10 Jul, 2020
48 Min Read
|GS-I||Issue of Caste in America and Elsewhere||Social issues|
|GS-III||India’s Trade Surplus||Economic Issues|
|Gold Bonds and Gold monetization||Economic Issues|
|PT Pointer||Zardoszi||Art and Culture|
|USA’s Withdrawal from WHO|
|CogX Awards||International Relations|
|MSME Emergency Response Programme||Economic Issues|
|Sakteng Wild life Sanctuary|
|Global Environment Facility (GEF)|
|Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)|
GS-PAPER-2 Governance – Caste (Mains and I.V)
What is the issue?
A lawsuit has been filed in California against Cisco Systems for allowing caste discrimination against a Dalit Indian-origin employee. In this context, here is an overview of the issue of caste in America and elsewhere, outside the Indian subcontinent.
Earlier references to 'caste' in America?
What happened after 1965?
The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act came into place as a result of the civil rights campaign in the US. The Act overturned restrictions of race and colour. It thus allowed a whole generation of Indian skilled labour (mostly upper-caste) to be a part of the American dream. But importantly, soon, many “lower-caste” Indians also followed.
This was significantly because they accessed educational opportunities in technical institutions via reservations at home. With this, Dalit discrimination started in the US.
One such example is of the REC Warangal-educated Sujatha Gidla. Gidla's 2017 book ‘Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India’, was published in the US to great acclaim. In New York, she recalls facing discrimination from many Indians. Gidla recounts, a Brahmin bank cashier “wouldn’t accept money from my hands. She would demand that I place it on the counter.”
2015 California textbook debate?
In 2015, the California board of education asked scholars to help it come up with a framework for history and social science textbooks. It was part of a regular evaluation.
Following that, there was a bitter contest over several aspects of Indian history. This included caste and the critique of caste embedded in religions such as Buddhism and Sikhism as well.
The suggestions of the South Asian Histories for All Coalition (SAHFAC), a collective of scholars and historians, were met with opposition. The Hindu American Foundation and other Hindu groups mainly objected. They opposed narratives that portrayed “Hindu civilisation” negatively, and warned they might lead to the bullying of Hindu children.
However, the SAHFAC objected to -
How prevalent is caste discrimination in the U.S.?
Is anti-caste movement possible in the U.S.?
An anti-caste movement taking root in the US is practically hard. Notably, of Indian immigrants, 90% are Brahmins and 1.5% is Dalits. Indians in America are a minority, and Dalits among them are a minority. Issues of such a tiny community making a big enough impact to be called a movement is less likely.
However, a Dalit consciousness has been present in the US from the 1970s or 1980s, away from the bright lights of media activism. People have resisted in private and in public in their own ways. Even hiding one’s caste is a way of fighting caste as Yengde (who works with community-based Ambedkarite organisations in the US) says.
What was the Dalits' demand for the 2001 UN Conference against Racism?
The UN Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. In the lead-up to the conference, Dalit groups had demanded that the conference also take a stand against the “hidden apartheid” in India.
Since the 1990s, these groups had had some success in lobbying international organisations on caste. The universal language and promise of human rights was used to broaden the framework to see the discrimination.
Specifically, the definition of racial discrimination as “exclusion based on race, colour and descent” was used to acknowledge caste. Notably, in 1999, a report by Human Rights Watch, ‘Broken People: Caste Violence against India’s Untouchables’, focussed international attention on the issue.
Omar Abdullah, then India’s Minister of State for External Affairs said at the conference, the following:
What are the conflicting views in this regard?
Caste Discrimination - California Lawsuit against Cisco Systems
A lawsuit has been filed in California against Cisco Systems, a tech multinational company, for allowing caste discrimination against a Dalit Indian-origin employee.
What is the case about?
What is the American law in this regard?
What is the significance?
GS-Paper- 3 Economy TRADE
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released India’s balance of payments data for the January-March quarter of 2019-20.
During this quarter, India has managed a current account surplus, which is around 0.1% of the GDP. This surplus is largely driven by a lower trade deficit.
Data from the Commerce Ministry show that between April and May 2020, India’s trade balance has improved. This surplus is due to the Invisibles, emanating mainly out of services exports and remittances. Due to this surplus, India’s substantial trade deficit turns into a moderate current account deficit.
Why does India mostly have a trade deficit?
