15 May 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

15 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. India reminds China of claims over Gilgit-Baltistan
2. ‘Talks with Nepal after pandemic’
3. China rebuts Taiwan on WHO participation
C. GS 3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Migrant workers to get free foodgrains
2. U.K. HC rejects Vijay Mallya’s plea
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Virus diagnostic test may be delayed
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
ECONOMY
1. Stop the return to laissez-faire
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Keeping Asia-Pacific afloat
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
1. India non-committal on talks with Taliban
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

2. ‘Talks with Nepal after pandemic’

Context:

India hopes to take up the necessary negotiation on the Kalapani dispute with Nepal after the current global pandemic is tackled successfully.

Background:

  • Recently, the road link from Dharchula (Uttarakhand) to Lipulekh (China Border) was inaugurated by the Raksha Mantri.
  • Nepal has objected to the road as Lipulekh, through which the link passes, is considered by Nepal as part of its own territory.
  • Nepal disputes India’s claims over the Kalapani region located in the state of Uttarakhand and maintains that the region is part of its sovereign territory.

This Issue has been covered in 8th May 2020 PIB Summary and Analysis. Click here to read.

3. China rebuts Taiwan on WHO participation

Context:

China opposed any move by Taiwan to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to seek independence, its Embassy in New Delhi said.

Details:

  • Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • China has opposed its inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the organisation’s decision-making body, citing the ‘One China principle’, although Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016.
  • Taiwan wants to share its experience with the World Health Organization (WHO) where it is not a member, but wants participation.
  • The Foreign Minister of Taiwan believes that if Taiwan could participate fully in the WHO and if it could interact with other countries on an equal basis under the WHO framework, more nations would receive Taiwan’s early warning.

China’s reaction:

  • The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that Taiwan was looking to hype up its participation in the World Health Organization (WHO), while its real intention is to solicit foreign support and seek independence under the pretext of the pandemic.

Note:

  • India is among the 179 of the 193 member states of the UN that do not maintain any diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
  • While the U.S. has been pushing for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA, the move will require a simple majority from member states.
  • India is yet to make a final decision on whether to support the U.S. move to include Taiwan or to accept China’s objections to it.

2. U.K. HC rejects Vijay Mallya’s plea

Context:

The U.K. High Court has rejected a plea of businessman Vijay Mallya for permission to move the Supreme Court against the dismissal of his appeal challenging the lower court’s approval of his extradition to India in the IDBI Bank fraud case.

  • The High Court concluded that a prima facie case was made out against the businessman for fraud, misrepresentation to the bank in securing credit facilities, conspiracy and money laundering, as adjudged by the lower court.

Details:

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have alleged that between September 2009 and January 2017, Mallya conspired with others to commit cheating.
  • The accused fraudulently got loans sanctioned from the bank to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) in the order of (a) ₹1,500 million on October 7, 2009, (b) ₹2,000 million on November 4, 2009, and (c) ₹7,500 million on November 27, 2009, with the intention not to repay them.
  • The businessman was allegedly involved in false representation to the bank on KFA’s financial condition and the value and/or availability of securities.
  • The funds raised through loans were diverted and laundered.

Note:

  • A special court in Mumbai had declared absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya a fugitive economic offender (FEO) on a plea of the Enforcement Directorate.
  • Mallya became the first businessman to be declared FEO under the provisions of the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Act which came into existence in August 2018.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Virus diagnostic test may be delayed

Context:

A promising technology developed by a laboratory funded by the Department of Science and Technology to accelerate COVID-19 testing in India may be delayed for several more weeks.

  • The Chitra GeneLAMP-N, developed by the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, needs more confirmatory testing and changes in its configuration.

Chitra GeneLAMP-N:

  • Chitra GeneLAMP-N is a diagnostic test kit that can confirm COVID-19 in 2 hours at low cost.
  • The results can be read from the machine from the change in fluorescence.
    • Fluorescence is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation.

How does RT-LAMP work?

