Daily Current Affairs for 28th May 2020

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U.S. strips Hong Kong of special trading status

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

U.S. Secretary of State stripped Hong Kong of its special status under U.S. law, under the pretext that the financial hub no longer enjoys the autonomy promised by Beijing.

Key Points:

  • A notice was sent by the U.S. Secretary of State to Congress, that China was not living up to obligations from before it regained control of the territory from Britain in 1997.
  • The Secretary of State said in a statement, “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”
  • Under a law passed in 2019 by Congress aimed at supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the administration has to certify that the territory is still autonomous to enjoy its separate status with the U.S. for trading purposes.
  • The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong as they struggle against the CCP’s increasing denial of the autonomy that they were promised.

‘Hong Kong body will play an advisory role’- China’s political advisory body

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

  • A proposed security law could allow Chinese mainland authorities to set up shop in Hong Kong, but their powers would likely be restricted to intelligence gathering and an advisory role, a member of China’s top political advisory body said Wednesday.
  • China’s Parliament is expected to approve a proposal to draft a national security law for the semi-autonomous city, which has sparked fresh protests over fears the financial hub will lose its unique freedoms.


  • China has introduced a proposal to impose a security law in Hong Kong to suppress the semi-autonomous city’s pro-democracy movement.
  • Beijing plans to pass a new security law for Hong Kong that bans treason, subversion and sedition after months of massive, often-violent pro-democracy protests in 2019.
  • The business hub’s security chief hailed it as a new tool that would defeat “terrorism”.

Key Points:

  • Beijing portrays the city’s protests as a foreign-backed plot to destabilize the motherland and says other nations have no right to interfere in how the international business hub is run.
  • Protesters say they are motivated by years of Beijing chipping away at the city’s freedoms since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.
  • Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland, as well as its own legal system and trade status.

Hong Kong’s Concerns:

  • Of particular concern is a provision allowing Chinese security agents to operate in Hong Kong, with fears it could spark a crackdown on those voicing dissent against China’s communist rulers.
  • The proposed law would also bypass Hong Kong’s own legislature.

India should pull out forces from Kalapani

Paper:  II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

why in News?

  • India should withdraw security forces from the Kalapani region and restore status quo, Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
  • He said a solution to the border dispute should be found urgently; even as Indian sources confirmed that they were closely monitoring the debates in Nepal’s Parliament to provide a constitutional guarantee to the new map that shows the disputed region as part of Nepal’s sovereign territory.

Key points:

  • Nepal wants India to honor the letter and spirit of the [Sugauli] Treaty by withdrawing security forces from Kalapani and hand over the above territories back to Nepal.
  • Nepal appreciated the ties it shares with India but was disappointed with the November 2019 political map of India that brought the issue back to the table.
  • The map is a breach of the 1997 understanding that both sides had reached during the Kathmandu visit of Prime Minister I.K. Gujral.

Why are India and Nepal fighting over Kalapani?

  • The dispute over Kalapani, which lies on the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, between Nepal and India was revived in November 2019 when India published a revised political map showing the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • Both India and Nepal lay claim to Kalapani.
  • The map showed Kalapani as part of Pithoragarh district.
  • Nepal protested immediately and drew attention to the lingering issue.
  • On May 8, India inaugurated the Darchula-Lipulekh pass link road, cutting across the disputed Kalapani area which is used by Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar.
  • Nepal hit back by summoning the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, to convey a formal protest.

Where is Kalapani located?

  • Kalapani is a region located in the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district.
  • It shares a border on the north with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and Nepal in the east and south.
  • The region resembles a slice of cake wedged in between Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani.
  • The area is in India’s control but Nepal claims the region because of historical and cartographic reasons. The area is the largest territorial dispute between Nepal and India consisting of at least 37,000 hectares of land in the High Himalayas.

Cause of the dispute:

  • The Kalapani region derives its name from the river Kali.
  • Nepal’s claims to the region is based on this river as it became the marker of the boundary of the kingdom of Nepal following the Treaty of Sugauli signed between the Gurkha rulers of Kathmandu and the East India Company after the Gurkha War/Anglo-Nepal War (1814-16).
  • The treaty was ratified in 1816.
  • According to the treaty, Nepal lost the regions of Kumaon-Garhwal in the west and Sikkim in the east.
  • According to Article 5, the King of Nepal gave up his claims over the region west of the river Kali which originates in the High Himalayas and flows into the great plains of the Indian subcontinent.
  • According to the treaty, the British rulers recognised Nepal’s right to the region that fell to the east of the river Kali.

