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Daily Current Affairs : 19-Feb-2020

Major Topics Covered :

1.Removal of developing Tag for India

2. Flying Towards A Greener Future: Delhi Airport Certified As Single-Use Plastic Free Airport Of India

3. ISRO eyes the sun! India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1 to unravel many mysteries

4. Kala Kumbh

5. Renaming of institution

6. February 19 : Soil Health Card Day

1. Removal of Developing Tag for India

Why in news?

Recently, the United States of America removed the “developing” tag for dozens of countries. India is one amongst them. These countries are to be classied as developed economies Highlights The “Developing” status for a country in the US is associated with US Trade Act, 1974. The act authorized General System of Preferences (GSP). The intention of the system is to help the poor countries develop faster. The act was later adopted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and was extended to other rich countries as well. In WTO, around two-thirds of the countries classify themselves as developing.

Background to this development

• Recently US had withdrawn India from its GSP listings. Under this preference there were more than 2,000 items that were of worth 6.3 billion USD. This affects India harshly. Hence, India has been asking the US to re-include the GSP status. Unfortunately, US has permanently put an end to India’s GSP status by removing it from the list of developing. How will the U.S. decision affect global trade?

• It will increase the overall tax burden on goods crossing international borders. This will add further pressure on the global economy, which has already witnessed a slowing of growth this year.

• The growth effects of a tariff war could rise further if countries that are stripped of their “developing” economy status decide to retaliate by imposing tariffs on goods that they import from the U.S.

India’s step

• Recently, India offered to scale back tariffs on American dairy and other products that are imported into India.

o This came after the U.S. complained about the restricted access that

American companies have to developing countries like India. If such trade tactics manage to bring down trade barriers on both sides, it can benefit the global economy. o But, with both the U.S. and its various warring trading partners looking to

protect their domestic producers rather than consumers who benefit from lower tariffs, a general fall in tariffs across the board seems unlikely.

What is GSP?

• The idea of granting developing countries preferential tariff rates in the markets of industrialized countries was originally presented at the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conference in 1964.

• The GSP was adopted at UNCTAD in New Delhi in 1968 and was instituted in 1971.

• There are currently 13 countries which grant GSP preferences to developing and least developed countries: Australia, Belarus, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States of America.

GSP is the largest and oldest U.S. trade preference program. Established by the Trade Act of 1974, GSP promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from one of 120 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

Impact of GSP Withdrawal

India has been the biggest beneficiary of the GSP regime.

• In 2018, $6.3 billion of Indian merchandise exports to U.S. were covered by GSP.

• The sectors which could face the impact of withdrawal of GSP regime are gem and jewellery, leather and processed foods.

• However, India has said that the impact is “minimal”, given that Indian exporters were only receiving duty-free benefits of $190 million on the country’s overall GSP-related trade of $5.6 billion.

• This could impact India’s competitiveness in items groups such as raw materials in the organic chemicals sector and intermediary goods in the US market, alongside items such as iron or steel, furniture, aluminum and electrical machinery.

• The impact on small industries in the country could be significant. Such industries would lose their market share in the U.S. without fiscal support to help them maintain their edge.

Why GSP was Revoked?

• Due to a series of decisions taken by the Indian government has led to trade friction between two countries:

• India’s new e-commerce rules — which have impacted American

companies like Amazon and Walmart (majority owner of Flipkart).

Price controls on medical devices (cardiac stents). o Tariffs on products like smart watches and high-end mobile phones. o Lack of greater market access for the U.S. dairy industry.

2. Flying Towards A Greener Future: Delhi Airport Certified As Single-Use Plastic Free Airport Of India

The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has become the 1st airport in India to become free of single-use plastics. The airport committed itself to become single-use plastics free on the World Environment Day in 2018.


• DIAL has used eco-friendly alternatives to reduce the plastic use. The Plastic items that are exempted at the airport included sealed PET bottles, security tamper- evident bags, pre-packaged materials from manufacturers and compostable plastic bags. o This is important because it is the leading airport in the country with annual

traffic of 68.5 million passengers per annum.


• The step is being adopted to keep up India’s target of abolishing use of single-use plastics by 2022. This targets six main types of plastics that are plastic cups, bags, small bottles, plates, pouches and straws.

o The Swachh Bharat Mission is deployed in achieving the target. Need India produces 26,000 tonnes of plastic trash every day. Much of this trash is dumped in landfills, streets or spilled in waterways. o Around 40% of the plastic used in the world is single-use plastic. Therefore, it is highly imperative to take serious actions to stop their usage.

What is Single Use Plastic?

• Single-use plastics, also referred as disposable plastics, are commonly used for plastic packaging and intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include grocery (polythene) bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, cutlery etc.

• Plastic is so cheap and convenient that it has replaced all other materials from the packaging industry but it takes hundreds of years to disintegrate.

• It is a huge problem. If we look at the data, out of 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste generated every year in our country, 43% is single use plastic.

Key facts : The menace of single use plastic

• Being consumer societies, we consume plastics and put it out on the road. 40% of the uncollected trash stays on the road, goes into water bodies where it leeches out the harmful chemicals and clogs the waterways.

• India's per capita plastic consumption is 11 kilogrammes compared to the United States, which is the world's highest at 109 kilogrammes, according to figures released by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2017.

What are the challenges?

Low value: These are low value plastics so waste pickers do not collect them and they remain uncollected and littered.

Visibility: Plastic waste is about 8-10% of the total municipal solid waste and just 4% at the landfill sites because all the good plastic is picked up. Single use plastic is just about 10-15% of that 4%, still they can be seen everywhere so it appears to be huge.

