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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 30 April 2020

Contents

  1. India remains on U.S. Priority Watch List
  2. NEET applies to minority colleges: SC
  3. Study on China dams brings the Brahmaputra into focus
  4. Only 30 lakh found MGNREGA work in April 2020
  5. By any calculus India qualifies for UNSC permanent seat

INDIA REMAINS ON U.S. PRIORITY WATCH LIST

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for lack of adequate intellectual property (IP) rights protection and enforcement, the USTR said in its Annual Special 301 Report, released on 29th April 2020.

Details

  • India remained one of the most challenging economies for IP enforcement and protection, the report said, using language it has used previously.
  • Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Venezuela are also on the Priority Watch List.
  • While India made “meaningful progress” to enhance IP protection and enforcement in some areas over the past year, it did not resolve recent and long-standing challenges, and created new ones, the report said.
  • The same assessment was made in the 2019 report.
  • The USTR also noted that India was ranked among the top five source economies for fake goods by the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in 2019.
  • Online IP enforcement in India has improved, the report said, but progress is undercut by factors including weak enforcement by courts and the police, lack of familiarity with investigative techniques and no centralised IP enforcement agency.

Concerns stated in the report

  • These long-standing concerns were about innovators being able to receive, maintain and enforce patents particularly in the pharmaceutical sector; concerns over copyright laws not incentivising the creation and commercialisation of content; and an outdated trade secrets framework.
  • India also further restricted the transparency of information provided on state-issued pharmaceutical manufacturing licenses.
  • India continues to apply restrictive patentability criteria to reject pharmaceutical patents.
  • India still has not established an effective system for protecting against the unfair commercial use, as well as the unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceuticals and certain agricultural chemical products.
  • The report also mentioned high customs duties on medical devices and Information and Communications Technology.
  • India maintains extremely high customs duties directed to IP-intensive products such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) products, solar energy equipment, and capital goods.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names and images used in commerce. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.

Read More About Intellectual Property Rights in India here: https://www.legacyias.com/what-are-intellectual-property-rights/


NEET APPLIES TO MINORITY COLLEGES: SC

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is mandatory for admission to medical colleges run by religious and linguistic minority communities, the Supreme Court held on 29th April 2020.

The court dismissed arguments made by the managements of several minority-run medical institutions that bringing them uniformly under the ambit of NEET would be a violation of their fundamental right to “occupation, trade and business”.

Claims made by some Institutions

  • The colleges had argued that imposing NEET would violate their fundamental rights of religious freedom, to manage their religious affairs, to administer their institutions.
  • They said the State was reneging its obligation to act in the best interest of minorities.

What the Court’s Judgement said?

  • The court held that rights of trade, business and occupation or religious rights “do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in the matter of admissions”.
  • Regulating academics and imposing reasonable restrictions to ensure educational standards was in national and public interest.
  • The right to freedom of trade or business is subject to “reasonable restriction in the interest of the students’ community to promote merit, recognition of excellence, and to curb the malpractices.
  • A uniform entrance test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable.
  • NEET is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education.
  • The court said minority institutions were equally bound to comply with the conditions imposed under the law.
  • The regulations, including admission through NEET, were neither divisive or disintegrative, rather they were necessary.
  • Uniform entrance exams would ensure improvement in future public health by encouraging merit in furtherance of the Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution.

What is this “right to manage Religious Affairs”?

Under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution which is about the Freedom to manage religious affairs:
Any section has the right to:

  1. to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
  2. to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
  3. to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
  4. to administer such property in accordance with law.

However, limitations can be imposed subject to public order, morality and health.

What is this right of “occupation, trade and business”?

Article 19 of the constitution guarantees to the citizen of India the following 6 freedoms:

  1. freedom of speech and expression.
  2. freedom of assembly
  3. freedom to form associations.
  4. freedom of movement.
  5. freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.
  6. freedom to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Hence this Article 19 (g) guarantees that all citizens shall have the right to practice any profession, or to carry on occupation, trade or business.

However, limitations can be imposed by the State by making a law subject to:

  1. the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or
  2. the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

STUDY ON CHINA DAMS BRINGS THE BRAHMAPUTRA INTO FOCUS

Focus: GS-I Geography, GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

A new study highlighting the impact of China’s dams on the Mekong river has raised fresh questions on whether dams being built on other rivers that originate in China, such as the Brahmaputra, may similarly impact countries downstream.

