18&19, March 2018

1.First India-Japan Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction to begin on 19th March

Source: PIB

Aims to develop a specific bilateral Action Plan on areas of cooperation in DRR

  • India and Japan, two of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, are coming together to address disaster risk.
  • Over a two-day workshop, experts will discuss issues pertaining to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), especially earthquakes.

Key facts:

  • Japan is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is highly susceptible to earthquakes. Given its long history of devastating earthquakes, Japan has a very high level of community awareness. Its technological know-how, especially in the area of earthquake risk reduction, is among the most advanced in the world.
  • India is rapidly urbanising and a massive investment in the infrastructure sector is imminent. As nearly 59% of India’s landmass is prone to moderate to severe earthquakes, it will not only save lives in the event of an earthquake but also make for great economic sense that this investment is made earthquake resilient.
  • The workshop will present an opportunity to explore as to how Japan invests in making its infrastructure resilient to present and future disaster risks. It will also help understand recent advancements in Japan in the area of earthquake detection and early warning systems and adapt them to India’s context. This will play a vital role in enhancing preparedness and response at every level.

The workshop will facilitate knowledge exchange on good practices, lessons learnt and latest technological advancements in the area of disaster risk management.

Six technical sessions will be held during the workshop –

  • Disaster Management Policy Framework – Policy Framework (Historical Background, Institution, National Strategy, National Plan for Nankai Trough Earthquake, etc.)
  • Risk Assessment – How do earthquakes occur? To what extent can these be predicted? Which kind of earthquakes are likely to occur in Japan and India?
  • Disaster Resilient Infrastructure – How does policy respond to strengthen infrastructure, in particular, water-related protective infrastructure?
  • Early Warning System – How does it work? How to communicate early warning to citizens? How does the national government respond following the early warning?
  • Preparedness/Response at sub-national level – How do sub-national governments prepare for and respond to earthquakes? How do local communities develop their resilience by planning in advance?
  • Approaches by private sector -What kind of technologies and services can private sector offer to reduce damage and loss by earthquakes? What is the socio-economic impact of those technologies and services?

2.Informal World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting on 19-20th March in New Delhi

Source: PIB

Representatives from 50 countries will be gathering in New Delhi on 19-20 March for an informal World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting.

  • The informal meeting of ministers will provide an opportunity to engage in free and frank discussions with the hope that it will lead to political guidance on some major issues.
  • In the absence of Ministerial guidance at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC 11) that took place from 10 to 13 December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, it is hoped that the New Delhi meeting will provide an opportunity for ministers to explore in greater detail the options on different issues for re-invigorating the WTO.

Key facts:

  • Safeguarding and strengthening the multilateral trading system was never as important as it is today, and the WTO is also facing systemic challenges, particularly its dispute settlement arm.
  • The informal meeting of ministers in New Delhi will provide an opportunity to engage in free and frank discussions leading to political guidance on some of the major issues, both at the negotiating table and also in other areas.

WTO Ministerial Conferences

  • The topmost decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO, all of which are countries or customs unions. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements.

WTO

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.

3.Violent protests not a basic right: Supreme Court

Source: The Hindu

Demonstrations not covered under fundamental rights

  • Public demonstrations resorting to violence, including stone-throwing, are not protected by the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the Supreme Court.

Background:

  • The judgment came on a plea by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung for protection against arrest in several cases filed against him by the West Bengal government for violent unrest in the Darjeeling Hills.

Only right to assemble

  • Justice Bhushan, who wrote the judgment, observed that the Constitution only protects the right to assemble peacefully.
  • “Demonstrations, whether political, religious or social or other demonstrations, which create public disturbances or operate as nuisances or create or manifestly threaten some tangible public or private mischief are not covered by protection under Article 19(1) (free speech),” the court held.
  • A demonstration was meant to convey a feeling of disillusionment to those in authority. But it might take different forms, it said.
  • “A demonstration may take various forms, it may be noisy and disorderly. For instance, stone-throwing by a crowd may be cited as an example of a violent and disorderly demonstration which is obviously not protected by either the fundamental right to free speech and expression or the fundamental right to assembly peacefully,” the court held.
  • Likewise, it held that the right to free speech includes the right to speak in public, but this too should not be used to incite violence.

