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Detailed News Articles: 03 May 2019

1. Analysis: Did China abandon its ‘all-weather friend’?

After years of resistance to listing Masood Azhar, founder of Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a global terrorist, China has finally changed it position. Masood Azhar is now listed as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee imposing on him, a travel ban, arms embargo and asset freeze.

Details:

  • Earlier attempts to add Azhar to the United Nations blacklist, under the 1267 Committee, failed as Beijing put a hold on the process, saying the issue should be resolved through consultations.
  • After the February 14 Pulwama attack, which killed at least 40 Indian security personnel, France, the United Kingdom and the United States co-sponsored a new listing application, which was also blocked by China.

Why was China blocking the listing application?

  • The main reason for China’s opposition to Azhar’s terror designation was the Pakistan factor.
  • Islamabad has robust economic and strategic ties with Beijing.
  • China is also investing billions of dollars in Pakistan to build an ambitious economic corridor, connecting Kashgar in western China to Pakistan’s Gwadar, a port city on the Arabian Sea.

Why did China change its position now?

  • Both India and China have manifested their desire to deepen bilateral ties despite the structural problems they face.
  • Prime Minister of India went to Wuhan in April last year for an informal summit with Chinese President even when bilateral ties were not at their best.
  • The shadows of the Doklam stand-off between India-China armies and Beijing’s repeated hold on Azhar as well as its opposition to India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership continued to impinge on bilateral ties. Still India preferred to stay engaged with China as the Wuhan summit suggested.
  • Beijing had shown in recent past that it is ready to do business with New Delhi even overlooking Islamabad’s sensitivities.
  • Last year, it dropped its opposition to adding Pakistan to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list, which allowed the listing to go through smoothly.
  • The Azhar issue has cast shadows on China’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Besides, JeM’s role in multiple terrorist attacks in India has been well established.
  • China’s continued hold on his listing had weakened internationally its position against terror.
  • Additionally, the “deradicalisation” camps for Uyghur Muslims it is running in Xinjiang had triggered international criticisms, particularly from the U.S.
  • If the resolution was put to vote, China would have been left with an awkward choice — either to back it or use its precious veto power, further isolating itself among global peers. This appeared to have put China in a fix.
  • However, China didn’t have to completely abandon Pakistan, its “all-weather friend”. The original listing application, which France, the U.K., and the U.S. had moved had a reference to the Pulwama terror attack. But that reference was removed from the application that went through – apparently at China’s insistence.
  • This is in line with Pakistan’s Kashmir narrative that terror activities in the Valley are an indigenous uprising, and not controlled by any foreign player.

Conclusion:

The official listing talks about Azhar’s ties with Jaish and al-Qaeda, but has no reference to his role in Kashmir violence. This was the compromise that India and its allies at the UNSC had to make to get Azhar listed. It allowed India to clinch a diplomatic victory, while China can say it changed its position not under any pressure but based on the “revised” listing request, and Pakistan can claim that the listing went through after “all the political references” were removed.

2. Rahul Gandhi citizenship: Supreme Court agrees to hear plea for directive to ECI to debar him from polls

A petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to debar the Congress president Rahul Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha election till the issue of Citizenship is decided.

Details:

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea to direct the Election Commission of India (ECI) to debar Congress president Rahul Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha polls and “becoming a Member of Parliament” after he had “voluntarily acquired British nationality.”
  • In a recent letter to Gandhi, the Home Ministry had said it has received a representation in which it has been brought out that a company named Backops Limited was registered in the United Kingdom in 2003 with Rahul Gandhi as one of its directors, where he has declared his nationality as British.
  • The petition wanted a declaration that Mr. Gandhi “is not an Indian citizen and he is incompetent to contest as per the provisions of the Constitution read with the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”

Qualifications and Disqualifications to contest in Lok Sabha Elections:

  • Article 84 (a) of the Constitution of India envisages that a person shall not be qualified to be chosen to fill up a seat in the Parliament unless he is a citizen of India.
  • The minimum age for becoming a candidate for Lok Sabha election shall be 25 years.
  • For contesting an election as a candidate a person must be registered as a voter. Representation People Act, 1951 precludes a person from contesting unless he is an elector in any parliamentary constituency.
  • If a candidate is registered as a voter in Delhi, he/she can contest an election to Lok Sabha from any constituency in the country except Assam, Lakshadweep and Sikkim, as per the R. P. Act, 1951.
  • The candidate must be mentally sound, should not be bankrupt and should not be criminally convicted.
  • If a person is convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment of 2 years or more, this will be disqualification to contest elections.
  • Even if is a person is on bail, after the conviction and his appeal is pending for disposal, he is disqualified from contesting an election as per the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India.

