05, July 2017

1.Environment Minister to Lead Plantation Drive to Celebrate Van Mahotsav

Source: The Hindu

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan will lead a month-long drive to plant saplings to mark Van Mahotsav.

Significance:

  • ‘Van Dhan’ to enhance the country’s forest-based economy, while improving the biodiversity and living in harmony with nature has been a part of our culture for thousands of years, the Environment Minister requested all States and the people at large, to hold plantation drives during the monsoon season.
  • Referred India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) to create additional Carbon Sink of 2.5 to 3 Billion Tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030, as has been submitted to UNFCCC under the able guidance of the Prime Minister.

Van Mahotsav:

  • As a part of Van Mahotsav celebrations throughout the country, afforestation drives are launched in a bid to retain the vanishing forest covers of the countr
  • Humans with their greedy needs have cut down a large part of the forest cover. In the name of urbanization and globalization of cities, trees were considered as the major stumbling block. They came in the way of flyovers, roads, hoardings and pavements and hence the easiest solution was to get rid of them altogether.
  • This declining number of trees has brought a major change in climate too. So there is a dire necessity of festivals such as Van Mahotsav, to restore the forest cover in the country.

Hazards of Urbanization

  • The dwindling number of rainy days and increase in the intensity of precipitation events raises serious question on the increasing developmental activities taking place at the cost of cutting a large number of trees. India has long been vulnerable to floods, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, and other natural disasters and this trend is increasing with each day.
  • With continuous human intervention against Nature, these disasters can no longer be considered ‘Natural’. An immediate example that comes to our mind is that colossal event that has occurred recently in Uttarakhand, which claimed the life of thousands of tourists and left many stranded.
  • To further highlight the importance of trees, we can take the example of dense mangrove forests growing along the coastal areas of our country, which helped in reducing the devastating effects of the Tsunami in 2004. They absorbed the oncoming waves and protected a large number of human habitation.

Conclusion:

  • The ‘Van Mahotsav’ festival of trees is a beautiful initiative to save the environment, to which we owe a lot. Generally, native trees are planted as they readily adapted to the local conditions, integrate into eco-systems and have a high survival rate. Besides, such trees are helpful in supporting local birds, insects and animals as well.
  • State Governments and civic bodies supply saplings to schools, colleges and academic institutions, NGOs and welfare organizations for planting trees.

2.Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Consumer Protection Law and Policy at Geneva – Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution- UNCTAD

Source: PIB

The Session on “Report on national and regional implementation of the United Nations Guidelines for consumer protection”

Significance:

  • The essential function of the UN Guidelines is to assist countries in building and strengthening a comprehensive consumer policy framework. While these guidelines remains non-binding on countries, nevertheless it plays a crucial role in shaping up the national legislative and institutional responses to address the consumer issues.

How to Protect and Promote the welfare of Consumers?

  • India is a country of 1.25 billion people and we consider every individual as a consumer in one or the other form.
  • In order to protect and promote the welfare of consumers, we have conceptualized a system comprising of; regulation and enforcement where a three tier system of quasi-judicial dispute redressal agencies and a robust system to redress grievances at the pre-litigation stage; partnership initiatives with voluntary consumer organizations, companies, academic institutions and civil society institutions; consumer education and awareness campaigns; ensuring of minimum levels of safety and quality, among others.

The Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Consumer Protection Law and Policy

  • The Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Consumer Protection Law and Policy is a standing body established under the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP) that meets annually to monitor the application and implementation of the guidelines, provide a forum for consultations, produce research and studies, provide technical assistance, undertake voluntary peer reviews, and periodically update the guidelines.

 UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection

  • The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection are a valuable set of principles for setting out the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress systems and for assisting interested Member States in formulating and enforcing domestic and regional laws, rules and regulations that are suitable to their own economic and social and environmental circumstances, as well as promoting international enforcement cooperation among Member States and encouraging the sharing of experiences in consumer protection.

UNCTAD: Globalization, including a phenomenal expansion of trade, has helped lift millions out of poverty. But not nearly enough people have benefited. And tremendous challenges remain.

