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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 2 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. 50th anniversary of 1972 Stockholm conference
  2. Chinese cyber-attack foiled: Power Ministry
  3. Urban unemployment rate falls below 7%
  4. USTR trade report flags challenges from ‘Make in India’

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF 1972 STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE

Context:

Stockholm+50: the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Stockholm conference is approaching and this comes with the need to discuss topics such as climate change or inequitable world as topics such as climate change or even the depletion of the ozone layer were not discussed back then in 1972.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of environment, International Agreements & Groupings regarding conservation of Environment)

Mains Question:

In the context of the 1972 Stockholm Convention, discuss its significance with respect to the changes in concerns to be addressed with the progress of time. What are the measures taken by India with respect to the convention? (15 Marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Stockholm Conference, 1972
  2. Issues at the 1972 Stockholm Conference
  3. About United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  4. Functions of UNEP
  5. How to approach Stockholm+50?
  6. Lessons from COVID-19 as Stockholm+50 is fast approaching, Way forwards

Stockholm Conference, 1972

  • The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972 and is referred to as the Stockholm Conference.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, was created as a result of this conference.
  • The Stockholm Conference motivated countries around the world to monitor environmental conditions as well as to create environmental ministries and agencies.
  • The meeting agreed upon a Declaration containing 26 principles concerning the environment and development; an Action Plan with 109 recommendations, and a Resolution.

The 26 Principles of the Stockholm Declaration:

  1. Human rights must be asserted, apartheid and colonialism condemned
  2. Natural resources must be safeguarded
  3. The Earth’s capacity to produce renewable resources must be maintained
  4. Wildlife must be safeguarded
  5. Non-renewable resources must be shared and not exhausted
  6. Pollution must not exceed the environment’s capacity to clean itself
  7. Damaging oceanic pollution must be prevented
  8. Development is needed to improve the environment
  9. Developing countries therefore need assistance
  10. Developing countries need reasonable prices for exports to carry out environmental management
  11. Environment policy must not hamper development
  12. Developing countries need money to develop environmental safeguards
  13. Integrated development planning is needed
  14. Rational planning should resolve conflicts between environment and development
  15. Human settlements must be planned to eliminate environmental problems
  16. Governments should plan their own appropriate population policies
  17. National institutions must plan development of states’ natural resources
  18. Science and technology must be used to improve the environment
  19. Environmental education is essential
  20. Environmental research must be promoted, particularly in developing countries
  21. States may exploit their resources as they wish but must not endanger others
  22. Compensation is due to states thus endangered
  23. Each nation must establish its own standards
  24. There must be cooperation on international issues
  25. International organizations should help to improve the environment
  26. Weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated

Despite these institutional accomplishments, including the establishment of UNEP, the failure to implement most of its action programme has prompted the UN to have follow-up conferences such as:

  1. The Rio Earth Summit 1992,
  2. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and
  3. The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Issues at the 1972 Stockholm Conference

  • The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations boycotted the conference due to the lack of inclusion of East Germany, which was not allowed to participate as it was not a full member of the UN.
  • The Chinese delegation proved hostile to the United States at the conference, issuing a 17-point memorandum condemning United States policies in Indochina.
  • Multiple countries including Pakistan, Peru, and Chile issued statements that were anti-colonial in nature, further worrying the United States delegation.

About United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a leading global environmental authority established in 1972 and Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for global environment protection.

Functions of UNEP

The major functions of the UNEP are:

  • It promotes environmental science and related information.
  • It finances and implements developmental projects related to the environment.
  • It engages with national governments, NGOs, etc. in relation to environmental policy and implementation.
  • The UNEP also formulates treaties and guidelines in the domain of international trade in harmful chemicals, international waterways pollution and transboundary pollution of air.
  • It also awards and honours individuals as well as institutions that do stellar work in this field.
  • The UNEP engages in developing global conventions on the environment and related issues. It hosts the secretariats of various conventions such as the Minamata Convention, CITES, Montreal Protocol etc.

The UNEP Publishes:

  1. Emission Gap Report,
  2. Global Environment Outlook,
  3. Frontiers,
  4. Invest into Healthy Planet.

How to approach Stockholm+50?

  • 50 years since the Stockholm conference, it can be argued that a lot has changed in the past 50 years regarding conservation of the environment; however, toxification of the environment is still a pressing concern, poverty and marginalisation are growing and climate change impacts are spiralling out of control.
  • The world is now realizing that the actions of one country exceeded its boundaries and we have to act globally and cooperatively as we live in an interdependent world.
  • How ecological and economic globalisation would counteract each other is yet to be understood, amidst the situation where the poor in the world are on the aspirational ladder to get richer with more goods and more consumption and more waste.

