9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 16, 2019

All you need to know about Chief of Defence Staff

  1. Prime Minister has announced the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff.
  2. The Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.
  3. He offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Prime Minister on long-term defence planning and management including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all jointmanship in operations.
  4. Currently,India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee(CoSC) but this is a toothless office given the manner in which it is structured.
  5. The senior-most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC.But it is an additional role and the tenures have been very short.
  6. The proposal for a CDS has been there for two decades.It was first made by K. Subrahmanyam committee appointed after the Kargil conflict of 1999 to recommend higher military reforms.However,lack of consensus and apprehensions among services meant it never moved forward.
  7. In 2012,the Naresh Chandra committee recommended the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) as a midway to allay apprehensions over the CDS.
  8. The CDS was also one of the 99 recommendations made by the Lt General D.B. Shekatkar (retd) Committee which submitted its report in December 2016 which had 34 recommendations pertaining to the tri-services.

Kashmir returning to UNSC raises several legal questions

  1. The UN Security Council will be meeting at the request of China and Pakistan to discuss India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. The last time UNSC discussed Kashmir was in 1971 during the Bangladesh war which led to the Simla agreement.
  3. UNSC Resolution 307 had taken up the Kashmir issue in the backdrop of the war of 1971 while demanding ceasefire between India and Pakistan.
  4. But after the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan,India had informed the U.N about the treaty which had turned Kashmir into a bilateral subject.
  5. Therefore,the UNSC first of all has to discuss if the members have the legal space to deal with the Kashmir issue as India and Pakistan had termed Kashmir as a bilateral issue through Simla treaty.
  6. However,diplomats have said that a mention of Kashmir in the UNSC is not a positive turn for India as it indicates that China is eager to pacify Pakistan’s concern.
  7. Further,Russia is also not willing to play the role that it used to play during the 1970s and 1980s when the fear of the veto from Soviet Union was a significant deterrent for any Pakistani action at the UNSC on Kashmir.

WTO to rule on India sugar export subsidies

  1. The World Trade Organization(WTO) has set up panels to rule on complaints by Australia,Brazil and Guatemala against India’s export subsidies for sugar and sugarcane producers.
  2. The three countries have claimed that India provides trade-distorting production subsidies including soft loans and subsidies to maintain stocks of sugar and tax rebates.
  3. Australia has held India responsible for contributing to oversupply in the international sugar market.The production of sugar in India has increased from 22 million tonnes in 2016-17 to 34 million tonnes in 2017-18 thereby contributing to a surplus of 12 million tonnes.
  4. Brazil has charged India with intensifying various support programmes for the sugar sector including higher minimum prices for sugarcane. Brazil has said that mandating the mills to export 5 million tonnes of sugar has led to substantial pricing pressures on world market prices.
  5. However,India has disagreed with the claims made by the three countries.It said that its sugar-support programmes are aimed at assisting over 35 million vulnerable low-income resource-poor farmers to have a just and equitable share in economic development.
  6. Further,India has also maintained that its measures were consistent with global trade rules, and did not create any adverse effect in the global sugar market.

Defying U.S., Gibraltar frees Iran tanker

  1. Gibraltar has released an Iranian oil tanker named Grace 1.The oil tanker was stopped by the UK navy after the government of Gibraltar suggested it was heading for Syria.
  2. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.It occupies a commanding position at the western gateway to the Mediterranean Sea.
  3. Gibraltarians are British citizens.Gibraltar is self-governing in all areas except defence and foreign policy.It is also home to a British military garrison and naval base.
  4. However,Spain continues to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar which has been ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. 
  5. The European Union(EU) has pressured Spain and Britain to resolve the issue of Gibraltar’s status.However,both sides determination to retain full control of Gibraltar’s have led to a deadlock.

Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman for the Year 2019

  1. President of India has awarded the “President’s Certificate of Honour” and “Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman” for the Year 2019.
  2. Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman were introduced in the year 2002.It is given to selected young scholars in the age group of 30 to 45 years.On the other hand,Presidential award carries a certificate of honour a memento and a one time cash prize of Rs.1 lakh
  3. The awards are conferred annually to recognise the contribution of scholars in the field of 9 languages which are (a)Sanskrit (b)Persian (c)Arabic (d)Pali (e)Prakrit (f)Classical Oriya (g)Classical Kannada (h)Classical Telugu and (I)Classical Malayalam.
  4. These awards are not given posthumously.These awards are also not given to scholars (a)who have received this award earlier or (b)who are convicted in a criminal case/against whom a criminal case is pending in a court.

CBIC seeks inputs to combat ‘gift’ import duty loophole

  1. Recently,the Mumbai Customs department has stopped clearing parcels under the gifts and samples route.
  2. According to the Foreign Trade Act,gift items of a value of up to ₹5,000 received from foreign countries to people residing in India are exempted from customs duty.
  3. However,there is no cap on the number of gifts an individual can receive.
  4. E-commerce platforms especially from China has misused this rule to ship cheaper products to Indian customers as gifts,thus avoiding customs duty and goods and services tax.
  5. Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs(CBIC) have asked domestic industry to come up with a detailed plan by the end of the month to plug these loopholes. 
  6. One of the suggestions being mooted is the imposition of a flat rate of tax and Integrated Goods and Services Tax to be applied on all items imported from e-commerce companies.This way,gifts can be distinguished from e-commerce purchases.
  7. Another approach is to integrate the payment portals of the e-commerce companies with the CBIC so that when a payment is made for a product that has to enter India,the CBIC has the barcode and other details it can match with the product when it physically arrives at a port of entry.

Plastics industry seeks export schemes, tax benefits for MSMEs

  1. All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association(AIPMA) has said that plastics industry is under severe stress due to environmental challenges.
  2. They have asked the government for export promotion schemes for Micro,Small, Medium Enterprises(MSMEs) in the plastic sector and removal of anti-dumping duty on machines not made in India.
  3. The industry has sought allocation of 25% of the land available at all industrial corridors for MSMEs at discounted rates.Additionally,it appealed to the government to make lending to MSMEs more convenient.
  4. Further,they have also asked for the establishment of a helpdesk for MSMEs at banks and the current limits under the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises(CGTMSE) scheme needs to increase to ₹4 crore.
  5. They have also demanded direct tax exemption on export income and income generated directly or indirectly from indigenisation as well as import substitution exemption for a period of five years.

Explained: PM Modi called for ‘One Nation, One Election’. What does this idea mean?

  1. Prime Minister has called for ‘one nation,one election’.He said that a committee would be formed to discuss the idea with all political parties.
  2. One nation,One Election is the method of holding single elections for both Lok Sabha and States instead of separate and continuous elections.
  3. Simultaneous elections are not new to India.They were the norm until 1967.But following dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and that of the Lok Sabha in December 1970,elections to State Assemblies and Parliament have been held separately.
  4. The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983.The Law Commission’s Report also referred to it in 1999.
  5. Simultaneous polls are needed as it (a)will reduce the enormous costs involved in separate elections (b)It will help ruling parties focus on governance instead of being constantly in election mode (c)boost voter turnout and (d)Frees up security forces for deployment in their core areas.
  6. The arguments against the simultaneous polls are (a)National and state issues are different and holding simultaneous elections is likely to affect the judgment of voters and (b)Since elections will be held once in five years,it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people.
  7. In 2018,the Law Commission had said that simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.This will require appropriate amendments to the Constitution,the  Representation of the People Act 1951 and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies would be required.
  8. The Commission has also recommended that all elections due in a calendar year should be conducted together.To preempt the disruption a no-confidence motion should be replaced with a constructive vote of no-confidence which means that a government may be replaced only if there is confidence in an alternative government.

