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24 December, 2020

48 Min Read

GS-I : Art and Culture Awards & Honours
UN Investment Promotion award to Invest India
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently declared “Invest India” as the winner of the United Nations Investment Promotion Award, 2020.
  • The award recognizes outstanding achievements of investment promotion agencies spread all over the world.

Background

  • This award helps India’s innovation helped to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

  • The UNCTAD deals with trade, investment and development issues.
  • It was established in 1964.
  • It releases reports such as Trade and Development Report and World Investment Report.

World Investment Report, 2020

  • The report was released by UNCTAD in June 2020.
  • According to the report, the FDI flows decreased by 40% in 2020 as compared to 2019.
  • For the first time, the global FDI flows will be below 1 trillion USD since 2005.

Source: PIB

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GS-I : Art and Culture Awards & Honours
Golden Peacock Environment Management Award
  • Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has been awarded with the Golden Peacock Environment Management award for the year 2020 in the steel sector.
  • The award was given for its efforts in adopting various environmental measures like upgrading pollution control facilities, treatment and recirculation of wastewater from individual units and outfalls, enhancement in green cover and efficient solid waste management.
  • SAIL has received the award for two consecutive years.

About the Golden Peacock Environment Management Award

  • Golden Peacock Environment Management Award is a prestigious award that was instituted by the World Environment Foundation in 1998.
  • The award encourages the corporates to enhance their environmental performances.

Source: TH

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GS-II : International Relations South China Sea
Territorial Disputes-South China Sea

Territorial Disputes-South China Sea

GS-Paper-2 Political science – GS Mains-UPSC

Context: In the global geopolitics the efforts to control more territory have always been prominent. China’s mighty claims of sovereignty over the sea—and the sea’s estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—have other competing claimants Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Background

In 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted and signed, formalising extended maritime resource claims in international law and six governments had laid claim to the disputed Parcel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

Since then, there has been a creeping militarisation of the waters by nations seeking to secure extended maritime resource zones.

In 2009, Vietnam began reclaiming land around some of the 48 small islands it had occupied since the 1970s. In response, China began its much larger reclamations on submerged features it first began to occupy in the 1980s.

By 2016, these reclamations had resulted in three military-grade, mid-ocean airfields that sent shockwaves around the world, provoked in part by China breaking its own pledge not to militarise the islands.

International Law:

Under the Law of the Sea Convention, all states have a right to 200 nautical mile “exclusive economic zone” to exploit the resources of the sea and seabed, as measured from their land territories. Where these zones overlap, countries are obliged to negotiate with other claimants.

Three great challenges:

  • The first is the countries claiming parts of the South China Sea cannot agree who owns the Paracel and Spratly islands. China asserts its sovereignty based on highly disputable evidence from ancient times, as well as more recent claims from 1902-’39. China’s larger claim to the waters within the u-shaped “nine-dash” line. This line, which skirts the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam, was first drawn by the Nationalist government of China in 1947. Japan occupied the islands during the Second World War and later recognised the claim of the Republic of China, now Taiwan, in a 1952 peace treaty. Vietnam has equally credible evidence from the period before and during the Second World War.
  • A second challenge in this conflict is Taiwan, which has been in dispute with China over sovereignty issues since 1949. This dispute has meant Taiwan is not formally recognised as a state by most countries and is therefore not a signatory to the Law of the Sea Convention, nor legally entitled to claim territory. But Taiwan occupies one of the islands.
  • Third, there is a debate in international law and freedom of navigation. About the type of land territory that can generate rights to an exclusive economic zone. The Law of the Sea Convention mandates the land must be able to sustain human habitation. And in 2016, the international tribunal in The Hague found no islands in the Spratly group met this criterion.

