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GS: 2

International Relations:

The global nuclear cloud is darkening(The Hindu)

Context

India should make a credible and objective intervention

What has happened?

The word ‘historic’ is appropriate to describe the April 27 summit between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. While there is considerable optimism that this meeting will mark the beginning of the long-awaited rapprochement in the Korean peninsula, the nuclear domain remains opaque

North Korea

  • Though Pyongyang has announced that it is suspending further nuclear/missile tests and shutting its test site, there has been no indication that it intends to give up its nuclear arsenal
  • While verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation is a desirable objective for South Korea, Japan and the U.S., it is the critical survival shield for the Kim regime

The Iran nuclear deal

More recent developments in relation to the Iran nuclear deal and Mr. Trump’s determination to jettison it since it is a “bad deal” have led to a darkening of the global nuclear cloud

Deteriorating relations of US with Russia

  • The last year has seen bilateral relations between the U.S. and Russia on the one hand and between the U.S. and China on the other becoming increasingly brittle
  • This has also affected the weapons of mass destruction domain
  • Consequently, many of the major (nuclear-missile) arms reduction treaties and verification protocols between the U.S. and Russia that go back to the Cold War decades and the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union have become less effective, and the subtext is causing the global nuclear cloud to become even darker
  • More specifically, both the U.S. and Russia have embarked upon major nuclear weapon modernisation programmes and the decision to resurrect the nuclear-tipped cruise missile at sea has very destabilising implications

India

As India aspires to a seat at the global high table, India ought to make a credible and objective intervention that will add to its profile as a ‘different’ nuclear weapon power – one that remains committed to restraint and the elusive Holy Grail of nuclear zero

Conclusion

The Xi Jinping-Narendra Modi informal summit may be an opportune moment to bring the darkening nuclear cloud back to the global political agenda.

Koreas to talk peace(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The leaders of North and South Korea Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, will meet in the demilitarised zone between the two countries on Friday to discuss the ‘denuclearisation’ of the Korean peninsula and the official end to the Korean War (1950-53) which has technically still not concluded

How did the summit come about?

  • Moon, who took over as President of South Korea last May, has been a proponent of engagement between the Koreas, a cause he has pushed
  • In his 2018 New Year’s Day speech, Mr. Kim said he would send a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February
  • Since then, there have been several high-level diplomatic meetings leading to the setting up of the summit.

How is the U.S. involved in peace talks?

  • The U.S. is a major stakeholder in the region where two of its key allies, South Korea and Japan, are located
  • The U.S has over 28,000 troops in South Korea and the country’s involvement in peace talks is to be expected
  • As the thaw occurred, Mr. Kim conveyed his willingness to talk with Mr. Trump via the South Koreans
  • The two leaders will meet at the end of May or in early June
  • S. Secretary of State nominee, Mike Pompeo, made a secret visit to Pyongyang to meet with Mr. Kim around April 1, possibly to prepare for the Trump-Kim summit
  • The outcome of the U.S.-North Korea meeting is particularly difficult to predict because both Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump are unpredictable and prone to dramatic gestures
  • According to Mr. Moon, the North Koreans have not demanded that U.S. troops withdraw from South Korea as a precondition for denuclearisation but have asked for security and an end to hostility
  • Trump, whilst praising Mr. Kim, has said that sanctions will remain in place until a deal is reached.

What about China?

  • As China participated in UN sanctions against North Korea, the relationship between the two countries was further strained.
  • Kim made a sudden visit to Beijing last month — his first foreign trip as North Korea’s leader, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Pyongyang later this year
  • His manoeuvres could be a clever strategy to engage with all stakeholders, some of whom, like the U.S. and China, have competing interests in the region
  • Reaching out to China before talks with the U.S. could also provide some backing to North Korea
  • It is likely though that Mr. Kim will want to reduce North Korea’s dependence on China over the longer term. China, on the other hand, is unlikely to be satisfied for long with the side role that it seems to be playing at the moment in the peace process.

Resume DACA, says U.S. court(The Hindu)

Context

Judge stays move to end the scheme, asks Trump govt. to accept new applications

What has happened?

