Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 1
- Curbs on Agarbatti imports
- Coral bleaching in Arabian Sea
- Kartarpur Corridor
- Swiss Bank details to India
- COP 14 in India: UNCCD
- Index of Eight Core Industries, 2019
- Terracotta grinder
- Ethanol Blended Petrol
- Apache Helicopters
- Single use plastic packaging
- Artificial breeding
- External benchmark based lending
- Vienna crowned most liveable city
- Rate cuts for new home loans to be passed automatically
- Rare spider discovered in India
- Eat Right Movement
- WHO SE Asia Region plans to banish measles, rubella by 2023
- Interpol General Assembly
- CITES CoP 2019
Person in News
- Vivek Menon
- Vispi Balaporia
Curbs on agarbatti imports
- The government recently imposed restrictions on the import of agarbattis (incense sticks) in a move aimed at stemming the inflow of the product from markets such as China and Vietnam.
- In a notification, the director-general of foreign trade put agarbattis and other odoriferous preparations which operate by burning under the restricted list.
- So far, these products were allowed unrestricted or free entry.
- Now imports of agarbattis can be done only if there is a DGFT licence.
- The Rs 6,000-crore domestic agarbatti industry in 2018 imported nearly Rs 800 crore worth of incense sticks, including round bamboo sticks raw agarabatti (without perfume), leading to several domestic units shutting shop and job losses.
- To cut the country’s dependence on imports, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has said that it plans to help farmers grow a particular variety called Bamboos Tulda which is used in raw agarbattis.
- The agency plans to plant around 20,000 saplings of these every year.
Coral bleaching in Arabian Sea
- A recent study, published in the reputed science journal Current Science, shows the coral reefs are slowly bleaching away on Gujarat’s Gulf of Kutch shores.
- A major reason is the frequent ‘ocean heat waves’ or thermal stress owing to climate change, coupled with anthropological issues.
- Bleaching means the change in colour of corals because of the decay in algae living in their tissues as symbiotic partners. The algae is also the reason that gives corals their distinct colour.
- As sea temperature rises above normal, summer maxima corals are forced to expel algae and turn white. These corals get prone to disease and die.
- A study by Isro’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) research team and the department of geophysics, Kurukshetra University analysed sea surface temperatures (SST) from 1982 has reported increased number of heat stress days.
- The study includes three distinct years of ‘Mass Coral Bleaching’ instances of 1998, 2010 and 2016 recorded during the El Nino Southern Oscillation that caused abrupt rise in sea temperature.
- The thermal stress of 2010 was the worst for corals of Gulf of Kutch coasts, when mass bleaching occurred.
- Data says extremely sensitive carbonate reef structures are commonly built up in tropical regions where seawater temperatures exceed 18 degree Celsius in winter and are below 28 degree Celsius in summer.
- Corals can re-establish themselves (or return to their pre-bleaching state) in a decade or two.
- The Kartarpur Corridoris a proposed border corridor between the neighbouring nations of India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (in Punjab, Pakistan).
- Currently under planning, the corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwarain Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.
- The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by the prime ministers of Indiaand Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus
- On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor was laid down on the Indian side.
- Twodays later the foundation stone for the corridor was laid down on the Pakistani side.
- The corridor will reportedly be completed before the 550thbirth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2019.
- Currently pilgrims from India have to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is a 125 km journey, despite the fact that people on the Indian side of the border can physically see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpuron the Pakistani side.
- An elevated platform has also been constructed for the same on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.
- Once completed, the project will be first such initiative between the two countries.
- Both sides had agreed to make the corridor free of visa requirements to facilitate the visit of pilgrims from India and other parts of the world.
- The second round of talks was held on July 14.
- Thereafter, tensions rose over the Kashmir situation
Swiss Bank Details to India
- From September onwards, India will start receiving information on all financial accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland, for the year 2018.
How it will be useful to India?