Here lies the historic origin of the dispute:

  • According to Nepal’s experts, the east of the Kali river should begin at the source of the river.
  • The source according to them is in the mountains near Limpiyadhura, which is higher in altitude than the rest of the river’s flow.
  • Nepal claims that a land mass, high in the mountains that falls to the east of the entire stretch starting from Limpiyadhura downwards, is theirs.
  • India on the other hand says the border begins at Kalapani which India says is where the river begins. The dispute is mainly because of the varying interpretation of the origin of the river and its various tributaries that slice through the mountains.
  • While Nepal’s claim of the territory east of Kali is based on the Limpiyadhura origin, India says the river actually takes the name Kali near Kalapani.

Why is Lipulekh pass important?

  • The region juts into the Himalayas and is connected to the other side of the mountain range through the Lipulekh pass, which has been used for centuries by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims and tourists on their way to Kailash Mansarovar.
  • The nearby markets have been used by various mountain communities.
  • The Himalayas have several passes that connect the Gangetic region with the Tibetan plateau but Lipulekh is strategically located as it is nearest to the heart of the Indian state or the National Capital Region and can be of particular concern in case of an armed conflict with China.

What is the current position?

  • Nepal has published a revised official map incorporating the territory from the Limpiyadhura source of the Kali to Kalapani and Lipulekh pass in the northeast of the triangular region as its territory.
  • On May 22, the Cabinet led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli registered a constitution amendment motion to grant constitutional status to the map.

Indian observers say this move makes any future solution on the Kalapani issue nearly impossible as a constitutional guarantee will make Kathmandu’s position inflexible.

Locust threat is bigger this year warns Agriculture Ministry monitor

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

  • The threat of locusts, which have invaded vast swathes of land in Rajasthan and entered neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, is bigger this year in comparison with the damage caused to standing crops in a limited area in 2019.
  • The tropical grasshoppers have been crossing over to India via Pakistan’s Sindh province since April 11.

Why Locust Swarms are causing concern?

  • Locust is an omnivorous and migratory pest and has the ability to fly hundreds of kilometres collectively.
  • It is a trans-border pest and attacks the crop in large swarms.
  • Found in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of the Earth’s land surface.
  • Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s human population.
  • Swarms of locusts in the desert come to India from Africa/Gulf/South West Asia during the summer monsoon season and go back towards Iran, Gulf & African countries for spring breeding.
  • In India, more than 2 lakh square kilometres of area comes under Scheduled Desert Area.
  • Pink immature adults fly high and cover long distances during day hours from one place to another along with the westerly winds coming from the Pakistan side.
  • Most of these pink immature adults settle on the trees during night and mostly fly during day.
  • The immature locust is very active and their mobility makes it difficult to control the swarm at one location and it takes 4 to 5 days of control at different locations to control a particular locust swarm.

What is Locust Warning Organisation (LWO)?

  • The Union Agriculture Ministry’s Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) is headquartered in Jodhpur.
  • LWO said that the locusts that came in 2019, after a gap of 26 years, were mature and had affected 12 districts of the State.

Issues and Challenges:

  • As per FAO’s Locust Status Update, the current situation remains extremely alarming in East Africa where it is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods.
  • New swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as well as to Sudan and West Africa.
  • Good rains are predicted along the Indo-Pakistan border that would allow egg-laying to occur.
  • This year, the locusts are immature and have crossed the India-Pakistan border soon after their birth.
  • The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned of more attacks of locusts along both sides of the India-Pakistan border.
  • A bigger challenge is likely to emerge when the swarms flying over 20 districts in Rajasthan start breeding.
  • The locusts will start laying eggs after the onset of monsoon and continue breeding for two more months, with new insects being born during the growth phase of the Kharif crops.

