Topic 1 : GI tag for the cashew industry
Why in news: Recently, Goan cashew (kernel) got the geographical indication (GI) tag.
What is a GI Tag?
- Geographical Indication (GI) Tags act as a special identification ascribed to any region, town, or state.
- These tags are assigned to certain products like agriculture or handicraft that symbolise the uniqueness of that particular region or place.
- The Geographical Indication Registry, which grants the tag, is located in Chennai.
- India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
- It came into force with effect from 2003.
- GI has been defined as – Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.
- GI tags mean that that product, name or sign thus assigned is unique, bears distinctive qualities, are made with traditional methods representing the reputation of the region.
- It is also a means of protection from any sort of copyright violation.
- The Darjeeling Tea was the first product in India that was given a GI tag around 2004-2005.
What does the GI tag mean for the cashew industry in Goa?
- The GI tag would help consumers differentiate between authentic Goan cashews and cashews sourced from outside the state, which are often marketed as ‘Goan cashews’.
- The term Goan cashew derived from the Portuguese name ‘caju’ or ‘kaju’ in Konkani.
- The influx of cheaper cashews has meant that several processing units and manufacturers in Goa have been unable to sell all their produce within the state, and have had to find markets outside, curtail production, or shut factories.
- Higher minimum wages and compliance norms than in states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have also contributed to the decline in sales for traditional Goan cashew processors.
How did cashew come to Goa and become a contributor to the economy?
- Cashew was native to northeast Brazil in Latin America and was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese in the 16th century (1570).
- At the time of its introduction on Indian coasts, cashew was known mainly as a crop for afforestation and soil conservation.
- Christian missionaries imported high yielding varieties from Latin American countries and cultivated them extensively in Goa.
- However, the economic value of cashew nuts became known about a century after its introduction.
- In the 10 years before Goa was liberated in 1961, it exported on average over Rs 20 lakh worth of processed cashew nuts, some of which were locally grown and others imported and processed in seven units.
- The import of nuts from Portuguese East Africa induced foreigners to establish factories in Goa due to the lower import duty, favourable port dues, shipping and clearing expenses, lower rents, wages, and salaries.
- By 1961, the cashew processing industry accounted for about 60 per cent of industrial production in Goa, a bulk of which was exported.
Cashew production in India:
- India is the largest cashew exporter, with more than 15% of the world’s export share.
- India primarily exports Cashew Kernels and very small quantities of Cashewnut shell liquid.
- Japan and Netherland are among the top 3 importers of Indian cashews, with a share of exports at 13% and 9%, respectively.
- In India, cashew cultivation spread along the coastal regions of the peninsula.
- Cashew is mainly grown in states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Odisha, West Bengal, and some parts of the North-Eastern region.
- Maharashtra stands first in annual cashew nut production during 2021-22 at 0.20 million tonnes (MT).Topic 2 : USS Gerald R Ford
Why in news: After a surprise attack on Israel by Hamas the USS Gerald R Ford carrier strike group was deployed by the United States to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean to assist Israel.
- The $18 billion nuclear-powered USS Gerald R Ford is the United States Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier.
- The USS Gerald R Ford is the largest warship ever built.
- For perspective, more than 4.5 Qutub Minars would fit on the deck of the USS Gerald R Ford, lengthwise.
- It also displaces 100,000 tonnes at full load — equivalent to nearly four times the weight of steel used for the Howrah Bridge.
- For comparison, India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant weighs 45,000 tons at full load.
- The carrier’s size allows it to support up to 90 aircraft.
- To conduct all operations aboard the carrier, a crew of over 4,500 personnel is needed (including those running the ship, those in the air wing and other support staff).
- For comparison, INS Vikrant operates a total of 36 aircraft and is run by a crew of roughly 1,650.
- Despite its aircraft and onboard defence systems, the Gerald R Ford, like all aircraft carriers, always travels with the defensive cover of a carrier strike group (CSG).
- The aircraft carrier, which entered service in 2017, is named after former US President Gerald R Ford (in office: 1974-77).Topic 3 : India-Palestine ties
Why in news: India has not yet released any statement for the Palestinians.
Why was India’s diplomatic policy leaned towards Palestine in the initial years?
- India voted against UN Resolution 181 (II) in 1947, which partitioned Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Palestinian Arabs.
- Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru preferred a federal state instead, with Arabs and Jews enjoying the widest possible autonomy, with a special status for Jerusalem.
- Nehru inherited this perspective from Mahatma Gandhi who, while deeply sympathetic towards the Jewish people for the historical persecution they had faced, was opposed to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.
- Though India recognized Israel in 1950 it did not establish diplomatic relations until 1992.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Ramallah in the West Bank in 2018, becoming the first Indian PM to do so.