We support developing countries to access the benefits of a globalized economy more fairly and effectively. And we help equip them to deal with the potential drawbacks of greater economic integration. To do this, we provide analysis, consensus-building, and technical assistance. This helps them to use trade, investment, finance, and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.

Working at the national, regional, and global level, our efforts help countries to:

  • Diversify economies to make them less dependent on commodities
  • Limit their exposure to financial volatility and debt
  • Attract investment and make it more development friendly
  • Increase access to digital technologies
  • Promote entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Help local firms move up value chains
  • Speed up the flow of goods across borders
  • Protect consumers from abuse
  • Curb regulations that stifle competition
  • Adapt to climate change and use natural resources more effectively

Together with other UN departments and agencies, we measure progress by the Sustainable Development Goals, as set out in Agenda 2030.

UNCTAD in the UN system

  • UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Our headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, and we have offices in New York and Addis Ababa.
  • UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat. We report to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council but have our own membership, leadership, and budget. We are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

3.Malabar war games: India, Japan, US to deploy largest warships, to focus on anti-submarine warfare

Source: Indian Express

Amid heightened border tensions between Beijing and New Delhi near the Sikkim-Bhutan tri-junction, India, Japan and the US will showcase their naval might with their largest warships in the Malabar war games scheduled for July 10 in the Indian Ocean.

The Malabar war games come in the backdrop of the recent standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam area in Sikkim.

Why they Significant For India?

  • The Malabar war games are strategically significant for India as Beijing very recently deployed one of their submarines in the Indian Ocean region, with the Indian Navy picking up information of an ‘unusual surge’ in the number of Chinese vessels entering the region.
  • The Indian Navy is being assisted by Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) very own GSAT-7 satellite, which is also called Rukmini. Launched in September 29, 2013, Rukmini is Indian Navy’s military communication satellite that aids in providing information in the high seas and strengthens India’s maritime security.
  • The Malabar tri-lateral exercise will witness around 15 warships, two submarines, numerous fighter planes, helicopters and surveillance aircraft participating in this much-awaited exercise.
  • The Malabar war games stands in consonance with New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’ and aims to foster deeper relations with US and Japan.
  • Aside from INS Vikramaditya, India’s largest warship and the third aircraft carrier inducted into the Navy, USS Nimitz, Japan’s largest helicopter carrier JS Izumo, and many other warships, submarines would take part in the games.

Besides at-sea training off India’s eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal, the Malabar war games will also feature the three countries sharing their military expertise on land as well, with special focus on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

Background

  • Since 1992, Indian and US navies have regularly conducted the annual bilateral exercise.
  • Since 2007, Malabar has been held alternatively off India and in the Western Pacific.
  • In 2015, it was conducted off Chennai coast in Bay of Bengal and included participation of Japan making it trilateral naval exercise.

Malabar war Exercise

  • MALABAR naval exercise is seen as significant step in strengthening mutual confidence and inter-operability as well as sharing of best practices between the Indian, Japanese and US Navies.
  • The exercise will support maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region and benefit the global maritime community.

4.Did Nehru really accept the Sino-British Treaty as final word on the border issue?

Source: The Hindu

The current round of tensions was triggered by China’s bid to construct a road in the Doklam area, which falls in the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.

The ongoing standoff at the Sikkim sector of the India-China border between troops of the two countries has brought the “Sino-British Treaty, 1890” into focus.

what the treaty is all about and why China is raking it up now.

  • Officially called the Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet, the treaty was signed in Calcutta on March 17, 1890.
  • The Convention, according to Beijing, settles the border between the two regions. But India maintains that the borders in Doklam, the area in question, are yet to be settled.
  • Article I of the Convention talks about the boundary of Sikkim and Tibet in physical detail. “The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi, on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nepal territory,” the Article states.

Sikkim standoff:

  • The current round of tensions was triggered by the China’s bid to construct a road in the Doklam area, which falls in the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan. New Delhi says that a road there will threaten its national security.
  • Analysts say that if built, the road will provide China further access to the Chumbi Valley, adding to the vulnerability of the “Chicken’s Neck”, a narrow corridor that links the Northeast with the rest of India.