Steps taken by Government of India:

  • Locust Circle Offices (LCO) are conducting survey & control operations in close coordination with the District Administration and agriculture field machinery of the affected States.
  • Advisories have been issued to the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab regarding the locust attack and necessary measures to be taken for effective control, and pesticides that are to be used for effective locust control in the cropped area.
  • Currently, Locust Control Offices have 21 Micronair and 26 Ulvamast (47 spray equipment) which are being utilized for locust control.

e-Tender has been invited for the empanelling agencies to provide services of drones for aerial spraying of insecticides for effective control over tall trees and inaccessible areas.

Invasive mussel is spreading rapidly in Kerala’s backwaters

Paper: III

Prelims: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

  • The rapid spread of the Charru mussel (Mytella strigata) may have been triggered by Cyclone Ockhi which struck the region in 2017, according to a paper published in the Journal of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries.
  • An invasive mussel native to the South and Central American coasts – the Charru mussel (Mytella strigata) is spreading quickly in the backwaters of Kerala.

Key Points:

  • The rapid spread of the Charru mussel (Mytella strigata) may have been triggered by Cyclone Ockhi which struck the region in 2017.
  • Surveys show the presence of the Charru mussel in the Kadinamkulam, Paravur, Edava-Nadayara, Ashtamudi, Kayamkulam, Vembanad, Chettuva and Ponnani estuaries/backwaters.
  • Ashtamudi Lake, a Ramsar site in Kollam district, remains the worst-hit.
  • With a population as high as 11,384 per sq metre here, it has replaced the Asian green mussel (Perna viridis) and the edible oyster Magallana bilineata (known locally as muringa).

Charru Mussel:

  • The Charru mussel resembles the green and brown mussels but is much smaller in size.
  • Its colour varies from black to brown, purple or dark green.
  • In many areas, this invasive species has smothered beds of the short-neck clam.
  • The short-necked clam fisheries in the lake had obtained an eco-label from the Marine Stewardship Council and about 3,000 people are dependent on fisheries here.
  • In such a scenario, the fast-breeding Charru mussel could be seen as a ‘pest,’ the authors state.

Are they Harmful?

  • The Charru mussel is elbowing out other mussel and clam species.
  • It is threatening the livelihoods of fishermen engaged in molluscan fisheries.
  • The potential of Charru mussel to outcompete the lucrative clam fishery is a serious concern that urgently needs to be addressed
  • Though this smaller mussel is edible, the overall economic loss and impact on biodiversity is much bigger.


The potential of Mytella strigata to outcompete the lucrative clam fishery is a serious concern that urgently needs to be addressed.Though this smaller mussel is edible, the overall economic loss and impact on biodiversity is much bigger.

Loans to MSMEs may get ‘risk-free’ tag

Paper: III

Prelims: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to allow banks to assign zero risk weight for loans that will be extended to the micro, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs) under the ₹20 lakh crore economic package announced by the government.

Key Points:

As part of the package, a ₹3 lakh crore loan for the MSME sector was announced.

  • This will be guaranteed by the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Limited (NCGTC) in the form of a Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) facility.
  • However, such loans would attract a risk weight of a minimum 20% since these don’t come with direct government guarantee.
  • The Finance Ministry had requested the central bank to make these loans risk free, following an interaction with banks.
  • This facility is similar to the loans that are guaranteed by the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).

Implications :

  • After banks highlighted the issue with the government, the Finance Ministry asked the RBI to waive the requirement of assigning a risk weight to the loans.
    • The RBI is likely to waive the requirement of risk weight.
    • The Finance Ministry is expected to issue detailed guidelines on this credit guarantee loan issue.
  • Sources said that the government had factored in less than 15% non-performing assets from this ₹3 lakh crore of loans.
  • Though primarily meant for the MSME sector, other small borrowers including non-banking financial companies can also avail themselves of the scheme.
  • The scheme will be applicable till October 31 2020, or till an amount of ₹3 lakh crore is sanctioned, whichever is earlier.
  • Zero risk would mean that banks will not have to set aside additional capital for these loans. The move is aimed at encouraging lenders to extend credit, as banks have turned risk averse and have been reluctant to lend.
  • The banks had been asked to extend loans automatically to eligible borrowers without fear of the ‘3Cs’ — CBI, CVC and CAG.
  • The tenure of loan under this scheme will be four years, with a moratorium period of one year on the principal amount. The NCGTC will not charge any guarantee fee.
  • The interest rate under the scheme is 9.25% if the loan is extended by banks and financial institutions, and 14% if by NBFCs.

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