The HINDU Notes – 18th July 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 18th July 2019






📰 Remnants of Iron Age in Malampuzha

Implements discovered in the dam’s catchment area by Victoria College team

•A team of explorers from Government Victoria College here have stumbled upon iron implements belonging to the Iron Age in Kerala from the catchment area of the Malampuzha dam.

•K. Rajan, former head of the History Department at the college who led the exploration, said the find had immense potential to throw light on the life of people in the centuries immediately before the beginning of the Christian era. V. Selvakumar, archaeologist from Tamil University, Thanjavur, has corroborated the finding. An expert in Stone Age and Iron Age archaeology, Dr. Selvakumar will examine the site next week.

The findings

•The iron implement included a nail, a chisel, a wedge, a knife and a dagger. The broken pieces of the dagger were recovered from a cist burial found at the location.

•Mr. Rajan said that when the knife was found beside another cist burial, the nail, chisel, wedge and two other tools were recovered from the top of a broken urn near a stone circle at South Malampuzha.

•He said the tools that could not be identified might be a spear-head and the top portion of a sickle.

•The iron implements were spotted during a survey of Iron Age sites and burials as part of a University Grants Commission (UGC)-aided project that began in 2014. “The region has many varieties of Iron Age burials, including cairn circles, stone circles, cist burials, dolmens, urn burials, and menhirs,” said Mr. Rajan.

•An exploration conducted by M.G. Sasibhooshan in 1980s had found burial sites within the catchment areas of Malampuzha. Archaeological Survey of India director M. Nandiraju has asked the Victoria team to survey the region thoroughly and to document it in detail. The survey is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

•Mr. Rajan said that deeper studies were required to find the exact date of the implements recovered from Malampuzha. He said the Iron Age of Europe and India could be traced to different periods. In Kerala, the Iron Age burials dated back to 700 BC, he said.

📰 Cabinet clears Bill to make National Exit Test must for medical practice

National Medical Commission Bill will bring AIIMS, JIPMER also under NEET

•In a bid to streamline medical education in the country, the Union government plans to convert the final year examination of the MBBS course into a licentiate examination, which will also be used for entrance into postgraduate medical courses, and act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates. It will be called the National Exit Test (NEXT).

•These proposals are part of the National Medical Commission Bill approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday. If enacted, the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 would be repealed. The current Medical Council of India would be replaced by a National Medical Commission.

•The Commission will have four autonomous boards: Undergraduate Medical Education Board, Post-Graduate Medical Education Board, Medical Assessment and Rating Board, and Ethics and Medical Registration Board. It will also be responsible for regulating fees and all other charges for half the seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.

•The Bill proposes to unify all entrance procedures for medical courses. NEXT, as well as NEET – the common entrance test for MBBS admissions – as well as admission counselling will now apply to AIIMS and other institutes which have followed their own procedures thus far.

📰 Review Kulbhushan Jadhav sentence, grant consular access, ICJ tells Pakistan

Review Kulbhushan Jadhav sentence, grant consular access, ICJ tells Pakistan
World court rejects claim that the Vienna Convention doesn’t apply in a ‘spy case’

•In a major verdict that accepted India’s plea that former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav’s trial under espionage and terror charges in Pakistan violated international law, the International Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled that Pakistan should “review and reconsider” his conviction and death sentence.

•The court, based at The Hague in the Netherlands, also ruled that Pakistan should give the Indian government consular access to Mr. Jadhav, something Pakistan has failed to do in the three years since his arrest, and to stay the execution of his sentence, pending the review process.

•The ICJ held that the denial of consular access constituted a “breach” of article 36 para 1(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963) which Pakistan is a signatory to, which stipulates that all foreign nationals arrested must be given access to their government or local embassy, and rejected Pakistan’s counter-claim that the Vienna convention didn’t apply in a case of espionage.

•It also upheld India’s contention that the Vienna convention overrides a 2008 bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan on consular access.

•Significantly, all 16 judges on the UN judicial organ’s panel ruled unanimously that the ICJ’s jurisdiction held over the case. On six other contentions, including on the comprehensive violation of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan, the immediate granting of consular access to Mr. Jadhav, an “effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence”, and a continued stay of execution, the ICJ panel ruled 15-1 in India’s favour. Pakistani Judge, Justice Jillani, was the lone dissenter on those rulings.

