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Current Affairs 16 January 2024

  1. Diplomatic Turmoil in Maldives and Shifting Alliances
  2. Global Economic Prospects 2024: World Bank
  3. Delhi High Court’s Recommendations on Organ Transplant Timelines
  4. India’s First Dark Sky Park
  5. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  6. I-STEM
  7. Kachchhi Kharek
  8. Astra Missile


Context:

The Maldives is currently navigating diplomatic turmoil marked by undiplomatic remarks, military repositioning, and the termination of significant agreements, prompting concerns about its relationship with India. Additionally, the Maldives has entered into new agreements with China, adding complexity to the geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. China-Maldives Recent Agreements: Key Insights
  2. India-Maldives Relations: Key Points
  3. India-Maldives Relations: Major Challenges

China-Maldives Recent Agreements: Key Insights

  • Deepening Bilateral Ties: China and the Maldives announce an upgraded relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership, symbolizing a strengthened connection between the two nations.
Crucial Agreements:
  • Belt and Road Initiative: Both countries commit to expediting the formulation of the Cooperation Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, emphasizing improved connectivity and infrastructure development.
  • Tourism Collaboration: Mutual vows to fortify collaboration in the tourism sector, recognizing its pivotal role in the Maldives’ economy.
  • Disaster Resilience: Agreements include cooperation in disaster risk reduction, stressing joint efforts to address and mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
  • Blue Economy Focus: Both nations express dedication to advancing cooperation in the blue economy, emphasizing the sustainable use of ocean resources.
  • Digital Economy Boost: Efforts to enhance investments in the digital economy are underlined.
Economic Support:
  • China extends support to the Maldives by providing grant assistance, with the specific amount undisclosed. The agreements underscore the significance of China-Maldives trade, with bilateral trade reaching USD 451.29 million in 2022.

India-Maldives Relations: Key Points

Historical Foundations:
  • The diplomatic and political ties between India and the Maldives trace back to 1965, marking the end of British control over the islands.
  • India’s strategic investments post the Maldives’ democratic transition in 2008 encompass diverse sectors like politics, military, business, and civil society.
Maldives’ Significance for India:
  • Positioned south of India, the Maldives holds critical strategic value in the Indian Ocean, serving as a gateway to the Arabian Sea and beyond.
  • This positioning aids India in monitoring maritime activities, contributing to regional security.
  • Deep cultural and historical ties, dating back centuries, underscore the relationship.
  • A prosperous Maldives aligns with India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, fostering peace and security in the Indian Ocean region.
India’s Significance for Maldives:
  • India plays a vital role as a supplier of essential goods, including rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, and medicines.
  • Contributions extend to infrastructure development through the provision of materials like cement and rock boulders.
  • India stands as the primary education provider for Maldivian students, offering scholarships to deserving candidates.
  • During crises like tsunamis and water shortages, India consistently provides aid.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic showcased India’s reliability through the supply of essential items and support.
  • A history of security assistance includes interventions during the 1988 coup attempt (Operation Cactus) and joint naval exercises for Maldives’ protection.
  • Joint Exercises: “Ekuverin,” “Dosti,” and “Ekatha.”
  • Indian tourists have become the leading source market for the Maldives, constituting 11.2% of total arrivals in 2023 (18.42 lakh visitors).

India-Maldives Relations: Major Challenges

Anti-India Campaign:
  • Recent Maldivian politics has witnessed an “India Out” campaign, portraying Indian presence as a threat to Maldivian sovereignty.
  • Central to this campaign is the demand for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.
  • The current Maldivian President has set a deadline of March 15, 2024, for the withdrawal of Indian troops.
Tourism Diplomatic Dispute:
  • Diplomatic tensions arose from disparaging comments following the Indian Prime Minister’s promotional visit to the Lakshadweep islands.
  • The tourism scenario in the Maldives gained focus, leading to a “boycott Maldives” trend on social media as a response to the controversy.
Rising Chinese Presence:
  • China’s increasing visibility in the Maldives raises concerns, given its proximity to key shipping lanes and India.
  • The strategic importance of the Maldives for China could fuel deeper engagement, causing unease in India and triggering a potential regional geopolitical contest.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the World Bank (WB) has released its Global Economic Prospects Report, which shows that the global economy may witness a poor performance by the end of 2024, the slowest half-decade of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth in 30 years.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Global Economic Outlook 2024: Key Highlights
  2. Recommendations for Global Action
  3. World Bank: A Brief Overview

Global Economic Outlook 2024: Key Highlights

Sluggish Growth Projection:

  • The global economy anticipates the slowest half-decade of GDP growth in thirty years, with a forecasted rate of 2.4% in 2024.
  • Despite the receding risk of a global recession, geopolitical tensions pose fresh near-term hazards.