- In 2016, India and Switzerland had signed an information-sharing deal on bank accounts, which was to come in effect from September 2019.
- In November 2016, the Embassy of India to Switzerland in a statement had said: “On 22 November 2016, Switzerland and India signed a joint declaration on the introduction of the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) in tax matters on a reciprocal basis.
- Both countries intend to start collecting data in accordance with the global AEOI standard in 2018 and to exchange it from 2019 onwards.”
- This automatic exchange of information (AEOI) is to be carried out under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), the global reporting standard for such exchange of information, which takes care of aspects such as confidentiality rules and data safeguards.
- The CRS has been developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
- Under the agreement, India will not receive information on bank accounts prior to 2018.
- The step is likely to shed more light on the wealth Indians have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, for so long governed by strict local rules of secrecy.
- In 2018, data from Zurich-based Swiss National Bank (SNB) had shown that after declining for three years, money parked by Indians in Swiss Banks rose 50 per cent to CHF (Swiss Franc) 1.02 billion (Rs 7,000 crore) in 2017 over the previous year.
COP 14 in India: UNCCD
- India is hosting the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- The event expects more than 3,000 participants from across the world to gather at India Mart and Expo, Greater Noida, from September 2-13.
- The participants will include ministers from 196 countries, representatives of national and local governments, city leaders, community groups, scientists, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and industry experts.
- UNCCD, established in 1994, is the sole legally binding international agreement that links environment and development to sustainable land management.
- It addresses specifically arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as drylands, home to some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples.
- Main agendas for COP14 are reversing land degradation and its outcomes while accelerating positive achievements for people and for ecosystems with a view to deliver on the United Nations- mandated Sustainable Development Goals.
- Land degradation working in tandem with climate change and biodiversity loss may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.
- Parties to the convention will agree on the actions each will take over the next two years and beyond.
Index of Eight Core Industries, 2019
The Eight Core Industries comprise 40.27 per cent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
- The combined Index of Eight Core Industries stood at 131.9 in July, 2019, which was 2.1 per cent higher as compared to the index of July, 2018. I
- Its cumulative growth during April to July, 2019-20 was 3.0 per cent.
- Coal production (weight: 10.33 per cent) declined by 1.4 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index increased by 1.8 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over corresponding period of the previous year.
- Crude Oil production (weight: 8.98 per cent) declined by 4.4 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index declined by 6.2 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- The Natural Gas production (weight: 6.88 per cent) declined by 0.5 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index declined by 0.8 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Petroleum Refinery production (weight: 28.04 per cent) declined by 0.9 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index declined by 2.0 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Fertilizers production (weight: 2.63 per cent) increasedby 1.5 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index declined by 0.4 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Steel production (weight: 17.92 per cent) increasedby 6.6 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index increased by 10.9 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Cement production (weight: 5.37 per cent) increased by 7.9 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index increased by 2.7 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Electricity generation (weight: 19.85 per cent) increased by 4.2 per cent in July, 2019 over July, 2018. Its cumulative index increased by 6.4 per cent during April to July, 2019-20 over the corresponding period of previous year.
- Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a first ever ‘Terracotta Grinder’ at Sewapuri in Varanasi.
- This machine will grind the wasted and broken pottery items for re-using in pottery-making.
- Earlier the wasted pottery items were grinded in normal khal-musal(mortar and pestle) and its fine powder was mixed with the normal clay.
- Mixing this powder in stipulated ratio to normal clay makes the resulting pottery items stronger.
- This Terracotta grinder will make grinding of wasted pottery items faster than the traditional mortar and pestle.
- It will lessen the cost of production, and will also help in solving the problem of shortage of clays.
- The grinder was designed by KVIC Chairman, and fabricated by a Rajkot-based engineering unit.
- KVIC, as part of its commitment to Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, had also started manufacturing of plastic-mixed handmade paper at Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI), a KVIC unit in Jaipur under its project REPLAN (REducing PLAstic in Nature).