3. Cyclone Fani: Odisha evacuates over 11 lakh

Image result for Cyclone Fani

Land of Cyclones:

  • As many as 26 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones ¡n history have been Bay of Bengal storms.
  • Bangladesh has seen the most casualties, accounting for over 40% of the world’s tropical cyclone-associated deaths in the past two centuries (India accounts for a quarter of the deaths).
  • In India, Odisha has seen most number of cyclones (98 between 1891 and 2002) but Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have had the most casualties in recent times.

Why the East Coast?

  • More cyclones are formed in the Bay of Bengal than Arabian Sea due to wind patterns (that keep oceans cooler on the western side).
  • Even among those formed along the western coast, many move towards Oman instead of hitting Indian shores.
  • Storms formed on the eastern coast, however, are more intense and since states on that side have relatively flatter topography compared to the western coast they can’t deflect the winds.

Strength of Cyclones:

Cyclones are classified based on the wind speed around the low-pressure area.

  • Wind speed of over 62 kmph is classified as a tropical cyclone and assigned a name.
  • It becomes a severe cyclonic storm if the speed is between 89 and 118 kmph.
  • A very severe cyclonic storm if the speed is between 119 and 221 kmph.
  • Those with higher speeds are categorised as super cyclonic storms.

Precautions taken:

  • The administration has made people in coastal areas aware of the risks, through loudspeakers, sirens and messages.
  • National Disaster Response Force teams and Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force have been
  • Teams of Flight operations from the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar have been suspended.
  • Educational institutions in the coastal districts have been closed till further orders.
  • As many as 25 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) along with State fire service personnel have been deployed in the coastal districts.
  • The Defence forces were on high alert to meet any eventuality.
  • The Kolkata Port Trust has suspended shipping to the port.
  • The Navy has put ships on stand by and deployed medical and relief teams to respond to any contingencies once cyclonic storm Fani hits Coast.
  • INS Sahyadri, Ranvir and Kadmatt with relief material and medical teams embarked have been deployed and are maintaining south of the cyclonic storm to be the first responder and commence rescue operation as soon as the cyclone crosses coast.

4. The Microbots Are on Their Way

Microbots – the robots that are the size of a speck of dust are being developed.

A microbot alongside a paramecium. Researchers envision using the tiny crawlers to measure signals in the brain.

Details:

  • Thousands fit side-by-side on a single silicon wafer similar to those used for computer chips.
  • They can pull themselves free and start crawling.
  • The new robots take advantage of the same basic technology as computer chips.
  • The microbots are powered by shining lasers on tiny solar panels on their back.
  • The robots run on a fraction of a volt and consume only 10 billionths of a watt

Uses:

  • The super-small robots can be controlled by shining light on it, and that could have all sorts of interesting applications.
  • They could crawl into cellphone batteries and clean and rejuvenate them.
  • They might be a boon to neural scientists, burrowing into the brain to measure nerve signals.
  • Millions of them in a petri dish could be used to test ideas in networking and communications.

Challenges remain as, for robots that are injected into the brain; lasers would not work as the power source.

5. The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation

  • India is in the middle of a historical election which is noteworthy in many respects.
  • One among the many noteworthy points is the unprecedented focus on women’s employment.
  • As a matter of fact, the major national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, have reached out to women, and their respective manifestos talk of measures to create more livelihood opportunities in rural and urban areas, which include incentives to businesses for employing more women.

What does the data show?

  • Currently, the participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally.
  • The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-2012 to 23.3% in 2017-2018.
  • This decline has been sharper in rural areas, where the female LFPR fell by more than 11 percentage points in 2017-2018.
  • Social scientists have long tried to explain this phenomenon, more so in the context of rising levels of education for women.
  • The answers can be found in a complex set of factors including:
  1. low social acceptability of women working outside the household,
  2. lack of access to safe and secure workspaces,
  3. widespread prevalence of poor and unequal wages, and
  4. a dearth of decent and suitable jobs.
  • Further, it is important to note that most women in India are engaged in subsistence-level work in agriculture in rural areas, and in low-paying jobs such as domestic service and petty home-based manufacturing in urban areas.
  • However, with better education, women are refusing to do casual wage labour or work in family farms and enterprises.