Conflict and associated views:

  • UNCLOS itself left unresolved some issues related to military activities, especially “innocent passage” by warships in territorial seas. Under the Law of the Sea Convention, a foreign warship can pass within the 12 nautical miles of another state as long as it takes a direct route and doesn’t conduct military operations.
  • But states disagree on what constitutes innocent passage.
  • Maritime powers like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia routinely conduct freedom of navigation operations –to challenge what Washington calls “attempts by coastal states to unlawfully restrict access to the seas.”
  • The US has angered China by carrying out FONOPs within 12 nautical miles of the islands it claims in the South China Sea. These operations are not designed to challenge China’s claims to islands or resource zones. Rather, the purpose is to assert US rights to freedom of navigation.
  • China opposes because of its assertion that naval ships should not “operate” in other countries’ exclusive economic zones. Beijing, however, ignores the contradiction between this position and its own activities in the sea, where its naval ships regularly operate in the claimed EEZs of other states.
  • For their part, the smaller states of the South China Sea are ambivalent about the dispute. They are certainly opposed to what they see as bullying from China on excessive maritime claims and would like to deny all its island claims. But they are also not keen on seeing the US go too far in its policy of intensifying military confrontation with China.
  • Australia’s statement on the South China Sea was its strongest rejection yet of China’s claims to the waters. It did not represent a new position on the legal issues, but marked a fresh determination to confront China over its unreasonable claims and its bullying behaviour in the maritime disputes.
  • Australia has not been keen on following the high-profile freedom of navigation operations of the US – concerned it might provoke a response from China – but that position may be about to change.

Role of India in South China Sea Dispute

Under the ‘Look East’ policy’ India has been taking a higher position at the global high table- this was reflected in the joint statement issued in September 2014, by the Governments of U.S. and India when Indian PM Narendra Modi, traveled to the U.S. The joint statement “urged the concerned parties to pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, following universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

  • The joint statement also, “affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.”
  • In the wake of the recent judgment by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, it is a good time for India to assert that it believes in global commons and freedom of navigation. India has rightfully not come out in ‘open’ support of the verdict from the tribunal, as any overt support to this verdict might run against India’s ambitions of securing membership into the NSG- where China’s support is needed.
  • India has a legitimate commercial interest in the South China Sea (SCS) region. But India follows the policy of not involving itself in the disputes between sovereign nations.
  • India has been concerned about the security of its trade flows and energy interests in the South China Sea. Vietnam has offered India seven oil blocks in its territory of the SCS- this move didn’t get down well with China. India has signed energy deals with Brunei too.

Steps that can be taken

Since the South China Sea Dispute has been affecting many territories, the concerned authorities need to come to a resolution to solve the dispute so that the economic growth of the countries is not affected. Also, it is important that the claimant nations do not escalate the issue, but work on arriving at a consensus through effective diplomacy.

Judicial verdicts on issues of contested sovereignty have had historical precedents of triggering a nationalist backlash. It is thus important to consider possible solutions to this dispute. Some measures are as under:

  • To resolve the disputes peacefully, the claimants in the region should be willing to abandon their confrontational attitude, and instead, agree to find a middle path- even if this requires sacrificing certain portions of their claims.
  • All claimants can perhaps limit their claim to the areas of 200 nautical miles of the Special Economic Zone following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thus, by agreeing to such a proposal, the claimants can also reach an agreement to leave international waters for free navigation.
  • Another possible solution would be for the parties concerned to establish common ownership of the disputed areas whereby all the revenues from the South China Sea are equitably shared among the littoral countries.
  • Perhaps another possibility would be for the disputing countries to specifically lay out their claims and allow a neutral party to adjudicate based on the UNCLOS or any other relevant international laws.

China has put forward a bilateral negotiation point of view but it has not been accepted by the other countries. This is because the other countries believe that China because of its size may have an unsaid advantage in the distribution of the water body.

ASEAN has also been involved in solving the dispute but the decision has yet been taken. But resolving the dispute has become important because it is affecting the trade across the world and especially an issue for the US regarding security issues.