The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) trade data show that the Covid crisis has had a severe impact on international trade. As the world went into lockdown, it severely affected economic activities everywhere.
Estimates by the WTO suggest that for the second quarter of 2020, global trade is likely to suffer a year?on?year drop of around 18.5%. [Second quarter of 2020 - A period when the lockdown was in place]
This is one of the steepest falls in international trade on record. Along with the lockdown, the WTO attributes this decline to the growing geopolitical and trade tensions.
What are the current trends in Indian trade?
What is the impact on trade in services?
Overall, India’s trade balance in April and May 2020 has turned positive. However, this improvement in trade balance has been driven mainly by a sharper decline in imports. This is a warning sign for the economy, as the decline in imports points towards a contraction of demand in the real economy.
A decline in imports (May 2020) was led by a sharp decline in imports of gold, petroleum goods, coal, electronics and machineries. Declining petroleum prices and rising gold prices have affected the import patterns. The sharp decline in imports of fuel and machinery indicates a severe demand slowdown in the economy. Covid-19 is going to have a heavy toll on the economy.
Lithium, a light element commonly used today in communication device technology. It was first produced in the Big Bang, around 13.7 billion years ago when the universe came into being, along with other elements. The present abundance of lithium in the universe is only four times the original (Big Bang) value.
It is actually destroyed in the stars. The Sun, for instance, has about a factor of 100 lower amount of lithium than the Earth.
Helium Flash in Stars
A forty-year-old puzzle regarding the production of lithium in stars has been solved by Indian researchers-BHARAT KUMAR. Stars, as per known mechanisms of evolution, actually destroy lithium as they evolve into red giants.
Planets were known to have more lithium than their stars as is the case with the Earth-Sun pair. However, leading to a contradiction, some stars were found that were lithium-rich.
When stars grow beyond their Red Giant stage into what is known as the Red Clump stage, they produce lithium in what is known as a Helium Flash and this is what enriches them with lithium.
The fourth tranche of sovereign gold bonds 2020-21 is open for subscription.
The government introduced the gold bonds scheme in 2015. The scheme was introduced to wean away investors from the physical gold market. These bonds have a maturity period of eight years. But, the investors have the option to exit after the fifth year. Funds raised through such issuances form part of the government’s overall borrowings in a year.
What are the benefits of buying gold bonds?
Why price rise??
Much before Covid-19’s impact led to a crash in global stock markets, gold prices had started their upward glide. The global spread of Covid-19 has raised concerns about global growth over the last three or four months.
Negative growth rates and fears of a global recession have pushed central banks and big investors to take shelter in gold. There is nearly 40% crash in benchmark equity indices in the US between February and March 2020. This has forced the US Federal Reserve to announce a record liquidity injection and bond-buying programme of more than $3 trillion.
In India why it has been rising!!!
Will gold prices continue to rise???
Gold is an efficient tool to hedge against inflation and economic uncertainties. It is also more liquid when compared with real estate and many debt instruments. Generally, after any major economic crash and recession, gold prices continue their upward run. Market analysts feel that gold could overtake its previous peak of around $1,900 per ounce in the global market.
Can one invest now?
In India, there is a sharp decline in interest rates over the last year alongside high volatility in the equity markets. This has brought investors’ focus toward gold.
A cut in interest rates by the RBI has led to a decline in interest rates on small savings and term deposit rates of banks. SBI is currently offering an interest of 2.7% on savings bank deposits, and 5.4% on 5-10 year term deposits. Experts say that it makes good sense for investors to invest in gold.
Can the price of the gold crash?
Gold Monetisation Scheme
In a move to revive the flagging Gold Monetisation Scheme, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made it easier for depositors to hand over their holdings of Gold.
Temples, High Networth Individuals (HNIs) and entities like fund houses, trusts and even government entities would now find it easier to deal directly with banks instead of CPTCs.
Gold Monetisation Scheme
Zardozi work is a type of embroidery predominant in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is a type of heavy and elaborate metal embroidery on silk, satin, or velvet fabric base.
It was patronized by the Mughals that involves weaving metallic threads. Designs are often created using gold and silver threads and can incorporate pearls, beads, and precious stones. However, in recent times craftsmen make use of a combination of copper wire, with a golden or silver polish, and silk thread.
It is used as decoration for a wide range of applications, including clothes, household textiles, and animal trappings. Historically, it was used to adorn the walls of royal tents, scabbards, wall hangings and the paraphernalia of regal elephants and horses.