- Why this stance:
- India was home to a sizable Muslim population.
- After Partition, Indian leaders were particularly sensitive to their opinion — and Muslims in India, by and large, were sympathetic towards the Arabs.
- Also, Indian leaders were wary of alienating the Arab countries.
- Pakistan was firmly in support of Palestine, and India had to match that stance.
Chance in stance of India:
- India’s reluctance to establish diplomatic relations with Israel until 1992 should be seen in the context of Cold War dynamics.
- It was only after the end of the Cold War that the government of P V Narasimha Rao finally took the extremely bold decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, without caring about the fallout with the Arab countries.
- However, Prime Minister Rao also continued to show vocal support for the Palestinians — he in no way abandoned India’s principled policy of backing the Palestinian cause.
- There is a feeling that India’s pro-Palestine stance over the years has not yielded dividends in terms of national interest.
- Palestine has often offered unqualified support to Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.
- That said, India’s formal position remains unchanged — India supports the two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side as good neighbours.
Relation between India and Palestine:
- India’s support for the Palestinian cause is an integral part of the nation’s foreign policy.
- In 1974, India became the first Non-Arab State to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
- In 1988, India became one of the first countries to recognize the Palestinian State.
- In 1996, India opened its Representative Office in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003.
- Trade between India and Palestine is conducted through Israel and therefore, comprehensive trade statistics are not available.
- Limited data suggests that India-Palestine annual bilateral trade is worth about US$ 40 million:
- Indian exports : US $ 39 million and
- Indian Imports : US $ 83,000.
- Indian exports include:
- marble, granite and other stones, Basmati Rice, raw material for making vaccines, coffee, cashew nuts, sugar, sweet biscuits, sacks and bags for the packing of goods, etc.
- Palestinian exports are mainly virgin olive oil and its fractions, dates, etcTopic 4 : Fact check unit
Why in news: The Bombay High Court reserved its verdict in a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of Fact Check Unit (FCU) of the Union Government.
About the FCU:
- The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEiTY) promulgated the 2023 IT Rules, which amended the Information Technology Rules, 2021, and allowed the Ministry to appoint a fact checking unit.
- What does the amendment say?
- The amendment empowers the Union Government to designate an official fact checker for misinformation and ‘fake news’, and to regulate the online real money gaming industry, which comprises apps like fantasy sports sites, rummy and poker.
- The amendment brings about significant changes which deals with the responsibilities of intermediaries.
- They are now under an obligation to make reasonable efforts to ensure that users do not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update, or share any information which is identified as fake or false or misleading by a fact check unit of the Central government in respect of any business of the Central government.
- Failure to comply with this puts intermediaries at risk of losing the safe harbour protection provided under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.
- The safe harbour safeguard exempts intermediaries from liability for any third-party information made available or hosted by them.
- Who will be the fact checker?
- The fact check unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) may be notified as the official fact checker for the Union Government.
- It has been ‘debunking’ WhatsApp forwards and news articles on Central Government schemes and departments for years
- The fact check unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) may be notified as the official fact checker for the Union Government.
- How it will work?
- Whenever any news is notified as fake, social media companies will lose their “safe harbour” for such content, opening them up to lawsuits or other legal action.
- Social media companies have traditionally enjoyed legal immunity for content posted by users, as the Information Techcvnology Act, 2000 treats them as intermediaries.
- Under the IT Rules they lose this status if, among other things, they don’t have a grievance officer for India, or don’t address user complaints on time.
- With this amendment, they will lose their safe harbour immunity for posts that have been flagged by the government as misinformation.
- Amendment on real money online games
- The amendment requires real money gaming services, where users deposit money in expectation of winnings, to get themselves certified as “permissible” by a Self-Regulatory Body (SRB) consisting of experts and industry members.
- What are permissible real money games?
- Permissible real money games would likely be those where the outcome doesn’t depend purely on chance.
- Games that are not declared “permissible” would fall under the “betting and gambling” category, opening them up to restrictions from States where such activities are prohibited.
- What makes this body different from other fact-checking agencies?
- As of now, the body is being made up to check or counter fake or misleading news about the central government.
- It should not be confused with a regular fact-checking agency that counters misinformation in the general news.
What are the concerns:
- Concerns raised with the amendment:
- Organisations like the Editors Guild of India and the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) were either not consulted or that their views were not taken into account.
- The fact check unit could effectively issue a takedown order to social media platforms and even other intermediaries potentially bypassing the process statutorily prescribed under Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000.
- The petitioners contend that the provision would enable government-led censorship online and empower the government to be the prosecutor, the judge, and in that loose sense, the executioner of what constitutes the ‘truth’ online.