Source: Scroll

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GS-II : Governance Governance
Cairn Energy wins arbitration award

Cairn Energy wins arbitration award

  • India has been ordered to return up to $1.4 billion to Cairn Energy PLC of the U.K. after an international arbitration overturned tax demanded retrospectively — an award the government indicated it may challenge.
  • The three­member tribunal, which also comprised a nominee of the Indian government, unanimously ruled that India’s claim of 10,247 crore in past taxes over a 2006­07 internal reorganisation of Cairn’s India business was not a valid demand.
  • India “failed to accord Cairn Energy’s investments fair and equitable treatment” under the bilateral investment protection pact it had with the U.K.
  • The tribunal ordered the government to desist from seeking such a tax and return the value of shares it had sold, dividends seized and tax refunds withheld to recover the tax demand.
  • The government was asked to compensate Cairn “for the total harm suffered,” together with interest and cost of arbitration.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues Infrastructure
Public Wi-Fi Access Network Interface-PM-WANI

Public Wi-Fi Access Network Interface-PM-WANI

GS-Paper-3 Development issue and S&T (PT-MAINS)

Context: Public infrastructure is essential for enhancing the quality of public life and social capital. Guiding by her promise of DIGITAL INDIA and access to all the MINIMUM Internet GoI came out with PM-WANI. This topic is highy important for UPSC-PT and Mains.

Union Cabinet cleared a document by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to set up public Wi-Fi access-PM-WANI network interfaces, first recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2017.

About

This will involve multiple players, including PDOs, PDOAs, app providers, and a central registry.

Wi-Fi

It is a Local Area Networks (LANs) to operate without cables and wiring, making it a popular choice for home and business networks. It is a networking technology that uses radio waves to allow high-speed data transfer and broad band internet over short distances.

  • Wi-Fi-enabled devices are able to connect to the Internet when they are near areas that have Wi-Fi access, called “hot spots”.
  • According to Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023), there will be nearly 623 million public Wi-Fi hotspots across the world by 2023, up from 169 million hotspots as of 2018.
  • Within this, the highest share of hotspots by 2023 will be in the Asia Pacific region at 46%. As per the calculations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), based on Cisco’s estimates, India should have 100 million Wi-Fi hotspots by 2023.

Centre for Development of Telematics

  • C-DOT was established in 1984 as an autonomous Telecom R&D centre of DoT, Government of India.
  • It is a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • It is a registered ‘public funded research institution’ with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Ministry of Science & Technology.

WHY WE NEED

  • To increase the proliferation of internet services in the country. With PDOs - which will basically be small retail outlets across the length and breadth of the country - last mile connectivity is being aimed at.
  • To offer a cost-effective option for the CITIZENS. Even in urban areas with sufficient mobile data coverage, the mobile internet tariffs are bound to increase.
  • To make the ‘Digital India’ vision successul. From 2015 to June of 2020, India grew from 302 million internet subscribers to 750 million. That is a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20%, making India one of the fastest growing internet markets in the world. However, this statistic overshadows the quality of access. Only 23 million are wired internet subscribers. If Digital India vision is to be achieved, there is a need to deliver a resilient and reliable connection to every Indian, so that they can have reliable access everywhere, at affordable price points.

**According to Digital Quality of Life Index 2020, India was placed at 9th position in Internet Affordability, outperforming even countries like the UK, the USA and China. While, for Internet Quality and E-infrastructure, India was almost at the bottom of the pillar placed at 78th and 79th (out of 85) positions respectively.

Benefits:
2 crore jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, besides offering a cost-effective means of mass connectivity.

  • To achieve National Digital Communications Policy goals of creating 1 crore public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2022
  • Creation of demand and scope for developing the components for this pan-India activity Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • Local distribution centres for content. Students in backward and rural areas can access offline content without using bandwidth.
  • Benefit to MSME and digital banking.
  • It will further ease of Doing Business and Ease of Living, as it will enable small shopkeepers to provide Wi-Fi service.

Challenges:
Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt information therefore threat of HACKING and personal information. But Indian public Wi-Fi hotspot network envisages that the access to the Internet through these points will be permitted only through electronic KYC (Know Your Customer) and a mix of OTP (One-Time Password) and MAC ID-based authentication system, thereby minimising the risk of network security being compromised.

