22, March 2017

1.BIMSTEC meet to focus on terror

Source: PIB

India recently hosted the meeting of the national security advisers and security chiefs of BIMSTEC countries, taking the first steps towards building a security architecture for the Bay of Bengal region. Counter-terrorism cooperation, counter radicalisation and maritime were the focus areas.

  • The meeting also deliberated on a host of security issues including the festering Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, which has seen terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and al Qaeda trying to radicalise them.

 Background:

  • The idea of the security meet was mooted during the BRICS-BIMSTEC summit in Goa in 2016. India considers Bay of Bengal as an important economic and strategic space and security challenges in this region have assumed greater importance. The Bay of Bengal sits in the centre of sea lanes of communication and trade and energy routes. It has assumed greater importance after India decided to develop its eastern seaboard with its ambitious `Sagar Mala’ project. All of these put security issues in sharp focus.
  • China’s growing power play in the South Asian region and Indian Ocean has made it imperative for India to engage the countries in the neighbourhood in a security conversation that takes New Delhi’s security interests on board, while enabling them to deal with their own emerging security challenges.

BIMSTEC:

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia.
  • The BIMSTEC comprises of seven countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
  • The main objective of BIMSTEC is technological and economical cooperation among South Asian and South East Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
  • The headquarters of BIMSTEC is in Dhaka

2.Shri Upendra Tripathy Appointed as Full Time Interim Director General of ISA

Source: The Hindu

Mr. Upendra Tripathy has been appointed as the Interim Director General (IDG) of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) on a full time basis.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was launched on 30th November, 2015 as a coalition of the solar resource rich countries jointly by Shri. Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India and Mr.François Hollande, Hon’ble President of France in the presence of Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations on the first day of the Paris Climate Conference or CoP21.

Key facts:

  • There is no specific body in place to address the specific solar technology deployment needs of the solar resource rich countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • Most of these countries are geographically located for optimal absorption of the sun’s rays.
  • There is a great amount of sunlight year-round which can lead to cost effective solar power and other end uses with high insolation of almost 300 sunny days in a year.
  • Most of the countries have large agrarian populations. Many countries face gaps in the potential solar energy manufacturing eco-system. Absence of universal energy access, energy equity and affordability are issues common to most of the solar resource rich countries.

GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE

  • ISA is proposed to be a multi country partnership organization with membership from solar resource rich countries between the two tropics.
  • ISA’s proposed governance structure would consist of an Assembly and a Secretariat.

OBJECTIVES

  • Parties hereby establish an International Solar Alliance (hereinafter referred to as the ISA), through which they will collectively address key common challenges to the scaling up of solar energy in line with their needs.
  • Members take coordinated actions through Programmes and activities launched on a voluntary basis, aimed at better harmonizing and aggregating demand for, inter alia, solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building.
  • In this endeavor, Members cooperate closely and strive for establishing mutually beneficial relationships with relevant organizations, public and private stakeholders, and with non-member countries.

PROJECTS

Multilateral bodies like IRENA, REEEP, IEA, REN21, UN bodies; bilateral organizations; corporates, industry, and other stakeholders will be encouraged to contribute towards the goal of increasing utilization of solar energy in ISA member countries.

3.Google Doodle joins in Nowruz 2017 celebrations, the Iranian New Year

Source: Indian Express

Nowruz 2017: The festival also marks the commence of the season of spring in the northern hemisphere

  • Nowruz, also spelled as Navroz, is the Iranian New Year celebrated by ethnic Iranian people. Several ethno-linguistic communities around the world irrespective of their religious background observe it as the start of the New Year.
  • In India, the Parsi community, who follow Zoroastrianism, celebrate Navroz with full fervour. This year, it falls on March 21.

What are the origins of Navroz? Which communities celebrate Navroz?

  • Navroz is the beginning of the New Year for several communities.
  • It dates back as far as the 6th Century BC, back when the Iranian community were homogeneously Zoroastrians.
  • Once the community divided over the course of history, people of Iranian origin worldwide continued following Zoroastrian traditions and with that the Iranian New Year as well.

What is the significance of Navroz?

