Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 17th November 2021

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1. For more than a waiver

UPSC Syllabus: | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: India-USA|UPSC

context:  While U.S. Democratic Party contender and former Vice-President Joseph Biden still needs to tie up some loose ends for an official seal to his victory, it is clear that New Delhi is now preparing to work with a new U.S. administration.

Although relations appear to be getting more transactional in the ‘America First’ and ‘India First’ era, the primary structural impediments to an India–US strategic partnership have eroded over the past two decades. Most notable is the removal of US sanctions on India after 2005 for its nuclear weapons program. The United States has become the second largest defence equipment provider to India by value after Russia and has supported India’s membership in major international organisations.

The trade relationship, which has grown from US$64 billion to US$88 billion over the past five years, underestimates the interconnectedness of the two economies. Nearly 2000 US-based multinational companies now operate in India, many conducting important research and development. US-based multinationals are major job creators in India. Indian investment in the United States has risen almost ten-fold over the past decade. For US tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon, India often represents their largest or fastest-growing user base.

Furthermore, in contrast to US relations with adversaries such as China and Russia or allies and neighbours such as Germany and Mexico, US ties with India have remained on an upward trajectory despite the transition from the Obama to the Trump administration. Cooperation on counterterrorism, maritime security in the Indian Ocean, infrastructure coordination, defence technology and energy has deepened. There are also hints of some convergence on future telecommunications technology.

Both countries have become more vocal in their support for freedom of navigation, including in the South China Sea. They both have concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative and share similar views about the normative basis of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific as an underpinning for regional order. Given China’s continuing assertiveness and rising concerns about the arc of instability stretching from Pakistan to Yemen, the strategic logic of the relationship is being propelled forward.

However, the strategic elements of the relationship are not always on the same plane as bilateral relations. There are four big challenges that confront the relationship today. These topped the agenda during both Pompeo’s and Trump’s meeting with Modi.

The most important concerns differences over trade, many of which predate Trump’s election. Since his election, Trump has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs and trade surplus. Changes to India’s data localisation norms and a draft e-commerce policy provoked a major response from Washington. The United States moved to suspend tariff-free exports from India under the Generalised System of Preferences scheme. India duly retaliated. While this tit-for-tat has only affected a small proportion of India–US trade, spiralling trade difficulties risk the future of the broader relationship. Efforts will be required to stem that tide.

The second challenge concerns Russia. Russia is the largest supplier of Indian military hardware despite considerable diversification. Russia provides India with critical spares and maintenance for existing platforms and certain technologies — such as nuclear-powered submarines — that others do not. New Delhi also sees the partnership with Moscow as critical for engagement with Central Asia and for balance in the Indo-Pacific, putting it at odds with Washington.

A recent deal to acquire Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system made India eligible for US sanctions intended to punish Russia. The US Congress has created room for a presidential waiver for India but it is by no means guaranteed. The longer-term issue of India–Russia military-technological relations will remain. It is compounded by the increasingly incompatible security implications of US and Russian military technologies operating in tandem.

The third challenge relates to renewed US hostility towards Iran following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The resumption of US sanctions on Iran has had consequences for oil prices, Indian energy companies and Indian investments — especially in the strategically important Iranian port of Chabahar. Oil market stabilisation, high secondary costs, Indian energy diversification, shifting political alignments and US carve-outs for India have already helped address most of these challenges.

Finally, cracks are likely to emerge in the US and Indian approaches to Afghanistan. Both New Delhi and Washington agree on the broad objective of a stable and democratic Afghan government in Kabul. Both have engaged in considerable state-building efforts there. But New Delhi remains concerned about possible concessions that Washington might make in an effort to finalise a peace agreement with Taliban negotiators.

None of these challenges have come to a head yet. The first two are fundamental in that they predate and are likely to survive Trump. On each set of issues, plausible solutions are within the realm of possibility. But amid a broader strategic convergence, both countries will have to navigate their differences if relations are to continue on a positive track.

2.  NPR and NRC

UPSC Syllabus: | Mains: GS Paper-II– Polity and governance
Sub Theme: Population issues | UPSC

In a recent address, Home Minister of India has floated the idea of “One Nation, One Card” and asserted that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be implemented across the country. In the same address he also highlighted about the idea to resurrect National Population Register (NPR) all over again despite successful implementation of Aadhaar Card. So let us understand about National Population Register and how is it different from National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Aadhaar Card.

