposes to the needy countries.
- A new methodology should be devised to calculate the subsidies by either accounting for excessive inflation in the External Reference Price (ERP) or calculating the ERP based on the last five years excluding the highest and the lowest entry for that product.
- ERP is the average price based on the base years 1986-88 and has not been revised for decades.
- Amend the anti-circumvention clause in the Bali Ministerial Declaration of 2013 as per which developing countries who procure food stocks for security do not distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other Members.
WTO laws: What is happening at present?
- At present, there is a peace clause which protects them from legal disputes if the subsidies breach the de minimis level (10% of the total value of production of the product) but is subject to conditions such as anti-circumvention.