Current Affairs for today- 7th November 2019

GS Paper II, Paper III

Delhi’s air quality gets better; NEERI develops web repository


With the recent severity of the air quality in Delhi, the series of measures taken by the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and the isolated thundershower forecast may reduce pollution as well. But the change in the wind direction back to North West will deteriorate the Air Quality Index (AQI) to “poor” or “very poor” from the predicted “moderate” for the day.

Though the stubble burning from the neighbouring States is frequently blamed to be the only major source of pollution across the national capital region (NCR)-Delhi, according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), it contributes only around 3% to the poor air quality. The current south-south-westerly direction of the wind will bring less biomass plume from Punjab and Haryana region into the city.

NEERI- National Environmental Engineering Institute (NEERI) along with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has launched India’s first interactive web repository for documenting air quality studies done in the last 60 years. The archives also include records from the pre-internet era.

NEERI was established as a research institute by the Government of India and also is its funding agent. It was created in Nagpur, 1958 with a focus on water supply, sewage disposal, communicable diseases and to some extent on industrial pollution and occupational diseases found common in post-independent India. It falls under the Ministry of Science and Technology. NEERI’s underlying vision is to provide leadership in Environmental Science and Engineering for Sustainable Development. NEERI strives for providing innovative and effective solutions for environmentally sustainable development and to help government, industry and the society, especially the 800 million underprivileged people of India.

Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) is one of the major R & D division of CSIR-NEERI. Research in air quality management by inventory, monitoring, prediction, simulation, data analysis and control is within the domain. Emission inventory followed by dispersion modelling using state-of-the-art models like AERMOD and CALPUFF for impact identification.

  • IndAIR has archived approximately 700 scanned documents from pre-Internet times (1950-1999), 1,215 research articles, 170 reports and case studies, 100 cases and over 2,000 statutes to provide the history of air pollution research and legislation in the country. This includes all major legislation in the country dating back to 1905.
  • The repository, one of the few such facilities in the world, has the maximum number of studies — 262 — concerning Delhi-NCR.

GS Paper II

PCI presents 2019 National Awards


The Press Council of India presented National Awards for Excellence in Journalism, 2019.

Press Council of India

  • It was first set up in the year 1966 by the Parliament on the recommendations of the First Press Commission with the object of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of press in India.
  • The present Council functions under the Press Council Act, 1978. It is a statutory, quasi-judicial authority functioning as a watchdog of the press, for the press and by the press.
  • It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.

Hierarchy of Leadership:
The Press Council is headed by a Chairman, who has by convention, been a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.

The Council consists of 28 other members of whom 20 represent the press and are nominated by the press organisations/news agencies recognized and notified by the Council as all India bodies of categories such as editors, working journalists and owners and managers of newspaper and news agencies, five members are nominated from the two Houses of Parliament and three represent cultural, literary and legal fields as nominees of the Sahitya Academy, University Grants Commission and the Bar Council of India.

The members serve on the Council for a term of three years.

A retiring member shall be eligible for re-nomination for not more than one term.

The Council is funded by the revenue collected by it as fee levied on the registered newspapers in the country on the basis of their circulation.

No fee is levied on newspapers with circulation less than 5000 copies. The deficit is made good by way of grant by the Central Government.

GS Paper II, Paper III

After RCEP opt-out, the challenges of a shape-up


In an unprecedented move, India decided to detach from the delegation of the mega-regional free trade agreement- RCEP by announcing that it will walk away from the bloc at the 3rd Summit of RCEP held at Bangkok.

(Note: We have been dealing with the news of RCEP since a very long time, hence we shall look into the major pointers from the editorial)

The author stresses that India must shed its defensive mindset towards trade deals in the global arena and must instead invigorating the lost charm in the domestic markets to create globally competitive sectors.

What does the author opine about India’s status quo?

  1. Vulnerabilities in agriculture:
    The major reason why India decided to disassociate from the bloc was in favour of the concerns expressed by the stakeholders like the major industry associations, farmers, trade unions, civil society organisations, domestic markets, MSMEs, budget factories, etc. about the adverse implications of import liberalization.

    The nation has designed the structure for international trade at relatively high tariffs imposed on agricultural imports and generally low tariffs on most manufactured imports, as the small and marginal farmers in India fail to face the fierce competition from the global agro-based sectors.

    That being a major drawback, India has never included agricultural industry in import liberalization both in the reforms of open market policies under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as well as in bilateral/ multilateral free trade agreements with ASEAN, Korea or Japan.
  2. Import protection:
    The RCEP has a de facto negotiating mandate- “Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating RCEP”- that stated that the aim of the deal is to progressively implement high-level liberalization, to expel the trade and non-trade barriers that hinder unrestrained trading of goods.

    India’s biggest misery was the uprising giant of the Asian region- China, whose cheap exports flooded the domestic markets that set alarm bells for the local manufacturing industries. The Chinese imports rose from less than $11 bn in the middle of the previous decade to $76 bn in 2017-2018 and would heighten ahead if the preferential tariff was applied to China.
  3. Dairy sector:
    The dairy and the agricultural sector would have been severely crippled, as there are 2 huge economies –Australia and New Zealand looking for a field to play their export game in the country in lieu of the vast market.

    A dispute has been initiated in the WTO under Agreement on Agriculture- that India is not compliant to the terms and the government is providing subsidies to the sugarcane farmers in the native country. The foreign traders wish to utilize the vacuum created after willfully risking the viability of the local sugar producers and exploit India’s market.

    Since the efficiency and mechanization of the milk producers in New Zealand ( 2nd largest exporter of milk and its products) is more than the small producers in the country, the former would have a price advantage in India’s market if the market access in dairy sector was permitted.

    If India chose to sign the RCEP deal, then the local dairy farmers/ industry would have been hit drastically as the bound tariff for the commodity line (dairy products) would have fallen to zero if RCEP had come to effect. Hence, it would be more beneficial for the MNCs to import from New Zealand or Australia than buy from Indian farmers.
  4. Tariff issue:
    Within the RCEP negotiations from 2015, India stood a firm a stance was of a conservative position. It spoke of 80% tariff elimination from ASEAN and just 42.5% of the same from China; that would have addressed the mentioned vulnerabilities in the Indian side.

    India then changed its government order on the deal by bending to deep tariff cuts with further negotiations.

    India displayed confusion in its policymaking in 2017 and stepped back from the free trade policies and rather increased the tariffs. The average tariffs for manufactured products increased from below 11% in 2017 to 14% in 2018, while for the agricultural products it increased from below 33% to nearly 39%.

Way forward- Addressing the need of the hour- Competitive markets

India must now look at the bigger picture by channelizing the export market efficiencies.  It needs to push in domestic regulations, incentivise the domestic markets- both agriculture and manufacturing sectors- that lack the impetus to play at the global level and effectively counter the competition from the foreign economies that must supplement its presence and active participation in the value chains of world market.

India must cast-off its defensive face during trade negotiations at the looming competition and must mechanize globally competitive sectors in the country that can command and demand the market access in its partner countries.

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About the Author

Manasa Sastry

Masters degree holder in Forensic Science. Currently, a UPSC Aspirant helping fellow learners to sort their daily current affairs preparation. Loves to learn and help others. Music, dance and art are just a few of my many hobbies.

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