What did the High Court say?
- The Bombay High Court observed that the amended Rules no matter how well-intentioned, lack necessary safeguards.
- The Court expressed the opinion that prima facie, the Rules do not seem to offer protection for fair criticism of the government like parody and satire.
- The Court remarked that if the consequences of a law are unconstitutional, it has to be done away with if it is found that the amendment violates Article 14 of the Constitution by discriminating between false news about the government and other false news.
- The Court also questioned the sudden need for a FCU, pointing out that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has been efficiently fact-checking for years.
- The Court expressed surprise that there is no provision in the Rules that provides an opportunity for an aggrieved intermediary to justify or defend the flagged content.
- This violates the principles of natural justice.
- The Court said that it was troubled by the fact that even the user whose post has been removed or whose account has been suspended by the intermediary after being flagged by the FCU, was left with no recourse or remedy.Topic 5 : Dhib & Nimr
Why in news: Revival of wild animals such as Dhib and Nimr seems uncertain given the current tensions between Israel and Palestine.
About the animals:
- The Arabian wolf, Dhib (Canis lupus arabs) and the Arabian leopard, Nimr (Panthera pardus nimr) are found across the whole of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Dhib and Nimr are the Arabic terms for the two animals that have featured in the culture and folklore of the region’s peoples.
- However, in the northern half of their range, both animals are critically endangered.
- The deserts of the Holy Land, the Negev, that dominates southern Israel till the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Judaean desert which is shared by Israel and the Palestinian West Bank, were once home to both.
- Loss of Arabian leopard:
- The Arabian leopard has lost as much as 98 per cent of its historical range, with populations highly isolated and fragmented.
- The Arabian leopard is extinct in its entire northern range, including all historic distribution ranges on the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev, and the Judean Desert.
- Loss of Arabian wolf:
- The Arabian wolf remains the sole apex predator across most of its range since the extirpation of the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and the near-eradication of the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) during the last several decades.
- The only known stable population is confined to the Arava Valley and Negev Desert in Israel, where legal protection is enforced and acceptance of wolves is high.
Topic 6 : Operation Ajay
Why in news: India is putting in place a major operation to evacuate its citizens who wish to return from conflict-hit Israel.
- This will be the second evacuation this year, after Operation Kaveri that brought back several thousand Indian citizens from conflict-torn Sudan.
- The government is launching Operation Ajay to facilitate the return from Israel of citizens who wish to return.
- The announcement has come days after Air India suspended its service in the Delhi-Tel Aviv route as Hamas carried out a crippling attack on Israel.
- The scale of Operation Ajay will depend on demand and that the government will augment capacities depending on further need.Topic 7 : Surgical-site infections
Why in news: Investing in safe surgeries could significantly reduce the costs associated with surgeries in low-to-middle-income countries like India, according to a recent study.
What is a surgical site infection?
- A surgical site infection is a common complication in surgeries worldwide.
- It is an infection that occurs at the site of a surgery in the body.
- It could be a superficial skin infection or a deeper one, involving tissues.
- About 11% of patients who undergo surgery contract such infections, according to a 2018 WHO report.
Key findings of the new study:
- In the new study, the researchers investigated resource costs for patients who underwent abdominal surgeries across 13 hospitals in four countries:
- Nigeria, and
- The procedures were classified into two types:
- Clean-contaminated surgeries:
- where surgeons cut into the gut, respiratory tract, or urinary tract in controlled sterile conditions
- Contaminated-dirty surgeries:
- which includes accidental wounds, spillage from the gut, or a breach in the sterile conditions.
- Clean-contaminated surgeries:
- The study was a part of a larger randomised controlled trial (RCT) called FALCON, which involved 57 hospitals in seven countries to investigate the effects of interventions on surgical site infections.
- This is the first multi-continental surgical cost study of its kind and reveals substantial additional postoperative costs associated with [surgical site infections] across a range of settings.
- India had the highest increase in healthcare costs associated with surgical site infections following clean-contaminated surgeries, at ₹ 46,000.
- It also featured the lowest increase in healthcare costs for surgical site infections after contaminated-dirty surgeries, at ₹ 20,000.
- A substantial number of surgical site infections occur in semi-urgent and emergency surgeries, and the financial burden associated with these infections is significant for patients in India, where insurance coverage is low and out-of-pocket expenses are high.
- The number of surgical site infections in India has also been consistently higher than the international average.
- This is because of late presentation of cases, higher levels of emergency surgery, poor hospital practices, and rampant use of antibiotics.
- Even a simple checklist of procedures like skin decontamination, adequate site marking before the surgical procedure etc., can reduce errors and morbidity.