What is Beijing’s stand?

  • China stresses that the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary was defined by the 1890 treaty. China has accused India of “betrayal” of the treaty, a colonial era understanding of the boundary alignment relating to Tibet and Sikkim.
  • Beijing, on July 3, 2017, cited letters between Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou Enlai that “had explicitly recognised many times that the (1890) Convention has defined the boundary between Xi Zang (Tibet) of China and Sikkim”.
  • According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in his letters to Zhou on March 22, 1959 and again on September 26, 1959, Nehru acknowledged that the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet “was defined by the 1890 Convention and demarcated by the two sides on the ground in 1895” and that “there’s no dispute over the boundary between Sikkim and Xi Zang, China”.

What did Nehru say in the letter?

  • Nehru’s September 26, 1959 letter to Zhou, cited by China, was a point-by-point refutation of the claims made by the latter on September 8, 1959.
  • Contrary to the claim that the letter was an overwhelming endorsement of the 1890 treaty on the Sikkim-Tibet border, Nehru takes objection to Zhou’s statement that the boundaries of Sikkim and Bhutan did not fall within the scope of the discussion.
  • Nehru explicitly states in the letter that the 1890 treaty defined only the northern part of the Sikkim-Tibet border and not the tri-junction area that brings Bhutan into play.
  • India’s first Prime Minister goes on to state that “rectification of errors in Chinese maps regarding the boundary of Bhutan with Tibet is therefore a matter which has to be discussed along with the boundary of India with the Tibet region of China in the same sector.”

This Convention of 1890 also defined the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet; and the boundary was later, in 1895, demarcated. There is thus no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region”.

Why is China angry with Bhutan?

  • In the current standoff, Bhutan has rebuffed China by refuting the latter’s contention that it (China) was constructing a road at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in an “indisputable” part of Chinese territory. Thimphu had said it had conveyed to the Chinese government that this was not the case.
  • Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, the two sides have agreed to ‘cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.’
  • Under a previous treaty, India was to ‘guide’ Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The language of the 2007 treaty is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. But the reality is that the Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from the kind of external threat that the Chinese military poses.

India Bhutan China Source: The Hindu

5.Drug-resistant TB higher among children than expected: report

Source: The Hindu

While detection of tuberculosis (TB) in children remains a challenge, it has now emerged that Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB is higher among children than expected. This has been described as a “worrying trend” by the Union Health Ministry.

  • As many as 5,500 of over 76,000 children tested in nine cities have been diagnosed with TB.
  • Nine per cent of these paediatric TB cases have been diagnosed to have MDR TB, according to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) that conducted the tests in collaboration with the Central TB Division under the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).

Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND)- Unique Identification:

  • FIND initially started a unique initiative for diagnosing paediatric TB in four cities of Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata from April 2014 with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It has now scaled up the project to include additional five cities —Nagpur, Surat, Visakhapatnam, Bengaluru and Guwahati.
  • The project will start in Indore next week. The aim of the project is to provide rapid access to quality TB diagnosis for all presumptive paediatric TB patients in the project intervention areas.
  • In 2016, the proportion of children among new TB patients reported was 6%. Absence of appropriate samples coupled with decentralised capacity to get good samples from children to test for TB remains a challenge in paediatric TB case detection.
  • A considerable number of the 9% diagnosed to have MDR-TB are primary infections.
  • The project was initially started to assess the feasibility of roll out of GeneXpert MTB/RIF, a cartridge-based test used with an automated molecular diagnostic platform that enables the diagnosis of TB and some drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) in less than two hours.

Way ahead:

  • TB diagnosis in children is complicated due to challenges associated with sample collection and poor sensitivity of tests like the Acid fast bacilli (AFB) smear.
  • FIND, through this project, has collaborated with the Central TB Division to improve access to more sensitive diagnostic tools like the GeneXpert in the paediatric population.

USAID:

USAID programs have saved and improved millions of lives around the world, increased global stability, and driven economic growth in emerging markets.



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