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GS: 2      


International relations:

The self-blinding Russia prism(The Hindu Opinion)

The ‘Russia collusion’ narrative in the U.S. has rendered any diplomacy between the two countries impossible.

Push for tougher retaliation against Russia          

  • Russia as main adversary: With two documents in recent months, the National Security Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the U.S. has declared Russia as its main adversary, slightly above China in the order, and left little room open for reconciliation
  • Nuclear first strike threshold lowered: The NPR declares that the era of great power rivalry is back, and has lowered America’s threshold for a nuclear first strike, citing Russia as the main reason
  • Defence moves: All-round modernisation of its nuclear infrastructure, by upgrading delivery systems, weapons and defence systems, and widespread battlefield deployment of tactical nuclear weapons are part of the new posture
  • Huge costs: All of this is estimated to cost more than a trillion dollars in inflation adjusted dollars, assuming no cost overruns, over the next 30 years.

Dangerous obsession

The current obsession of the American elite with Russia is still counterproductive and potentially dangerous because:

  • It disenfranchises U.S. citizens and delegitimizes its democratic process:

By repeatedly asserting that it is impossible to determine the extent of Russian imprint on the Sanders movement or Mr. Trump’s victory, the onus has been shifted to any citizen critical of the American system to first prove that she is not acting on behalf of Russia or, even worse, she is not a Russian bot.

  • It has rendered any diplomacy between the nuclear rivals impossible: The ‘Russia collusion’ commentaries presuppose that unless proven otherwise any contact between a Trump official and a Russian is illegitimate and treason.
  • Weakening the political system: When a democratically elected President’s authority to pursue diplomacy is undermined, the U.S.’s political system is weakened and the world becomes a more dangerous place.

Conclusion

The Russia prism has not merely bent perspective, but blinded vision in America. Perhaps, deliberately and conveniently

‘Can’t compare Sri Lanka refugees and Rohingya’ (The Hindu)

What has happened?

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, who fled the war in the island nation in the 1980s, stood on a “different footing” from the Rohingyas who seek shelter from persecution in native Myanmar. Any comparison between the two is misconceived, the Centre has told the Supreme Court.

Why?

  • The Centre was responding to comparisons made by the Rohingya in the Supreme Court between their plight and the “relief facilities” given to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.
  • The Rohingya have sought the same aid and the benevolence India had shown the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Centre’s affidavit

  • It explained that India reached out to the Sri Lankan Tamils on the basis of two Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements signed in 1964 and 1979.
  • India had agreed to repatriate and grant Indian citizenship to six lakh persons of Indian origin “together with their natural increase by 1981-82.”
  • The Supreme Court cannot direct the government to ensure that foreigners enter the territory of India
  • The law mandates that a foreigner entering India should have a passport.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to visit India next week (The Hindu)

What has happened?

India will host German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier next week. The visit is the first major outreach from Germany after the new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel was sworn in on March 14

Cooperation on Cleaning Ganga

  • Steinmeier will attend programmes in Varanasi and Chennai
  • The visit to Varanasi is likely to be focussed on India-Germany cooperation on cleaning the river Ganga.
  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and GIZ Germany signed an Implementation Agreement for Ganga Rejuvenation on April 13, 2016 under which Germany committed €3 million for data management and capacity building to deal with the pollution of the greatest river of India

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Won’t not touch Ram Sethu; will explore alternative route, Centre tells SC (The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Union government told the Supreme Court that it will not touch the Ram Sethu, an underwater coral formation in the Indian Ocean referred in mythology Ramayana, for the implementation of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project.

Why?

The government said cutting a route through the Ram Sethu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, would be a cause of “socio-economic disadvantage”.

Affidavit by the Shipping Ministry

  • This is part of a one-page affidavit filed by the Shipping Ministry almost four years after the Supreme Court asked the government to “come clean” on the choice of the project’s route and whether it would damage the Ram Sethu.
  • The affidavit said instead of Alignment 6 (the route which cuts through the Ram Sethu), the government would explore an “alternative”.

National monument

The court also wanted to know the government’s position on whether the ancient Ram Sethu could be declared a national monument.

Arbitration and Conciliation Act: Proposed amendment by govt to put earlier changes on backburner, warns SC (Indian Express)

What has happened?

The Supreme Court has warned that an amendment being proposed by the Centre to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act may ultimately have the effect of putting on the backburner changes made to the Act in 2015.

Background

Government’s plan to introduce a new Section 87 in the Act

Proposed Section 87

The proposed section 87 which intends “to clarify that unless parties agree otherwise the Amendment Act 201 shall not apply to

  • Arbitral proceedings which have commenced before the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015
  • Court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such arbitral proceeding irrespective of whether such court proceedings are commenced prior to or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and shall apply only to Arbitral proceedings commenced on or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and to court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such Arbitral proceedings.