•Pakistan’s government also claimed a victory of sorts over the judgment, pointing out that the court had not accepted India’s written and oral submissions asking for the ICJ to annul the Pakistani verdict, and to direct Mr. Jadhav’s release.

•“Commander Jadhav shall remain in Pakistan. He shall be treated in accordance with the laws of Pakistan,” tweeted Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. However diplomats said that ordering Mr. Jadhav’s release was never really an expectation from the ICJ.

•“This was a big victory, and as much as India would have hoped for at this stage,” said Gautam Bambawale, explaining that “the ICJ never gives directions beyond its authority as it cannot implement them.”

•Mr. Bambawale was the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan in March 2016, when Mr. Jadhav was arrested by the Pakistani government for ‘spying’ and allegedly plotting terror acts in Balochistan, and had made several appeals to Pakistan for access to Mr. Jadhav at the time.

•Subsequently, Pakistan held a secret trial of Mr. Jadhav in a military court, where evidence and processes were not made public. On May 8, 2017, after the Pakistani court convicted and sentenced Mr. Jadhav, India went to the ICJ as a last resort of appeal.

•India has rarely ever approached the ICJ, as it considers the UN body a “third party” in bilateral matters. Government officials say they hope that Pakistan, having lost the case at the ICJ, will swiftly accord consular access to Mr. Jadhav, and begin a review of his trial and a reconsideration of his sentencing at the earliest. If not, or if the review is considered unfair, New Delhi could return to The Hague once again and make another appeal.

📰 At the UNSC, a three-point agenda

India should once again become a consensus-builder, instead of the outlier it has progressively become

•India’s singular objective as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2021-22 should be to help build a stable and secure external environment. In doing so, India will promote its own people’s prosperity, regional and global security and growth, and a rule-based world order. It could emerge a partner of choice for developing and developed countries alike.

•India’s representation in the UNSC has become rarer. It is to re-enter the Council after a gap of 10 years. The previous time, in 2011-12, followed a gap of 20 years. In total, India has been in the UNSC for 14 years, representing roughly a fifth of the time the United Nations (UN) has existed. India must leverage this latest opportunity to project itself as a responsible nation.

Changing state of world

•India finds itself in a troubled region between West and East Asia, a region bristling with insurgencies, terrorism, human and narcotics trafficking, and great power rivalries. There has been cataclysmic dislocation in West Asia. The Gulf is in turmoil. Though the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) has been defeated, Iraq and Syria are not going to be the same as before. Surviving and dispersed Daesh foot soldiers are likely preparing new adventures, many in their countries of origin. The turbulence in West Asia is echoed in North and South Asia, a consequence of the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Afghanistan’s slow but unmistakable unravelling from the support, sustenance and sanctuary provided in its contiguity to groups such as the Haqqani network, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. Other problems in Asia include strategic mistrust or misperception, unresolved borders and territorial disputes, the absence of a pan-Asia security architecture, and competition over energy and strategic minerals.

•Alongside, the western world is consumed by primordial, almost tribal instincts, turning its back on the universal values it once espoused as western values. Pundits and political scientists, who had spoken of the end of the nation state and the end of history itself, are grappling with the rise of new nationalism.

•The benign and supportive international system that followed the Cold War has all but disappeared. At the beginning of this century, the words ‘national interest’ had acquired almost a pejorative connotation. They are now back in currency. Fear, populism, polarisation, and ultra-nationalism have become the basis of politics in many countries. No wonder that five years ago, when Henry Kissinger completed his latest work, World Order, he found the world to be in a greater state of disorder than at any time since the end of World War II.

•Even so, the world is in a better place today than when the UN was first established. The record on maintaining international peace and security, one of the prime functions of the UNSC, has been positive, with or without the UN. The world has been distracted from its other shared goals, especially international social and economic cooperation. Although coordination between 193 sovereign member nations will be difficult, it is well worth trying. To this end, the permanent members (P-5) as also other UN members must consider it worth their while to reform the Council.

•A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, “World in 2050”, predicts that by 2050, China will be the world’s number one economic power, followed by India. In China’s case, this is subject to its success in avoiding the middle-income trap. And in India’s, to more consistent economic performance than the experience of recent years. That said, one of the challenges of the international system today, and for India in the UNSC, is that this profound impending change is largely unrecognised by the great powers and other countries.

What should India aim to do?