About National Population register (NPR)

  • The National Population Register (NPR) is a comprehensive identity database maintained by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It is a Register of “usual residents of the country” and will be prepared at the local, sub-district, district, state and national level.
  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • As per section 14A of Citizenship Act 1955, it is compulsory for every citizen of the country to register in the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). The creation of NPR is the first step towards preparations of NRIC.
  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last 6 months or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • Citizens & Foreigners – Unlike the NRC, the National Population Register will not only include citizens but also foreigners as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months. The NPR database would contain demographic as well as biometric details.
  • Seeding with Aadhaar – The government also plans to seed Aadhaar database with the updated NPR. This updated NPR database along with Aadhaar Number will become the mother database and can be used by various government departments for selection of beneficiaries under their respective schemes.

Backdrop to NPR

  • The data for the NPR were first collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of Census 2011. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey. Earlier, the roll out of NPR had slowed down due to overlapping with that of Aadhaar.
  • NPR will again be conducted in conjunction with the house listing phase from 1st April 2020 till 30th September 2020 – the first phase of the Census 2021 – by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry for Census 2021. Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

How to Register for NPR

  • During the first phase of Census 2011, enumerators have visited every household and have collected the details required for the NPR in a paper format. These forms have been scanned and the data has been entered into an electronic database in two languages – the State language and in English.
  • Biometric attributes – photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris images are being added to the NPR database by organizing enrolment camps in each local area. The enrolment will be done in the presence of Government servants appointed for this purpose.
  • All usual residents who are above 5 years of age will have to    attend the enrolment camp even if their biometrics have been captured under Aadhaar. For persons not enrolled under Aadhaar, they can also register themselves in the enrolment camps.
  • If the household has not been covered during 2011 Census or if the individual has changed residence after 2011 Census, then they will have to fill up another form provided by government officials. These forms will be verified by the authorities and the individual’s biometric details will be captured during the next round of biometric camps.
  • Two camps will be held in every local area. If an individual misses the first camp, intimation will be provided to attend the second camp. In case, the second camp is also missed, government will allow to enrol at camps that would be set up at sub-district level until a designated date. After the date, if the individual does not enrol under NPR, then his/her name will be struck off the list.

Objectives & Benefits of the massive exercise of NPR

  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country and to help in better utilization and implementation of the benefits and services under the government schemes, improve planning and security in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • It will provide solution to multifarious problems facing the country that range from effective maintenance of law and order to efficient implantation of welfare schemes like MGNREGS, food security and nutrition campaigns etc.
  • Updation of NPR will help in tracking criminal activities, and better planning and execution of government schemes. The NPR links biometric and demographic details of any ordinary resident, thus making it a comprehensive database of residents.

Connection between NPR & Aadhaar

  • Data collected in NPR will be sent to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for de-duplication and issue of Aadhaar number.
  • So, the NPR will contain three elements of data:
  1. Demographic Data,
  2. Biometric Data, &
  3. Aadhaar – UID Number
  • A person who has register under Aadhaar still has to register under NPR. In NPR, certain processes like the collection of data at the doorstep of the individual by authorized persons, collection of biometrics after following a certain process, authentication through social audit, verification by authorities etc is mandatory.
Census – The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs. Conduct of census in India is guided by The Census Act, 1948. The NPR exercise is different from the census and is not linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). For the purpose of the NPR, an ordinary resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.

 

3.  UN tourism body’s honour for weavers

UPSC Syllabus: | Mains – GS Paper I – Culture of India
Sub Theme: weaver’s art | UPSC

Pochampally sari or Pochampally ikat is a saree made in Bhoodan Pochampally,

Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, Telangana State, India.

They have traditional geometric patterns in Ikat style of dyeing.

The intricate geometric designs find their way into sarees and dress materials.

The Indian government's former official airplane company, Air India, has its cabin

crew wear specially designed Pochampally silk sarees.

Telangana is one of the ancient Ikat weaving centers in India, along with Gujarat and

neighboring Odisha.

It has its own unique character of design, different from other Ikat producing areas in India.

It has found place in UNESCO tentative list of world heritage sites as part of “iconic saree

weaving clusters of India”.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations specialized

agency (Headquarter in Spain, Madrid)

Entrusted with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally

accessible tourism.

It is the leading international organization in the field of tourism,

It promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and

environmental sustainability and offers the sector leadership and support in

advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.

It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism

research and knowledge.

It encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Maximize the contribution of tourism to socio-economic development, while

minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as

an instrument in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development

Goals (SDGs), geared towards eliminating poverty and fostering sustainable

development and peace worldwide.

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