Questions raised

The bench was dealing with appeals which raise the question whether the substitution made to Section 36 of the Arbitration Act by 2015 Amendment would apply even to appeals under Section 34 filed before October 23, 2015 when the amendment came into effect

Bench Answered

  • In all cases where the Section 34 petition is filed after the commencement of the Amendment Act, and an application for stay having been made under Section 36 therein, will be governed by Section 34 as amended and Section 36 as substituted.
  • The Amendment Act is to be applied only prospectively with effect from the date of its commencement, and only to arbitral proceedings and to court proceedings in relation thereto, which have commenced on or after the commencement of the Amendment Act

GS: 3


Economy: 

Higher trade deficit pushes up Q3 CAD to 2% of GDP at $13.5 bn (The Hindu)

Context

Rise in Current Account Deficit (CAD)

What has happened?

The current account deficit (CAD) rose to 2% of the GDP or $13.5 billion in the December quarter, up from $8 billion or 1.4% in the year-ago period, on the back of higher trade deficit, according to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data

Reason behind rise in CAD

The widening of the CAD on a year-on-year basis is primarily due to a higher trade deficit which rose to $44.1 billion in the reporting quarter due to a larger increase in merchandise imports relative to exports

Other observations

  • Decrease in net FDI: Net foreign direct investment stood at USD 4.3 billion, almost 55 per cent less than in the year-ago period when it was at USD 9.7 billion 

‘Export promotion schemes opposed by U.S. not subsidies’ (The Hindu)

Context

Latest Indo US trade dispute related to export promotion schemes at WTO

Government’s response

As per government, textile ministry is not giving subsidies. Industries face high logistics costs and State levies and these are not reimbursed. Schemes such as the Merchandise Exports From India are to offset these costs. The Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme is for adoption of better technology

What is Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme?

The Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1999 to facilitate new and appropriate technology for making the textile industry globally competitive and to reduce the capital cost for the textile industry

Grounding of aircraft won’t hit services: Jayant Sinha (The Hindu)

Context

Indigo and GoAir cancellations of close to 630 domestic flights this month

Backdrop

Recently some concerns had been raised in the media regarding grounding of aircraft with specified neo engines and resultant cancellations of flights

Government’s response

Government stated that

  • The capacity impacted by this measure, which has been done to ensure safety in the sky, impacts only a small proportion (1-2%) of the overall capacity in the system
  • The 1-2% capacity impact on the system is small in the light of the industry adding capacity at 20% year-on-year

Science and Technology:

The long fight against TB (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Fight against TB

What is the rate of incidence of TB in India?

The incidence rate of tuberculosis (TB) in India is estimated at 200-300 cases per 100,000 population per year. As a comparison, in Western Europe it is five per 100,000 per year

Situation in India

  • India’s estimated annual TB burden is 28 lakh, 27% of the global total; our population is only 18%
  • Every day 1,200 Indians die of TB — 10 every three minutes

What are the processes that need to be kept in mind while designing programmes for TB control?

In designing TB control three processes must be understood:

  • Infection
  • Progression
  • Transmission

When does an infection occur?

Infection occurs when TB bacilli are inhaled

  • Latent TB: Bacilli may stay in the lungs or travel to other organs. Infection is lifelong, with bacilli lying dormant. This phase is “latent TB”, diagnosed by a tuberculin skin test (TST). Cumulatively, 40% to 70% of us are living with latent TB
  • Progression to TB disease: From this reservoir pool, a few progress to TB disease, one by one, 5-30 years, average 20 years, later

When does progression happen?

Progression occurs when bacilli become active, multiply and cause pathology; now we have “active TB”. Only when active TB affects the lungs do bacilli find an exit route to the atmosphere, necessary for transmission

How can progression be stopped?

The biomedical method is drug treatment of latent TB

  • Experts recommend an age window of 5-10 years when all children must be screened with TST; those with latent TB must be treated to prevent progression
  • We should get annual data on ARTI (annual rate of TB infection) to track the decline. A yearly 5% reduction of ARTI is achievable. In 20 years we can be on a par with Western Europe in terms of infection incidence. Active TB will also decline, but more slowly

What should be done in India?

  • Public etiquettes: If no one spits in public places and if everyone practises cough and sneeze etiquette (covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing), the TB affected will also do the same
  • Begin treatment early: As per RNTCP (Revised National TB Control Programme)  guidelines of testing only after two weeks of cough result in the loss of precious lead time and aids the spread of infection too. To block transmission, treatment should begin as soon as a symptom shows up
  • Partnership with the private sector is essential for early diagnosis of TB. Delay in diagnosis, is a result of the lack of efficient primary health care
  • Universal primary health care, a basic human right, and a diagnostic algorithm for early diagnosis are essential for TB control. Every country that has reduced TB incidence practises universal health care

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that our only chance of stopping TB lies in a concerted use of all interventions ie both biomedical and socio-behavioral

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