Contents

  1. India takes over UNSC presidency for August
  2. SEBI urges peers to rethink bond market curbs
  3. The ‘right to repair’ movement
  4. Import of GM soybean
  5. GST collections recover to Rs. 1.16 lakh crore in July
  6. Pakistan finalises Bill on Gilgit-Baltistan

India takes over UNSC presidency for August

Context:

India assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the month of August 2021.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions and Groupings, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Security Council
  2. Functions and Powers of UNSC
  3. About India’s Membership and Presidency in 2021
  4. India’s Case for obtaining the UNSC Permanent Member Status:
  5. Who Backs India for a Permanent Seat in UNSC and who Doesn’t?
  6. What is the benefit to India if made a permanent member of UNSC?
  7. How does India’s Inclusion as permanent member help UNSC?

United Nations Security Council

The Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations.

  • The Permanent Residence of UNSC in the UN Headquarters New York City, USA.
  • Its primary responsibility is the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter- Hence, it is the only body of the UN with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • Resolutions of the Security Council are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget.

Membership

  • It has 15 Members (5 as Permanent Members and 10 as Non- Permanent Members), and each Member has one vote.
  • The Five permanent members are: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of the Permanent Members has Veto Power over every decision of UNSC.
  • The Ten non-permanent members are Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
  • As per the rules of procedure, a retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election and the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations.
  • The presidency of the Council rotates monthly, going alphabetically among member states.

Functions and Powers of UNSC

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

  1. to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  2. to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  3. to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  4. to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  5. to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  6. to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  7. to take military action against an aggressor;
  8. to recommend the admission of new Members;
  9. to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
  10. to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

About India’s Membership and Presidency in 2021

  • India had entered the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as one of the 10 rotating non-permanent members in January 2021 and will stay on the council for two years i.e., 2021-22.
  • As part of its new role as president of the UNSC for the month of August 2021 (Rotating Presidency every month) that all 15 members get in rotation, India will decide the agenda of the UN’s highest decision-making body whose resolutions and directives are binding on all member states. India will also coordinate important meetings on a range of issues during August.
  • India is going to organise key events in three major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.
  • Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM to preside over a meeting of the UNSC. (PM PV Narasimha Rao attended (not presided) a UNSC meeting in 1992).
  • France has stated that it is dedicated to collaborating with India over strategic problems such as maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism.
  • Russia welcomed the country gaining the UNSC presidency saying it is very impressed by India’s agenda, which embraces critical global concerns.

India’s Case for obtaining the UNSC Permanent Member Status:

  • India joined the U.N. in 1945 (2 years before independence) and India has been an active participant in all initiatives undertaken by the UN like Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable development goals and various UN summits, including on climate change
  • In the past, India’s was offered to join the UNSC by both the superpowers, the US and the then Soviet Union in 1950 and in 1955 respectively, India denied the offer due to Cold war politics in that era.
  • Currently, there are more than 6,700 troops and police from India who have been deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, the fourth highest amongst troop-contributing countries (having almost twice the number of peacekeepers deployed on the ground by the Permanent 5 countries)
  • India has been elected for seven terms for a two-year non-permanent member seat till now.
  • 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.
  • India’s acquired status of a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) in May 1998 also makes India a natural claimant as a permanent member similar to the existing permanent members who are all Nuclear Weapon States.

Who Backs India for a Permanent Seat in UNSC and who Doesn’t?

  • 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.

What is the benefit to India if made a permanent member of UNSC?

  • Permanent seat in the UNSC, would provide India with the much-needed leverage to expand its geo-political and geo-economic clout globally.
  • Inclusion of India into UNSC will help in transforming its status from being a responsible stakeholder and pave the way for playing its part as one of the global rule makers.
  • Indian presence at the Security Council would ensure Indian interests are not neglected amidst the decisions of great power politics.
  • India will gain strength to act as a counterweight to China as China is growing to be a more potent rival, an emerging hegemony in Asia and an ever-increasing strategic and security concern.
  • India will gain the ability stall any possible intervention by China, a permanent member which can take action at the behest of its ally Pakistan.

How does India’s Inclusion as permanent member help UNSC?