The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mekong River Damn in China Thailand Cambodia

What the study showed?

China’s southwestern Yunnan province had above-average rainfall from May to October 2019, however, there was “severe lack of water in the lower Mekong”, the study found based on satellite data from 1992 to 2019.

The study released this month said six dams built had altered natural flow of the river.

India’s Concerns regarding Brahmaputra

  • Indian officials have said the dams are not likely to impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s flows because they are only storing water for power generation.
  • Moreover, the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
  • India does not have a water-sharing agreement with China, but both sides share hydrological data.
  • India will continue to raise the issue of river waters in the Brahmaputra with China, as that appears to be the only methodology to ensure what happened on Mekong does not happen on Brahmaputra.
Dams on the River Brahmaputra Flowing through Tibet China

China’s Response

  • China called the study baseless, and maintained that the dams it is building on the river  are “run of the river” dams that only store water for power generation.
  • The study was not conclusive on the question of how China’s dams had affected quantity of flows.
  • The study did not consider other dams and water-use along the course of the river.
  • The lower basin isn’t entirely dependent on flows from China, but also receives water from tributaries in all four countries, which the study did not account for.

ONLY 30 LAKH FOUND MGNREGA WORK IN APRIL 2020

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

Although the Centre gave explicit instructions to reopen its flagship rural jobs scheme from April 20, only 30 lakh people were provided work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in April, about 17% of the usual, government data show.

In mid-April, only 1% of the usual number of workers had found employment.

Details

  • The figures for this April are the lowest in five years. On April 20, an intervention application was filed asking that as an interim measure, unemployment allowance be paid to all who were at work on March 24, when the lockdown was announced.
  • In the light of government failure to provide sufficient work at a time when the loss of livelihoods due to the lockdown and returning migrant workers have increased the need for work in Indian villages, there is a rising demand for compensation wages to be paid to workers instead.
  • The scheme stipulates that if workers register for work, but are not provided employment, they are eligible to an unemployment allowance amounting to a quarter of their wages in the first month, half in the second, and full wages thereafter.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA, is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • It covers all districts of India except the ones with 100% urban population.
  • MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
  • Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.

How MGNREGA came to be?

In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:

  • Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Enhanced Food Security

This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.

Features of MGNREGA

  • It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  • It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.

Objectives of MGNREGA

  • Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
  • Increase economic security
  • Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas

BY ANY CALCULUS INDIA QUALIFIES FOR UNSC PERMANENT SEAT

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

India is due for election to the temporary membership of the U.N. Security Council later in 2020.

Priorities for India to work on

  • India in many ways is a sui generis (unique)country, the only example in history of a billion-plus people working together in a democratic framework. Our USP (Unique selling proposition) is that we will bring to it those values and strengths of being able to work cohesively among disparate entities.
  • We have issues which are beyond borders, issues of global commons like cyber issues for which there are no regulatory mechanisms or no rules on that.
  • There are issues oh high seas, i.e., beyond EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), there is very limited understanding of what states can do and what states can’t do.
  • Another area of interest would obviously be technology with a human touch.

India’s Progress in getting the UNSC permanent member status

  • The issue of the expansion and reform of the Security Council is not an India-centric issue.
  • On India’s membership, there are very few discordant notes, but there are other issues. There are people who feel that matters relating to, for example, the veto are important factors.
  • When it comes to expansion, none of those present there as permanent members right now voted in favour. There were some who opposed, there were others who abstained.
  • India’s bid for permanent member of UNSC is now backed by four of the five permanent members, namely France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.
  • On 15 April 2011, China officially expressed its support for an increased Indian role at the United Nations, without explicitly endorsing India’s Security Council ambitions.
  • A few months later, China endorsed Indian candidacy as a permanent UNSC member provided that India revokes its support for Japanese candidacy.
  • As part of the G4 nations, India is supported by Brazil, Germany, and Japan for the permanent seat.
  • India joined the U.N. in 1945 (2 years before independence) and is the second-largest and one of the largest constant contributors of troops to the United Nations peacekeeping missions.
  • India has also been elected seven times to the UN Security Council.
  • India is the world’s fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity, and maintains the world’s second-largest active armed force (after China) and is a nuclear-weapon state.
  • Conclusion quotes: Clearly, a seat for India would make the body more representative and democratic. With India as a member, the Council would be a more legitimate and thus a more effective body.
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