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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 23 September 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. WHO tightens global air quality norms
  2. MHA on ex gratia of Rs. 50,000 for each COVID-19 death
  3. India said to likely block Chinese investment in LIC
  4. India – United Arab CEPA negotiations launched

WHO tightens global air quality norms

Context:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first-ever update since 2005 has tightened global air pollution standards in a recognition of the emerging science in the last decade that the impact of air pollution on health is much more serious than earlier envisaged.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Conservation of the Environment, Important International Institutions and Standards, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) 2021
  2. India’s National Air Quality Index (AQI)
  3. National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
  4. Objectives of NCAP
  5. Back to the Basics: About WHO

About WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) 2021

  • WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) outlines the recommended air quality levels to protect the health of populations based on the latest scientific evidence from across the world.
  • In 2021 WHO announced limits for six pollutant categories —particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and 10, ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) – and tightened global air pollution standards.
  • WHO’s latest move in 2021 tightening norms sets the stage for eventual shifts in policy in the government towards evolving newer stricter standards. I.e., this will soon become part of policy discussions — much like climate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions keep getting stricter over time.
  • Once cities and States are set targets for meeting pollution emission standards, it could lead to overall changes in national standards.
  • The move doesn’t immediately impact India as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) don’t meet the WHO’s existing standards.

India’s National Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi in 2014, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations.
  • An Expert Group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and SPCBs was constituted and a technical study was awarded to IIT Kanpur.
  • IIT Kanpur and the Expert Group recommended an AQI scheme in 2014.
  • The continuous monitoring systems that provide data on near real-time basis are installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Understanding the scale

  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.
  • The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
  • Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants.
  • Likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical experts in the group.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • The Central Government has launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution.
  • NCAP is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
  • India has an overall target to reduce hazardous PM levels by 20-30% by 2024 from their 2017 levels in 122 cities under the NCAP which was launched in 2019.
  • NAAQS sets limits for SO₂, NO₂, particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), Ozone, Lead, Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia, Benzene, Benzo Pyrene, Arsenic, Nickel.
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this nation-wide programme in consonance with the section 162 (b) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1986.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), as a nodal central and apex agency, will have to flex its authority to ensure all NCAP indicators are integrated with multi-sector and inter-ministerial programmes to align with the air quality target and objectives.
  • The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
  • Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.
  • As part of the programme, the Centre also plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India.
  • Approach of NCAP:
    • Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-Sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies.
    • Focus on no Regret Measures, Participatory and Disciplined approach.

Objectives of NCAP

  • To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
  • To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
  • To have feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

Back to the Basics: About WHO

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Its main objective is ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and well-being.
  • The World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the agency’s supreme decision-making body.

-Source: The Hindu


MHA on ex gratia of Rs. 50,000 for each COVID-19 death

Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs  informed the Supreme Court that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended the payment of ₹50,000 each as ex gratia assistance to the next kin of those who died of COVID-19, including those who succumbed to the virus while involved in relief operations and preparedness activities.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster Management, GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Policies and Interventions), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Centre-State Financial Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
  2. About Disaster Management Act, 2005
  3. National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)
  4. About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)
  5. Terms and Conditions for Ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50k

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

  • National Disaster Management Authority, abbreviated as NDMA, is an apex Body of Government of India, with a mandate to lay down policies for disaster management.
  • NDMA was established through the Disaster Management Act enacted by the Government of India in 2005. Hence, NDMA is a Statutory body.
  • NDMA is responsible for framing policies, laying down guidelines and best-practices for coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a holistic and distributed approach to disaster management.
  • It is headed by the Prime Minister of India and can have up to nine other members. Since 2014, there have been four other members.
  • The tenure of the members of the NDMA shall be five years.
  • The phrase disaster management is to be understood to mean ‘a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures, which are necessary or expedient for prevention of danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or severity of its consequences, capacity building, preparedness to deal with any disaster, prompt response, assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster, evacuation, rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction’.