Education and work

  • A recent study observed a strong negative relationship between a woman’s education level and her participation in agricultural and non-agricultural wage work and in family farms.
  • Essentially, women with moderately high levels of education do not want to do manual labour outside the household which would be perceived to be below their educational qualifications.
  • The study also showed a preference among women for salaried jobs as their educational attainment increases; but such jobs remain extremely limited for women.
  • It is estimated that among people (25 to 59 years) working as farmers, farm labourers and service workers, nearly a third are women, while the proportion of women among professionals, managers and clerical workers is only about 15% (NSSO, 2011-2012).
  • However, it is not the case that women are simply retreating from the world of work.

Unpaid work carried out by women:

  • On the contrary, time-use surveys have found that they devote a substantial amount of their time to work which is not considered as work, but an extension of their duties, and is largely unpaid.
  • The incidence and drudgery of this unpaid labour is growing.
  • This includes unpaid care work such as:
  1. childcare,
  2. elderly care, and
  3. household work such as collecting water.
  • The burden of these activities falls disproportionately on women, especially in the absence of adequately available or accessible public services.
  • It also encompasses significant chunks of women’s contribution to agriculture, animal husbandry, and non-timber forest produce on which most of the household production and consumption is based.

Concluding Remarks: The Way Forward

  • Experts opine that any government which is serious about ensuring women’s economic empowerment and equal access to livelihoods must address the numerous challenges that exist along this highly gendered continuum of unpaid, underpaid and paid work.
  • two-pronged approach must entail facilitating women’s access to decent work by providing public services, eliminating discrimination in hiring, ensuring equal and decent wages, and improving women’s security in public spaces.
  • It must also recognise, reduce, redistribute, and remunerate women’s unpaid work.
  • An ActionAid document, which has compiled a people’s agenda through extensive discussions across States, provides critical recommendations to policymakers on issues of concern to Dalits, tribal people, Muslims and other marginalised communities with a focus on the needs of women.
  • On the question of work, women’s demands include gender-responsive public services such as free and accessible public toilets, household water connections, safe and secure public transport, and adequate lighting and CCTV cameras to prevent violence against women in public spaces and to increase their mobility.
  • Furthermore, they want fair and decent living wages and appropriate social security including maternity benefit, sickness benefit, provident fund, and pension.
  • Women have also expressed the need for policies which ensure safe and dignified working and living conditions for migrant workers.
  • For example, in cities, governments must set up:
  1. migration facilitation and crisis centres (temporary shelter facility, helpline, legal aid, and medical and counselling facilities).
  2. They must also allocate social housing spaces for women workers, which include rental housing and hostels.
  3. They must ensure spaces for women shopkeepers and hawkers in all markets and vending zones.
  • In addition to the above, women have strongly articulated the need to enumerate and remunerate the unpaid and underpaid work they undertake in sectors such as agriculture and fisheries.
  • Their fundamental demand is that women must be recognised as farmers in accordance with the National Policy for Farmers; this should include cultivators, agricultural labourers, pastoralists, livestock rearers, forest workers, fish-workers, and salt pan workers.
  • Thereafter, their equal rights and entitlements over land and access to inputs, credit, markets, and extension services must be ensured.
  • Women also reiterate the need to recognise and redistribute their unpaid work in the household.
  • For this, experts opine that the government must collect sex-disaggregated household level data with suitable parameters.
  • In conclusion, unless policymakers correctly assess and address the structural issues which keep women from entering and staying in the workforce, promising more jobs — while a welcome step — is unlikely to lead to the socio-economic transformation that India currently needs.

6.  Is India doing enough to combat climate change?

  • The two experts, Prof. T. Jayaraman, chairperson, Centre for Science, Technology and Society at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and Prof. Navroz Dubash, professor at the Centre for Policy Research and coordinator of the Initiative on Climate, Energy, and Environment talk about the fairness of the global climate regime, and what India could do to green its growth.
  • In the following paragraphs, we present the excerpts of the discussion.

How serious is climate change as an issue today?

  1. Jayaraman, weighed in with his arguments here.
  • Climate change is certainly the most serious global environmental crisis that we face.
  • It is not the only environmental problem, but it is unique in its multi-scalar characteristic, from the global to the local.
  • And in many ways, it is arguably the most immediate.
  • But there is also a substantial section of the world that does not see it in the same terms.
  • That is perhaps one of the most serious aspects of dealing with this problem.

Navroz Dubash, weighed in with his arguments here.  