- In this project, the waste plastic is collected, cleaned, chopped, beaten and treated for softness.
- After that, it is mixed with the paper raw material i.e. cotton rags pulp in a ratio of 80 % (pulp) and 20% (plastic waste).
- The institute has sold over six lakh handmade plastic mixed carry bags since September 2018.
Ethanol Blended Petrol
The Union Cabinet recently approved a higher procurement price for ethanol purchased by oil marketing companies for the ethanol blended petrol (EBP) programme, which will come into effect from December 1 for a period of one year.
What is ethanol and how it is produced?
- Ethanol is basically alcohol of 99%-plus purity, which can be used for blending with petrol.
- The normal rectified spirit used for potable purposes has only 95% alcohol content.
- Both ethanol (also called anhydrous alcohol) and rectified spirit are produced mainly from molasses, a byproduct of sugar manufacture.
- Mills typically crush cane with a total fermentable sugars (TFS) content of about 14%.
- Much of this TFS — sucrose plus so-called reducing sugars (glucose and fructose) — gets crystallised into sugar.
- The un-crystallised, non-recoverable part goes into what is called ‘C’ molasses.
- The latter, constituting roughly 4.5% of the cane, has a TFS of 40%. Every 100 kg of TFS, in turn, yields 60 litres of ethanol.
- Thus, from one tonne of cane, mills can produce 115 kg of sugar (at 11.5% recovery) and 45 kg of molasses (18 kg TFS) that gives 10.8 litres of ethanol.
- But rather than produce sugar, mills can also ferment the entire 14% TFS in the cane. In that event, they would end up making 84 litres of ethanol and zero kg of sugar.
- In between these two extreme cases, there are intermediate options as well, where the cane juice does not have to be crystallised right till the final ‘C’ molasses stage.
- The molasses can, instead, be diverted after the earlier ‘A’ and ‘B’ stages of sugar crystal formation.
- Mills, then, would produce some sugar, as opposed to fermenting the whole sugarcane juice into ethanol.
- If ethanol is manufactured using ‘B’ heavy molasses (7.25% of cane and with TFS of 50%), around 21.75 litres will get produced along with 95 kg of sugar from every 1 tonne of cane.
So what has the government done?
- Given the surplus sugar production in the country, it has allowed mills to produce ethanol from ‘B’ heavy molasses and directly from sugarcane juice.
- The CCEA approved even use of sugar and sugar syrup for production of ethanol; mills can simply add these to the molasses mother liquor for further fermentation.
- But the real impetus has come from mills getting higher rates for ethanol manufactured from the ‘B’ heavy and sugarcane juice routes.
- For the 2018-19 supply year (December-November), the ex-distillery price payable by OMCs for ethanol manufactured from the conventional ‘C’ molasses route was fixed at Rs 43.46 per litre.
- This was set higher at Rs 52.43/litre for ethanol from ‘B’ heavy molasses and Rs 59.13/litre from sugarcane juice. For the new 2019-20 supply year, the prices have been raised marginally to Rs 43.75/litre (‘C’ molasses), Rs 54.27/litre (‘B’ molasses) and Rs. 59.48/litre (sugarcane juice). Moreover, even ethanol produced from sugar and sugar syrup will enjoy the Rs 59.48/litre rate.
- Currently, ex-factory prices of sugar are ruling at around Rs 32 per kg.
- If a mill were to produce 115 kg of sugar and 10.8 litres of ethanol through the conventional route, its gross realisation at Rs 32/kg and Rs 43.46/litre would be roughly Rs 4,149 from every tonne of cane crushed.
- But if it were to convert the entire cane juice into 84 litres of ethanol, the gross realisation at Rs 59.48/litre works out much higher at Rs 4,996 per tonne of cane.
- In other words, there is a huge incentive to produce ethanol today. This has been additionally facilitated by the government mandating 10% blending of petrol with ethanol.