About Disaster Management Act, 2005

  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005 extends to the whole of India and provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.” The Disaster Management Act allows the Centre to issue guidelines, directions or orders to the States for mitigating the effects of any disaster.
  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and also enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC).
  • All State Governments are mandated under the act to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
  • According to the Act, the Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will be the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the district.
  • The Act provides for constituting a National Disaster Response Force “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under a Director General to be appointed by the Central Government.
  • Definition of a “disaster” in the DM Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes. The definition of ‘disaster’ under the Act is quite broad and, literally speaking, would include a pandemic too.
  • The objective of the Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
  • The Act contains the provisions for financial mechanisms such as the creation of funds for emergency response, National Disaster Response Fund and similar funds at the state and district levels.
  • The Act also devotes several sections various civil and criminal liabilities resulting from violation of provisions of the act.

National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)

  • The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, supplements SDRF of a State, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.
  • NDRF is defined in the Disaster Management Act, as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
  • NDRF is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
  • The financial assistance from SDRF/NDRF is for providing immediate relief and is not compensation for loss/damage to properties /crops.
  • In fact, the hitherto existing National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) was renamed as National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) on 28 September 2010 with the enactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005 and consequent changes in the design and structure of disaster management in India.
  • The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the National Disaster Management Authority takes decisions on the expenses from National Disaster Response Fund.

About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

  • The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • It is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
  • The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
  • Disasters covered under SDRF are – Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
  • Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs subject to the condition that the State Government has listed the State specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority, i.e., the State Executive Authority (SEC).

Terms and Conditions for Ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 50k

  • The financial aid would be given, provided that the cause of death is certified as COVID-19.
  • The money would be provided by the States from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • The disbursement of the amounts would be carried out by the District Disaster Management Authority/district administration concerned to the families.

-Source: The Hindu


India said to likely block Chinese investment in LIC

Context:

There are reports that New Delhi wants to block Chinese investors from buying shares in Life Insurance Corp. (LIC) which is due to go public, underscoring tensions between the two nations.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (International trade), GS-II: International Relations (India and its Neighbors, India’s Foreign Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About tightening the norms for FDI from neighbors (2020)
  2. What does the New Policy say?
  3. Why was this restriction on FDI from China necessary?
  4. More on China taking Control over Trade

 

About tightening the norms for FDI from neighbors (2020)

  • In May 2020, India mandated government approval for foreign direct investment (FDI) from countries with which it shares land borders.
  • The curbs aimed to shield Indian companies from predatory investments, particularly those from China—a big hint that policymakers in New Delhi have become ever more cautious of Beijing’s growing role in the Indian economy.

What does the New Policy say?

  • A non-resident entity can invest in India, subject to the FDI Policy except in those sectors/activities which are prohibited.
  • However, an entity of a country, which shares land border with India or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route.
  • Pakistani investors face further restrictions in requiring government approval for FDI in defence, space and atomic energy sectors as well.
  • Investors from countries not covered by the new policy only have to inform the RBI after a transaction rather than asking for prior permission from the relevant government department.
  • The official statement added that a transfer of ownership of any existing or future FDI in an Indian entity to those in the restricted countries would also need government approval.
  • The decisions will become effective from the date of the Foreign Exchange Management Act notification.

Why was this restriction on FDI from China necessary?

  • India shares land borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • With many Indian businesses coming to a halt due to the lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and valuations plummeting, a number of domestic firms may be vulnerable to “opportunistic takeovers or acquisitions” from foreign players.
  • Given the macro situation, it is a measure to protect vulnerable companies, with possibly low valuations, from unwelcome takeovers.

More on China taking Control over Trade

  • Over the past decade, China has replaced India as the major trading partner of several South Asian countries.
  • The share of India’s trade with Maldives was more than 3 times that of China’s in 2008. However, by 2018, China’s total trade with Maldives slightly exceeded that of India.
  • China’s trade with Bangladesh is at present about twice that of India.
  • China continues to lag India in its trade with Nepal and Sri Lanka, though the gap has shrunk.
  • China is now the largest overseas investor in the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

What does China invest in?

  • Chinese investment is concentrated in hard infrastructure – power, roads, railways, bridges, ports and airports.
  • Nearly 80% of Chinese investments in South Asia have been in the energy and transport sectors.
  • China has also invested in the financial systems of these countries.

China and Debt Trapping

  • China is accused of extending excessive credit with the intention of extracting economic or political concessions when countries cannot honour their debts.
  • This raises fears that China’s credit to its South Asian partners, particularly via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), could be a strategic disadvantage for India.
  • Sri Lanka had to lease out its Hambantota Port to China for 99 years, after being unable to service its debt.
  • There is economic rationale for China in building alternative access to the Arabian sea to facilitate trade.

-Source: The Hindu


India – United Arab CEPA negotiations launched

Context:

India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally launched negotiations on the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (International trade), GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies and Agreements Affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About India’s CEPA agreements
  2. India-UAE Relations
  3. Recent Developments in India-UAE relations

About India’s CEPA agreements

  • India has signed CEPAs with South Korea and Japan and the one in negotiation with UAE  is expected to increase bilateral trade in goods to USD 100 billion within five years of the signed agreement and increase trade in services to USD 15 billion, leading to wider social and economic opportunities in both nations.
  • CEPAs are a kind of free trade pacts but these agreements or cooperation agreements are more comprehensive than Free Trade Agreements.
  • CEPA usually covers negotiation on the trade in services and investment, and other areas of economic partnership. It may even consider negotiation on areas such as trade facilitation and customs cooperation, competition, and Intellectual Property Rights. It also looks into the regulatory aspect of trade and encompasses an agreement covering the regulatory issues.

India-UAE Relations

  • The UAE and India had enjoyed close and friendly ties based on historic and cultural ties. People-to-people contacts and barter trade for clothes and spices from India in exchange for dates and pearls from the region have existed for centuries.
  • India–United Arab Emirates (UAE) relations have a strong basis on the fact that Indians make up the largest minority ethnic group in the UAE making up roughly 38% of UAE’s total residents.
  • The UAE is India’s top trading partner in the entire West Asia and North Africa region.
  • Indian exports to the UAE account for 6% of India’s global exports.
  • UAE has been one of India’s leading sources of FDIs – UAE is the eighth-largest investor in India. Also, investment by Indian companies in the UAE is valued at around $85 billion.
  • UAE is India’s third largest trade partner after China and the United States.
  • The UAE accounts for 8 percent of India’s oil imports and was fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India.
  • Major exports to the UAE comprise of stones, petroleum products, precious metals, gems and jewellery, minerals, food items like sugar, cereals, fruits & vegetables, meat, tea, meat & seafood, textiles, chemicals and engineering & machinery products.
  • India imports crude petroleum and petroleum products, precious metals, minerals, stones, gems & jewellery, chemicals & wood and wood products from UAE.
  • Another significant pillar of India-UAE ties is reflected in their growing cooperation in security and defense sector.

Other Recent Developments in India-UAE relations

  • Since 2014, India has worked with UAE on various counter-terrorism issues.
  • In 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and the UAE on Technical Cooperation in the Rail Sector. It provided a platform for Indian Railways to interact and share their latest developments and knowledge in the railway sector.
  • In 2018, Indian PM Modi described UAE’s humanitarian support for those affected by the Kerala floods that year as “[reflecting] the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE”.
  • 2021, UAE and India signed an agreement under which faculty members from Indian universities will spend six to 10 months every year for undertaking research and teaching social sciences in Abu Dhabi. This agreement was aimed at deepening the academic and cultural ties between the two nations.
  • India-UAE relations has become a pivot of India’s Extended Neighborhood and Look West Policy in the region.
  • The recent signing of The Abraham Accords have created a fresh opportunity for even greater India-UAE coordination and cooperation.

-Source: PIB

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