•There is no need for India to fritter away diplomatic goodwill in seeking an elusive permanent seat in the UNSC — it will come India’s way more by invitation and less by self-canvassing. India will have to increase its financial contribution, as the apportionment of UN expenses for each of the P-5 countries is significantly larger than that for India. Even Germany and Japan today contribute many times more than India. Although India has been a leading provider of peacekeepers, its assessed contribution to UN peacekeeping operations is minuscule.

•At a time when there is a deficit of international leadership on global issues, especially on security, migrant movement, poverty, and climate change, India has an opportunity to promote well-balanced, common solutions.

•First, as a member of the UNSC, India must help guide the Council away from the perils of invoking the principles of humanitarian interventionism or ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The world has seen mayhem result from this. And yet, there are regimes in undemocratic and repressive nations where this yardstick will never be applied. Given the fragile and complex international system, which can become even more unpredictable and conflictual, India should work towards a rules-based global order. Sustainable development and promoting peoples’ welfare should become its new drivers.

•Second, India should push to ensure that the UNSC Sanctions Committee targets all those individuals and entities warranting sanctions. Multilateral action by the UNSC has not been possible because of narrowly defined national interest. As on May 21, 2019, 260 individuals and 84 entities are subject to UN sanctions, pursuant to Council resolutions 1267, 1989, and 2253. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains a larger list of individuals and entities subject to U.S. sanctions. The European Union maintains its own sanctions list.

•Third, having good relations with all the great powers, India must lead the way by pursuing inclusion, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and rational internationalism. India should once again become a consensus-builder, instead of the outlier it has progressively become. A harmonised response is the sine qua non for dealing with global problems of climate change, disarmament, terrorism, trade, and development. India could take on larger burdens to maintain global public goods and build new regional public goods. For example, India should take the lead in activating the UNSC’s Military Staff Committee, which was never set into motion following the UN’s inception. Without it, the UNSC’s collective security and conflict-resolution roles will continue to remain limited.

Looking at polycentrism

•A rules-based international order helps rather than hinders India, and embracing the multilateral ethic is the best way forward. India will be a rich country in the future and will acquire greater military muscle, but its people will remain relatively poor. India is a great nation, but not a great power. Apolarity, unipolarity, a duopoly of powers or contending super-powers — none of these suit India. India has a strong motive to embrace polycentrism, which is anathema to hegemonic powers intent on carving out their exclusive spheres of influence.

•Finally, India cannot stride the global stage with confidence in the absence of stable relations with its neighbours. Besides whatever else is done within the UN and the UNSC, India must lift its game in South Asia and its larger neighbourhood. Exclusive reliance on India’s brilliant team of officers at its New York mission is not going to be enough.

📰 Open to improving Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar

Several members raise concerns about the working of the crop insurance scheme on the ground.

•Promising to create a new breed of “smart farmers by introducing smart farming”, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the government was open to improving its welfare schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) for crop insurance.

•With several members raising concerns about the working of the scheme on the ground, Mr. Tomar invited suggestions from members on how to make it better.

Easier, more useful

•“We are working on how can we make the PM Fasal Bima Yojana more easier, more useful, more beneficial,” Mr. Tomar said, and added, “Earlier also, there was the PM Fasal Bima...Today, there is focus on PM Fasal Bima.” The Minister said neither he nor the Prime Minister considers the crop insurance scheme as foolproof.

•The Minister made these remarks during the passage of the Demand for Grants under the Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, and the Rural Development Ministry.

•Mr. Tomar said the government is aiming to provide easy access to farm credit and plans to ensure that every farmer gets to own a Kisan Credit Card towards this end.

•The Minister also informed the House that over 10 crore Soil Health Cards have already been given and another 9.82 crore cards are being processed. And over 10,000 soil testing labs have been set up.

‘Mindset changed’

•“Earlier, a doctor’s son would want to become a doctor, children want to take the professions of their parents, but a farmer’s son would never want to be a farmer. But after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the mindset has changed and more educated people are coming in to agriculture and are using technology,” Mr. Tomar said.

•Responding to doubts expressed by Opposition MPs regarding the doubling of farmers’ income, the Minister said a roadmap has been put in place but the results would not be visible in a day.

•On rural development, the Minister highlighted the success of schemes like MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), among others.

‘Improved MNREGA’

•“We have improved MNREGA, but I am not in favour of the scheme continuing forever as it is meant only to lift people out of poverty,” Mr. Tomar said, and argued that poverty should be wiped out.