Collection: Single use plastics largely remains uncollected. If collected cleanly then there are scopes of recycling or energy recovery (in case of thermoplastics specifically) but that is not the case.

Inadequacy of data: We do not have data about the quantity of the plastic littering our roads.

Non-biodegradable: The non-biodegradable nature of plastic adds to the issue as it will never truly disappear, instead it breaks into microplastics and gets into the ecological cycles.

Dysfunctional systems: Our municipal corporations are dysfunctional and at loggerheads with the state governments for resources and funding. They are unable to collect both data on plastic and the litter itself.

Unorganised labour: In plastic collection, mostly unorganised labour is involved without any kind of proper machinery or assorting units.

3. ISRO eyes the sun! India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1 to unravel many mysteries

Why in News?

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing for its first scientific expedition to study the Sun, Aditya-L1. It would be placed into a point in space known as the L1 Lagrange point.

• Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s 2nd space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in 2015.

• Aditya 1 was renamed as Aditya-L1. The Aditya 1 was meant to observe only the solar corona. Key facts

Launch Vehicle: Aditya L1 will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) XL with 7 payloads (instruments) on board.

Objective: Aditya L1 will study the Sun’s corona (Visible and Near infrared rays), o Sun's photosphere (soft and hard X-ray), o chromosphere (Ultra Violet ), o solar emissions, solar winds and flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), o and will carry out round-the-clock imaging of the Sun.

Challenges: The distance of the Sun from Earth ( approximately 15 crore kms on average, compared to the only 3.84 lakh kms to the Moon).This huge distance poses a scientific challenge.

• Due to the risks involved, payloads in earlier ISRO missions have largely

remained stationary in space; however, Aditya L1 will have some moving components which increases the risks of collision.

• Other issues are the super hot temperatures and radiation in the solar

atmosphere. However, Aditya L1 will stay much farther away, and the heat is not expected to be a major concern for the instruments on board.

Other Missions to the Sun

• NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s aim is to trace how energy and heat move through the Sun’s corona and to study the source of the solar wind’s acceleration.

o It is part of NASA’s ‘Living With a Star’ programme that explores different

aspects of the Sun-Earth system.

• The earlier Helios 2 solar probe, a joint venture between NASA and space agency of erstwhile West Germany, went within 43 million km of the Sun’s surface in 1976.

4. Kala Kumbh

Why in News?

• The Ministry of Textiles is organizing ‘Kala Kumbh - Handicrafts Thematic Exhibition’ in various parts of the country from 14th - 23rd February, 2020.

• The objective is to promote Geographical Indication (GI) crafts and heritage of India.

o The GI tag for goods correspond to a specific geographical location or origin

(e.g., a town, region, or country). As of August 2019, 178 GI handicraft products were registered from all over India. These include Madhubani Painting (Bihar), Kondapalli Bommallu (Andhra Pradesh) etc.

• The exhibition is being organized through the Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) under the Ministry of Textiles.

• It is sponsored by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH).

• The EPCH was established under Companies Act in the year 1986-87 and is a

non-profit organisation, with an object to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts. 5. Renaming of institution Why in news? The Government of India has been renaming the national institutes after late ministers. The leaders passed away in 2019 due to health issues. They were Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.

Objective : Objective of renaming The renaming is being done in order to align the institutes on the lines of the vision of the late leaders.

Manohar Parrikar

• Parrikar served as the Minister of Defence between 2014 and 2017. o The Institute of Defence and Analyses (IDSA) has been renamed as Manohar

Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies. His biggest contribution was the One Rank One Pension scheme for the armed forces.

• IDSA The IDSA was established in 1965. It was established for policy related

studies in all aspects of defence and security.

Sushma Swaraj

• Sushma Swaraj served as the Minister of External Affairs. o The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi was renamed as Sushma Swaraj

Bhawan and also the Foreign Institute in New Delhi was renamed as Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Services.

Arun Jaitley

• Arun Jaitley served as the finance minister. o The National Institute of Financial Management was renamed as Arun

Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management.


6. February 19 : Soil Health Card Day

Why in news ?

In order to commemorate the launch of Soil Health Card Scheme, the GoI is marking Soil Health Card Day on February 19, 2020. The Soil Health Card Scheme was launched by PM Modi on February 19, 2015.

Objectives : The Scheme was launched in 2015 to evaluate soil fertility. It was introduced to issue soil health cards every two years. The aim of the scheme is to promote soil test in order to promote nutrient management.

Why the Need ?

• The deterioration of physical, chemical and biological health of the soil is considered as one of the main reasons for decline in agricultural productivity in the country.

• The soils are currently holding negative nutrient balance. This is to increase in

the future and will decline the fertilizer response of the crop. o Therefore, it is essential to improve the soil health. Soil Health- Measures

• Soil Health Management The Soil Health Management under taken by GoI under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture strengthens soil testing laboratories, establishes bio-fertilizers and compost units, demonstrations and trainings on balanced use of fertilizers.

Nutrient Based Subsidy

• The Nutrient based Subsidy scheme promoted fortied and customized fertilizers. Under the scheme so far 21 fertilizers have been included. The scheme aims at balanced use of fertilizers in order to maintain soil health.

Development of Model Village

• In the year 2019-20, the Development of Model Village project was taken up. Under the scheme, the soil samples were collected from individual farmers rather than collecting from a cluster.

Success of Soil Health Card

• In 2017, the National Productivity Council said that the Soil Health Card Scheme promoted sustainable farming. This led to decrease in use of fertilizer application by 8 to 10%. Also, the overall yield of crops increased by 5%. This major improvement

was mainly due to application of fertilizers based on recommendations of soil health cards.

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