US Economic Strength:

  • The strength of the US economy contributes to a better global economic position than the previous year, reducing the risk of a recession.

Challenges for Developing Economies:

  • The medium-term outlook worsens for many developing economies, characterized by slowing growth, sluggish global trade, and tight financial conditions.
  • Global trade growth in 2024 is expected to be only half the average of the decade preceding the pandemic.

Borrowing Costs and Debt Concerns:

  • Borrowing costs, especially for developing economies with low credit ratings, are expected to remain high.
  • Global growth is projected to decelerate for the third consecutive year, dropping to 2.4% in 2024.

Developing Economies’ Growth Dilemma:

  • Developing economies are projected to grow at 3.9%, over one percentage point below the previous decade’s average.
  • Low-income countries face challenges, growing at 5.5%, lower than initial expectations.

Implications on Global Priorities:

  • Weak near-term growth, particularly in developing countries, may result in high levels of debt and limited access to food, obstructing progress on global priorities.

Recommendations for Global Action:

Accelerating Investment:

  • Urgent action is required to accelerate investment, emphasizing the need to strengthen fiscal policy frameworks in the current decade.

Addressing Climate Change and Global Goals:

  • The report calls for a ‘formidable’ increase in investment by developing countries, targeting approximately USD 2.4 trillion per year.
  • This investment is crucial to address climate change and achieve key global development goals by 2030.

Comprehensive Policy Packages:

  • Developing economies are urged to implement comprehensive policy packages, encompassing improvements to fiscal and monetary frameworks.
  • Recommendations include the expansion of cross-border trade and financial flows, enhancements to the investment climate, and the strengthening of institutional quality.

World Bank: A Brief Overview

Foundation and Evolution:

  • Established in 1944 as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), later evolving into the World Bank.
  • A global partnership of five institutions addressing sustainable solutions for poverty reduction and shared prosperity.

Membership and Representation:

  • The World Bank has 189 member countries, including India.
  • As one of the United Nations’ specialized agencies, it plays a crucial role in international development.

Key Reports:

  • Human Capital Index and World Development Report are among the major reports published by the World Bank.

Development Institutions:

  • The World Bank Group comprises five development institutions: IBRD, IDA, IFC, MIGA, and ICSID (International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes), from which India is excluded as a member.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Delhi High Court has suggested an optimal timeframe of 6-8 weeks for concluding organ transplant procedures involving living donors. In a directive to the government, the court emphasized the importance of adhering to specific timelines for every stage of organ donation applications, aligning with The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (THOT) Act, 1994, and Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Rules, 2014 (THOT Rules).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Provisions of the THOT Act, 1994
  2. Provisions of the THOT Rules, 2014
  3. High Court’s Decisions Regarding Organ Transplantation

Provisions of the THOT Act, 1994

  • Regulation of Transplantation: The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (THOT) Act, 1994, oversees the transplantation of human organs and tissues in India, encompassing both living and deceased donor scenarios.
  • Regulations for Healthcare Providers: The law establishes stringent regulations for healthcare providers and hospitals, prescribing penalties for any violations in the organ transplantation process.
  • Living and Deceased Donations: The Act permits organ transplants from deceased donors, facilitated by their relatives. Additionally, it allows living donations, primarily from close relatives, with provisions for altruistic donations from distant relatives or friends.
  • Documentation for Living Donations: Living donations from close relatives, whether Indian or foreign, require thorough documentation, including identity proofs, family trees, and photographs establishing the donor-recipient relationship. Interviews of donors and recipients are also conducted.
  • Scrutiny for Altruistic Donations: Altruistic donations from distant relatives or friends undergo additional scrutiny to ensure the absence of any financial transactions.
  • Prevention of Illegal Dealings: To prevent illegal organ trade, donations from unrelated persons necessitate extensive documentation and photographic evidence, reviewed by an external committee.
  • Penalties for Violations: The Act imposes strict penalties, including imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines up to Rs 1 crore, for offenses such as paying for organs, advertising organ transactions, and involvement in fraudulent document preparation.
Formation of NOTTO

National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO):

  • NOTTO is a national-level organization established under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family.
  • Mandated by the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act 2011, NOTTO serves as the apex center for coordinating and networking nationwide activities related to organ and tissue procurement, distribution, and transplantation.
  • It also maintains a registry of organ and tissue donation and transplantation across the country.