  • The confirmatory diagnostic test detects the N Gene of SARS- COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP).
  • The test kit is highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 N-gene and can detect two regions of the gene.
  • It is a technique for the amplification of RNA. It is used in the detection of viruses.
  • In this method, a DNA copy of the viral RNA is generated by reverse transcriptase, and then isothermal amplification is carried out to increase the amount of total DNA.

What is RT-PCR?

  • Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA (in this context called complementary DNA or cDNA) and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
    • Reverse Transcription is the process in cells by which an enzyme makes a copy of DNA from RNA.
    • The enzyme that makes the DNA copy is called reverse transcriptase and is found in retroviruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • RT-PCR is primarily used to measure the amount of a specific RNA. 

Issue:

  • The objective of LAMP, like that of RT-PCR tests, is the same: to detect the presence of viral RNA.
  • Both achieve this via a series of chemical transformations.
  • The LAMP method is said to be faster but is a relatively newer technology, more complicated in its design and has not been tested extensively for COVID-19 detection.
  • Most RT-PCR kits focus on two different genes, the E (envelope) gene and the RdRP (RNA dependent RNA polymerase) gene.
  • The World Health Organization recommends an E and RdRP test, while the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires an N gene test.
    • The N gene test is a confirmatory test and widely employed in Germany and China, among other countries. However, the design of it is complicated and can be expensive.
    • The CDC protocol says three regions of the N gene must be analysed but the Chitra-model tests two to confirm the identity of the virus.
  • Though the Chitra test passed an initial assessment by the National Institute of Virology in Alappuzha, a subsequent assessment showed that it was not performing as accurately as desired.

E. Editorials

Category: ECONOMY

1. Stop the return to laissez-faire

The editorial argues that labour laws are civilizational goals and cannot be trumped on the excuse of a pandemic.

Issues:

  • Through the public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are being abandoned by their employers and, above all, by the state.
  • The workers’ right to go home was curbed using the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • Adequate provisions were not made available for their food, shelter or medical relief.
  • Wage payments were not ensured, and the state’s cash and food relief did not cover most workers.
  • When the centre issued orders permitting their return to their home States, state governments responded by delaying travel facilities for the workers to ensure uninterrupted supply of labour for employers.
  • Employers now want labour laws to be relaxed.
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has issued an ordinance keeping in abeyance almost all labour statutes including laws on maternity benefits and gratuity; the Factories Act, 1948; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Industrial Establishments (Standing Orders) Act, 1946; and the Trade Unions Act, 1926.
  • Several States have exempted industries from complying with various provisions of laws.
  • The Confederation of Indian Industry has suggested 12-hour work shifts and that governments issue directions to make workers join duty failing which the workers would face penal actions.

Thus, after an organised abandonment of the unorganised workforce, the employers want the state to reintroduce laissez-faire and a system of indenture for the organised workforce too. This will take away the protection conferred on organised labour by Parliament.

This issue has been covered in 9th May 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis and 14th May 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis .

Colonial exploitation:

  • What India is witnessing today bears a horrifying resemblance to what happened over 150 years ago in British India.
  • The move is reminiscent of the barbaric system of indentured labour introduced through the Bengal Regulations VII, 1819 for the British planters in Assam tea estates.
    • Workers had to work under a five-year contract and desertion was made punishable.
  • Later, the Transport of Native Labourers’ Act, 1863 was passed in Bengal.
    • It strengthened control of the employers and even enabled them to detain labourers in the district of employment and imprison them for six months.
  • Bengal Act VI of 1865 was later passed.
    • It deployed Special Emigration Police to prevent labourers from leaving, and return them to the plantation after detention.
  • Factory workers too faced severe exploitation and were made to work 16-hour days for a pittance. Their protests led to the Factories Act of 1911 which introduced 12-hour work shifts. Yet, the low wages, arbitrary wage cuts and other harsh conditions forced workers into debt slavery.