- Between 2013-14 and 2018-19 (supply years), ethanol procurement by OMCs has increased from 38 crore litres to an estimated 200 crore-plus litres.
- Out of the latter, 32 crore litres is expected to be made from ‘B’ heavy molasses and sugarcane juice.
- If mills are able to divert more of cane juice for ethanol, it would mean producing less sugar.
- Since the country is producing too much sugar and is importing oil, the ethanol-blending programme is beneficial both for mills and for the country’s balance of payments.
- Ten-per-cent blending requires 330 crore-odd litres of ethanol, which can now be produced through the ‘B’-heavy molasses and sugarcane juice routes as well.
- Mills are expected to close the 2018-19 sugar season (October-September) with all-time-high stocks of 136 lakh tonnes (lt), which is equivalent to to six months of domestic consumption.
- Even if production falls from 329.5 lt to a projected 270-280 lt in the new season and exports nearly double to 60 lt — the country consumes only 265-270 lt a year — stocks will remain at levels where mills will still struggle to pay farmers.
- As of now, they have outstanding cane dues of over Rs 10,000 crore, of which Rs 7,000 crore-plus is in UP alone.
- These will mount further as crushing for the 2019-20 season begins in a month’s time. Ethanol is the only real saviour under the circumstances — both for mills and cane growers.
The Indian Air Force recently inducted the first batch of eight Apache helicopters at the Pathankot airbase.
- Codenamed AH-64E, the Apaches have a spectrum of capabilities required for any mission.
- The new fleet of Apache helicopters will be part of 125-Helicopter squadron, popularly called “Gladiators” of the IAF.
- Apache is one of the fiercest helicopters in the world with a capability to fire and forget and launch air-to-air missiles.
- Apaches are being purchased to replace the aging Mi-35 fleet, which have been used by the IAF for over three decades.
- The new flying machines have been deployed at the Pathankot airbase, which was targeted by terrorists in January 2016.
- It is one of the most strategic forward airbases of the IAF, during war as well as in peacetime surveillance.
- The station is not only a defensive airfield, considering its proximity to Pakistan, it is also a vital airbase for tactically offensive operations.
- The Apaches reached India on July 27 in a semi-knocked-down condition.
- However, the helicopters were formally handed over to the IAF on May 10, at a ceremony held in the US.
- IAF officials said the helicopter has been customized to suit IAF’s future requirement and would have significant capability in mountainous terrains.
- The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground.
- The IAF has signed a contract with Boeing and the US government for 22 Apache attack helicopters.
- The first eight helicopters have been delivered on schedule and the last batch of helicopters will be delivered by March 2020.
Single-use plastic packaging
- com Inc’s India unit said recently that it would replace all single use plastic in its packaging by June 2020 with paper cushions, the latest major company to join the country’s fight against environmental pollution.
- Amazon’s move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming ban on plastic bags, cups and straws.
- The environment friendly packaging material will be entirely recyclable, which has often been criticised for using too much plastic and thermocol to wrap its billions of packages of shipments.
- Its rival Flipkart said it has cut down on single-use plastic use by 25% and plans to move entirely to recycled plastic consumption in its own supply chain by March 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch on September 11 a major six-month drive to promote artificial insemination in cattle in 600 districts which have less than 50% coverage of the technology.
- Current scenario:
Currently, the national coverage is only 30%, though some States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu use artificial insemination rates for more than 70% of their cattle.
- High costs
However, a senior Ministry official, said that a nominal investment of ₹350 per pregnancy would result in extremely high returns.
However, using sex-sorted semen — which increases the possibility of a female calf to about 90% — also drastically increases the cost of insemination, as the technology is still new in India.
- Subsidised price
The government-subsidised price of a single semen dose is only ₹20; sex-sorted semen, on the other hand, can cost ₹500 to 600 per dose, said the senior official.
Of the 11.9 crore semen doses produced in the country every year, only 10 lakh are sex-sorted.