Lessons from COVID-19 as Stockholm+50 is fast approaching, Way forwards

  • We have to understand the value of labour, especially that of migrant labour and how important it is for industries. Industries now need to work hard to bring back its workers; offering them better pay and better working conditions.
  • We have to understand the value of blue skies and clear lungs, as the lockdown resulted in lowered pollution. Investment in the environment will increase the cost of production as well, but this increase in prices is well worth the benefits and sustainability in the future.
  • We have to understand the value of investing in land-agriculture-water systems. Now is the time to secure resilient futures there with food production systems that are sustainable, nature-friendly and good for health.
  • In the world of work-from-home, we have to understand the necessity of hybrid systems that will allow working remotely, reducing travel stress, and also have interactions and collaborations that enrich our world.
  • Governments have to understand the need to invest in circular economies — find ways of making resources out of waste; do more with less.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


CHINESE CYBER-ATTACK FOILED: POWER MINISTRY

Context:

  • “State-sponsored” Chinese hacker groups had targeted various Indian power centres according to Power Ministry of India. However, these groups have been thwarted after government cyber agencies warned it about their activities.
  • The National Technical Research Organisation -NTRO’s National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) informed the Power Ministry that Chinese state-sponsored threat Actor group known as Red Echo is targeting Indian Power sector’s Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) along with State Load Dispatch Centres (SLDCs).

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Cybersecurity, Cyber-attacks, Cyber-warfare)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a cyber-attack?
  2. Events of cyber-attacks in India
  3. What’s hybrid warfare?
  4. Computer Emergency Response Team – India (CERT-IN)
  5. Indian government’s initiatives for cyberspace security

What is a cyber-attack?

  • Cyber-attack is any type of offensive plan that targets computer information systems by malicious acts from an anonymous source.
  • It is to either steal, alter, or destroy a specified target by hacking into a susceptible system.
  • These can be labelled as either a cyber-campaign, cyber warfare or cyber terrorism in different context.
  • Cyber-attacks can range from installing spyware on a PC to attempts to destroy the infrastructure of entire nations

Events of cyber-attacks in India

  • 72% of Indian companies faced cyber-attacks in 2015, and in 2016, security codes of more than 30 lakh debit cards were breached.
  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)’s report on cyber-attacks in 2018 said that the maximum number of cyber-attacks on official Indian websites are from China followed by the US and Russia.
  • In 2020, the Chinese company Zhenhua was reported to be monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of foreign targets, which can be used for strategic and intelligence services of China for hybrid warfare.
  • A report said that hackers from various countries attempted over 40,000 cyber-attacks on India’s Information Technology infrastructure and banking sector in less than a week in 2020.
  • Cyber-attacks against banks and financial institutions globally have increased by more than 200% amid the Covid-19 crisis (lockdown period) and Ransomware attacks increased by nine times during the same period.
  • Banking and ATM networks have been the target of cyber criminals for several years, with attackers often disrupting operations and attempting to steal sensitive data.

What’s hybrid warfare?

  • Hybrid warfare is a military strategy which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention.
  • By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.
  • There is no universally-accepted definition of hybrid warfare that leads to some debate whether the term is useful at all.
  • As early as 1999, Unrestricted Warfare, a publication by China’s People’s Liberation Army, mapped the contours of hybrid warfare, a shift in the arena of violence from military to political, economic and technological. The new weapons in this war were those “closely linked to the lives of the common people.”
  • Indeed, within countries too, political parties target the opposition via these same tools.

Computer Emergency Response Team – India (CERT-IN)

  • Computer Emergency Response Team – India (CERT-IN) is an organisation of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • It is the nodal agency to deal with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing.
  • It strengthens security-related defence of the Indian Internet domain.
  • They exchange information on prevalent cyber security policies and best practices.
  • It collects, analyses and disseminates information on cyber incidents, and also issues alert on cybersecurity incidents.
  • CERT-IN provides Incident Prevention and Response Services as well as Security Quality Management Services.

Indian government’s initiatives for cyberspace security

  1. National Cyber Security Policy, 2013: The Policy is aimed at building a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and the Government. Its mission is to protect cyberspace information and infrastructure, build capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber attacks, and minimise damages through coordinated efforts of institutional structures, people, processes, and technology.
  2. ‘Cyber Swachhta Kendra’ (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre): To combat cyber security violations and prevent their increase,Government of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) in 2017 launched ‘Cyber Swachhta Kendra’ (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) a new desktop and mobile security solution for cyber security in India.
  3. Creating mechanisms for security threats and responses to the same through national systems and processes. National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) functions as the nodal agency for the coordination of all cybersecurity efforts, emergency responses, and crisis management.
  4. In 2014, the Prime Minister’s Office created the position of the National Cyber Security Coordinator.
  5. National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is an organisation of the Government of India created under Section 70A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008).

-Source: The Hindu, Hindustan Times


URBAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS BELOW 7%

Context:

Urban unemployment reduced to below 7% in February 2021 from more than 8% in January 2021 – according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), mirroring the gradual revival of the economy.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Economic growth and development, Issues related to poverty & unemployment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who is considered as employed?
  2. What is Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR)?
  3. Highlights of National Statistics Office – NSO’s employment indicators based on Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)
  4. Highlights of the latest CMIE report in 2021 regarding unemployment

Who is considered as employed?

