Daily Current Affairs for 11th July 2020

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Solar energy will help India achieve ‘atmanirbharta’

Paper: III

Mains :  General Studies Paper III,  Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Why in news ;

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that solar energy is the pure form of energy and would help the country towards achieving ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance).

Key points:

  • Speaking at the inauguration of Asia’s largest 750 MW solar power project set at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, Modi said that solar energy will be a medium of energy needs of the 21st century.
  • “Not just for the present, solar energy will be a medium of energy needs of the 21st century because solar power is sure, pure, and secure. It is sure because the sun would shine throughout the world; it is secure because solar energy rather than polluting the environment, helps in replenishing it and it is secure because it is a testimony and inspiration towards ‘atmanirbharta’,
  • ” The Prime Minister said in his address, via video-conferencing.”It is important that if we want to become Atmanirbhar Bharat, then we would have to be ‘atmanirbhar’ in the field of electricity as well. When we speak of self-reliance and progress, the economy is a pivotal part of it. The whole world is in a conundrum that whether to focus on the environment or focus on the economy,” he said.

About the Project: 

  • That the project launched by the Centre are keeping environmental protection as a top priority.
  • This mega solar power project is comprised of three solar generating units of 250 MW each located on a 500-hectare plot of land situated inside a solar park.
  • Central financial assistance of Rs 138 crore has been provided to Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) for the development of the solar park.

China, US in new spat over Uighur crackdown

Paper: II

Mains :  General Studies Paper II, Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Why in news ;

China said ,it will impose tit-for-tat measures after the United States slapped sanctions on Chinese officials for their involvement in a crackdown on Muslim minorities, raising tensions between the superpowers.

Key points:

  • The two countries have traded barbs and sanctions on a slew of issues since President Donald Trump took office, from trade to more recent spats over the coronavirus pandemic, a security law in Hong Kong, and Chinese policies in the far west regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
  • The latest Chinese response followed a US announcement of visa bans and an assets freeze on three officials, including Chen Quanquo, the Communist Party chief in Xinjiang and architect of Beijing’s hardline policies against restive minorities.

China’s reaction:

  • “The US actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations, and seriously damage China-US relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a briefing.
  • “China has decided to impose reciprocal measures against the relevant US institutions and individuals who behave badly on Xinjiang-related issues,” Zhao said, without providing details about the sanctions.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday the United States was acting against “horrific and systematic abuses” in Xinjiang including forced labor, mass detention and involuntary population control.
  • The back-and-forth over Xinjiang comes just days after the two countries imposed visa restrictions on each other over their disagreement on Tibet.
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on blamed the rising tensions on “McCarthy-style paranoia” in the United States.
  • Witnesses and human rights groups say that China has rounded up more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in a vast brainwashing campaign aimed at forcibly homogenizing minorities into the country’s Han majority.
  • Pompeo in a conference call with reporters called the situation “the stain of the century” and has previously drawn parallels with the Holocaust.
  • China counters that it is providing education and vocational training in a bid to reduce the allure of Islamic radicalism following a spate of deadly violence.
  • The Uighur Human Rights Project, an advocacy group, hailed the sanctions and urged other countries to follow suit.
  • “At last, real consequences have begun. This comes at the 11th hour for Uighurs,” said the US-based group’s executive director, Omer Kanat.
  • The other two officials hit with sanctions were Wang Mingshan, the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, and Zhu Hailun, a former senior Communist leader in the region.
  • The Treasury Department sanctions also make it a crime in the United States to conduct financial transactions with the three people as well as a fourth person, former security official Huo Liujun, who was not subjected to the separate visa restrictions.
  • The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on the security bureau as an institution, pointing to its sweeping digital surveillance of Uighurs and other minorities.

The visa ban impacts officials’ immediate families, depriving their children of the prestige of jetsetting across the Pacific for education or pleasure.

India, China diplomats to meet for next round of LAC talks

Paper: II

Mains :  General Studies Paper II, India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Why in News?

Indian and Chinese diplomats and defence officials are expected to meet for the next round of talks about the LAC standoff and disengagement process, in the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), sources confirmed.

