IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 14 June 2019

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Netanyahu thanks Modi for vote against Palestinian group

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for voting in favour of a decision introduced by the Jewish state that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian group at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

More in news:

  • In a rare move, India voted in favour of Israel in ECOSOC to deny the Palestinian non-governmental organisation ‘Shahed’ the observer status, after Israel said the organisation did not disclose its ties with Hamas.
  • It is the first time that India has voted on a resolution at the UN that is being perceived as pro-Israel.
  • India’s position on the Middle East Peace Process has been consistent. India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and relevant UNSC Resolutions.
  • The ECOSOC vote, which took place at the UN, saw countries such as the U.S., France, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K., South Korea and Canada polling in favour of Israel, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others voted against it.
  • The proposal made by the Palestinian NGO ‘Shahed’ to obtain observer status in the UN was rejected by a 28-14 vote.
  • Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has been described as a terrorist organisation by many European countries.
 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC):

 ·         It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic and social fields of the organisation, specifically in regards to the 15 specialised agencies, the eight functional commissions and the five regional commissions under its jurisdiction.

·         The Council serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system.

·         A number of non-governmental organisations have been granted consultative status to the Council to participate in the work of the United Nations.

·         It holds one four-week session each year in July, and since 1998, it has also held an annual meeting in April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Modi, Xi meet in Bishkek, agree to speed up boundary talks

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping agreed to expedite the dialogue on the India-China boundary issue for securing a “fair” solution.

More in news:

  • The two leaders met in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, where they will participate in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • The two leaders discussed the status of the bilateral relationship since the Wuhan summit of April 2018, which came in the backdrop of tension following the 73-day Doklam standoff. The attention on the border issue acquires significance as the Chinese President is expected to visit India later this year for a summit with Mr. Modi.
  • The last round of talks were held in November last, when Ajit Doval of India and Wang Yi of China met in Chengdu for the 21st round of talks between the Special Representatives.

What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests

Topic: GS –II: International relations

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Formerly the Sanghai Five and formed in 1996, the SCO has eight members today including India and Pakistan, which became part of it in 2017.

What kind of a grouping is the SCO?

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up. The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
  • Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority: The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra. Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.

Under what circumstances did India enter the SCO?

  • While Central Asian countries and China were not in favour of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia. A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion. From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO. China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.
  • New Delhi expressed its serious interest to join the grouping in 2009. Months after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Asif Ali Zardari had their first meeting in Ekaterinberg in Russia in June 2009. The occasion was the annual summit of the SCO, where both India and Pakistan were “observers”.
  • It was the first time India had shown an interest in joining the SCO. Ten years of efforts, pushed by then Joint Secretary (Eurasia) Ajay Bisaria, who is currently India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, fructified in June 2017, when the SCO inducted both India and Pakistan in Astana in Kazakhstan.

How does membership of the SCO help India?

  • For India, two important objectives are counter-terrorism and connectivity. These sit well with the SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils”. India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS). A stable Afghanistan too is in India’s interest, and RATS provides access to non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information there.
  • Connectivity is important for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Energy cooperation dominates its interest – and it’s in China’s neighbourhood. But India will also have to deal with an assertive China, which will push its Belt and Road Initiative during the summit.
  • SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.

How does global geopolitics play out for SCO and India?

  • The US’ power struggle with China, exit from the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA (affects India’s oil imports from Iran), and adversarial attitude towards Russia (affects India’s defence purchase like S-400) have forced India to choose sides. While Washington’s stance against Islamabad after the Pulwama attack was evidence of its support to New Delhi, India has had a strained relationship with China after the Doklam stand-off, followed by attempts to reset relations in Wuhan.
  • In the SCO, India’s sitting down with less-than-free regimes, Russia and China has always had the West worried. India, however, has always been tactful in not aligning with these countries on governance issues. What draws India to SCO is the “Shanghai spirit”, which emphasises harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment. The bottomline is that it helps India keep all options open in terms of international partnerships.

How does it play out in the India-Pakistan or India-China relationship?

  • In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines.
  • Both sides have the obligation not to bring in bilateral disputes, but can cooperate on issues of mutual interest and importance. Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries. With China, it is yet another opening, like the BRICS summit last year, to bring down tensions, and ahead of the next informal summit in October in India.