  • The viability of the project. In 2017, social media company Facebook had launched Express Wi-Fi. The project made little impact. Google’s Station project, to provide free wi-fi in more than 400 railway stations across India and “thousands” of other public places, which was launched in 2015, was shut down earlier this year.
  • Challenge of Infrastructure and its maintenance.
  • Awareness and reliability in condition of speed.

It is the time that government must ensure true unbundling of hardware, software, apps and payment gateways in the WANI system, as advocated by TRAI, to prevent monopolies. Existing public wi-fi options run on a limited scale by some entities compel consumers to pay through a single gateway app, underscoring the need for reform.

Source: IE-Explained

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GS-III : Economic Issues Banking
Beware of Digital lending apps

RBI warns illegal digital lending apps

  • Individuals and small businesses are falling prey to a growing number of unauthorised digital lending platforms/mobile.
  • Reserve Bank of India has advised public to be wary of unauthorised digital lending platforms and mobile apps.
  • RBI urged them to verify antecedents of the company loans online or through mobile apps.
  • The advisory comes in the backdrop of at least three borrowers in Telangana committing suicide in the recent past, following alleged harassment by personnel of such lenders, and many more complaining of being subjected to coercive methods after defaulting on repayments.
  • RBI said “legitimate public lending activities can be undertaken by banks, non­banking financial companies (NBFCs) registered with RBI and other entities who are regulated by the State governments under statutory provisions, such as the money lending acts of the States concerned.”
  • The central bank also advised consumers never to share copies of KYC documents with unidentified persons or unverified/unauthorised apps. They can report such apps/bank account information associated with the apps to law enforcement agencies concerned or use sachet portal (https://sachet.rbi.org.in) to lodge complaint.
  • The RBI said it had mandated digital lending platforms used on behalf of banks and NBFCs to disclose name of the bank(s) or NBFC (s) upfront to the customers.

Source: TH

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GS-I : Art and Culture Art Forms
Union Cabinet permits the merger of four government films media units with NFDC

The Union Cabinet on December 23, 2020, approved the merger of four of its media units- Directorate of Film Festivals, Films Division, Children’s Film Society, and National Film Archives of India with the National Film Development Corporation- NFDC.

The vision of the new entity will be to ensure the focused and balanced development of Indian Cinema in all the genres- children’s content, feature films, films/content for the OTT platform, short films and documentaries, and animation.

Upon the merger, the National Film Development Corporation will be uniquely placed with regard to aspects of production, promotion, and preservation of the filmic content- all under the one management.

The merger under one corporation will lead to synergy amongst the various activities. It will also help with efficient and better utilization of misting manpower and infrastructure.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : S&T Space mission
HAYABUSA2 SPACECRAFT OF JAPAN

HAYABUSA2 SPACECRAFT OF JAPAN:

  • The Hayabusa2 spacecraft of Japan is nearing the earth after a yearlong journey from asteroid Ryugu.
  • The spacecraft is to reach the earth in Southern Australia on carrying precious samples from the asteroid .
  • The entire operation is being held by JAXA, Japanese Aerospace exploration agency.

Hayabusa2

  • This mission follows Hayabusa mission that returned asteroid samples of asteroid Ryugu for a year and half.
  • The mission is expected to provide knowledge about the evolution of inner planets especially in the origin of water and organic compounds on the earth.

Ryugu

  • It is a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid.
  • The carbonaceous asteroids hold the most Pristine materials in the solar system.

Carbonaceous asteroid

  • They are distinguished by a very low albedo.
  • Albedo is the measure of reflection of solar radiation.
  • The value of albedo is between 0 and 1.
  • The carbonaceous asteroid occurs mostly at the outer edge of the Asteroid belt.

Rovers of Hayabusa2

  • Hayabusa2 carried four small Rovers.
  • These Rovers were deployed at different dates. The first two Rovers were called HIBOU and OWL.
  • The third Rover was called MASCOT. The fourth Rover called MINERVA failed before it was released from the Orbiter.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues FDI REFORMS
FDI Reforms

Cabinet approved 100% FDI in DTH service

What is the news?

Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in direct­ to­home (DTH) services, extension of the licence period from 10 years to 20 and a reduced licence fee.