Chhattisgarh doubles OBC quota, hikes SC benefits

  1. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister has announced an increase in reservations for OBCs and Scheduled Castes in state government jobs and education.
  2. The government has decided to increase the quota for Scheduled Castes by 1% (at present it is 12%) The reservation for OBCs will be increased from 14% to 27%. The quota for Scheduled Tribes will remain at 32%.
  3. Once in effect, Chhattisgarh will have a total of 72% reservation, the highest in India. The will breach the 50% cap on reservation imposed by the Supreme Court in 1992.
  4. The Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case (1992), had held that the power conferred to the State by Clause (4) of Article 16 should be exercised in a fair manner and within reasonable limits. The court upheld that reservation under Clause (4) shall not exceed 50% of the appointments or posts, barring certain extraordinary situations
  5. Article 16 (4) empowers the State to make provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is inadequately represented in public employment.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

  1. Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 aims at the social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender persons.
  2. Under the bill, transgender persons are defined as those “whose gender does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-men or trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons having socio-cultural identities”
  3. According to the bill, a person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy.
  4. It also requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a transperson.
  5. It also states that the government, through an insurance scheme, will cover medical expenses for sex reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy, laser therapy or any such health related expenses of transgender persons
  6. The Bill prohibits any person or establishment from discriminating against a transgender person in any way.
  7. It has also proposed establishing a National Council for Transgender persons. The Council would advise the central government on related policies and legislation and also act as a centre for grievance redressal.
  8. Few of the provisions of the Bill has raised concerns among the transgender community. The features of the bill which have been criticised are:

Government to launch Jal Jeevan Mission to bring piped water to households: PM Modi

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, has said that Rs 3.5 lakh crore will be spent in the coming years under the Jal Jeevan Mission to bring piped water to households.
  2. Jal Jeevan Mission seeks to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections (HarGharJal) to all rural households by 2024. The mission will be implemented by the Jal Shakti Ministry.
  3. The Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level. It will implement source sustainability measures recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, rain water harvesting.
  4. The Mission seeks to converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across India.
  5. According to the Jal Shakti Ministry, only 18% of India’s rural households have access to piped water.

Microplastics in snow raise pollution worries

  1. Scientists have detected microplastic particles in the Arctic and the Alps. The microplastics had been carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow. The study has been published in the journal Science Advances.
  2. The high microplastic concentrations in snow has indicated significant contamination of the atmosphere.
  3. This has raised concerns about potential health risk to people and animals from inhalation of microplastic contaminated air. A recent report titled “New Plastics Economy Report”, had noted that an individual consumes about 250 grams annually.
  4. Microplastics are plastics which are less than five mm in diameter in size. Sources of micro plastic include clothing, cosmetics, industrial processes etc.
  5. Scientists have discovered micro plastics in a remote area of the Pyrenees Mountains, which runs between France and Spain. Other recent studies have found micro plastics in farmland soils near Shanghai, China, in the Galápagos Islands (a UNESCO world heritage site), and in rivers in the Czech Republic.

July hottest month on record for the earth

  1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that July was the hottest month on record (records date to 1880).
  2. The global average surface temperature in July 2019 was 0.95 degree Celsius warmer than the 20th century average. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016.
  3. The areas that had the most notable departures from their normal July temperatures were Alaska, central Europe, northern and south-western parts of Asia, and parts of Africa and Australia.
  4. The NOAA also noted that at the end of July 2019 both Arctic sea ice and Antarctic sea ice were at their lowest levels on record for the month. The previous historic low was in July 2012.
  5. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce. It studies the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere.

Kondapalli Toys

  1. Kondapalli bommalu (Kondapalli toys) are colourful, hand-crafted, wooden toys made by artisans of Kondapalli town, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh.
  2. The artisans who work on crafting these wooden toys are called the Arya Kshatriyas. They are said to have migrated to Kondapalli town from Rajasthan in the 16th century.
  3. The Kondapalli toys are crafted from a wood known as Tella Poniki which is obtained from local forests and seasoned for years.
  4. The themes for the toys vary from mythological to the modern. The Krishna theme and the Dasavatharam are popular mythological themes.
  5. Kondapalli bommalu has been given GI Tag in the handicrafts category.
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