Key points:

  • The WMCC, comprising senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was established in 2012 and normally meets just twice a year, is meeting for the second time in two weeks, an indicator of the seriousness of the LAC situation.
  • “The diplomatic and military officials of both sides will continue their meetings to take forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation as agreed to by the Special Representatives.
  • The next meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC) is expected to take place soon,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, in a statement similar to the one issued by MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian in Beijing, neither of which had confirmed the exact date.
  • The 16th round of the WMCC will be led by MEA Joint Secretary (East Asia) Naveen Srivastava and Director General of the Department of Boundary & Oceanic Affairs of the Chinese MFA WU Jianghao. Officials from the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs, the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police will join along with their Chinese counterparts.
  • With the disengagement process in the Galwan area, Hotspring and Gogra point under way, sources said the next round of Corps commander meetings is also expected to take place next week to discuss the next phase of disengagement and de-escalation at several points of the LAC where Chinese troops moved in over the past two months, including the Pangong Tso (lake) Finger areas.
  • The two sides will also discuss a possible timetable for the demobilisation of troops gathered on both sides along the LAC.

Situation stable and improving: China

  • Zhao said the situation at the LAC was “stable and improving”, and proceeding along the lines of the disengagement process agreed to by military commanders on June 6, 22, and 30.
  • “Following the consensus reached at the commander-level talks, Chinese and Indian border troops have taken effective measures to disengage at the frontline at the Galwan Valleyand other areas. The situation along the border is stable and improving. Hope India will work together with us to take concrete action and implement the consensus reached and jointly work for de-escalation along the border,” Mr. Zhao said.
  • The MEA, which also credited the conversation between Special Representatives National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on July 6 for the process, said the two sides had agreed on the need to “ensure at the earliest, complete disengagement”.

Inaccurate and uninformed comments: MEA

  • The MEA spokesperson reacted sharply to speculation that the plans for disengagement, including the creation of “buffer zones” along the LAC — which necessitate Indian troops will pull back from their positions — would place India at a disadvantage in the Galwan valley.

“We have also noted that there have been some inaccurate and uninformed comments about the disengagement process and its implications,” said Mr. Srivastava, who pointed to several MEA statements that had rejected the Chinese claims on the Galwan valley area, and said neither side should take any unilateral action to alter the LAC.

ICMR plans new survey to estimate COVID-19 spread

 Paper: III

 Mains:  General Studies Paper III, Science and technology- developments and their applications and      effects in everyday life.

Why in News?

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is to begin a new survey to estimate the true prevalence of coronavirus infection.

Key points:

  • The organisation is yet to make public the details of its first (April) survey in 60 districts, which found that 0.73 percent of the population may have been exposed to the virus.
  • The survey that began on May 12 appeared to suggest that at least 7,00,000 people were exposed to the virus across 21 States even in early May.
  • That number suggested that the true number of infections were 20 times higher than the 35,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported then in the entire country, suggesting that the actual COVID-19 count overall could be underestimated by a factor of at least 20.
  • “The results of that survey are still being processed and peer-reviewed and as soon as we are ready it will be shared,” said Rajesh Bhushan, OSD, Health Ministry, at a press conference.
  • There is yet another survey being planned to estimate prevalence across the country as also, an exercise by the National Centres for Disease Control, to estimate spread in Delhi. Those results will be available sooner.
  • Director General of ICMR Dr. Balram Bhargava only shared headline figures on the prevalence in the district but didn’t disclose details on the extent of the spread in containment zones as well as hotspots.
  • The Hindu reported on Wednesday quoting officials that the Delhi survey appeared to be indicating that at least 15 percent of the population may have been exposed to the virus.
  • An ICMR epidemiologist, on condition of anonymity, told The Hinduthat no firm plans were yet drawn on the conduct of a new survey. For such a survey, the government must either decide if the same districts that came under surveillance in the earlier survey are to be reinvestigated or a new set of places (to estimate if the infection has travelled more widely) must be decided. “There was a preliminary discussion last week but nothing has been finalised. Regarding the first survey, a complete report has been submitted to the Director General, ICMR, but I don’t know about it being submitted to a journal.”

Typically, most epidemiological surveys conducted by the ICMR have appeared in its in-house journal, the Indian Journal of Medical Research.

Navy concludes Samudra Setu

Paper: III

 Mains:  General Studies Paper III, Science and technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Why in News?

Operation Samudra Setu, which was launched by the Navy on May 5 as part of the national effort to repatriate Indian citizens abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, has culminated after successfully bringing back 3,992 individuals.

