- China will host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SC0) summit at Qingdao in June, 2018
2. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian multi-government organization established in 2001
3. The organization was launched by China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
4. At present there are 8 members. India and Pakistan joined as permanent members in 2017
5. SCO was a formal initiative borne out of the Shanghai Five Mechanism created in 1996 in the backdrop of US’s unilateral moves.
6. The SCO aims to create a ‘fair and rational new international political and economic order’.
7. The SCO’s objectives are centred on cooperation between member nations on security-related concerns, military cooperation, intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism and cultural cooperation
8. SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) provides a platform for regional cooperation to combat terrorism
9. Importance of upcoming summit:
- Russia China has been considering Iran’s formally entry to SCO
- This could indicate alliance of SCO members against the U.S withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal.
- Iran’s entry to SCO could strain India-USA ties and counter Indian government initiatives. For e.g. the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia and Japan
- The SCO summit will provide a platform for India, China and Russia to foster regional ties.
- Summit to help China, Russia and India navigate the adverse effects of US’s Treasury sanctions
- The summit would be significant for India as it will test India’s ‘plurilateralism’ foreign policy
Note: Plurilateral treaty is a type of multi-lateral treaty signed between a limited numbers of countries with a particular interest in the subject of the treaty. India is member such mini-multilateral organizations that serve a variety of purposes.
India – North Korea
- Recently, Minister of State for External Affairs visited North Korea.
2. Range of bilateral issues covering political, regional, economic, educational and cultural cooperation figured in the India-North Korean talks
3. Concern over North Korea’s possible proliferation links with Pakistan was also raised
4. In March 2017, India restricted trade with North Korea except for food and medicines
5. The recent meeting is seen as India’s attempt to rebuild ties with ‘cornered’ North Korea
6. The visit came amidst a threat by North Korea to cancel the June 12 US-North Korea Summit if USA made denuclearization a precondition
Life and liberty
- The Supreme Court has defended the dilution of SC/ST Act and observed that even Parliament cannot allow the arrest of a person without a fair procedure.
2. The SC asserted that decision to dilute SC/ST Act seeks to protect the fundamental rights to life and liberty (Article 21) of innocent citizens
3. The Supreme Court Verdict of March 20th, had directed the police to conduct preliminary enquiries before arresting a person accused of atrocities against SCs and STs
4. The SC had explained that enquiry was not mandatory and the police need to conduct preliminary enquiry before arrest only in cases where it was felt that the complaint file is fake or absurd
5. The SC had criticised the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 on the grounds that it allowed arrest of any accused person without any scrutiny and based on ‘one-sided version’
Violence erupted in Gaza after America opened its embassy in Jerusalem
- S President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem has complicated the peace process in Palestine
- The embassy shift happened on the eve of 70th Anniversary of Nabka- In 1948 thousands of Palestinians were forcefully evicted from their home.
- Most countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
- Jerusalem is seen as part of a final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
- Though the whole city is now under Israeli control, the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as their capital.
- Palestinians are caught amidst Israel occupation of West Bank and East Jerusalem and blockade of Gaza
River Dispute; Mahanadi river
- Recently, the Odhisa government started Mahanadi Suraksha Abhiyan (Save Mahanadi Campaign)
2. The 15-day long campaign seeks to aware people about the threat of construction of barrages by the Chhattisgarh government.
3. The campaign will cover 15 of the 30 districts of Odhisa
4. It has been launched from the districts of Bargarh and Jharsuguda
5. The campaign will end at Paradip- where Mahanadi drains into Bay of Bengal
6. The Odhisa government has criticised the Centre for supporting Chhattisgarh government and adopting an anti-Odhisa approach in Mahanadi water-sharing dispute
Cauvery water dispute
- The Supreme Court on 16th May, 2018 refused Karnataka’s repeated pleas to pause the Cauvery management scheme, framed by the Center, till July’2018.
2. Reason behind Karnataka’s plea:
- Formation of new government is still going on and
- The state wants to give suggestions on the draft scheme like the other States.
3. The plea has been refuted because the court cannot wait till July as the first release of water from Cauvery is scheduled in June.
4. Instead, the Supreme Court wants the Centre to incorporate the changes into the draft scheme within the next 24 hours.
5. One of the primary changes is the provision in the draft scheme which makes the decision of the Centre “binding”.
6. The second change is the provision which directs the Cauvery authority to comply with any and all directions given to it by the Centre from time to time.
7. In addition, the Supreme Court headquarters of the Cauvery authority should be in New Delhi.
8. The Supreme Court also has rejected Tamil Nadu’s suggestion that the chairman of the Cauvery authority should be an “independent person” like a retired judge.
- The Pakistan army has recently announced that it is ready to enter into a dialogue process with India
2. India has been of the opinion that Pakistan Army is not in agreement with Pakistan’s civilian government when it engages in talks with India.
3. Post 2016 Uri-Attacks India did not join SAARC Summit held in Islamabad. Further, all bilateral dialogue processes were halted
4. Pakistan’s military spokesperson opined that the SAARC is the most effective platform to boost Indo-Pak ties
5. Also indicated that the Pakistan army may consider participating in any multilateral exercise that involved Indian troops under Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
- A new study published in the journal Nature, reveals rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol.