•Mr. Tomar said his Ministry had set ambitious targets like building metalled roads under the PMGSY by the end of this year, and to build around 1.95 crore dwellings in the next two years under PMAY.

•He said the Ministry focuses on Below Poverty Line families to provide benefits like toilets (Swachh Bharat), houses (PMAY), free LPG connection (Ujjwala) and free power connection (PM-SAUBHAGYA).

•While Opposition MP N. K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) withdrew the cut motion he had moved on the issue, Samajwadi Party stalwart Mulayam Singh Yadav asked the Minister to tell the grim reality of the farmers to the House, and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury pointed out that the Minister did not address the issue of farmers’ suicides that is “as high as 36 daily suicides”.

📰 U.S. bans Myanmar military leaders over Rohingya abuses

The steps are the strongest the U.S. has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar.

•The U.S. announced sanctions on Tuesday against Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other leaders it said were responsible for extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, barring them from entry to the country.




•The steps, which also covered Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy, Soe Win, and two other senior commanders and their families, are the strongest the U.S. has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar. It identified the two others as Than Oo and Aung Aung, both Brigadier Generals.

•“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

•Mr. Pompeo said a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”

•“The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days,” Mr. Pompeo said.

•The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.

•The U.S. announcement came on the first day of an international ministerial conference on religious freedom hosted by Mr. Pompeo at the State Department that was attended by Rohingya representatives.

•“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military,” said Mr. Pompeo, who has been a strong advocate of religious freedom.

•“We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders involvement in gross violations of human rights,” he said.

•A spokesman for the Myanmar military, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, said by phone the military had not ignored the accusations, citing internal probes. One army-led investigation in 2017 exonerated security forces of all accusations of atrocities. Another is ongoing.

•“Right now we have an investigative committee ... to conduct a detailed investigation,” he said. “They should value these facts.”

📰 Dam Safety Bill gets nod from CCEA

It is set to be reintroduced in Parliament after several unsuccessful bids to clear it

•The Centre is set to introduce the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 in Parliament after it was cleared by the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday.

•A version of the Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2018 (and which subsequently lapsed). It aims to put in place a systematic procedure to ensure that India’s 5,600 dams are made and maintained safely.

•Various editions of the Bill have been introduced since 2010 but it has never been successfully passed, largely due to opposition by States at various times. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have opposed the Bill on the grounds that it encroaches upon the sovereignty of States to manage their dams. The Bill lays the onus of the dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for wilful “commission and omission of certain acts.” The The Bill also provides for establishment of a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body to implement the policy, Javadekar said.

•An official statement said that every state shall establish a ‘State Dam Safety Organisation’ which will be manned by officers from the field dam safety. The CCEA also approved the ₹1,600-crore pre-investment expenditure for the Dibang Multipurpose Project in Arunachal Pradesh, India’s largest hydropower project.

📰 Lok Sabha clears Appropriation Bill

Allows govt. to borrow ₹98.18 lakh crore for 2019-20.

•The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Appropriation (No.2) Bill-2019 allowing the Union government to withdraw ₹98.18 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenditure during 2019-20. 

•The Bill, moved by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was passed by a voice vote after the House approved demands for grants for several Ministries which were collectively put to vote and passed by applying guillotine.

•Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha discussed demands for grants for the Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry. Minister of State Kiren Rijiju said talks were on with the corporate sector to collaborate for the development of youth and sports. 

•“We are bringing in changes that will allow early selection of players from across the country, good coaching facilities, adequate nutritional support and regular checks of sports facilities. We hope that in the upcoming international games, India will better its medal tally,” Mr. Rijiju said.

•He said that his Ministry aimed to support players and not control them. 

•The House also discussed demands for grants of various Ministries, including rural development, agriculture and farmers’ welfare, railways, and road transport and highways.

•The government in February had came out with an interim Budget.

•Now with the passage of the Appropriation bill No. 2, the government has sought the approval of the Lok Sabha for expenses for this entire financial year.

📰 The benefits of blockchain

India could take a leaf out of Europe’s book instead of calling for a blanket ban on cyptocurrencies

•The Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019 has proposed stringent penalties, including 10 years of imprisonment, for holding, selling or dealing in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Given the high chances of cryptocurrencies being misused in money laundering, various government bodies such as IT, CBDT, and the customs departments have endorsed this endeavour.

•While it is important to put mechanisms in place to deter bad actors, a blanket ban on all forms of cryptocurrency transactions will result in India missing out on what may become one of the biggest technology revolutions since the Internet.