Key points:

  • Landing Platform Dock INS Jalashwaand Landing Ship Tanks INS AiravatShardul and Magar participated in this operation that lasted over 55 days and involved traversing more than 23,000 km by sea, the Navy said in a statement. The evacuated Indians disembarked at Kochi, Thoothukudi and Porbandhar.
  • “The greatest challenge for the Indian Navy was to avoid any incident of outbreak of infection on board the ships during the evacuation operation. Rigorous measures were planned and medical/safety protocols unique to the operating environment of ships were implemented,” it stated
  • Op Samudra Setu was undertaken utilising Naval ships best suited for the operation, allowing for COVID-19 related social distancing norms, medical arrangements and carrying capacity. Ships used for the operation were specially provisioned and the sick bay or the clinic on board was especially equipped with COVID-19 related equipment and facilities, the Navy said. “Women officers and military nursing staff were also embarked for the women passengers.”
  • Basic amenities and medical facilities were provided to all evacuees during sea passage on these ships. One of the expectant mothers who undertook passage on INS Jalashwa, Sonia Jacob, gave birth to a baby boy within a few hours of reaching Kochi on International Mother’s Day, the Navy said.
  • The Navy has previously undertaken similar evacuation operations as part of Operation Sukoon in 2006 (Beirut) and Operation Rahat in 2015 (Yemen).
  • All these operations were undertaken by the Indian Navy in close coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs, Home Affairs, Health and various other agencies of the Indian government and state governments.

Trump start withdrawal of US from WHO

Paper: II

Mains:  General Studies Paper II, Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Why in news?

  • President Donald Trump formally started the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO), making good on threats to deprive the UN body of its top funding source over its response to the coronavirus.

Key points:

  • Public health advocates and Mr. Trump’s political opponents voiced outrage at the departure from the Geneva-based body, which leads the global fight on maladies from polio to measles to mental health — as well as COVID-19, at a time when cases have again been rising around the world.
  • After threatening to suspend the $400 million in annual U.S. contributions and then announcing a withdrawal, the Trump administration has formally sent a notice to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
  • The withdrawal of the key WHO founding member is effective in one year — July 6, 2021. Joe Biden, Mr. Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent in November elections, vowed he would immediately end the pullout if he won the White House.
  • WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to the news with a one-word tweet — “Together!” — as he linked to a discussion by U.S. health experts on how leaving the global body could impede efforts to prevent future pandemics.

China lashes out at U.S. move to withdraw:

  • China on defended the World Health Organization (WHO) and lashed out at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the UN body. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the U.S. pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts”.
  • Zhao said WHO is “the most authoritative and professional inter-national institution in the field of global public health security”.
  • The Trump administration formally notified the UN on Monday of its withdrawal from WHO, although the pull­out won’t take effect until next year. That means it could be reversed by a new administration or if circumstances change.
  • S. President’s criticism President Donald Trump has harshly criticised WHO over its response to the pandemic and accused it of bowing to Chinese influence.
  • Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to WHO and pressured the organisation to mislead the public about an outbreak that has now killed more than 1,30,000 Americans.
  • The move was immediately assailed by health officials and critics of the administration, including numerous Democrats who said it would cost the U.S. influence in the global arena while undermining an important institution that is leading vaccine development efforts and drug trials to address the pandemic.

The withdrawal notice was sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday and will take effect in a year, on July 6, 2021. The U.S. is WHO’s largest donor and provides it with more than $450 million per year, but owes about $200 million in current and past dues. Those financial obligations must be met before a U.S. withdrawal can be finalised.

UAE in support of open Skies Agreement with India

Paper: II

Mains:  General Studies Paper II, Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Why in news?

The UAE is keen to have an open sky agreement with India.

Bilateral agreement between India and UAE:

  • There are about 1,068 flights a week between India and the UAE operated by the airlines of the two countries under the bilateral Air Service Agreement.
  • India has a open skies policy with SAARC countries and those beyond the 5,000-km radius, which implies that nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between the two countries.
  • It is this policy that the Ambassador wants India to revisit.

Interest threatened:

  • Albanna sought to underline that this would not bestow the capability to operate flights from one country and fly them to a third country, which is also referred to as fifth and six freedoms of air, and where the interest of Indian airlines will be threatened by carriers like Emirates and Etihad.
  • Addressing the webinar, Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Civil Aviation, said that although 2.7 million passengers have been flown on domestic airlines since May 25, there have only been 800 COVID-19 positive cases.

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