  • I think climate change has been with us for 25 years at least.
  • At one level, for many people climate change has become an existential problem that risks undermining the conditions for productive life and therefore a problem that does not override but certainly permeates all kinds of other issues.
  • For many others, it is a distant problem that is overwhelmed by more immediate issues.
  • But this ignores the linkage between current issues and climate change.
  • We don’t have the option in India of thinking about anything that is innocent of climate change any more.

Global warming has touched about 1°C above pre-industrial levels. India is not responsible for the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere, but can it afford to wait for developed countries to make their move or should it aggressively pursue its own measures?

  1. Jayaraman, weighed in with his arguments here.
  • I don’t think there is an either/or about this.
  • We must recognise climate change as a global collective action problem.
  • If one country cuts its emissions to the bone, that is going to be of little use if the others do not follow suit.
  • That country will suffer the consequences of climate change despite the extent of its sacrifice.
  • Equally, waiting for others to do something and not doing something oneself is also not an option, especially in terms of adaptation.
  • If India does more mitigation, that doesn’t reduce the risk in India. It is not a local exchange.
  • We have to have good intent, show it in action, but on the other hand, we must do far more than we are doing today to call the developed countries to account.
  • They are nowhere near meeting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets.
  • And some countries we don’t even have on board, like the U.S.
  • We need to move climate change to the top of our foreign policy agenda. This is a critical move we need to make.

Navroz Dubash, weighed in with his arguments here. 

  • I agree that the performance of the developed world has been very poor compared to their capacities, wealth and promises.
  • The extent to which we have to turn around globally is dramatic.
  • Rapidly emerging countries are part of the story, but that does not mean countries that have already emitted a lot and have built their infrastructure shouldn’t actually be creating space for countries like India. So where does that leave India? It is a bit of a dilemma. We are also one of the most vulnerable countries.
  • I view it in the following way.
  • One, there are a number of things that India could do that will bring development gains and also lead to mitigation benefits.

Some steps India can take:  

  • For example, how we design our cities: we want more sustainable cities, cities with less congestion and with more public transport because we want cities that are more liveable.
  • Those kinds of cities will also be low carbon cities.
  • Secondly, more mitigation in India does not mean India gets to keep those benefits.
  • Because at the end of the day, we are only 6% or 7% of global emissions.
  • But what we are recognising is that the global carbon system is an interlocked system.
  • So, what we have to think about is the global transition to low carbon systems and there are spillover effects there, from changes in one economy to changes in another economy, changes in politics in one place to changes in politics in another place.
  • It is important to note that in its Paris Agreement commitments, India had pledged to reduce its intensity of GDP emissions by 33-35% over 2005 levels by 2030, and at Copenhagen, by 20-25% by 2020.

Some important questions arise:

  • Are we in sync with what is needed from us?
  • With the goal of keeping temperature rise to 2ºC or below 2ºC or 1.5ºC, how does India’s NDC fit in?
  1. Jayaraman, weighed in with his arguments here.
  • The very form of your question is problematic.
  • You can do whatever you want with your NDC. It doesn’t matter.
  • The question is, as a developing country, in the matrix of all other NDCs, where does India fit and what are other NDCs like?
  • In the scheme of things as they are, what are we doing? I think within that we are doing pretty well.
  • I think the problem for India is hedging its future, not simply what we consume now or what we expect to gain in immediate terms.
  • What is it that we want as our long-term future and how much of it in terms of carbon space do we need to hedge?
  • But I repeat, with our NDC, though our performance is good, we cannot respond with more commitments in our NDC until we see serious action at the international level.
  • In September, 2019, at the UN special session on climate, India should make it clear that we won’t play ball unless it is clear that it is not enough for you to talk the talk, you should also walk the walk.

Navroz Dubash, weighed in with his arguments here. 