High Court’s judgment on ‘bandhs’

  • The court referred to the Kerala High Court’s judgment on ‘bandhs’ to evoke the judicial objections against methods used by particular groups or parties or sects to paralyse the entire citizenry.
  • “No political party or organisation can claim that it is entitled to paralyse the industry and commerce in the entire State or nation and is entitled to prevent the citizens, not in sympathy with its viewpoint, from exercising their fundamental rights or from performing their duties for their own benefit or for the benefit of the State or the nation,” Justice Bhushan reproduced the verdict of the high court given almost 20 years ago.

4.Indian Agriculture Fair; all you need to know

The main objective of the event is to introduce digital technology in agriculture, precision farming, organic farming and agri-business models.

  • The event includes live demonstration and display of integrated farming system, production technologies of crops, and protected cultivation.

Key facts:

  • Farmers can visit the experimental fields of IARI and learn about micro-irrigation, water use technology, irrigation system, new farm equipment’s, recycling of waste water for agriculture, bio fertilizers, agrochemicals and on spot soil and water testing.
  • Farmers can also interact with field experts and scientists along with innovative farmers from the country.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurate the Jaivik Kheti Portal, 25 Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) and Biennial National Conference on KVK. Prime Minister Modi will confer National Level Krishi Karman Awards and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Krishi Vigyan protsahan awards to progressing farmers and best performing states.
  • More than 600 stalls will be installed to provide and display direct access to the latest technologies along with exclusive seed selling counters for farmers in order to purchase quality seeds.
  • Event also carries cultural films and shows on various aspect of agriculture. The main aim behind Krishi Unnati Mela is to double the income of farmers by 2022.

Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Puraskar (National / Zonal)

ICAR has constituted one National and 11 Zonal awards in the name of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay.

The objectives of the Awards are as follows:

  • To promote healthy competition among Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) at Zonal and National Level for application of science and technology in agriculture.
  • To provide incentives for improving the efficiency and performance of KVKs for espousing the cause of farming community.
  • To promote a sense of Institutional pride among KVKs for large scale application of scientific methods and appropriate technologies for enhanced productivity, profitability and sustainability of farming systems.

5.A floating laboratory to save the Loktak lake

Source: The Hindu

A floating laboratory has been introduced to save the Loktak lake. Researchers in a custom motorboat monitor levels of pollution in the 300 sq km water body.

  • Rising urbanisation and land-use change over the years has seen the Loktak Lake, the largest in the northeast, become a dump-yard for the city’s municipal waste, ranging from plastic refuse to chemical runoff from farming. This worsens during years of floods.

Loktak lake

  • Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India, and is famous for the phumdis -heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matter at various stages of decomposition floating over it. It has first of its kind loktak floating elementary school.
  • Located on this phumdi, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world. The park is the last natural refuge of the endangered Sangai – Endemic species and state animal.

IBSD AS AN INSTITUTE

  • The Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development although registered in April, 2001, under the Manipur Societies Registration Act, 1989
  • Bioresources development and their sustainable use through biotechnological interventions for the socio-economic growth of the region.
  • Scientific management of bioresources in the Indian region falling under Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot.

Objectives: To set up the state of art biotechnology research facilities at Imphal which is at the centre of the Indo-Burmese Biodiversity Hotspot for sustainable development of bioresources using -tools of modern biology.

6.President Ram Nath Kovind releases commemorative coins on Nabakalebar festival

Source: The Hindu

President Ram Nath Kovind released commemorative coins in denominations of ₹10 and ₹1000 on Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebar festival.

  • The President, who is visiting Odisha, released the coins during the centenary celebration of Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan in Puri.
  • The pilgrim town of Puri as the ‘Vidya Nagri’ (education hub) for its connection with knowledge and science since ancient times.
  • Puri was one of the four ‘dhams’ for Hindus, where the saints and spiritual leaders like Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuj, Chaitanya and Guru Nanak visited and established their mutts to be in services of Lord Jagannath.
  • Puri is also called the ‘Kashi’ of eastern region in India. Adi Shankaracharya chose Puri to establish his ‘peeth’.

Nabakalebar festival:  

  • The Nabakalebara is an ancient ritual associated with most of the Jagannath Temples when the Idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan are replaced by a new set of Idols.
  • A year with an extra Ashadha masa/month as per Hindu Calendar is considered auspicious for conducting the ceremony. This usually occurs every twelve to nineteen years.
  • The Deities are made from a special type of Neem wood known as Daru Bramha.