External benchmark-based lending
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently made it mandatory for all banks to link floating rate loans — to retail customers and loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) — to an external benchmark. Some banks have already started to link home and auto loan rates to the repo rate, which is an external benchmark.
Why this move?
- The move is aimed at faster transmission of monetary policy rates.
- Banks have been reluctant to cut interest rates despite the RBI lowering the repo rate by 110 basis points (bps) between February and August.
- The norms for external benchmark linking of interest rates was scheduled to be operational from April 1, but was deferred.
- At present, interest rates on loans are linked to a bank’s marginal cost of fund-based interest rate (MCLR). Banks can choose from one of the four external benchmarks — repo rate, three-month treasury bill yield, six-month treasury bill yield or any other benchmark interest rate published by Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd.
- Adoption of multiple benchmarks by the same bank is not allowed within a loan category.
- While banks are free to decide on the spread over the external benchmark, credit risk premium can change only when borrower’s credit assessment undergoes a substantial change, adding other components of spread, including operating cost, could be altered once in three years.
- Existing loans and credit limits linked to the MCLR, base rate or BPLR, would continue till repayment or renewal.
- Regarding transition to external benchmark from MCLR for existing customers, RBI said floating rate term loans sanctioned to borrowers eligible to prepay the loan without pre-payment charges, will be eligible for switch-over to the external benchmark without any charges, except for reasonable administrative/ legal costs.
Vienna crowned ‘most liveable city’
- Austria’s capital has retained its ranking as the world’s most liveable city, according to an annual report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research division of The Economist Group.
- Vienna once again came ahead of Melbourne — which had held the top ranking for seven years until losing it to Vienna in 2018 — according to the report released on recently.
- The top two cities were followed by Sydney, Osaka and Calgary.
- Each year, the EIU gives 140 cities scores out of 100 on a range of factors such as living standards, crime, transport infrastructure, access to education and healthcare, as well as political and economic stability.
- Vienna — known for its convenient public transport, refreshing Alpine tap water and varied cultural life — scored 99.1 points out of 100, as it did last year.
- For the first time, the index noted the effects of climate change on liveability, with New Delhi plunging in the rankings to 118th (a drop of six ranks) and Cario at 125th place due to “poor air quality, undesirable average temperatures and inadequate water provision”.
Rate cuts for new home loans to be passed on automatically
- All banks are now mandatorily required to link floating rate loans extended to retail and small business to the repo rate—the rate at which lenders borrow from RBI—or to treasury bill rates from October.
- The move comes days after public sector banks announced a slew of repo-linked loans following a nudge from finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
- In a circular to all banks, RBI said floating rate loans for housing, auto and other personal advances as well as those advanced to micro and small enterprises have to be linked to one of three external benchmarks instead of the Marginal Cost of Lending Rate (MCLR).
- These three include RBI’s repo rate, threemonth or six-month treasury bill yields, or any benchmark rate provided by Financial Benchmarks India (FBIL), a money market service provider which publishes debt market rates.
- SBI was the first to offer repo-linked home loans and deposits and other PSBs have followed suit.
- These lenders include IDBI Bank, Bank of India, Union Bank of India, Central Bank of India, United Bank of India and Allahabad Bank, among others.
- Many lenders are also offering repo-linked saving deposits.
‘MCLR diluted RBI relief to borrowers’
- The RBI has said that existing loans and credit limits linked to the MCLR/ Base Rate/prime lending rate shall continue till repayment or renewal, as the case may be.
- Those customers wanting to switch to the repo-linked rate can do so on ‘mutually acceptable terms’.
- The argument against the current benchmark – the MCLR – was that it did not effectively transfer rate reduction announced by RBI to borrowers.
- RBI, while announcing a 35 basis points (100bps=1%) cut in repo in its August policy had pointed out that although it had brought down rates by 75 basis points the weighted average MCLR of banks had come down by only 29 basis points.