2. The ozone layer, a part of the stratosphere, extends 10 to 40kms above earth’s surface. It protects the earth from deadly ultraviolet rays of the sun
3. Industrial aerosols such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is responsible for ozone depletion and is most responsible for Antarctic ozone hole
4. The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned the production of ozone depleting substances such as CFCs
5. Emissions of the chemical CFC-11 is on rise despite its production being banned around the world.
6. The rate of decline of atmospheric CFC-11 was constant from 2002 to 2012. However, the rate of decline slowed by about 50%
7. The source of the new emissions of CFC-11 has been tracked to East Asia
- A team of researchers has discovered a new species of frog –Mangaluru narrow mouthed frog, in Karnataka
2. The Mangaluru narrow mouthed frog is found only in one urban locality, close to the New Mangalore Port
3. Facts about the frog:
- Species: Microhyla Kodial (Kodial in Konkani means Mangaluru)
- Physical Characteristics: Greyish brown in colour; 2cm long; distinct loud, long calls. Thick olive green bands on head and less prominent green bands on rest of the body and few other physical features distinguish it from similar looking frogs
- Breeding Season: Monsoon
4. The frog is more closely related to South-east Asian frogs than Indian frogs
5. Researchers suspect that the frog came from the Southeast Asia along with timber imported at the New Mangalore Port
6. The Mangaluru narrow-mouthed frog is 42nd species belonging to genera Microhyla recorded in Southeast Asia
7. There are over 650 species of frogs found in Tropics which belong to the Microhylidae family
- The Union cabinet has approved the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018
2. Salient features of the policy:
- Categorizes biofuels as:
a) First Generation (1G), which produce bio-ethanol from molasses and bio-diesel from non-edible oilseeds.
b) Second Generation (2G) ethanol that can be produced from municipal solid waste
c) Third Generation (3G) fuels like bio-CNG.
- Expanded the scope of raw material for ethanol production to include sugarcane juice, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, corn, and cassava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, and rotten potatoes unfit for human consumption. At present, ethanol is mainly produced from molasses.
- Allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee
- Provides a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
3. Expected benefits:
- Reduction in India’s oil import dependence
- Provide additional income to farmers by disposing off their surplus stocks
- Cleaner environment- reduce green house gas emissions by reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels
Clean city; swachh bharat
- Indore has been named India’s cleanest city under Swachh Survekshan 2018
2. Swachh Survekshan is a survey aimed at assessing all the municipal cities in the country for their progress on the Swachh Bharat Mission
3. State ranking has been introduced in 2018 survey.
4. 2018 survey has covered 4,203 cities while in 2017 only 434 cities were surveyed.
5. Best Performing State: Jharkhand (1st) followed by Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.
6. Cleanest Cities: Indore (1st) followed by Bhopal and Chandigarh. Indore and Bhopal has retained its position of 2017
7. Cleanest Big City: Vijayawada
8. Cleanest medium sized city (population of between 3 lakh and one million): Mysuru
9. Cleanest small city: New Delhi Municipal Council
10. Cleanest Cantonment: Delhi Cantonment followed by Almora, Ranikhet and Nainital
11. Best City in Solid Waste Management: Mangaluru
The draft national forest policy 2018
- The author, Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer is of the opinion that even after the release of Draft National Forest Policy, the main motive for a new Forest Policy still remains unattended.
2. According to the existing National Forest Policy, 1998:
- The need for “most careful examination by specialists” and “costs and benefit” are mandatory before diversion of forest land for any-non-forest.
- Tropical rain/moist forests, particularly in areas like Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, should be totally safeguarded.
3. challenges which aroused in terms of forest clearances are:
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change have been challenged before the National Green Tribunal by affected and concerned persons.
- Tropical moist evergreen forests have been allowed to be diverted in ecologically-sensitive locations.
- Cost-benefit analyses and “detailed examination” by specialists are being questioned.
4. In respect to the above challenges, the author is of the opinion that new draft NFP, 2018 further facilitates speedy diversion of forest land without any detailed scientific and legal scrutiny.
5. The draft also:
- Deleted the entire section on safeguards to be followed for diversion of forest land.
- Does not regard diversion as a threat at all so far as forest land is concerned.
6. Under the draft policy one has:
- no requirement of cost-benefit analysis;
- no examinations by specialists;
- no requirement of alternatives; and
- no mention of the fact that tropical moist evergreen forests as well as forests in hilly States such as Arunachal Pradesh should be “totally safeguarded”.
- The Indian rupee recently fell below 68.07 against the U.S. dollar, lowest level in 16 months.
2. The rupee has weakened 6.2% in 2018. This is due to:
- Rise in crude oil prices,
- rising geopolitical tensions in West Asia, and
- Decreasing global supply.
3. India’s merchandise exports are in a poor position. As for example:
- April, 2018 had a decline in exports from employment-intensive sectors.
- The value of oil and petroleum product imports increased by 41.5% from last year.
- Investors in search of higher risk-adjusted yields have started to pull money out of emerging markets.
- Yields on emerging market bonds have risen as investors sold them off aggressively.
4. Measures to increase exports:
- Facilitate swifter GST refunds and
- Taking on tariff and non-tariff barriers from the developed world.
5. Efforts to diversify India’s energy sector also needs to be stressed.
- Conservationists observe that there is a need to augment the conservation efforts to protect Palarapu cliff vulture habitat in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad, Telangana
2. The Long-billed vulture or Indian vulture is critically endangered.
3. Palarapu cliff habitat is the only vulture habitat in Telangana
4. According to forest officials of Telangana, the Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) initiative of the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre, Pinjore needs to be implemented in Telangana to conserve vultures
5. Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) the natural habitat of wild vultures, of at least 100 Km radius made free of the presence of the drug Diclofenac found in animal carcasses
6. The drug is highly toxic for vulture and has been a major reason for decline in its population
7. The initiative includes massive nation-wide monitoring of use of Diclofenac. It also involves spreading awareness among people and various stakeholders
8. At present, VSZ initiative is concentrated in north Indian states only- Gujarat, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam