16 November, 2020

  • India, U.S. keen on training peace missions (International Relations)
  • Worst air quality on Deepavali in four years (Environment)
  • Mega trade bloc RCEP takes off (International Relations)
  • Arunachal records best sex ratio, Manipur the worst (Social Issues)
  • Former CEC calls for a ban on opinion polls (Polity and Governance)
  • QOD

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: India, U.S. keen on training peace missions | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II –  International Relations

    Sub Theme: UN Peace Keeping Missions (UNPK) | UPSC     

    Context:

    China has significantly scaled up its troop contribution for United Nations Peace Keeping (UNPK) missions. India and US are also looking to undertake training of military personnel for missions from southeast Asian countries.

    Background

    About China:

    • It currently has over 2,500 troopsin various UNmissions and has committed 8,000 troops as standby.
    • China contributes 12% of the UN regular general budget and 15% of the peacekeeping budget.

    About India:

    • India has consistently top troop contributors and is the fifth largest with 5,424 personnel in eight countries.
    • India’s contribution to the regular budget is 0.83%and 16% of the peacekeeping budget.
    • India has so far participated in 51 of the 71 missions and contributed over 2 lakh personnel.
    • It has established a training centre in Delhi under the Centre for UN Peacekeeping.
    • India co-sponsored a Security Council resolution tabled by its close SE Asian partner Indonesia in the United Nations seeking women's participation in peacekeeping missions. The country made history in 2007 when she deployed the first all-women Police Unit in the UN Mission in Liberia.
    • Over the last 70 years, more than 160 Indian military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives while serving in UN Peacekeeping Missions around the world, the highest deaths from any troop-contributing country.

     About USA:

    • S.  has never contributed ground troops.
    • Contributes 27% of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.

    Peacekeeping Training

    Peacekeeping training is defined as any training activity which aims to enhance mandate implementation by equipping UN military, police or civilian personnel, both individually and collectively, with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to:

    1. a) meet the evolving challenges of peacekeeping operations in accordance with principles, policies and guidelines, as well as lessons learnt from the field;
    2. b) perform their specialist functions in an effective, professional and integrated manner and;
    3. c) demonstrate the core values and competencies of the UN.

    In General Assembly Resolution A/RES/49/37 (1995), Member States recognized their responsibility for the training of uniformed personnel for UN peacekeeping operations and requested the Secretary-General to develop training materials and establish a range of measures to assist Member States in this regard.

    About Peace keeping - often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.

    It was initially developed during the Cold War as a means of resolving conflicts between states.  Peacekeeping has proven to be one of the most effective available to the UN to assist host countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace. 

    Peacekeeping has unique strengths, including legitimacy, burden sharing, and an ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates.

    UN peacekeepers provide security and the political and peacebuilding support to help countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace.

    Derives power from UN Charter: United Nations Charter gives the United Nations Security Council the power and responsibility to take collective action to maintain international peace and security.

    UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles

    Consent of the parties;

    Impartiality;

    Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.

    Peacekeeping is flexible and over the past two decades has been deployed in many configurations.

    Peacekeepers remain members of their respective armed forces, and do not constitute an independent "UN army," as the UN does not have such a force.

    Financial resources of UN Peacekeeping operations are the collective responsibility of UN Member States. According to UN Charter every Member State is legally obligated to pay their respective share for peacekeeping.

    Pros

    • Nobel Peace Prize.
    • Global partnership - UN peacekeeping is a unique global partnership. It brings together the General Assembly the Security council, the Secretariat, troop and police contributors and the host governments in a combined effort to maintain international peace and security.

    Cons

    Reform

    • Difference of opinion between the countries of the Global North and South with regards to the scope and mandates of peacekeeping operations - For instance countries of the South are demanding more aggressive peacekeeping and condemning the North for not intervening adequately in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Congo, yet at the same time accusing them of interventionist policies.
    • Northern countries also hesitate to engage their troops with the UN due to its deficiencies and, also refuse to finance the measures needed to improve the UN.
    • The countries of the north are asking for more robust peacekeeping mandates, while countries of the south fear that this may threaten their sovereignty.
    • The peacekeepers are demanding more resources, whereas Global South fears that this would divert resources better spent on fighting poverty.
    • Cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers- UN Security Council has adopted the resolution 2272 – to hold peacekeepers accountable for sexual abuse.
    • Security Council is accused of using these operations only in areas, which are geopolitically significant to them, and ignoring the rest.
    • Avoid delays- UNSC should decide peacekeeping operations within 30 days or a maximum period of 90 days in order to avoid tragedies because of delays. Rapid reaction force to account for delays
    • Involvement of expertsfrom various fields in peacekeeping in order to better deal with emerging challenges.
    • Sound exit policyfor peacekeepers.
    • Improving the safety of peacekeepers, holding them accountable for their actions.

    New Delhi has a huge role to play when it comes to introducing reforms to peacekeeping. India should take advantage of its rising global stature and should take a lead in order to make this arm of the UN more effective.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Worst air quality on Deepavali in four years | Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Geography and Environment & Biodiversity

    Sub Theme: Western Disturbances and its impact on Indian Climate |UPSC                

    Context:

    • The Met Department said that under the influence of fresh western disturbance the wind speed went up to around 25 km per hour.
    • In this context let us understand this important topic from the perspective of prelims as well as mains examination.

    What are western disturbances?

    • A western disturbance is an extratropical storm originating in the Mediterranean region that brings sudden winter rain to the north western parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is a non-monsoonal precipitation pattern driven by the westerlies.
    • The moisture in these storms usually originates over the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.

    How are they Formed?

    • Western disturbances originate in the Mediterranean region.
    • A high-pressure area over Ukraine and neighbourhood consolidates, causing the intrusion of cold air from polar regions towards an area of relatively warmer air with high moisture.
    • This generates favourable conditions for cyclogenesis in the upper atmosphere, which promotes the formation of an eastward-moving extratropical depression.
    • Traveling at speeds up to 12 m/s (43 km/h; 27 mph), the disturbance moves towards the Indian subcontinent until the Himalayas inhibits its development, upon which the depression rapidly weakens.
    • The western disturbances are embedded in the mid-latitude subtropical westerly jet stream.

    Impact of western Disturbances on Indian climate

    • Western disturbances are usually associated with cloudy sky, higher night temperatures and unusual rain.
    • Western disturbances, specifically the ones in winter, bring moderate to heavy rain in low-lying areas and heavy snow to mountainous areas of the Indian Subcontinent.
    • They are the cause of most winter and pre-monsoon season rainfall across northwest India.
    • Precipitation during the winter season has great importance in agriculture, particularly for the rabi crops.
    • Wheat among them is one of the most important crops, which helps to meet India's food security. An average of four to five western disturbances form during the winter season.

    Are there any ill-effects of Western Disturbances?

    • Excessive precipitation due to western disturbances can cause crop damage, landslides, floods and avalanches. Over the Indo-Gangetic plains, they occasionally bring cold wave conditions and dense fog. These conditions remain stable until disturbed by another western disturbance.
    • When western disturbances move across northwest India before the onset of monsoon, a temporary advancement of monsoon current appears over the region.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Mega trade bloc RCEP takes off | Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS Paper-III – Economy

    Sub Theme: Should India join RCEP?| UPSC   

    Context:

    The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is a mega trade bloc comprising 15 countries led by China recently came into existence. Last year, the Indian Government decided to remain outside the proposed RCEP trade agreement.

    India has officially stated that the present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP. India has also categorically stated it is ready to join RCEP in future, provided its concerns are addressed by other member countries.

    In this regard, let us focus on following dimensions:

    • Details about RCEP
    • Benefits of India joining RCEP
    • Challenges with India's membership of RCEP
    • Way Forward

    About RCEP and its significance

    RCEP is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the ASEAN and the 5 Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs. (Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand). RCEP covers trade in goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues.

    Note: India was also party to the RCEP negotiations. However, India pulled out later since its concerns were not addressed.

    Benefits of India joining RCEP

    Effective utilisation of FTAs: RCEP provides an avenue for India to complement India’s existing free trade agreements with the ASEAN and some of its member countries.

    Greater Regional Integration:  Enable India to strengthen its 'Act East" Policy ; Quite important because India is not a party to two important regional economic blocs - Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Harness Comparative Advantage in areas such as ICT, Education and Healthcare. 

    Attract Investment from RCEP member countries

    Opportunities for Integration into Global Value Chains (GVCs)

    Challenges and Concerns with India's membership of RCEP

    Adverse Trade Deficit: India has around $104 billion trade deficit with the RCEP member countries, which is 65% of India’s total trade deficit. The RCEP agreement forced India to eliminate tariffs on almost 90% of the imported goods over the next 15 years. Hence, India was apprehensive that RCEP agreement would lead to increase in its trade deficit, particularly with countries such as China.

    Adverse impact of previous FTAs: The FTAs with Japan and South Korea have led to substantial increase in import of goods into the domestic market leading to adverse impact on domestic manufacturing.

    Base Year for Eliminating Tariffs: The RCEP member countries demanded that the base year should be 2013 while India demanded that the base year should be 2019. It is to be noted that India has increased import duties on several products between 2014 and 2019 and hence adoption of 2019 as the base year would have led to lower reduction in the customs duties and offered protection to the Indian domestic Industry.

    Ratchet Clause:  Ratchet means a screw which turns only in one direction, up or down and not both ways. This concept is proposed to be applied in RCEP which will disallow the member country to increase the import duties, once reduced. The Indian Government wanted the RCEP member countries to adopt safeguard mechanism which should enable the countries to increase the tariffs on certain products when there is a surge in imports. However, the RCEP member countries wanted that once the tariffs on products is raised, it should not be allowed to reduced.

    Adoption of liberalized Rules of Origin would have affected India's interests.

    Application of Investors to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism: Under multilateral trade and investment agreements such as RCEP, a third party forum is normally provided for to resolve such disputes. This means that the relevant laws and judiciary in India will no longer be able to intervene in such disputes.

    Provisions against Data Localization in the e-commerce chapter in the RCEP goes against India's interests.

    Way Forward

    Firstly, India has already signed FTAs with almost 12 countries which are part of RCEP. This includes 10 ASEAN Countries, Japan and South Korea. Hence, in the short-run, India can afford to remain outside RCEP until its core interests and concerns are addressed.

    Secondly, the Surjit Bhalla Committee has highlighted that FTAs signed by India have been a mixed bag so far. While there has been an overall increase in trade with our partner countries after signing FTA, the imports have increased at much faster pace as compared to exports, leading to increase in Trade Deficit. Hence, the committee has recommended that India needs to undertake review of its FTAs so that its interests and concerns are taken into account. The same goes even with the RCEP trade negotiations. India must continue to engage with the RCEP member countries in order to ensure that its core concerns are taken into account.

    Thirdly, India has to realize that its track record of FTA utilization is quite poor at only around 25%. Hence, the Government must focus on enhancing its export competitiveness by addressing the infrastructural bottlenecks, build manufacturing capabilities, improving logistics supply chain, focus on R & D etc.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Arunachal records best sex ratio, Manipur the worst |Page 09    

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current Events of National Importance

    Sub Theme: Sex Ratio in India| UPSC        

    “Vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System

    • The requirement for a complete and up to date Vital Statistical System to yield reliable data on vital events hardly needs any emphasis.
    • These data are essential for socio-economic planning and development and also to evaluate the effective implementation of various public schemes and programs.
    • The main sources of data on vital events in India are Civil Registration System (CRS), Sample Registration System (SRS) and Population Census.
    • Though the Population Census is the main source of information on population and its characteristics; however, being a decennial exercise, it does not provide the measure of changes in population from year to year. The measures of fertility and mortality derived from Census are centered on the midpoint of the decade and as such do not provide yearly change in the population.
    • Robust estimates of vital rates at District level on an annual basis through sample survey are difficult to obtain on account of prohibitively large sample size and variety of resultant factors such as controlling of non-sampling errors etc.
    • CRS is thus the only source for providing vital rates at district level. Rather, a complete CRS can provide these rates at all administrative level.
    • The Civil Registration System (CRS) may be defined as a unified process of continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the vital events and characteristics thereof, as per legal requirements in the country. In India, the Civil Registration System covers registration of births and deaths.
    • The Civil Registration data acquires paramount importance in the wake of 73rd and 74th amendments to the constitution of India, as it can provide data at local level for micro level planning, monitoring and evaluation of schemes.
    • At national level, the vital 4 statistics data generated through Civil Registration is also quite useful for medical research and in the study of sex ratio, mortality and morbidity rates and also in the study of causes of deaths.

    Sex ratio at birth – Sex ratio at birth is the number of females born per 1,000 males.

    • Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland (965) Mizoram (964), Kerala (963) and Karnataka (957).
    • The worst was reported in Manipur (757), Lakshadweep (839) and Daman & Diu (877), Punjab (896) and Gujarat (897).
    • Delhi recorded a sex ratio of 929, Haryana 914 and Jammu and Kashmir 952.
    • The number of registered births increased to 2.33 crore in 2018 from 2.21 crore registered births the previous year.
    • The level of registration of births has increased to 89.3% in 2018 from 81.3% in 2009.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Former CEC calls for a ban on opinion polls |Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Electoral Reforms in India- Opinion Polls | UPSC       

    What are opinion polls?

    • An opinion poll, often simply referred to as a poll or a survey, is a human research survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence intervals. The person who conducts polls is referred to as Pollster.
    • Opinion and exit polls by themselves, like all research, are useful to gain insight into what people think of the policies, programmes and products. But the Election Commission opposes these polls because it strongly suspects their integrity

    Issues with the Opinion Polls:

    • The polls are not scientific as they are based on the opinions of a very small fraction of voters.
    • Voters are influenced by the polls and thus it is possible for psephologists and the media to manipulate public opinion using opinion polls.
    • The other limitation of an opinion poll is that though the survey measures the opinion of a group, what really counts is the group that actually goes and votes.

    What have government bodies suggested?

    • While the Law Commission in its report in 2015 recommended a ban on opinion polls related to elections, the Election Commission of India too has advocated suitable amendments in section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to regulate opinion polls.

    Suggestions:

    • Name of the sponsor of the survey must be broadcast with the results. Name of the person and organisation which conducted the survey must be revealed.
    • Details of the population from which the sample was drawn. The number of people who were contacted to participate in the survey.
    • The margin of error in respect of the data obtained. The report to be posted on website within 24 hours of broadcast.
    • The report to include dates and time of interviews, people who refused to participate, method used to calculate data, weightages, wording of the questions in the survey.
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