Evolution of Labour Laws in India:

  • The labour laws in India have emerged out of workers’ struggles, which were very much part of the freedom movement against oppressive colonial industrialists.
  • Since the 1920s there were a series of strikes and agitations for better working conditions. Several trade unionists were arrested under the Defence of India Rules.
  • The workers’ demands were supported by our political leaders.
  • Britain was forced to appoint the Royal Commission on Labour, which gave a report in 1935.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 enabled greater representation of Indians in law-making.
  • This resulted in reforms, which are forerunners to the present labour enactments.
  • The indentured plantation labour saw relief in the form of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951.
  • By a democratic legislative process, the Parliament stepped in to protect labour.

Dignity through democracy

  • The Factories Act lays down eight-hour work shifts, with overtime wages, weekly offs, leave with wages and measures for health, hygiene and safety.
  • The Industrial Disputes Act provides for workers’ participation to resolve wage and other disputes through negotiations so that strikes/lockouts, unjust retrenchments and dismissals are avoided.
  • The Minimum Wages Act ensures wages below which it is not possible to subsist.
  • These enactments further the Directive Principles of State Policy and protect the right to life and the right against exploitation under Articles 21 and 23.
  • Trade unions have played critical roles in transforming the life of a worker from that of servitude to one of dignity. Any move to undo these laws will push the workers a century backwards.
  • Considering the underlying constitutional goals of these laws, Parliament did not delegate to the executive any blanket powers of exemption.
  • Section 5 of the Factories Act empowers the State governments to exempt only in case of a “public emergency”, which is explained as a “grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external aggression or internal disturbance”.
    • There is no such threat to the security of India now.
    • Hours of work or holidays cannot be exempted even for public institutions.
  • Section 36B of the Industrial Disputes Act enables exemption for a government industry only if provisions exist for investigations and settlements.

No statutory support:

  • The orders of the State governments lack statutory support.
  • Labour is a concurrent subject in the Constitution and most pieces of labour legislation are Central enactments.
  • The Constitution does not envisage approval by the President of a State Ordinance which makes a whole slew of laws enacted by Parliament inoperable in the absence of corresponding legislations on the same subject.
  • Almost all labour contracts are now governed by statutes, settlements or adjudicated awards arrived through democratic processes in which labour has been accorded at least procedural equality. Such procedures ensure progress of a nation.
  • In the Life Insurance Corporation v. D. J. Bahadur & Ors (1980) case, the Supreme Court highlighted that any changes in the conditions of service can be only through a democratic process of negotiations or legislation. 

Conclusion:

  • The orders and ordinances issued by the State governments are undemocratic and unconstitutional. The existing conditions of labour will have to be continued.
  • Global corporations had their origins in instruments of colonialism and their legacy was inherited by Indian capital post-Independence. The resurgence of such a colonial mindset is a danger to society and the well-being of millions and puts at risk the health and safety of not only the workforce but their families too.
  • In the unequal bargaining power between capital and labour, regulatory laws provide a countervailing balance and ensure the dignity of labour.
  • Governments have a constitutional duty to ensure just, humane conditions of work and maternity benefits.
  • The health and strength of the workers cannot be abused by force of economic necessity.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Keeping Asia-Pacific afloat

The editorial sheds light upon how, in less than a century, climate change and unsustainable resource management have degraded ecosystems and diminished biodiversity in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region.

Issue:

Degraded Ecosystems:

  • Escalating strains on the marine environment are threatening to drown progress and way of life in the Asia-Pacific region.
    • For generations, the region has thrived on the seas for food, livelihoods and a sense of identity.

Lack of data:

  • Due to limitations in methodology and national statistical systems, information gaps have persisted at uneven levels across countries.
  • Insights from ‘Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific’ (the theme study of this year’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – ESCAP) reveal that without data, there is lack of clarity about the state of water bodies in the region.
    • Data are available for only two out of ten targets for the Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘Life Below Water’.

Plastic pollution:

  • Marine plastic pollution in the region’s rivers has contributed to most of the debris flooding the ocean.
  • Asia and the Pacific produces nearly half of global plastic by volume, of which it consumes 38%.
  • Plastics represent a double burden for the ocean:
    • Their production generates CO2 absorbed by the ocean.
    • Also, the final product enters the ocean as pollution.
  • Beating this challenge will hinge upon effective national policies and re-thinking production cycles.