  • The Paris Agreement basically said, every country, please tell us what you can feasibly do within your country.
  • It was always therefore going to be a relatively low set of pledges, and in that context India’s doesn’t push the envelope very far, doesn’t do minimal stuff. So, how do we know whether the pledge is ambitious or not? There’s no good way to know.
  • The idea of the Paris Agreement is to get countries moving towards a low carbon economy, with the idea that each country will see that it is not too costly and not so hard and there are developmental benefits.
  • The pledges in an ideal world are setting the floor not the ceiling — countries will fulfil and hopefully exceed those pledges. And in India’s case, we will probably exceed the pledges, because for reasons like urban congestion and air pollution, we will want to move in the direction of low carbon anyway, quite apart from climate change.
  • Now, in terms of what the politics of it are, we can try and arm-twist the rich countries. They have definitely been recalcitrant, they have dropped their responsibilities. But at the end of the day, India is a deeply vulnerable country. What we have learned in the last 20 years is that countries don’t move further because of international pressure. Certainly not the rich and industrial countries. They move further because they found ways, in their enlightened self-interest, to do so.
  • If you look at the manifestos of the two national parties, climate change ekes in a small mention at the end, but it is really not thought through.
  • In my informal conversations, they are still stuck in the language of saying we still need to have a lot more fossil fuels for more growth, when that is an open question in an era when the price of solar power is coming down and the price of storage is coming down.
  • It is not a settled debate by any means, but we need to engage in that debate much more vigorously.
  1. Jayaraman, weighed in with his arguments here.
  • With regard to NDCs, I think we are risking a great deal if we take the current numbers in India in terms of consumption, energy as the benchmark for what we need.
  • India still has huge development deficits.
  • Unfortunately, the intersection between erasing development deficits and genuine adaptation has been poorly explored.
  • So, every time there is a drought, some go around chanting ‘climate change’ when indeed it is regular climate variability. And we have always left our farmers at the mercy of the drought.
  • So, I think in adaptation, our focus should be understanding what our development deficits are. At the same time, a whole new diversionary argument is emerging.

Findings from a recent paper:

  • There is this recent paper from the U.S. that has appeared saying that India lost 31% of its potential GDP growth due to global warming between the 1960s and 2011. I don’t buy that.
  • Without accounting most importantly for institutions, if you simply examine temperature and GDP, you will get all kinds of correlations.
  • What we really need to invest in is our conceptual agenda.
  • Take electric vehicle mobility. Everybody says electric mobility is a good thing, and cheaper than conventional transport, by factoring in the cost of fossil fuels in terms of health, etc., using the Disability-Adjusted Life Years concept.
  • But what that does is to make the users of public transport pay for the well-being of all the people still driving cars.
  • So, arguing that electric mobility is cheaper really does not fly.
  • Electric mobility is actually more expensive, in immediate terms, in terms of cost per vehicle kilometre.

Navroz Dubash, weighed in with his arguments here. 

  • I agree that the entry point for this conversation should be the development deficits.
  • For example, to say that we need to find a way for cleaner transportation shouldn’t actually lead to a conclusion that it should lead to more electric vehicles – the first priority has to be improved, more accessible public transport.

What could be the feasible climate diplomacy or politics for India under the UN framework or outside?

Navroz Dubash, weighed in with his arguments here. 

  • The climate game has now firmly moved to a series of multiple national conversations.
  • The Paris Agreement process is an iterative process where countries put something on the table, they try to implement it, they see if they could do it more easily than they thought, and they come back to the global level. It is a two-level game but the driving force is at the national level. Countries are not going to be arm-twisted by international pressure.
  • We can try, but what will drive them is enlightened self-interest. Where the global role is going to be important is in technological cooperation, in spill-over effects.
  • One of the big success stories is the fall in renewable energy prices, driven by Germany’s domestic programme that supported global prices for renewables.
  • India has to play a role diplomatically, but our diplomatic game has to construct a development model that takes into account all our needs, including climate change, thinks a lot about adaptation, and keeps the pressure on the West on issues like finance and technology. 
  1. Jayaraman, weighed in with his arguments here.
  • All that we do domestically should be framed in the context of development deficits.
  • Within that context, whatever we can explore or do, we should. For instance, how do we ensure that we double the productivity of our main food crops? If we do something that is concrete, we will see the nexus between agricultural productivity and climate and climate variability, and learn something for the future.
  • My great disappointment is with the Indian private sector. They are willing to donate, willing to tell farmers how to be sustainable, invest in such kinds of activities outside their firms.
  • But making their own firms models of sustainability, sustainability within the plant boundary, drivers of innovation, they still have to measure up.
  • I think part of the reason for our not-so-coherent engagement with the international process is perhaps that we are not defining our own local priorities as clearly as we could and should have.
Q1. Mulshi Dam is built across the River:

a. Mula
b. Mutha
c. Koyna
d. Manair

Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to the 
classical dance form – Odissi:
  1. There are three traditions of the Odissi dance.
  2. Odissi includes both North and South Indian Ragas.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

Q3. Consider the following statements with respect to Mesozoic Era:
  1. The ancestors of major plant and animal groups that exist today first appeared during the Mesozoic Era.
  2. It is during this era that the continents began to move into their present-day configurations.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

4. Consider the following statements with respect to New Development Bank
  1. It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries.
  2. It is headquartered at Manila in Philippines.

Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

Thank you!

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