Acute encephalitis syndrome

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice   Health

Bihar has recorded 188 cases of acute encephalitis syndrome, with 45 deaths, since January. All casualties are children, the maximum in Muzaffarpur— 43 recorded in June.

  • AES outbreaks in Muzaffarpur have been reported since 1995. The cause of death in most this year has been attributed to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).

What is acute encephalitis syndrome (AES)?

  • AES affects central nervous system, mostly in children and young adults. It starts with high fever, then hampers neurological functions causing mental disorientation, seizure, confusion, delirium, and coma. The disease outbreak is usually reported during monsoons (June-October). But the incidence is also reported during April-June in Bihar.

What causes AES?

  • This syndrome is very complex. It can be caused by virus, bacteria, fungi, and a range of agents.
  • Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is the most common cause of AES in India, with union health ministry estimate attributing 5-35 per cent cases due to JE. But the syndrome is also caused by scrub typhus, dengue, mumps, measles, even Nipah or Zika virus. In several cases though the cause of AES remains clinically unidentified.

Status of AES in India

  • According to National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme (NVBDCP), 10,485 AES cases were diagnosed in 2018 with 632 deaths across 17 states. India records fatality rate at 6 per cent in AES, but the fatality rises to 25 per cent amongst children. Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Tripura are worst affected.

Relation between hypoglycaemia, children and AES

  • Bihar government officials claim AES is a syndrome not disease, and cause of death in these children was found to be prolonged hypoglycaemia that witnessed delayed treatment.
  • In 2014 research paper titled ‘Epidemiology of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in India: Changing Paradigm and Implication for Control’, coauthored by six researchers, a parallel was drawn between Muzaffarpur and Vietnam’s Bac Giang province where undernourished children were suffering from AES and hypoglycaemia that coincided with litchi orchards in neighbourhood. “The possible association with some toxin in litchi or in environment need to be documented. Methylene cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG) which has been known to be a content of litchi fruit has been shown to cause hypoglycaemia in experimental animals,” the study stated.
  • Several children in Muzaffarpur who suffer from AES before 2014 have a history of visit to litchi orchards, the study found. The impact is worse on undernourished children who remain hungry for several hours.

Contrary theories

  • Bihar state surveillance officer, says that if toxins from Litchi were affecting children, then the AES cases should remain consistent each year and affect children of all socio-economic strata. This year’s deaths have all been recorded in lower income groups. Last year we had very few cases, mortality was less. We believe there is some correlation between high temperature and AES. Last year hot days were followed by rain showers. This year, the heat has been prolonged with no spells of rain.
  • Government data shows, at least 98 per cent of children with AES getting hospitalised also suffer from hypoglycaemia. Maximum children affected fall under 0-2 age bracket.

India will have its own space station

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said that that India plans to have its own space station, and the modalities for it will be worked out after the first manned mission, Gaganyaan, scheduled for August 2022

  • It proposed space station would weigh around 20 tonnes and serve as a facility where astronauts could stay for 15-20 days, and would be placed in an orbit 400 km above earth.
  • The time frame for launch would be 5-7 years after Gaganyaan.

Launch the Gaganyaan

  • A Gaganyaan National Advisory Council has been created with members from different institutions and industries. Selection of two to three crew members would be done in six months. The initial phase of training would be in India and the advanced stage would be done abroad as the project was on a short timeline.
  • A GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle will be used to launch the Gaganyaan. Prior to that, two unmanned missions would be undertaken, one in December next year and the second, six months after that.
  • The Gagayaan mission aims to send a two or three member crew to space for a period of seven days. The spacecraft would be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km.

Centre reduces contribution rate for ESI

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Starting July 1, both employer’s and employee’s contribution under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, which gives insured workers medical benefits among other facilities, would be reduced.

More in news:

  • The total contribution towards ESI was reduced from 6.5% of an employee’s wages to 4%, with the employer’s share cut to 3.25%, from 4.75%, and the employee’s contribution lowered to 0.75% of wages, from 1.75%.
  • the government said that the financial liability on employers would also be reduced, leading to improved viability of the establishments, increased ease of doing business and likely improved compliance with the Act.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has finally announced the date of its much-awaited Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon. The mission will be launched on July 15, and its lander and rover will touch down on the moon’s surface either on September 5 or 6.