Rare Spider discovered in India
- A rare jumping spider, previously known to be primarily from Africa and the Middle East, was recently discovered in a butterfly garden in the grounds of the Ballygunge Science College, University of Calcutta, in West Bengal.
- The spider belonged to the genus Afraflacilla
- The discovery is important because it was made in an urban garden in the middle of one of the busiest, most populated and polluted parts of Kolkata, and highlights the importance parks and gardens play in the conservation of biodiversity, particularly pollinators like butterflies and bees, and also natural pest-control agents like spiders.
Eat Right Movement
The country is in need of a movement on preventive health for all in the backdrop of the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases including diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases, widespread deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and rampant food-borne illnesses, the Eat Right India movement is a crucial preventive healthcare measure to trigger social and behavioural change through a judicious mix of regulatory measures, combined with soft interventions for ensuring awareness and capacity building of food businesses and citizens alike.
Aligned with plans
- This movement is aligned with the government’s flagship public health programmes such as POSHAN Abhiyaan, Anemia Mukt Bharat, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and Swachh Bharat Mission.
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also put in place robust regulatory measures under three major pillars: Eat Safe, Eat Health and Eat Sustainably for the programme.
- FSSAI has prescribed a limit for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) at 25% in cooking oil to avoid the harmful effects of reused cooking oil.
WHO SE Asia Region plans to banish measles, rubella by 2023
- Member-countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region have resolved to eliminate highly infectious childhood killer diseases measles and rubella by 2023.
- A resolution to eliminate the diseases was adopted at the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in Delhi.
What is Measles?
- Measles is particularly dangerous for the poor, as it attacks malnourished children and those with reduced immunity.
- It can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia, while rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) causes irreversible birth defects.
- Measles elimination and rubella control has been a regional flagship priority since 2014.
- Bhutan, North Korea, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have eliminated measles.
- Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have controlled rubella.
- To achieve the new targets, the member-countries resolved to strengthen the immunisation systems for increasing and sustaining high level of population immunity against the two diseases at both the national and sub-national levels.
- The resolution calls for ensuring a highly sensitive laboratory supported case-based surveillance system — better evidence for appropriate planning and response.
- It also emphasises on preparedness for outbreak response activities.
The Interpol General Assembly
India has proposed to Interpol that the General Assembly of the organization be held in New Delhi in 2022 as part of the nation’s 75th Independence Day celebrations.
What is the Interpol General Assembly?
- The Interpol The International Criminal Police Organisation, or Interpol, is a 194-member intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Lyon, France.
- It was formed in 1923 as the International Criminal Police Commission, and started calling itself Interpol in 1956.
- India joined the organisation in 1949, and is one of its oldest members. Interpol aims to “help police in all… (its member countries) to work together to make the world a safer place”, according to its website.
- It enables police forces from different countries to share and access data on crimes and criminals, and offers a “range of technical and operational support”.
- Interpol’s declared global policing goals include countering terrorism, promoting border integrity worldwide, protection of vulnerable communities, providing a secure cyberspace for people and businesses, curbing illicit markets, supporting environment security, and promoting global integrity.
- The General Assembly is Interpol’s supreme governing body, and comprises representatives from all its member countries.
- The General Assembly meets annually for a session lasting approximately four days, to vote on activities and policy.
- Each country is represented by one or more delegates at the Assembly, who are typically chiefs of law enforcement agencies.
- The General Assembly also elects the members of the Interpol Executive Committee, the governing body which “provides guidance and direction in between sessions of the Assembly”.
- Major trends in crime and security threats facing the world are also discussed.
- The General Assembly’s decisions take the form of Resolutions.
- Each member country has one vote.
- Decisions are made either by a simple or a two-thirds majority, depending on the subject matter.
- General Assembly Resolutions are public documents.
- Interpol recognises that “as the largest global gathering of senior law enforcement officials, the General Assembly also provides an important opportunity for countries to network and share experiences”.
- The Interpol’s 88th General Assembly will assemble in Santiago, Chile, later this year.