Impact on fishing stocks:

  • Levels of overfishing have exponentially increased, leaving fish stocks and food systems vulnerable.
  • Environmental decline is also affecting fish stocks.
  • The region’s position as the world’s largest producer of fish has come at the cost of over-exploitation.
  • The percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels has increased threefold from 10% in 1974 to 33% in 2015.
  • Generating complete data on fish stocks, fighting illicit fishing activity and conserving marine areas must remain a priority.

Way forward:

  • Closing the maritime connectivity gap must be placed at the centre of regional transport cooperation efforts. While the most connected shipping economies are in Asia, the small island developing States of the Pacific experience much lower levels of connectivity, leaving them relatively isolated from the global economy.
  • Efforts must be taken to navigate toward green shipping. Enforcing sustainable shipping policies is essential.
  • Trans-boundary ocean management and linking ocean data call for close cooperation among countries in the region.
  • Harnessing ocean statistics through strong national statistical systems will serve as a compass guiding countries to monitor trends, devise timely responses and clear blind spots.
    • Through the Ocean Accounts Partnership, ESCAP is working with countries to harmonise ocean data and provide a space for regular dialogue.
  • Translating international agreements and standards into national action is also key.
  • Countries and all ocean custodians must be fully equipped to localise global agreements into tangible results.
  • Keeping the ocean plastic-free will depend on policies that promote a circular economy approach. This minimises resource use and will require economic incentives and disincentives.

Conclusion:

While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily reduced pollution in the seas, this should not be a moment of reprieve. Rather, recovery efforts need to build a new reality, embedded in sustainability. Efforts are needed to steer our collective fleets toward sustainable oceans.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

1. India non-committal on talks with Taliban

What’s in News?

The Government of India has asserted that the country will continue to be guided by its friendship with the Afghan people, remaining non-committal on renewed questions of whether it would open direct talks with the Taliban.

  • “We have our own perspectives on Afghanistan, and our traditional and neighbourly ties with the people of Afghanistan will continue to guide our Afghanistan policy,” a government source said.
  • Recently, the U.S. Special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad had suggested that India should speak directly to the Taliban. It is the first time a U.S. official had openly made that suggestion.
  • This has led to a renewal of interest in whether India will shift its stand.
  • External Affairs Ministry officials declined to comment on whether India would change its long-held position of dealing only with the elected government in Kabul, while considering the Taliban a terrorist organisation backed by Pakistan.
  • “There is no doubt more pressure to engage with the Taliban, but India has always dealt only with the authority in power, and talks with the Taliban would be premature at this point,” said a former diplomat.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. “Shishu”, “Kishor”, “Tarun” categories are associated with which of 
the following schemes?
  1. Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY)
  2. Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK)
  3. Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK)
  4. Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI)
See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements:
  1. DNA and RNA are both nucleic acids.
  2. While DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting of a long chain of nucleotides, RNA is a single-strand helix having shorter chains of nucleotides.
  3. Both DNA and RNA contain Adenine, Guanine and Cytosine.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. None of the above
See
Answer
Q3. Consider the following statements: 
  1. Pangong Tso is a salt water lake in the Himalayas.
  2. It is the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia, identified as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Reverse Transcription is the process in cells by which an enzyme makes a copy of DNA from RNA.
  2. Reverse Transcriptase is found in HIV retrovirus.
  3. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a laboratory technique used to make many copies of specific genetic sequence for analysis.

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

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 1 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. 2 and 3 only
See
Answer

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. What is “One Nation, One Ration Card” scheme? Discuss the benefits emanating from the scheme and associated challenges. (15 Marks, 250 Words).
  2. Discuss the role of UN-ESCAP and cooperation among the countries in the Asia-Pacific region in mitigating the risks posed by unsustainable resource management and diminished biodiversity in the seas of the region. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Read the previous CNA here.

15 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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