  • 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, hence: 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.

-Source: The Hindu


SEBI urges peers to rethink bond market curbs

Context:

SEBI has urged the RBI, IRDAI and PFRDA to relax investment restrictions.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Capital Market)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About SEBI’s recent requests to its peers
  2. The Need to boost Bond markets: inadequacy of current provisions
  3. About SEBI

About SEBI’s recent requests to its peers

  • With banks struggling to provide long-term capital, SEBI sought an urgent rethink on the investment norms specified by SEBI’s financial sector regulator peers (like RBI, IRDAI) for participation in the corporate bond market. This would facilitate a quicker economic recovery according to SEBI.
  • SEBI is calling for freer flow of funds from provident and pension funds, insurance firms and banks into corporate and infrastructure debt. SEBI wants to make the bond market a more functional source of finance for industry and infrastructure projects, and for this it has asked the RBI, IRDAI and PFRDA to relax investment restrictions.
  • Listing out instances of restrictions that limit insurers’ exposure to private debt and infrastructure financing, it has been indicated that the recent permission for pension funds to invest up to 5% of their corpus in Infrastructure investment trusts (INVITs) was unlikely to work.

The Need to boost Bond markets: inadequacy of current provisions

  • The RBI’s partial credit guarantee enhancement norms to help such projects (infrastructure projects which are rated lower) get a better rating faces practical challenges, while the Centre’s plan to set up a Credit Enhancement Guarantee Corporation, announced in the Union Budget 2019, is yet to take off.
  • RBI’s partial credit guarantee norms cap the extent to which a bank can provide credit enhancement to 20% of the issue size. This means it would need at least three banks to get 50% credit enhancement (needed to move from, say, a ‘BBB’ rating to ‘AA+’ needed by insurers and PFs) and it has been difficult to get three banks to provide this for a single project.
  • In the RBI’s Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF), corporate bonds are never accepted as collaterals and corporate bonds are not even enshrined in the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR). This needs to change as relying on banks as an exclusive funding source is not going to be a positive for the economy and more steps are needed for the bond market to develop.

About SEBI

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator of the securities and commodity market in India owned by the Government of India.
  • SEBI was established in 1988 and given Statutory Powers on 30 January 1992 through the SEBI Act, 1992.
  • SEBI has three functions rolled into one body: quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial and quasi-executive.
    1. It drafts regulations in its legislative capacity.
    2. It conducts investigation and enforcement action in its executive function.
    3. It passes rulings and orders in its judicial capacity.
  • Though this makes it very powerful, there is an appeal process to create accountability.
  • There is a Securities Appellate Tribunal which is a three-member tribunal.
  • A second appeal lies directly to the Supreme Court.
  • The SEBI is managed by its members, which consists of the following:
    1. The chairman is nominated by the Union Government of India.
    2. Two members, i.e., Officers from the Union Finance Ministry.
    3. One member from the Reserve Bank of India.
    4. The remaining five members are nominated by the Union Government of India, out of them at least three shall be whole-time members.
  • SEBI has to be responsive to the needs of three groups, which constitute the market:
    • issuers of securities
    • investors
    • market intermediaries
  • SEBI has been vested with the following powers:
    1. to approve by−laws of Securities exchanges.
    2. to require the Securities exchange to amend their by−laws.
    3. inspect the books of accounts and call for periodical returns from recognised Securities exchanges.
    4. inspect the books of accounts of financial intermediaries.
    5. compel certain companies to list their shares in one or more Securities exchanges.
    6. registration of Brokers and sub-brokers

-Source: The Hindu


The ‘right to repair’ movement

Context:

Recently the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted unanimously to make a push for the right of consumers to repair their electronic devices.

The ‘Right to Repair’ movement has been making the case for allowing people to fix the products they buy.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution & Degradation), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Increased Wastage in the era of mobile computing
  2. Issues with repair and wastage in the past
  3. So, what is the right to repair movement?
  4. Do electronic manufacturers oppose this movement?
  5. Right to repair in Europe

Increased Wastage in the era of mobile computing

  • A new era of mobile computing and consumer culture was born with Apple iPhone which led to a boom in the Smartphones market and now the success of the mobile computing industry has nudged users into upgrading their devices instead of fixing them when something went wrong.
  • Before the smartphone era, issues in a mobile device could be repaired by the user themselves. However, now a buyer has to take it to an authorised dealer as any warranty on the product would become null and void if they opened the back of the smartphone.
  • To make it even more discouraging to repair a smartphone, the cost of repair could be high and the availability of spare parts could be too low.

