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Insights Daily Current Events, 04 April 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 04 April 2016

Paper 2 Topic: important international organizations.

Highlights of the 4th NSS

The fourth NSS, the last in its current format, ended with leaders from more than 50 countries and four international organisations stating in a joint communiqué that “more work remains to be done to prevent non-state actors from obtaining nuclear and other radioactive materials, which could be used for malicious purposes.”

  • The two-day summit was aimed at getting political leaderships directly involved in dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism.

What’s expected ahead?

  • India and Pakistan need to make progress in reducing their nuclear arsenal and ensure they do not continually move in the wrong direction while developing military doctrines.
  • To reduce the global nuclear arsenal it is necessary for the U.S. and Russia, the two largest possessors of nuclear weapons, to lead the way.
  • The Islamic State (IS) terror group obtaining a nuclear weapon was one of the greatest threats to global security. World leaders should work together to prevent such spread.

What has India done in this regard?

India has taken multiple measures to prevent terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons.

  • India has set up a permanent team of technical and security experts from multiple ministries and agencies that conducts tabletop exercises simulating nuclear smuggling, phased out the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and built a database of all radioactive sources in the country.
  • It has also started real-time tracking of radioactive sources when they are transported and set up a network of 23 emergency response centres across the country for detecting and responding to any nuclear or radiological emergency.
  • India is also in the process of equipping all major seaports and airports of the country with radiation detection machines.
  • While nuclear security is a serious domestic concern, India also used the platform to push its desire for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the exclusive club that controls global nuclear trade.
  • India’s export controls list and guidelines have been harmonised with those of the NSG, and India looks forward to strengthening its contribution to shared non-proliferation objectives through membership of the export controls regimes.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

FCRA tweaked to boost CSR spend

The government has proposed an amendment with retrospective effect that will allow political parties to accept donations from overseas companies whose ownership of Indian entities is within the foreign investment limits prescribed for the sector.

  • The amendments were proposed by the Finance Minister in the Finance Bill as part of the Union Budget of 2016-17. The amendment is retrospective and will come into effect from 2010, when the FCRA was introduced.

Background:

Until now, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, or FCRA, banned political parties from receiving funds from any foreign source. The original law defines “foreign source” to include any company with foreign investment of above 50%.

About the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA): Quick look

The Ministry of Home Affairs is mandated to administer the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, for regulating the receipt and utilization of foreign contribution by the associations/NGOs.

  • Expeditious action is taken as and when adverse inputs of violations of provisions of the Act are received against any association. The NGOs/Civil Societies registered/given Prior Permission under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 are required to follow the provisions of Act, Rules and instructions issued in this regard from time to time.
  • The Government receives inputs from various security agencies, including Intelligence Bureau, from time to time, about the violations of FCRA, however, action is initiated against the alleged violators only after due scrutiny and following due process as prescribed in the said Act.
  • If any NGOs/Civil Societies violate any of the provisions of the Act and Rules, then only, action is initiated as per provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. Actions include compounding of offence, putting in prior reference category, suspensions of registration, freezing of accounts, cancellation of registration, prosecution etc.

The following persons are prohibited from accepting foreign contribution :

  • Candidate for election.
  • Correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publisher of a registered newspaper.
  • Judge, government servant or employee of any entity controlled or owned by the government.
  • Member of any Legislature.
  • Political party or its office bearers.
  • Organisations of a political nature as may be specified.
  • Associations or company engaged in the production or broadcast of audio news or audiovisual news or current affairs programmes through any electronic mode or form or any other mode of mass communication.

However, foreign contribution can be accepted by the above-mentioned persons in the following specific situation:

  • By way of remuneration for himself or for any group of persons working under him.
  • By way of payment in the ordinary course of business transacted in or outside India or in the course of international trade or commerce.
  • As agent of a foreign source in relation to any transaction made by such foreign source with the Central or State Government.
  • By way of gift or presentation as a member of any Indian delegation. However, the gift or present should be accepted in accordance with the rules made by the Central Government.
  • From his relative.
  • By way of any scholarship, stipend or any payment of like nature.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: space.

Planet with triple-star system found

A team of researchers working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has announced the finding of a triple-star system—one that also as has a stable orbit planet in it.

  • Known planets with three stars appearing in their sky are rare and this new discovery is just the fourth.

Details:

  • The objects under study in the new system are KELT-4Ab, a gas giant planet, similar in size to Jupiter—it takes approximately three days to make its way around the star KELT-A, which serves as its sun.
  • The other two stars, named KELT-B and C, are much farther away and orbit one another over the course of approximately 30 years.
  • Scientists found that the main star was brighter than the other stars that serve as suns for their planets.
  • It takes the pair approximately four thousand years to orbit KELT-A.
  • The triple-star system offers a unique opportunity for scientists working to try to understand how it is that gas giants, such as KELT-4Ab, manage to orbit so close to their star.

Background:

Space scientists have known of the existence of the KELT system for several years, but it was thought that the binary stars were actually just one star.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Ballast water bringing invasive species to coasts

Scientists fear that the expansion of seaports and minor ports could pave the way for the arrival of invasive species in coastal areas. It is because the ballast water carried by ships is providing a vehicle to bring in exotic species.

Background:

A recent survey by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, had recorded the presence of as many as 10 invasive species in the biodiversity-rich intertidal habitats of the Kerala coast. They include one seaweed, one species of bryozoan, one species of mollusc and seven species of ascidian. It was assumed that the distribution of invasive species reported from the Kerala coast was likely to have been assisted by shipping. The survey argues that the expansion of ports in Kerala has opened ways for the introduction of alien species in marine and coastal areas.

The survey also recorded the presence of a sea slug called Winged Thecacera ( Thecacera Pennigera ) in the southwest coast of India. Originally reported from the Atlantic coast of Europe, the presence of sea slug is currently reported from South Africa, West Africa, Pakistan, Japan, Brazil, eastern Australia and New Zealand.

What is Ballast?

Ballast is a compartment in a ship that provides it stability. It holds water which moves in and out of it to balance the ship. It remains below the water level, to counteract the weight above the water level.

Concerns:

  • Ballast water is one of the biggest transporters of non-native marine species. Studies done by experts have indicated that over 10,000 marine species are being transported across the world in ballast water carried by ocean-going vessels for stability and safety.
  • Ballast water is discharged when the ship enters a new port, releasing alien organisms into the local waters.
  • The colossal loads of ballast water carried by ships could transport fish, viruses, bacteria, algae, zooplankton and benthonic invertebrates to harbours at a faster pace.
  • Very few of the invasive species establish a beachhead in their newfound homes, but those that do have the potential to wreak havoc on the ecosystem by preying on local species or competing with them for food and habitat space.
  • Ballast water is also considered a vehicle for toxic algae causing red tides and harmful algal blooms.

Ballast Water Management Convention:

The Ballast Water Management Convention, adopted in 2004, aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another, by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships’ ballast water and sediments.

  • Under the Convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan.
  • All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate.
  • The Convention will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period.
  • Parties to the Convention are given the option to take additional measures which are subject to criteria set out in the Convention and to IMO guidelines.

India’s Union Cabinet has already approved accession to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (Ballast Water Management Convention) of International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

NHRC notice on ‘go-slow’ promise

The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the commerce and health ministries over reports that India has reassured the US-India Business Council to take a restrained approach in handing out licences to produce cheaper versions of drugs patented with the American firms.

  • Taking cognisance of the issue through media reports, the commission has observed that the step will deny the people of India access to generic medicines at affordable prices.

Background:

The NHRC notice comes after reports that came in March that the United States-India Business Council (USIBC) had been verbally assured that India’s patent offices would take a restrained approach in handing out licences to produce cheaper, generic versions of drugs patented by American companies. It had also been reported that at least two applications for CLs to domestically produce generic versions of drugs patented in the U.S. were rejected in India last year.

  • The USTR has placed India on its “priority watch list” for two years now, saying its patent laws favour the local drug industry in an unfair manner.

Way ahead:

The Commission has sought reports within two weeks from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as well as of Health. In the notice, the NHRC states that the reported verbal assurances raise questions on issues that impinge on the right to health of citizens in India.

  • The notice points out that if the government, by invoking the provisions of the Indian Patents Act, grants CLs to manufacture particular drugs, that would increase access to affordable generic versions of the same drugs, bringing solace to thousands.
  • The commission has also observed that providing an affordable healthcare system is a basic and bounden duty of any government.

All about Compulsory licenses:

Compulsory licenses are generally defined as “authorizations permitting a third party to make, use, or sell a patented invention without the patent owner’s consent.”

  • Under Indian Patent Act, 1970, the provision with regard to compulsory licensing is specifically given under Chapter XVI. The conditions which need to be fulfilled in order for a compulsory licence to be granted are also laid down under Sections 84 and 92 of the Act.
  • Under Section 84 (1) of the Indian Patent Act, any person may request a compulsory license if, after three years from the date of the grant of a patent, the needs of the public to be covered by the invention have not been satisfied; the invention is not available to the public at an affordable price; or the patented invention is not “worked in,” or manufactured in the country, to the fullest extent possible.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims from “The Hindu”:

  1. Among the larger States, Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest growth in enterprises and employment generation over the past decade, according to data from the Sixth Economic Census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  2. The Central government is planning to begin consultations with states to frame an Act to prevent the misuse of fresh water, a rapidly diminishing resource in India. Water is a state subject.
  3. The Bihar government has banned country-made and spiced liquor, which had high consumption in rural areas. It has also banned the sale of ‘toddy’ in the state.