Provisions of the THOT Rules, 2014

  • Constitution of Authorisation Committee: Rule 7 of the 2014 Rules outlines the formation of the Authorisation Committee and delineates the nature of the inquiry and evaluation conducted by it.
  • Prevention of Commercial Transactions: Rule 7(3) emphasizes that the Committee must ensure the absence of commercial transactions in cases where the donor and recipient are not near relatives.
  • Expedited Evaluation in Critical Conditions: Rule 7(5) permits an expedited evaluation process if the recipient is in a critical condition requiring transplantation within a week. Hospitals can be approached for accelerated assessment in such cases.
  • Application Process for Living Donor Transplantations: Rule 10 details the application process for living donor transplantations, requiring joint applications from both the donor and recipient.
  • Personal Interview and Eligibility Determination: Rule 21 mandates the Committee to conduct personal interviews with applicants to assess their eligibility for donation, ensuring compliance with ethical standards.
Role and Composition of the Authorisation Committee
  • Overview: The Authorisation Committee is responsible for overseeing and approving organ transplant procedures involving donors and recipients who are not near relatives, particularly in cases driven by reasons of affection, attachment, or special circumstances.
  • Composition: As per Section 9(4) of the Act,1994, the composition of the Authorisation Committee is prescribed by the Central Government. State governments and Union Territories are mandated to constitute one or more Authorisation Committees with nominated members.
  • Powers and Inquiry: Under Section 9(5), the Committee conducts a thorough inquiry during the review of transplant applications. The inquiry verifies the authenticity of the donor and recipient, ensuring that the donation is not motivated by commercial interests.
  • Role in Rule Formation: Section 24 of the Act grants the Centre the authority to make rules, subject to parliamentary approval, for various purposes of the Act. This includes rules related to donor authorization, certification of brain-stem death, preservation of removed organs, and other essential aspects of organ transplantation.

High Court’s Decisions Regarding Organ Transplantation

  • Formation of Authorisation Committees: The Act mandates state governments and Union Territories to establish one or more authorisation committees, comprising nominated members, ensuring the integrity and effectiveness of organ transplantation protocols.
  • Timeline for Processing Applications: The high court stresses the importance of adhering to a timeline for living donor transplantation applications, setting a maximum processing duration of 10 days from the application date.
  • Document Verification Period: Within a maximum of 14 days, the court mandates the verification of documents related to the domicile status of the recipient and donor, with any documentation opportunities communicated within the prescribed timeline under the Rules.
  • Interview Scheduling: After four to six weeks of application receipt, interviews should be scheduled within two weeks. The committee is responsible for conducting interviews, facilitating family meetings, and communicating decisions within this timeframe.
  • Overall Process Duration: The court emphasizes that the entire process, spanning from submission to decision, should ideally not exceed six to eight weeks, ensuring efficiency in the organ donation approval process.
  • Submission of Judgment: The high court directs the presentation of the judgment to the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, ensuring the prescription of timelines for all steps in considering organ donation applications after consulting relevant stakeholders.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra has been designated as India’s first Dark Sky Park and the fifth in Asia, protecting the night sky and preventing light pollution.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India’s First Dark Sky Park: Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR)
  2. Key Facts about PTR

India’s First Dark Sky Park: Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR)

Certification Overview:

  • PTR in Maharashtra is designated as India’s first Dark Sky Park within a tiger reserve.
  • Focuses on restricting light pollution for stargazing and preserving pristine dark skies.

Certification Criteria:

  • Dark Sky Place certification involves lighting policy, dark sky-friendly retrofits, outreach and education, and night sky monitoring.

Tourist Sanctuary:

  • Designation allows PTR to be a sanctuary for tourists to experience celestial spectacles without artificial light pollution.
  • Certified by the International Dark-Sky Association, a global movement promoting astronomy.

Asian Recognition:

  • PTR becomes the fifth Dark Sky Park in Asia.