  • Apart from the difference of one or two days, the Iranian community celebrates Navroz on March 21. March 21 is the first day of the Iranian calendar.
  • It is also marked as the day King Jamshid was crowned as the King of Persia.
  • King Jamshid holds a great significance in Zoroastrianism and the day of his coronation is generally considered to be the beginning of the New Year among Iranian people.
  • It is interestingly the first day of the Aries constellation. Navroz is also the day of the Spring equinox and the rituals are performed based on the movements of the sun during the course of the day.

How is it celebrated in India?

  • In India, the Parsi community celebrate the Iranian New Year in a similar fashion as is around the world.
  • People decorate their houses and wear new clothes on the occasion of Navroz.
  • A visit to the Fire Temple, the place of worship of the Parsi community, is a ritual followed on Navroz every morning.
  • Special prayers are offered and once the religious rituals are done, Parsis celebrate the day with various delicacies.
  • In India, prominent numbers of the Parsi community still remain in Mumbai and Gujarat, who celebrate Navroz with ardour.

4.WORLD FORESTRY DAY

Source: The Hindu

World Forestry Day or International Day of Forests is celebrated worldwide every year on 21st of March at the international level in order to increase the public awareness among communities about the values, significance and contributions of the forests to balance the life cycle on the earth.

Theme for World Forestry Day 2017 is “Forests & Energy”.

Background:

The World Forestry Day was established in the year 1971 at the 23rd General Assembly of European Confederation of Agriculture. And it was decided to be celebrated as an annual event celebration on 21st of March by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

5.Celebrities to face law for misleading ads

Source: The Hindu

The Centre will soon introduce a new consumer protection law to impose stringent punishment for misleading advertisements on manufacturers, celebrities endorsing products and publishers, Consumer Affairs Minister.

The government had earlier introduced the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which recommended several changes to the Bill. As over 80 amendments were made, it was decided to bring in a new Bill.

Proposals:

  • For the first time offence, a fine of Rs 10 lakh and jail term of up to two years, while for second and subsequent offenses, a fine of Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of five years has been proposed for brand ambassadors. The ministry has proposed similar penalty and jail term for adulteration, besides license suspension and cancellation.
  • ‘Deficiency in services’ in product liability is also included. An enabling provision to make rules to regulate e-commerce and direct selling will also be provided.
  • Overlap of powers of Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and the Consumer Fora have been removed. An investigating wing will be set up at CCPA, while limiting the role of a district collector to support CCPA in investigation.
  • A provision for penalty on consumers for frivolous complaints has also been removed

6.India slips in human development index

Source: The Hindu

The 2016 Human Development Report has been released by the UNDP. HDI is also released as part of the report.

HDI:

The Human Development Index is based on assessing progress on three dimensions of human development.

  • First, a long and healthy life measured through life expectancy of the population.
  • Second, access to knowledge measured by mean years of education among the adult population, and access to learning and knowledge measured by expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age.
  • And last, standard of living measured by the country’s per-capita gross national income (GNI).

Key facts

  • India slipped down one place from 130 to 131 among the 188 countries.
  • India’s human development index (HDI) value of 0.624 puts it in the “medium human development” category, alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia and Pakistan.
  • It is ranked third among the SAARC countries, behind Sri Lanka (73) and the Maldives (105), both of which figure in the “high human development” category.
  • India’s public health expenditure is lower, at 1.4% of the GDP. However, it did make some gains between 1990 and 2015, improving life expectancy by 10.4 years in this period. Child malnutrition also declined by 10 percentage points from 2015, and there was a modest gain in infant and under-five mortality rates.
  • The report praised India’s reservation policy, observing that even though it “has not remedied caste-based exclusions”, it has “had substantial positive effects”.
  • While India’s HDI value increased from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.624 in 2015, it still had the lowest rank among BRIC nations. However, its average annual growth in HDI (1990-2015) was higher than that of other medium HD countries.