7.Festival Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship

Source: PIB

The Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship was recently inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind. It is being organised by Rashtrapati Bhavan in association with the Department of Science and Technology and the National Innovation Foundation-India.

 The Festival Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship:

  • It is a celebration of country’s Innovation potential, particularly those ideas which stem from grassroots level including the citizen at the last mile and also a reflection of power of children’s creativity. It is an initiative to recognise, respect, showcase, reward innovations and to foster a supportive ecosystem for innovators.

Significance of the Festival:

  • FINE would provide an excellent platform to the innovators for building the linkages with potential stakeholders whose support can improve their prospects in coming years for the larger social good.
  • It will also help in promoting lateral learning and linkages among the innovators to enrich the ecosystem for new India.
  • It would also be a great opportunity to create awareness about the importance of various Ministries of Government of India attaches to their effort and participation in the FINE.

8.India warms to cold fusion

Source: The Hindu

India is taking tentative steps towards restarting research into Cold fusion, some 25 years after it was shut down at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) following global criticism heaped on the idea. Three research groups have taken up the theme.

Cold fusion

  • Cold fusion describes a form of energy generated when hydrogen interacts with various metals like nickel and palladium.
  • Cold fusion is a field of condensed matter nuclear science CMNS, and is also called low-energy nuclear reactions LENR, lattice-assisted nuclear reactions LANR, low energy nanoscale reactions LENR, among others.
  • Cold fusion is also referred to as the Anomalous Heat Effect AHE, reflecting the fact that there is no definitive theory of the elusive reaction.

How it works

  • When hydrogen, the main element of water, is introduced to a small piece of the metal nickel or palladium, a reaction occurs that can create excess heat and transmutation products. Excess heat means more heat comes out of the system than went in to the system. The excess heat can make hot water and useful steam to turn a turbine and produce electricity.

Advantages

  • No radioactive materials are used in cold fusion. It occurs as the tiny protons, neutrons and electrons of hydrogen interact, releasing energy slowly, through heat and photons, without the dangerous radiation associated with conventional nuclear reactions, and cold fusion makes no radioactive waste.

Issues:

  • Cold fusion seeks to produce nuclear energy without harmful radiation, complex equipment and the application of very high temperatures and pressures.
  • But it has no conclusive theory explaining it and flies in the face of a well-established physics law that goes against easy fusion of nuclei. There is no guarantee that every time a cold fusion or LENR experiment is done, energy will be produced, say critics.

Way ahead: Research is underway in the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, Italy, France and Ukraine too. Given the challenge posed by the science behind LENR and its potential payoffs, the Indian government should fund academic institutions that are willing to enter the fray.

9.International Competition Network 2018

Source: PIB

India is hosting the 17th Annual Conference of International Competition Network 2018 (ICN2018) in New Delhi.

ICN conference:

  • The ICN holds an Annual Conference which is hosted by a member competition agency. The last such Conference was hosted by Portuguese Competition Authority in 2017 at Porto, Portugal.
  • This is the first time India is hosting the ICN2018 Annual Conference since it joined International Competition Network (ICN) in 2009.
  • The conference will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and strategies for effective enforcement of competition law and for strengthening cooperation amongst the competition authorities as they strive to promote and sustain competition in rapidly changing markets.

ICN:

  • ICN is an international body comprising 132 members from 120 competition jurisdictions exclusively devoted to international competition enforcement.
  • The ICN’s main goal is to improve and advocate for sound competition policy and its enforcement across the global antitrust community.
  • The ICN is a voluntary, consensus-based organisation. The ICN is not a rule-making organisation and its work products are not legally binding instruments.
  • ICN provides competition authorities with a specialised yet informal platform for addressing practical competition concerns, sharing experiences and adopting international best practices.
  • Its members are national competition authorities and NGA (Non-governmental Advisers) which include reputed law firms, eminent persons, and think tanks of international repute.

Why have the ICN

Economic globalisation has resulted in an increasing number of investigations and reviews of mergers, cartels and unilateral conduct that transcend jurisdictional boundaries.

Agencies need to cooperate with each other on cross-border cases in order to reduce the risk of:

  • Sub-optimal enforcement if an agency only has a partial picture of the situation; and
  • Inconsistent outcomes if different jurisdictions reach different conclusions about the same practice. The ICN helps facilitate cooperation and convergence, where appropriate. This is good for competition agencies, governments, businesses, and ultimately consumers.



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