Key Facts about PTR:

  • Location: Southern reaches of Satpura hills, spanning Seoni and Chhindwara districts in Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur district in Maharashtra.
  • Components: Includes Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, Pench Mowgli Sanctuary, and a buffer zone.
  • Terrain: Undulating with small hills and steep slopes, supporting diverse vegetation.
  • Flora: Rich in teak, saag, mahua, and various grasses and shrubs.
  • Fauna: Home to a variety of wildlife, including tiger, leopard, wild dogs, Indian bison, and diverse bird species.
Cultural Reference:
  • PTR’s landscape inspired Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”
Conservation Significance:
  • Preserving dark skies aligns with PTR’s commitment to ecological conservation.
  • Enhances opportunities for astronomical observation and tourism.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The insured gross cropped area of non-loanee farmers under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has reached a new high. This indicates growing acceptance of the Centre’s crop insurance scheme.

Relevance:

GS II- Welfare Schemes

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  2. Risks covered under the scheme

About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

  • The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) launched on 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an insurance service for farmers for their yields.
  • PMFBY is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme.
  • The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as the Modified NAIS.
  • The Scheme shall be implemented through a multi-agency framework by selected insurance companies under the overall guidance & control of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW), Government of India (GOI) and the concerned State in co-ordination with various other agencies.
  • Premium cost over and above the farmer share is equally subsidized by States and the Central Government of India. However, the Central Government shares 90% of the premium subsidy for North Eastern States to promote the uptake in the region.
    •  Under the PMFBY, a farmer is required to pay as premium 2% of the sum insured or actuarial rate, whichever is less, for all kharif foodgrain and oilseed crops; 1.5% of sum insured or actuarial rate, whichever is less, for all rabi foodgrain and oilseed crops; and 5% for horticultural crops.
Objectives
  • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
  • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
Beneficiaries: All farmers growing notified crops in a notified area during the season who have insurable interest in the crop are eligible.
Coverage of Crops:
  • Oil seeds
  • Food crop
  • Annual Commercial / Annual Horticultural crops.
  • In addition, for perennial crops, pilots for coverage can be taken for those perennial horticultural crops for which standard methodology for yield estimation is available.

Risks covered under the scheme

  • Prevented Sowing/Planting/Germination Risk: Insured area is prevented from sowing/planting/germination due to deficit rainfall or adverse seasonal/weather conditions.
  • Standing Crop (Sowing to Harvesting): Comprehensive risk insurance is provided to cover yield losses due to non-preventable risks, viz. Drought, Dry spell, Flood, Inundation, widespread Pests and Disease attack, Landslides, Fire due to natural causes, Lightening, Storm, Hailstorm and Cyclone.
  • Post-Harvest Losses: Coverage is available only up to a maximum period of two weeks from harvesting, for those crops which are required to be dried in cut and spread / small bundled condition in the field after harvesting against specific perils of Hailstorm, Cyclone, Cyclonic rains and Unseasonal rains
  • Localized Calamities: Loss/damage to notified insured crops resulting from occurrence of identified localized risks of Hailstorm, Landslide, Inundation, Cloud burst and Natural fire due to lightening affecting isolated farms in the notified area.
  • Add-on coverage for crop loss due to attack by wild animals: The States may consider providing add-on coverage for crop loss due to attack by wild animals wherever the risk is perceived to be substantial and is identifiable.
  • General Exclusions: Losses arising out of war and nuclear risks, malicious damage and other preventable risks shall be excluded.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

I-STEM (Indian Science, Technology, and Engineering facilities Map) is launching the Samavesha project at IISc., Bengaluru, on January 16 to enhance research collaboration in India by enhancing accessibility to facilities and labs.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. I-STEM: Fostering Scientific Collaboration and Resource Accessibility

I-STEM: Fostering Scientific Collaboration and Resource Accessibility

Initiative Overview:
  • Developed by the Office of Principal Scientific Advisor, Government of India.
  • Envisions “One Nation One Portal” for the scientific community.
  • Aims at “Linking Researchers and Resources” to facilitate seamless collaboration.
User Assistance:
  • Helps users locate specific facilities for their Research and Development (R&D) work.
  • Enables researchers to identify nearby or readily available facilities.