Global scenario:

  • The world’s top three countries in HDI are Norway (0.949), Australia (0.939) and Switzerland (0.939).
  • The report says 1.5 million people worldwide still live in multidimensional poverty, 54% of them concentrated in South Asia. While poverty fell significantly from 1990 to 2015, inequalities sharpened in the region.
  • South Asia also had the highest levels of malnutrition in the world, at 38%, and the lowest public health expenditure as a percentage of the GDP (1.6%, 2014).
  • Noting that women, on an average, have lower HDI than men across the world, the report pointed out that the largest gender disparity in development was in South Asia, where the female HDI value is 20% lower than the male value.
  • In South Asia, gender gaps in entrepreneurship and labour force participation caused an estimated income loss of 19%. “Between their first and fifth birthdays, girls in India and Pakistan have a 30% to 50% greater chance of dying than boys,” the report noted.

8.HIV Bill

Source: The Hindu

There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India and the percentage of patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) treatment currently stands at a mere 25.82% as against the global percentage of 41%, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Diseases (GBD).

The long-awaited HIV Bill, a crucial public health legislation guaranteeing equal rights to India’s HIV community, was recently passed by the Rajya Sabha.

  • The bill seeks to end discrimination and ensure equality for people living with HIV.
  • The bill seeks to bring legal accountability to prohibit discrimination against the HIV community and instead promotes equality while accessing healthcare, acquiring jobs, renting houses or in educational institutions in the public and private sectors.

 Key provisions:

Provisions related to the role of governments:

  • Under the Bill, central and state governments are obliged to provide for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and management of opportunistic infections (infections that take advantage of weakness in the immune system and occur frequently).
  • The bill also prohibits specific acts of discrimination by the state, or any other person, against HIV-positive people, or those living with such people.

Provisions related to discrimination:

  • The Bill lays down penal provisions for any discrimination practised against a person with HIV/AIDS and breach of confidentiality.
  • The protection mandated in the Bill extends to the fields of employment, healthcare services, educational services, public facilities, property rights, holding public office, and insurance. It also provides for confidentiality of HIV-related information and makes it necessary to get informed consent for undertaking HIV tests, medical treatment and research.

Provisions related to ombudsman:

  • The bill also provides for an ombudsman. According to the provisions of the Bill, an ombudsman shall be appointed by each state government to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. The ombudsman shall submit a report to the state government every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken.

Provisions related to guardianship:

  • Provisions related to guardianship are also specified. A person between the age of 12 to 18 years who has sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS affected family shall be competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age.
  • The guardianship will apply in matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment, amongst others.

Role of courts: Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis.

In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant. When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.

Contentious clauses in the Bill:

India’s HIV community, however, confessed itself ‘disappointed’ as the Bill places an obligation on State governments to provide treatment “as far as possible”, making it weak and open to interpretation.

9.1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) Meeting

Source: PIB

1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) meeting was recently held in New Delhi. The meeting was hosted by the Program Management Unit at BIRAC (PMU-BIRAC) and is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Wellcome Trust.

GCI

The Grand Challenges India (GCI) is a mission-directed research initiative, collaboratively launched in 2012 under the umbrella of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DBT and BMGF.

Key facts:

  • As India transitions from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, the GCI partnership has ushered a new wave of innovative solutions to help address issues that are inextricably linked to social impact. This aims to achieve the said goals by reconnecting Science to People and available scientific data & evidences to the societal problems for finding tangible solutions.
  • Programs such as Grand Challenges India are providing global innovators and researchers a fantastic platform to collaborate and progress through the innovation ecosystem by developing their ideas and concepts.
  • The GCI provides financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to support the advancement of the GCI mission to enhance health, extend healthy lives, and reduce the burdens of poverty.
  • The GCI covers all kinds of health and developmental priorities, ranging from maternal and child health, infectious diseases, vaccines, point-of-care diagnostics, agriculture, food and nutrition to other related arenas of developing nations as per individual requirements. Most importantly, this partnership signifies a convergence between Indian and global priorities and synergistic new initiatives of the Government such as Swachh Bharat, Start-up India and others.
  • GCI promotes scientific and technological advances which aim to find solutions to key health and development challenges through research and innovation, by funding Indian researchers. Projects are selected based on national and societal need and transparent calls are made for proposals seeking the best ideas. Under this initiative, the DBT and the Gates Foundation have pledged an investment of up to US$25 million each, over a period of 5 years.

  1. World Poetry Day
  • Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.
  • In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.
  • A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.
  • One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.



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