Issues with repair and wastage in the past

  • In 2018, an Australian court ordered Apple to pay a penalty of Australian $9 million ($6.6 million) after it told its customers it wouldn’t do free repairs for devices that stopped working due to a software glitch.
  • Hardware is only one part of the problem as an increasing number of consumer products are run on software, and a technical glitch can only be fixed by an authorised technician.
  • Tinkerers and large corporations are fighting to solve the issue of who owns the information needed to fix a device.

So, what is the right to repair movement?

  • Activists and organisations around the world have been advocating for the right of consumers to be able to repair their own electronics and other products as part of the ‘right to repair’ movement. The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
  • The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products and to keep them from ending up in landfills.
  • They argue that these electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’ — which means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced. This, they claim, leads to immense pressure on the environment and wasted natural resources.
  • Manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process. It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
  • Right to repair advocates also argue that this will help boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies. If a manufacturer has monopoly on repairs, then prices rise exponentially and quality tends to drop, they say.

Do electronic manufacturers oppose this movement?

  • Large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair. Their argument is that opening up their intellectual property to third party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation and impact the safety and security of their devices.
  • Tesla, for instance, has fought against right to repair advocacy, stating that such initiatives threaten data security and cyber security.
  • These companies are constantly claiming that they are working towards greater durability themselves.

Right to repair in Europe

  • The UK government introduced right-to-repair rules with the aim of extending the lifespan of products by up to 10 years.
  • Manufacturers of products like washing machines, TVs and refrigerators are required to make spare parts available to people purchasing electrical appliances.
  • The new legislation gives manufacturers a two-year window to make the necessary changes to abide by the new legislation.

-Source: The Hindu


Import of GM soybean

Context:

After facing crushing losses due to the pandemic, the poultry industry is demanding that the Central government permit the import of crushed genetically modified (GM) soy seeds.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Biotechnology), GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The need for importing GM soy seeds
  2. About GM soybean
  3. What are GM Crops?
  4. Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

The need for importing GM soy seeds

  • With the poultry sector bedevilled by increasing production costs, misinformation on Covid/avian flu and poultry, lockdown restrictions and natural calamities etc., – prices of raw materials like soybean (which constitutes 25% of poultry feed) and maize (which constitutes 60%) is one part of the problem that can be solved by importing.
  • The most important non-fiscal requirement is for the government to allow import of crushed GM soy seeds for captive consumption of poultry farmers. [Captive Consumption means the consumption of goods manufactured by one division of a particular organization (in this case – farmers) and used by the same organization (farmers themselves use goods instead of selling) for manufacturing of another product (here poultry)].
  • Import of crushed GM seed at least for the particular time frame will stabilise raw material market and help deal with the ratcheting prices of soybean.
  • Chicken and eggs are the only cheapest non-vegetarian protein sources available in the market. But, owing to the increased raw material prices, retail chicken prices are rising.

About GM soybean

  • GM soybean is one of the most widely planted genetically modified plants in the world today. The GM soybean, otherwise called as the Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, was developed by the biotech giant Monsanto and made it commercially available to farmers in 1996.
  • It was developed to make the plant survive being sprayed on with the non-selective herbicide, Roundup, which can kill conventional soybean plants.
  • GM Soybean was developed by introducing a copy of a gene from the Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4.
  • Conventional soybean has a similar gene in its DNA but is sensitive to glyphosate, the active ingredient of the herbicide Roundup.
  • With the insertion of the CP4 version of the gene, the GM soybean was able to develop resistance to the Roundup herbicide.

What are GM Crops?

  • Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world’s crop lands are planted with GM crops.
  • In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
  • Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.

Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

GEAC

  • The top biotech regulator in India is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The committee functions as a statutory body under the Environment Protection Act 1986 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
  • GEAC is responsible for granting permits to conduct experimental and large-scale open field trials and also grant approval for commercial release of biotech crops.
  • The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities for handling of various aspects of the rules:
    • The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
    • Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
    • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
    • State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
    • District Level Committee (DLC)

Cartagena Protocol

  • The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement on biosafety as a supplement to the Convention on Biological Diversity effective since 2003.
  • The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

-Source: The Hindu


GST collections recover to Rs. 1.16 lakh crore in July

Context:

India’s gross GST revenues in July recovered sharply to more than Rs. 1.15 lakh crores after slipping below the ₹1 lakh crore mark for the first time in eight months in June 2021.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Fiscal Policy, Taxation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the recent trend in GST collection
  2. About GST and GST Council

About the recent trend in GST collection

  • With the easing out of COVID restrictions, GST collection for July 2021 has again crossed ₹1 lakh crore.
  • The government called the collections a sign of a rapid economic recovery from the second COVID-19 wave, though economists said they indicate an ‘incomplete’ rebound.
  • The July 2021 collections were 33% higher than July 2020, with GST collected on the import of goods rising 36% and domestic transactions (including import of services) growing by 32%.
  • There is a heartening sequential increase, as well as a substantial year-on-year growth, but GST collections remain well below the all-time high recorded in April 2021 (1.41 lakh crore Rs.).
  • While most States reported positive growth in tax collections compared to July 2020, there were significant variations — Odisha and Jharkhand reported a 54% uptick, followed by Haryana (53%) and Maharashtra at 51%, while Tamil Nadu and Gujarat clocked 36% growth.

Click Here to read about GST and GST Council

-Source: The Hindu


Pakistan finalises Bill on Gilgit-Baltistan

Context:

Pakistani authorities have finalised a law to award provisional provincial status to strategically located Gilgit-Baltistan.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Fiscal Policy, Taxation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Gilgit-Baltistan
  2. Developments in status of Gilgit Baltistan
  3. Why does Pakistan want to make Gilgit-Baltistan a Province?

Gilgit-Baltistan

  • Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the disputed territories of India.
  • It is a chunk of high-altitude territory located on the north western corner of the Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • It is located strategically as it borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.
  • The region was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, but has been under Pakistan’s control since 4th November, 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
  • Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra ruler of J&K, had signed the Instrument of Accession with India on 26th October 1947.

Developments in status of Gilgit Baltistan

  • Gilgit Baltistan has been under Pakistan’s control since 4th November, 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
  • India moved to the United Nations Security Council to raise the issue of Pakistan’s invasion on 1st January 1948.
  • The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and then India had to reduce its forces to the minimum level following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain people’s wishes.
  • However, no withdrawal was ever carried out and it remains a point of contention between two countries.
  • The Gilgit-Baltistan region is at the centre of USD 65 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor Infrastructure development plan.
  • Until 2009, the region was simply called Northern Areas and got its present name only with the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order passed by Pakistan in 2009, which replaced the Northern Areas Legislative Council with the Legislative Assembly.
  • Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous region now and is not a part of the four provinces (namely Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh) in Pakistan. But if the 2021 bill is passed by Pakistan, it will become the 5th province of the country.

Chinese role

  • China has spent years building infrastructure projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, home to an estimated 1.3 million people, including a long stretch of the Karakoram Highway, a key component to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

India’s View of ‘Illegal occupation’

  • India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “Such attempts by Pakistan, intended to camouflage its illegal occupation, cannot hide the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom for over seven decades to the people residing in these Pakistan-occupied territories.”
  • Two of the three wars the rival neighbours have fought since independence have been over Kashmir — home to shrinking Himalayan glaciers seen as vital lifelines to the water stressed countries.

Why does Pakistan want to make Gilgit-Baltistan a Province?

  • Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan. It is Pakistan’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China.
  • The Gilgit-Baltistan region is at the centre of the USD 65 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Infrastructure development plan.
  • The CPEC has made the region vital for both countries. The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Some experts on India-Pakistan relations also assert that Pakistan’s decision might have come from India’s reassertion of its claims after the 5th August, 2019 reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir.

-Source: The Hindu

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