Fee Structure:
  • Organizations, acting as custodians of facilities, may charge fees for running and maintaining resources beyond the project duration.
Expert Panel:
  • A panel of experts will be formed to assist users through I-STEM’s S&T Chat Room.
  • Provides information to optimize resource utilization.
Digital Catalogue:
  • Integral part of the I-STEM web portal.
  • Catalogs technologies and technology products mandated by the Empowered Technology Group.
Industry Challenges Platform:
  • Under development for startups and academia.
  • Facilitates hosting and conducting industry challenges, contributing to India’s self-reliance.
Government Directive:
  • Institutions with GoI-funded R&D facilities mandated to list them on the I-STEM Portal.
  • Ensures comprehensive coverage of research resources.
Intellectual Property Protection:
  • I-STEM protects intellectual property through a filed provisional patent application.
  • Titled “A method and process for efficient use of geographically dispersed resources.”

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Kachchhi Kharek, the indigenous variety of dates of Kutch, has become the second fruit of Gujarat to get a geographical indication (GI) tag from the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDT) of India.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Kachchhi Kharek: Cultivating Ancient Dates in Kutch
  2. Geographical Indications (GI) Tag

Kachchhi Kharek: Cultivating Ancient Dates in Kutch

  • Historical Roots: Dating back 400-500 years, the presence of dates in Kachchh is believed to have originated from seeds discarded by settlers who visited the Middle-East for Haj. Arab gardeners working in the palaces of former rulers in Kachchh may have also played a role in importing date seeds and offshoots from Arab countries.
  • Cultivation Features: Dates in Kutch are harvested at the khalal stage, characterized by maturity, sucrose accumulation, and a red or yellow color while maintaining crispness. Known for their resilience to salinity and adaptability to extreme drought and heat, the Kutch date season begins on June 15 each year. Unlike other countries, Kutch dates are economically cultivated, marketed, and consumed at the khalal stage.
  • Unique Palms and Diversity: Kutch boasts around two million date palms, with 1.7 million being seedling-origin palms of indigenous varieties. As seedling-propagated palms, each represents a unique palm, showcasing extensive diversity in characteristics. Kutch contributes over 85% of total date palm cultivation in India.
  • Exclusive Harvest: Kutch is the sole region globally where fresh dates are economically viable, requiring harvesting at the khalal stage due to their susceptibility to moist weather.

Geographical Indications (GI) Tag

Definition and Importance:
  • Geographical Indications of Goods indicate the country or place of origin of a product.
  • They assure consumers of the product’s quality and distinctiveness derived from its specific geographical locality.
  • GI tags are an essential component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and are protected under international agreements like the Paris Convention and TRIPS.
Administration and Registration:
  • Geographical Indications registration in India is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  • The registration and protection are administered by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade (DIPIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The registration is valid for 10 years, and it can be renewed for further periods of 10 years each.
Significance and Examples:
  • GI tags provide a unique identity and reputation to products based on their geographical origin.
  • The first product in India to receive a GI tag was Darjeeling tea.
  • Karnataka has the highest number of GI tags with 47 registered products, followed by Tamil Nadu with 39.
Ownership and Proprietorship:
  • Any association, organization, or authority established by law can be a registered proprietor of a GI tag.
  • The registered proprietor’s name is entered in the Register of Geographical Indication for the applied product.
  • Protection and Enforcement:
  • Geographical Indications protect the interests of producers and prevent unauthorized use of the product’s name or origin.
  • Enforcement of GI rights helps maintain the quality and reputation of the products associated with their specific geographical regions.
Location of the Geographical Indications Registry:
  • The Geographical Indications Registry is located in Chennai, India.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Minister of State for Defence recently flagged off the indigenously developed Astra Missiles for supply to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Bharat Dynamics in Hyderabad.

Relevance:

GS III: Defence

Astra Missile: Advancing Indian Air Power

  • Purpose and Design: Astra stands as a beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile meticulously crafted for integration onto fighter aircraft. Originating from indigenous efforts by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL), it is tailored for deployment in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Its primary mission is the engagement and destruction of highly manoeuvring supersonic aircraft.
  • Development and Classification: Acknowledged as the forefront in its category globally, the Astra missile is considered the finest air-to-air missile system in its class. It is undergoing development in multiple variants, addressing specific operational requirements dictated by diverse scenarios.
  • Induction into IAF: The ASTRA Mk-I Weapon System, seamlessly integrated with SU-30 Mk-I aircraft, marks a significant milestone as it enters the arsenal of the Indian Air Force. The induction underscores the strategic importance and operational readiness of the Astra missile in enhancing India’s air defense capabilities.

-Source: The Times of India


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