In the biggest setback yet for the Donald Trump administration in its attempt to end a programme that shields some young adults from deportation, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the protections must stay in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications

Explain it better

  • The judge stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for cancelling the program
  • If the department fails to do so, it “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications”

Not the first

  • The ruling was the third in recent months against the Trump administration’s rollback of DACA
  • Federal judges in Brooklyn and in San Francisco each issued injunctions ordering that the programme remain in place.
  • Neither of those decisions, however, required the government to accept new applications.

DACA programme

  • The Obama administration established the DACA programme based on the premise that people brought to the United States as children should be treated as low priorities for deportation
  • About 7,00,000 unauthorised immigrants, the majority of them brought to the United States as children, had signed up
  • The programme gives young immigrants, the ability to work legally in the country

If the nuclear deal stays, it stays in full, says Rouhani(The Hindu)

Context

Iran rejects U.S. proposal to rewrite the 2015 agreement

What has happened?

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani rejected any hopes of rewriting a nuclear deal with world powers on Wednesday, after the leaders of the United States and France called for a new pact covering Tehran’s missile programme and regional interventions

EU, Moscow back Tehran

Iran has the support of all other parties to the accord, who say it is working and Tehran has stuck to its commitments.

Iran warns

Iran has warned it will ramp up enrichment if Mr. Trump walks away from the accord.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Judges seek to fortify top court(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Supreme Court judges have asked the Chief Justice of India to hold a ‘Full Court’ once in a while and also initiate frequent informal discussions where ideas can be shared freely among them

Improving institutional strength

The judges proposed to Chief Justice Dipak Misra that only a frank and free exchange of ideas among themselves would improve “institutional strength.”

Thaw in the strained relationships between the judges

This may signal a thaw in the strained relationship within the highest judiciary with judges rallying together after the failed removal motion against Chief Justice Misra

Ministry clears Indu Malhotra as SC judge(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Senior advocate Indu Malhotra will be the first woman lawyer to be elevated as a Supreme Court judge after the Law Ministry cleared her name for the position

  • The Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising among others Justices J. Chelameshwar and Ranjan Gogoi, also cleared 12 names across four High Courts to be appointed as judges
  • While five names were cleared for the Gujarat High Court, four have been recommended for the Chhattisgarh High Court, two for the Madras High Court and one for the Bombay High Court.
  • Malhotra was one of the two names the SC Collegium had recommended for elevation in January.

GS: 3

Economy:

Didn’t order Aadhaar-SIM link: SC(The Hindu)

Context

Says government using an order passed by it on February 6, 2017 for the seeding

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied directing the mandatory linking of Aadhaar and SIM cards, and said the government was using an order passed by it on February 6 last year as a “tool” to seed Aadhaar with SIM cards

SC observed

The court had only asked the government to tighten the verification process of mobile phone users through Aadhaar linkage, citing national security

UIDAI

  • Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said seeding was done in pursuance of a TRAI recommendation
  • It was “legitimate state interest”, with regard to national security, to ensure that it is the applicant, and no one else, who was using the mobile SIM.

Banks and Telcos have bigger database

The Aadhaar scheme has been criticised for aggregation of meta data, while every body ignores the fact that banks and telecom companies have a much “bigger data base.”

India shows jobs growth as 3.11 mn join PF in 6 months(The Hindu)

Context

‘Data may help fill missing link for policy-making’

What has happened?

India added 4,72,075 employees to the State-run social security fund in February, after adding 6,04,557 in January, new data on payrolls released on Wednesday showed, giving a guide to how many new jobs are being created in the non-farm sector

EPF

The Employees Provident Fund released provisional figures for six months that showed that 3.11 million workers joined the fund during the September 2017 to February 2018 period, partly due to a pickup in the economy and federal support

Criticism

Critics say the new data overestimates job creation in the organised sector as many workers, who were working on contract with same companies, were added to the fund due the State incentives.

Mandatory contribution

It is mandatory for employers and employees of companies with 20 or more workers to contribute to the EPF, though the government plans to amend the rules so that firms with 10 or more staff have to open an account with EPF for workers.

Government Schemes:

Bamboo Mission extended(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the extension of the National Bamboo Mission (NBM) till 2019-20 at an expenditure of ₹1,290 crore

Purpose

The Mission will ensure holistic development of the bamboo sector by addressing complete value chain and establishing effective linkage of producers [farmers] with industry

CCEA set up

The CCEA [the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs] has also approved the setting up of an executive committee for the formulation of guidelines of the NBM and to make the changes therein, including cost norms for various interventions from time-to-time as per the needs and specific recommendations of States, with the approval of the Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.”

Budget

Of the total cost of ₹1,290 crore, the Centre’s share would be ₹950 crore.

Internal Security:

Revisit AFSPA(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Its revocation in some areas is welcome,but should it be on the statute books at all?

What has happened?

The Centre’s decision to revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Meghalaya and reduce its ambit in Arunachal Pradesh is welcome insofar as it signifies a willingness to reconsider the use of the special law as and when the ground situation improves.

Arunachal

In Arunachal, the areas under AFSPA have been reduced to the limits of eight police stations, instead of the previous 16, in three districts bordering Assam.

Humanising AFSPA

Now that there is some degree of official recognition that special laws for protecting armed forces personnel from the legal consequences of their operations and excesses need not continue indefinitely, it is time for the Centre to revisit the Jeevan Reddy committee report and find ways of humanising AFSPA, if not revoking it altogether.

Science and Technology:

3-D map of Milky Way shows 1.7 bn stars(The Hindu)

Context

450 scientists from 20 countries were involved in the project to catalogue solar system objects

What has happened?

Europe’s Gaia satellite has produced a 3-D map of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy — complete with their distance from Earth, colour, and motion through space

GAIA

  • Launched in 2013, Gaia started operating the following year, gathering data on 1,00,000 stars per minute — some 500 million measurements per day
  • Its first map was published in September 2016, based on a year’s worth of observations of about 1.15 billion stars.
  • An update, launched at the ILA international air and space show in Berlin, adds stars and provides more data on each one, from measurements taken over 22 months in 2014-2016.

Web of space rocks

Gaia also revealed the orbits of some 14,000 “solar system objects” — mapped as an intricate web of space rocks shooting around the sun. “It represents the most accurate survey ever of asteroids in the solar system

What now?

The full data will be published in a series of scientific papers in a special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics , laying the foundation for decades of further study

Mediterranean citrus under threat(The Hindu)

Context

Citrus greening disease

What has happened?

After decimating orange groves in Florida and trees in California and Brazil, citrus greening disease now threatens the key producing region of the Mediterranean, according to researchers

Mediterranean region

According to the trade magazine FruitTrop, just over one fifth of the oranges, clementines and lemons consumed in the world come from the Mediterranean region

It accounts for 70% of the world’s exports of citrus fruits

What is citrus greening disease?

  • The disease emerged in the first half of the last century in Asia, where it is called yellow dragon disease by the Chinese.
  • It is spread by small insects called plant lice or psyllids which jump from tree to tree to suck the sap.
  • When they do, they introduce the bacteria which ends up blocking the channels along which the sap flows.
  • As the bacteria chokes off the flow of nutrients, the leaves turn yellow, the fruit is deformed, and eventually the tree dies.
  • The African psyllid, which spreads a less virulent form of the disease, has already been detected in northern Spain and in Portugal, where trees were rapidly uprooted to prevent any further spread.

BARC develops cheaper, lightweight bulletproof jackets(The Hindu)

Context

Bhabha Kavach

What has happened?

The Bhabha Atomic Reseach Centre (BARC) has developed a next-generation bulletproof jacket for the Indian armed forces, which is not only cheaper but also much lighter.

Bhabha Kavach

  • Bhabha Kavach, named after nuclear physicist Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, the jacket was developed at BARC’s Trombay centre in response to a request from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs
  • The jacket weighs just 6.6 kg in comparison to the 17-kg jackets in use, and has passed over 30 tests carried out by certified agencies
  • Bhabha Kavach is available in three variants as per the requirement of the armed forces
  • The jacket is made using extremely hard boron carbide ceramics that is hot-pressed with carbon nano-tubes and composite polymer
  • BARC has been using boron carbide in the control rods of its nuclear reactors
  • Bhabha Kavach has been designed to protect our soldiers against AK-47 (hard steel bullets), SLR and INSUS weaponry

Undergoing tests

  • Tested by a joint team of the CRPF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and the Central Industrial Security Force
  • The northern command of the Indian Army is also testing a variant of the jacket in Jammu and Kashmir.

Cost

The cost of a Bhabha Kavach is Rs. 70,000, jackets of similar strength are available in the range of Rs. 1.5 lakh and have to be imported

What now?

BARC is looking at bring down the cost to under Rs. 35,000 and make it even more lighter

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