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), aims at taking punitive measures against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
It was passed in the backdrop of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. It primarily deals with sanctions on the Russian oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions.
It empowers the US President to impose at least 5 of 12 listed sanctions enumerated in Section 235 on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors. If implemented stringently, it would impact Indian defence procurement from Russia.
It would also affect purchase of spares, components, raw materials and other assistance. The bulk of India’s military equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin including the nuclear submarine
USA administration has formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization. Although the pullout won’t take effect until next year, meaning it could be rescinded under a new administration if circumstances change.
The measure has been taken after USA’s disappointment with WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused of bowing to Chinese influence. Under the terms of the withdrawal, the U.S. must meet its financial obligations to the WHO before it can be finalized.
The U.S., which is the agency’s largest donor and provides it with more than $400 million per year, currently owes the WHO some $200 million in current and past dues.
It is a UN agency responsible for global public health. It was founded in 1948 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
It aims to "promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable" It involves in vaccination campaigns, health emergencies and supporting countries in primary care. Funded by a combination of members' fees based on wealth and population and voluntary contributions.
CogX is a prestigious Global Leadership Summit and Festival of AI and Emerging Technology held annually in London. The awards are given out to the best-of-the-best in AI and emerging technologies across the world.
MyGov is the world’s largest citizen engagement platform. It facilitates two-way communication between the Government and citizens and facilitates participatory governance in India.
MyGov, JioHaptik Technologies Limited and WhatsApp team collaborated to develop an AI-enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk. AI-enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk bagged two awards under the categories of Best Innovation for Covid-19 - Society and People’s Choice Covid-19 Overall Winner.
World Bank and the Government of India signed an agreement for the MSME Emergency Response Programme. It involves $750 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
The loan has a maturity of 19 years including a 5-year grace period. The programme aims to support the increased flow of finance into the hands of MSMEs severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
It will support the government in providing targeted guarantees to incentivize NBFCs and banks to continue lending to viable MSMEs to help sustain them through the crisis. It will address the immediate liquidity and credit needs of some 1.5 million viable MSMEs to help them withstand the impact and protect millions of jobs.
Sakteng is based in Eastern Bhutan, or Trashigang Dzongkhag (district) which borders Arunachal Pradesh. It protects several endemic species including the eastern blue pine and the black-rumped magpie.
Bhutan’s foreign ministry has issued a demarche to the Chinese embassy for china’s claim over the Sakteng Wildlife sanctuary. The recent claim was made at the 58th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, by trying to “oppose” funding to a project for sanctuary saying that it was “disputed” territory.
Bhutan’s western and middle sectors have been in dispute with China, they are
However, the eastern sector has not been part of the boundary talks and China had not claimed rights over the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary earlier.
It is an international partnership of countries, international institutions, and civil society organizations that addresses global environmental issues. It was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
GEF funds are available to develop countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements. The World Bank serves as the GEF Trustee, administering the GEF Trust Fund.
After 100 years a rare orchid species Eulophia obtuse also known as the ground orchid has been rediscovered from Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. In India the species is listed as “critically endangered” in the IUCN Red List of endangered species.
The species was originally described from Uttarakhand in the 19th century, it was last recorded in Pilibhit in 1902. Later in 2008, the plant species was sighted in Bangladesh for the first time. It was under serious threat due to habitat loss and reduction in the number of mature individuals in Bangladesh.
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, extends to the whole of India. Any person, who commits an offence beyond India, which is punishable under this Act, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Act in the same manner as if such act had been committed in India.
In August 2019, the Central government had amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to include the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist. Prior to this amendment, only organizations could be designated as terrorist organizations.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently designated nine individuals associated with Khalistani extremist organisations as terrorists under the provisions of the UAPA.
Climate Vulnerable Forum It is an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet. The forum serves as a South-South cooperation platform for participating governments to act together to deal with global climate change. The Forum first met in th
World’s First Online Climate Summit World leaders are set to participate in an innovative climate change summit that will take place entirely online which makes it a carbon-neutral summit. By contrast, the UN's COP21 climate talks in Paris in 2015 generated about&nb
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Police terror and the theatre of law By, Rajeev Bhargava is Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi Context * The murder of Jayaraj and Benicks at the hands of the local police in Sattankulam, Tamil Nadu has provoked national outrage. The bare bones of the inci
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