About Foreign direct investment (FDI)

  • The regulations for foreign investment in India have been framed by the RBI in terms of Sections 6 and 47 of FEMA, 1999.
  • FDI is an investment from a party in 1 country into a business or corporation in another country with intention of establishing a lasting interest.
  • RBI is the regulator of FDI but DPIIT (Ministry of Commerce & Industry) is implementing through consolidated FDI Policy.
  • FDI is a source of non-debt finance for the economic development of the country.
  • Lasting interest differentiates FDI from FPI, where investors passively hold securities from a foreign country.
  • FDI can be made by expanding one’s business or by becoming the owner of a company in another country.
  • FDI is allowed under two modes - either through the automatic route, for which companies don't need government approval, or through the government route, for which companies need a go-ahead from the centre.

FDI Data

  • Total FDI into India from 2014-15 to 2018-19 has been US $ 286 billion as compared to US $ 189 billion in the 5-year period prior to that (2009-10 to 2013-14).
  • In fact, total FDI in 2018-19 i.e. US $ 64.37 billion is the highest ever FDI received for any financial year.
  • As per UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2019, global FDI flows slid by 13% in 2018 - 3rd consecutive annual decline. Despite, dim global picture, India is an attractive destination.
  • As of now (March 2019), Singapore remains India’s top FDI source, twice that from Mauritius.

Sectors of FDI

  1. Coal Mining: 100% FDI under automatic route is allowed for coal & lignite mining for captive consumption by power projects, iron & steel and cement units etc. 100% FDI under automatic route is also permitted for setting up coal processing plants like washeries subject.
  2. The extant FDI policy provides for 100% FDI under automatic route in manufacturing sector and contract manufacturing as well.
  3. 100% FDI for Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT): If SBRT entity has FDI > 51%, then 30% of value of goods has to be procured from India.
  4. 100% FDI in e-Marketplace e-commerce model. Not in inventory model.
  5. 100% FDI is now allowed in Technical Textiles, Defense sector, Pharma (brownfield) and Air transport.
  6. Now recently 100% FDI in Direct to Home (DTH) services.
  7. 49% FDI Govt route: under approval route in Up-linking of 'News & Current Affairs' TV Channels.
  8. 49% Automatic = insurance, Pension, Pvt security agencies.
  9. 26% FDI under government route for uploading/ streaming of News & Current Affairs through Digital Media, on the lines of print media.

Depository Receipts (DR) - Part of FDI

  • It is a Foreign Currency denominated instrument (whether listed or not), issued by a foreign depository in the permissible jurisdiction on the back of eligible securities issued to that foreign depository.
  • A DR is a financial instrument representing certain securities (like Share, bonds etc) issued by a company/ entity in a foreign jurisdiction.
  • They are called American DR (ADR), Global DR (GDR) or Indian DR (IDR) depending on the location in which these receipts are issued.
  • Thus, ADR and GDR are issued outside India by a foreign depository on the back of an Indian security deposited with a domestic Indian custodian in India. GDR is also known as Euro issues.
  • ADR/ GDR issued are considered as a part of FDI.

FII Vs FDI:

  • Where an investor has a stake of <= 10% in a company, it will be treated as FII. If >10% then it is FDI. FDI is also permissible in lower dozes in unlisted entities.
  • FII necessarily has to be an institution. FDI can come from an individual also.
  • FDI has more direct involvement in technology, management etc while FIIs are interested in capital gain and momentary price differences.
  • FDI involves an interest in the management of an enterprise and includes reinvestment of profits. FIIs do not generally influence the management of the enterprise.

New FDI rules, 2020

  • The Government of India has made its approval for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by neighbouring countries mandatory.
  • This revised FDI policy aims to curb opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

New FDI policy, 2020:

  • An entity of a country, which shares a land border with India or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route. India shares land borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • A transfer of ownership in an FDI deal that benefits any country that shares a border with India will also need government approval.
  • Investors from countries not covered by the new policy only have to inform the RBI after a transaction rather than asking for prior permission from the relevant government department.

Source: TH

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