- The 2018 (87th), 2017 (86th), 2016 (85th), and 2015 (84th) General Assemblies met in Dubai, UAE, Beijing, China, Bali, Indonesia, and Kigali, Rwanda, respectively.
- Kim Jong Yang of South Korea was elected president of Interpol for a two-year term until 2020 by the General Assembly in Dubai.
- The Secretary General of Interpol since 2014 has been Jürgen Stock of Germany.
- He is the organisation’s senior full-time official who oversees the day-to-day running of the Interpol General Secretariat. Stock met Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi last week.
CITES CoP 2019
- Giraffes accorded protection from trade for the first time
- The giraffe has been placed in Appendix II of CITES, which places prohibitions on uncontrolled trade in a species.
- Giraffes, those tall, stately and graceful animals of Africa’s savannahs, have been accorded protection from unregulated trade as the world finally woke up to their ‘silent extinction’.
- The Appendix II listing was proposed by Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It was passed by 106 votes in support, with 21 votes against and seven abstentions.
- Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.
- Giraffes once ranged over much of the semi-arid savannah and savannah woodlands of Africa.
- But their numbers have plummeted dramatically — by up to 40 per cent over the last 30 years — due to threats including international trade in their parts, as well as habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting.
- Today, they are found only south of the Sahara, and occupy only a fraction of their historic range as a result of human population expansion and changes in land use.
- While giraffes fall prey to poaching for bushmeat, bones, skin and tail hair, there is also a significant amount of international trade in their bone carvings and trophies.
- There is currently only one recognised species of giraffe, with nine sub-species. They have been listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Species Red List since 2016, with some sub-species classified as ‘endangered’’ or ‘critically endangered’.
- While the Appendix II listing will not stop all trade in giraffe parts, it will ensure this is not contributing to further population declines and provide global scale data that could not otherwise be obtained, the press release stated further.
PERSON IN NEWS
- Conservationist Vivek Menon, head of Delhi-based conservation non-profit, Wildlife Trust of India was awarded the prestigious Clark R Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award for the year 2019 on August 20 in Geneva.
- Menon was presented the award by Ivonne Higuero, the secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- The eighteenth meeting of Conference of Parties to CITES was held at Geneva.
- The Bavin award is instituted by the Animal Welfare Institute for wildlife law enforcement officers, law enforcement agencies, agency administrators, criminal investigators, forensic scientists, attorneys, informants, and others who have gone beyond the call of duty and demonstrated a commitment and dedication to combating wildlife crime.
- In his career spanning three decades, Menon has been at the forefront of wildlife enforcement, including going undercover in his early days busting international wildlife trade operatives.
- He co-founded TRAFFIC India with his mentor the late Ashok Kumar and his early work on rhino poaching was published by TRAFFIC-International.
- This was followed by years of work on controlling the illegal ivory trade and poaching of the Asian elephant.
- For the first time in the 215-year history of the Asiatic Society, a woman has been appointed its president.
- Vispi Balaporia, 78, is an educationist who secured 107 out of 163 votes at the society’s election recently.
- Balaporia has a long association with Asiatic, having served as vice-president and secretary. She is a former vice-principal of Jai Hind College and was a professor of English literature.
- At Asiatic, her rival in the fray was former Supreme Court Justice Sujata Manohar, who later withdrew her nomination.
- Balaporia’s other opponent, Dr Surendra Dhaktode, former principal of Siddharth College, secured 31 votes.
- Balaporia’s tenure will last two years, after which she can seek re-election.
About Asiatic Society:
- The Asiatic Society, a learned society in the field of Asian studies, traces its origin to the Literary Society of Bombay, which first met in Mumbai in 1804, and was founded by Sir James Mackintosh.
- Like most institutes of its time, Asiatic was a male bastion.
- The first portrait of a woman in its gallery, of socialist writer Durga Bhagwat, was installed just six years ago.
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