  • The estimates in the bulletin are based on the current weekly status (CWS) of those surveyed.
  • In this approach, a person is considered part of the labour force if they worked or were available or looking for work for at least one hour during the survey week.

What is Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR)?

  • The labor force participation rate is a measure of an economy’s active workforce.
  • The formula for the number is the sum of all workers who are employed or actively seeking employment divided by the total noninstitutionalized, civilian working-age population.
  • The labor force participation rate indicates the percentage of all people of working age who are employed or are actively seeking work.
  • Global labor force participation has shown a steady decline since 1990.

Highlights of National Statistics Office – NSO’s employment indicators based on Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)

  • Compared to the June 2019 quarter, the share of the self-employed in the work-force increased by more than 1% and that of the regular wage and casual workers decreased by almost 1% and 1.5% respectively.
  • Despite an overall fall in joblessness across India, at least 10 states including fairly industrialized ones like Haryana (almost 20%) and Rajasthan (more than 15%) almost with Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand etc., are still reporting double-digit unemployment.
  • Employment in Himachal, Uttarakhand, Goa and J&K is largely driven by tourism and hospitality and since these sectors were the worst hit during the pandemic, it resulted in high unemployment rate.

Highlights of the latest CMIE report in 2021 regarding unemployment

Fast revival 
Urban unemployment shot 
up to 25% post-lockdown 
and remained above the 
comfort level of policymakers 
until last month. 
30 
20 
8.65 
10 
7.76 
Feb 2020 
*Apr 2020 to 
(in %) 
Urban India 
6.99 
6.9 
Feb 2021 
Source: company
  • The demand for workers has snapped back faster than many economists expected, with India’s urban unemployment rate dropping below 7% in February, the lowest in more than two years.
  • The rural unemployment rate, however, climbed a percentage point to almost 7% in February 2021 from less than 6% in January 2021.
  • And if one takes the urban labour force participation rate into account, the trend is almost similar –urban LPR in February 2021 was 37.25 as against 37.59% in January.
  • Economists warned the number overstates the health of the job market as the labour force participation rate, or the number of people who are either working or looking for work, has declined.
  • Low unemployment rate and high labour force participation rate (LPR) is what the labour market desires, but we are far from there.

-Source: Hindustan Times


USTR TRADE REPORT FLAGS CHALLENGES FROM ‘MAKE IN INDIA’

Context:

An annual report submitted by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) terms India’s policies “trade-restrictive” and saying the “Make in India” campaign epitomises the challenges to the trade relationship.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Economic Development and International Trade)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the USTR regarding India
  2. About Make in India (Objectives and Challenges)

Highlights of the USTR regarding India

  • According to the report recent Indian emphasis on import substitution through a “Make in India” campaign has epitomized the challenges facing the bilateral trade relationship”.
  • While India’s large market, economic growth, and progress towards development make it an essential market for many U.S. exporters, a general and consistent trend of trade-restrictive policies have inhibited the potential of the bilateral trade relationship.
  • The report describes the Trump administration’s revocation of India’s preferential trading status under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program in 2019.
  • In a country-wise section on Digital Service Tax (DST), a Section 301 investigation on India’s DST, which began in 2020 is also highlighted.

About Make in India

Make in India campaign was launched by the Prime Minister of India in 2014.

Objectives of Make in India

  • To attract foreign investment for new industrialization and develop the already existing industry base in India to surpass that of China.
  • Target of an increase in manufacturing sector growth to 12-14% per annum over the medium term.
  • To increase the share of manufacturing sector in the country’s Gross Domestic Product from 16% to 25% by 2022.
  • To create 100 million additional jobs by 2022.
  • To promote export-led growth.

Challenges faced by Make in India

  1. Investment from Shell Companies: Large part of the Indian FDI is neither foreign nor direct but comes from Mauritius-based shell companies which are suspected to be investing black money from India only, which is routed via Mauritius.
  2. Low Productivity: Productivity of Indian factories is low and workers have insufficient skills. McKinsey report states that Indian workers in the manufacturing sector are, on average, almost four and five times less productive than their counterparts in Thailand and China.
  3. Small Industrial Units: Size of the industrial units is small for attaining the desired economies of scale, investing in modern equipment and developing supply chains.
  4. Complicated Labour Laws: One of the major reasons behind small companies is the complicated labour regulations for plants with more than 100 employees.
  5. Infrastructure: Electricity costs are almost the same in India and China but power outages are much higher in India.
  6. Transportation: Average speeds in China are about 100 km per hour, while in India, they are about 60 km per hour. Indian railways have saturated and Indian ports have been outperformed by a lot of Asian countries.
  7. Insufficient Rules and Regulations: Labour reforms and land acquisition laws were not completed before making attempts to attract foreign investors to Make in India.
  8. Capital Outflow: In future India will have to face another external challenge in the form of capital fleeing the country. The net outflow of capital has jumped as the rupee has dropped from 54 a dollar in 2013 to more than 70 a dollar in 2019 and the rising prices of oil add to it.

-Source: The Hindu

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