IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 21 May 2019

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India, Pakistan to attend SCO meet

Topic: GS –II: International relations

For the first time since the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrikes, Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers will together attend a ministerial meeting under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, on May 21-22.

More in news:

  • The meeting will be attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, along with the Foreign Ministers of SCO member states, including Pakistan.
  • At the meeting in Bishkek, Ms. Swaraj is expected to take up cross-border terror attacks from Pakistan and India’s response to it, including the Balakot airstrikes.
  • This is also the first meeting since India successfully ensured a global blacklisting of Jaish-e-Mohammed head Masood Azhar. India had blamed JeM for being behind the Pulwama attack.
  • The meeting is expected to discuss the latest attack by the Islamic State in Sri Lanka, which claimed at least 253 lives and injured hundreds.
  • The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO has emerged in the last few years as an important platform, where terrorism and security-related problems are discussed among member countries. India and Pakistan have participated in the multilateral military exercises.
  • The meeting acquires significance as it comes in the backdrop of an expanding U.S.-China trade war and the energy shock to several of the member countries after the U.S. administration ended waiver for energy trade with Iran.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs said in an official press release that the Foreign Minister-level meeting would review preparation for the forthcoming SCO summit in Bishkek on June 13-14.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization

 It is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter, formally establishing the organisation, was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.

  • The original five nations, with the exclusion of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996.
  • Since then, the organisation has expanded its membership to eight countries when India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
  • Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.
  • The SCO is widely regarded as the “alliance of the East“, due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific, and has been the primary security pillar of the region.It is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.

RATS Council

  • The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent organ which serves to promote cooperation of member states against three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
  • RATS established in June 2004 is engaged in furthering cooperation and ties between member countries on concerns of terrorism, security, drug trafficking, crime and cyber warfare.

Google has suspended business with Huawei

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Google is suspending some business with Huawei, and this could impact the future of Android on smartphones made by the Chinese company and its sub-brand, Honor. Neither Google nor Huawei has issued a detailed official statement.

What has Google done?

  • Google has suspended business that “requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services” with Huawei. Everything is impacted, except features available via open source licencing. In effect, Google has cancelled Huawei’s Android licence.
  • Google acted after the Donald Trump administration added Huawei to a trade blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with blacklisted companies without “explicit approval” from the government.

What happens to people who have Huawei phones?

  • Unless Huawei is taken off the “Entity List”, there is a good chance its phones will not be able to run Android’s proprietary services and apps like Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome in the future.
  • While Android will continue to work for now, it is unclear what happens next — including whether existing Huawei phones will ever get an Android update again. Android has monthly security updates and yearly operating system updates.
  • Huawei can still use Android from the Android Open Source Project, but proprietary services cannot be accessed without a commercial licence from Google. Future Huawei phones may not come with Google and Android services.
  • Google’s Android account tweeted: “For Huawei users’ questions regarding our steps to comply with the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US govt requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”
  • But again, Play Store and Play Protect are proprietary services, and Google has not said what will happen in the future.
  • Access to Play Store is an important part of the Android experience, and is crucial for Huawei in markets outside China. In China, Google and its services are banned, so Huawei phones there are unlikely to be impacted.

How will Huawei be impacted?

  • In the first quarter of 2019, Huawei became the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. According to numbers from research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), Huawei is ahead of Apple, behind only Samsung in the list of smartphone vendors.
  • Globally it will have a major impact since almost half of its (Huawei’s) business comes from outside China, especially from the many markets in Europe.
  • In India, they have never been able to scale up to be a major player. Huawei and Honor together have around 4.5% of the market share in India. But this does put a spanner in Huawei’s possible aggressive plans for India as the growth market in the next 2-3 years outside of China.

India cuts off UN panel after J&K report

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Reacting angrily to a submission from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) on the alleged violations in Jammu and Kashmir, India has informed the United Nations body that it will no longer entertain any communication with the HRC’s Special Rapporteurs on its report.

More in news:

  • The report from the UN body came at the same time a report from two NGOs in the State on the alleged cases of torture was released in Srinagar, which was endorsed by a former UN Special Rapporteur.

Queries on action taken

  • The current Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions, Torture, and Right to Health — Agnes Callamard, Dainius Puras and Nils Melzer — had referred to a June 2018 report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and written to the government in March 2019, asking about steps taken by New Delhi to address the alleged human rights violations listed in the report.
  • In addition, the Special Rapporteurs had listed “13 cases of concern” from 2018 alone, in which “four children were among eight civilians killed by members of the security forces.”
  • Rejecting all the claims, the Indian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva replied to the OHCHR on April 23, saying that “India does not intend to engage further with these mandate-holders or any other mandate-holders on the issue,” whom it accused of “individual prejudice”.
  • India had also rejected the OHCHR’s report on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir’ the first-ever such report on Jammu and Kashmir that came out in June 2018 and accused the High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of “clear bias” in bringing it out.
  • However, UN officials say that India is already in contravention of several Conventions it has committed to, including a “Standing Invitation” signed in 2011 to all special rapporteurs to visit India. According to the UN records, more than 20 such visit requests, including to Jammu and Kashmir, are pending at present. UN sources also said that between 2016-2018, the OHCHR Special Rapporteurs had sent as many as 58 communications, and had received no response other than the April 23 letter on Jammu and Kashmir.

Report from NGOs

  • The UN submission on Jammu and Kashmir coincided with the release of an extensive 560-page report, prepared by the J&K based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).
  • The report, entitled ‘Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control in J&K’, documented 432 cases of suspected human rights violations and brutality by security forces of which only 27 had been investigated by the State Human Rights Commission.
  • The report claimed that nearly “70% of torture victims in Jammu and Kashmir were civilians (not militants) and 11% died during or as a result of torture”. The cases included incidents of electrocution, ‘water-boarding’ and sexual torture, which the government has repeatedly denied.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

·         It is commonly known as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

·         It is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

·         The office was established by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993 in the wake of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.

The office is headed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who co-ordinates human rights activities throughout the UN System and acts as the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The current High Commissioner is Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who succeeded Zeid Raad Al Hussein of Jordan on 1 September 2018.

Gujarat will supply treated waste water for industrial use

Topic: GS-III: Environment

Shortage of water is an annual story in Gujarat, with limited sources of fresh water and rising demand. Every year, the State faces water shortage, particularly for drinking water in far-flung areas in Saurashtra and north Gujarat, both drought-prone regions in the State.

In the current year, more than 750 villages are being supplied water through tankers due to non-availability of local sources, as most of the dams and reservoirs have gone dry, due to deficit rainfall in the last monsoon.

Detailed plan

  • Now, the State government has come up with a detailed plan to address the water shortage by limiting the supply of fresh water only for drinking and irrigation purposes, while the growing demand of industries will be met through treated waste water, which will be supplied by State.
  • In the next 3-4 years, more than 80% of the water requirement of industries will be met through the supply of treated waste water (TWW), which will be supplied from Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) thus industry will get only treated water in order to reserve fresh ground water for drinking and irrigation.
  • By treating waste water that’s generated in sewage and supplying it for industrial consumption, we will also resolve the issue of pollution in cities and towns.

How the kilogram has changed, why your body mass has not

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

The kilogram is no longer what it used to be. It still means the same amount of mass as before, but the way it is defined changed across the world on World Metrology Day.

  • In India, schools and technical institutes have been advised to incorporate the change in their syllabi. The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), custodian of the fundamental units of measurement, has sent recommendations to the NCERT, the All India Council for Technical Education, the IITs, the NITs, and other institutions.

Why the change?

  • The global standards for measurement are set by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), of which India became a member in 1957.
  • At BIPM in Sèvres, near Paris, stands a cylinder of platinum-iridium locked in a jar. Since 1889, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of this cylinder, called Le Grand K, or International Prototype Kilogram (IPK).
  • In India, NPL maintains the National Prototype Kilogram (NPK-57), which is calibrated with IPK.
  • The IPK was the last physical artifact used to define any of the fundamental units. IPK would put on a little extra mass when tiny dust particles settled on it; when cleaned, it would shed some of its original mass.Scientists have long stressed that the fundamental units should be defined in terms of natural constants.
  • On November 16, 2018, following a vote at BIPM, representatives of 60 countries agreed that the kilogram should be defined in terms of the Planck constant. The Planck constant is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  • Using a machine called a Kibble balance, in which the weight of a test mass is offset by an electromagnetic force, the value of the Planck constant was fixed, the kilogram was redefined, and the date for the new definition was fixed for May 20, 2019.

 

What does not change?

  • What was 1 kg earlier is still 1 kg today. A person hoping to lose weight would still need to shed the same number of kilos she had targeted earlier, and a shopper would not be paying any more or less for their groceries.
  • All that has changed is the definition, for the sake of accuracy. A mass measured as 1 kg earlier would have meant 1 kg, plus or minus 15-20 micrograms. Using the new definition, a mass measured as 1 kg will mean “1 kg, plus or minus 1 or 2 nanograms”.

Measure for measure

  • The new definition for kilogram fits in with the modern definitions for the units of time (second) and distance (metre). Today, the second is defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133. Once the second was defined, the metre fell into place. By its modern definition, a metre is the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).
  • Along with the units of time and distance, the unit of luminous intensity (candela) is already defined in terms of a natural constant. Along with the kilogram, the units of current (ampere), temperature (kelvin), and amount of substance (mole) too took on new definitions. That covers all seven fundamental units.
  • The modern definition of the second has already helped ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the Internet. Scientists have often been quoted as saying the change in the kilogram’s definition will be better for technology, retail and health.

News in brief:

Voter apathy

  • Voter apathy is perceived apathy among those eligible to vote in an election.
  • This can happen when voters are disillusioned with the electoral process, political parties and candidates, or when they don’t think their vote will count, or when they don’t care much for the issues around them.
  • In India, voter turnouts have been going up in the past decade largely due to the Election Commission’s efforts to enhance voter participation in the country, the media’s efforts to raise public interest in elections, and an increase in the number of women coming out to vote.

Editorial Section : 

Eye on the monsoon – The Hindu

Yemen’s woes – The Hindu

Moral ambiguity on the Rohingya – The Hindu

The purpose of art – The Hindu

 

 

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