  • The Chandrayaan-2 mission has taken a long way coming, considering that its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, an Orbiter mission, had been sent way back in 2008. According to the original schedule, Chandrayaan-2 was to be launched in 2012 itself, but at that time it was supposed to be a collaborative mission with the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, which was to provide the lander module. The Russians, however, withdrew from the missions after their similarly-designed lander for another mission developed problems in 2011. That left ISRO to design, develop and build the lander on its own, something it has not done earlier, which has led to considerable delay from the original schedule.

A sequel to Chandrayaan-1

  • The Chandrayaan-1 mission, which was launched in October 2008, was ISRO’s first exploratory mission to the moon, in fact to any heavenly body in the space. That mission was designed to just orbit around the moon and make observations with the help of the instruments on board. The closest that Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft came to the moon was in an orbit 100 km from its surface.
  • For largely symbolic reasons, though, the Chandrayaan-1 mission did make one of its instruments, called Moon Impact Probe, or MIP, a 35-kg cube-shaped module with the Indian tricolour on all its sides, to crash-land on the moon’s surface. But that did not, apparently, just leave an Indian imprint on the moon’s surface. ISRO claims that while on its way, MIP had sent data that showed evidence for the presence of water on the moon.
  • Chandrayaan-2 is a logical progression on Chandrayaan-1. It is a more sophisticated mission designed to pack in a whole lot of science.

India’s first lander mission

  • Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would once again watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on moon’s surface.
  • ISRO has named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
  • Once on the moon, the rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself from the lander, and would slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data. It will be equipped with two instruments, and its primary objective would be to study the composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and determine its abundance of different elements.
  • The 1471-kg lander, which will remain stationary after touching down, will carry three instruments that will mainly study the moon’s atmosphere. One of the instruments will also look out for seismic activity on lunar surface.
  • While the lander and rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year. It is equipped with different kinds of cameras to take high-resolution three-dimensional maps of the surface. It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on the moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.

Chandrayaan-2 to enter uncharted territory

  • With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon. So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, on the moon have been in areas close to its equator. That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight that is required by the solar-powered instruments to function.
  • Earlier this year, in January, China landed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon, the side that is not facing the earth. This was the first time that any landing had taken place on that side. The Chinese mission, Chang’e 4, was designed to function for three lunar days (three periods of two-weeks on Earth, interspersed with similar two-week periods which is lunar night), but has outlived its mission life and entered its fifth lunar night.
  • Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the South Pole of the moon. It is a completely unexplored territory and therefore offers great scientific opportunity for the mission to see and discover something new. Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from the Chandrayaan-1 mission had also happened in the same region.
  • The south pole of the moon holds the possibility of the presence of water, and this is one aspect that would be probed meticulously by Chandrayaan-2. In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of moon, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.

50 years after first human landed on moon

  • The Chandrayaan-2 mission comes very close to the 50th year of the first human landing on moon, which happened on July 20, 1969. There has been a renewed interest in sending humans to moon all over again, with the United States already having announced its intention to launch a manned mission to the moon soon.
  • India has announced that it will launch its first human space mission, Gaganyaan, before the year 2022. A human mission to the moon could be the next logical step forward, though no one is talking about it as yet. A successful Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan would, however, no doubt set the stage for the human mission to the moon.

News in brief:

  Harvard MBA indicator

  • This refers to a stock market indicator that gauges the future performance of the stock market based on the employment choices of Harvard MBAs.
  • When more than 30% of MBAs graduating from Harvard Business School choose to work in jobs in the financial sector, such as in investment banking and private equity, it is a strong signal to sell stocks.
  • On the other hand, if less than 10% of Harvard MBAs pick jobs in the financial sector, it is a strong signal to buy stocks.
  • The indicator thus uses the number of Harvard Business School graduates choosing to work in the financial sector after graduation as an indicator of the popularity of stocks among investors.

Editorial section:

Democracy can die in daylight too – The Hindu

Faint glimmer- The Hindu

Liberals need to think again- The Hindu

City on edge- The Hindu




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