The potential of blockchain

•While an oversimplification, blockchain can be described as a way for people to share extra space and computational power in their computers to create a global supercomputer that is accessible for everyone. Every computer connected to a blockchain network helps validate and record transactions. People who connect their computers to a network are known as validators and receive transaction fees in the form of tokens.

•Many technologists believe that the blockchain industry is poised for an explosion similar to what happened to the smartphone industry. None of us could have imagined services such as Google Maps or Uber which came to fruition due to the new mobile platform. Start-ups have already built thousands of apps on blockchain platforms like Ethereum. However, these apps aren’t easily available to non-tech savvy consumers through an app store, and hence their usage remains low. They also face technical problems including scalability and slowing down of the network when many people use these apps simultaneously. New companies such as Algorand and CasperLabs are investing millions in research and development and are close to solving these issues.

•Blockchain technology has the potential to create new industries and transform existing ones in ways we cannot imagine. For instance, it has the capacity to facilitate nano-payments proportionate to an individual’s contribution and value creation in the Internet, making it an ideal wealth redistribution tool for our digital age.

•Even big technology companies have started to take blockchain applications seriously. Facebook, for instance, recently announced its own cryptocurrency to facilitate payments globally with minimal fees and no dependency on a central bank. Venture capitalists invested $2.4 billion in blockchain and cryptocurrency start-ups in 2018. So far, 2019 is poised to exceed this benchmark.

•None of the above is possible without the underlying tokens that facilitate transactions in a blockchain network. A law to ban holding or transacting in cryptocurrency would not only prevent Indians from reaping economic benefits by participating in blockchain networks as validators and earning transaction fees, but also stifle any innovation related to this disruptive emerging technology.

The European example

•The European Parliament and European Council are working on an anti-money laundering directive, known as AMLD5. The deadline for its implementation is January 2020. All crypto exchanges and wallet custodians operating in Europe will have to implement strict know-your-customer (KYC) on-boarding procedures and need to register with local authorities. They will also be required to report suspicious activities to relevant bodies. This will not fully solve the problem since it is not always possible for the exchange to know a beneficiary’s details.

•The EU Commission is aware and has been mandated to present further set of amendment proposals regarding self-declaration by virtual currency owners, the maintenance of central databases registering users’ identities and wallet addresses, and norms while using virtual currencies as payment or investment means by 2022. This is a more reasonable approach, and the Indian government could follow suit.

📰 Elon Musk unveils project on mind-machine interface

Neuralink showcases sensor that can be implanted in brain

•Futurist entrepreneur Elon Musk late on Tuesday revealed his secretive Neuralink startup is making progress on an interface linking brains with computers, and said they hope to begin testing on people next year.

•Mr. Musk has long contended that a neural lace meshing minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being so outpaced by Artificial Intelligence that, under the best of circumstances, humans would be akin to “house cats.”

•Mr. Musk and members of the Neuralink team laid out progress they have made on their mission at an event held in San Francisco to recruit talent in software, robotics, neuroscience and more.

•“Ultimately, we can do a full brain-machine interface,” Musk said.

•“Achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.”

•Neuralink unveiled an early version of a tiny sensor with hair-thin strands that could be implanted in a brain through a small incision by a robot built for the high-precision task.

•“They are tiny electrodes and the robot is delicately implanting them,” Mr. Musk said, noting there could be thousands of the electrodes connected to a brain.

•“This is something that is not going to be stressful to put in; will work well, and it is wireless.”

Wireless communication

•The chip will communicate wirelessly with an earpiece, which relays information to a smartphone application, according to Neuralink.

•For now, the goal is to let a person with the implants control a smartphone with thought, but the technology could eventually extend to other devices such as robotic arms. “This has tremendous potential,” Musk said.

•“We hope to have this in a human patient before the end of next year.”

•An early focus of the team is using the technology to address brain diseases and paralysis, but the longer aim is to make implants so safe, reliable and easy that they could be elective surgery options for people seeking to enhance their brains with computing power, according to a neurosurgeon on the Neuralink team.

•Mr. Musk said the goal was to make it as easy a procedure as laser eye surgery.

•“I've said a lot about AI over the years; I think that even in a benign scenario, we will be left behind,” he said.

•“With a high bandwidth brain-machine interface we can actually go for the ride and have the option of merging with AI. This is very important.”


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