1.India needs to push for a new deal (The Hindu)

2.Targeting refugees (The Hindu)

3.Pearl millet fight climate change (Down to Earth)

 

1.India needs to push for a new deal (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that India needs an ambitious start in redefining the global trade and IP agenda. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The WTO is forecasting that global trade will expand by 2.4% in 2017; The unpredictable direction of the global economy in the near term  and the lack of clarity about government action on monetary, fiscal and trade policies raises the risk that trade activity will be stifled. Trump administration is considering pulling the U.S. out of most free trade agreements on the ground that it needs a more favourable environment for its companies and its people.  The trade deals are becoming the new Trojan horse to ensure stronger patent protection and continued profits to global companies.

Problems

  • Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) represented a major compromise for most developing countries, it was only the starting point for many other nations, which have since then promoted excessive protection of private investor interests through bilateral trade agreements, often at the expense of wider public interests. Corporate libertarians, riding high on increased market power, continue to lobby their governments for absolute protection of intellectual property (IP) rights of corporations.
  • Over the past 20 years, the American strategy has been to pursue bilateral agreements with individual countries one by one to ensure stronger IP protection across markets, by sidestepping the multilateral regime.
  • For years now patent protection is getting stronger in all sectors in a large number of countries, the conditions for its grant are becoming greatly relaxed. Not only do such lax patenting requirements allow companies to claim patents more broadly or consecutively, with little show of original effort as in the case of ever greening but also patents can be claimed on all possible inventions that are of relevance to the present, and even to the future.
  • A large number of countries have already foregone many degrees of policy freedom by signing up to ‘TRIPS-Plus’ standards of protection. This, in conjunction with other trade measures, is disintegrating existing markets and rigging established rules of the game.
  • For India, the fate of its pharmaceutical and software sectors swings in the balance, and for guaranteeing fair and unfettered competition, it will be critical to ensure that we do not lose more ground to global companies abroad and at home.
  • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s recent Trade and Development Report, there is need for stronger measures to protect domestic sectors against the undue domination of large companies, particularly in high-profit sectors such as pharmaceuticals, media and information and communications technology (ICT), where foreign companies still account for most of the transfer of profits across borders.
  • S. multinational companies (MNCs) and their foreign affiliates in India to show that patent reforms have led to significant increases in the rates of return to affiliates of American companies by enabling monopoly profits when compared to publicly listed and locally headquartered companies, which are increasingly being left behind.
  • In the pharmaceutical sector and the ICTs sector, there is same trend, a analysis that ranges 20 years shows that profits of domestic companies are in sharp decline since the late 2000s while those for the American MNC affiliates operating in the Indian market are rising steeply.
  • In the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Argentina, there are ongoing attempts by big business to push for new rules in areas such as e-commerce to slice up profit-making opportunities of the future. Other proposals being made will largely limit the ability of governments to constrain corporate behaviour in the public interest even if they succeed partially.
  • India needs a new deal that should not only call for a return to business in the WTO by tackling the forgotten issues of the Doha Round but also firmly reopen the discussion on balancing the global IP system with development.

Way ahead

  • India needs a clear and tough stance on intellectual property both in domestic policy and at the multilateral level. At home, support for innovation has to be accompanied with instruments that guard against the misuse of market power, coercive bargaining and aggressive merger and acquisition strategies if local firms should survive and flourish.

Question– India had faced various problems in the issues related to IPR policy? How India can redefine its IP agenda?

 

2.Targeting refugees (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of disturbing intent to push the Rohingya back to a conflict zone. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The Centre has recently told the Supreme Court that Rohingyas posed as a serious threat to national security with links to terror outfits, including the Islamic State. The government accused the Rohingyas of taking advantage of the porous borders in the east with organised smuggling of people, human trafficking, and mobilisation of halala.
  • India may have strategic and diplomatic reasons for backing the Myanmar position with regard to terrorism in the Rakhine region but the decision is a disturbing attempt to paint the persecuted community in a poor light so that it could justify their deportation in future.
  • The imputation of collective motivation to the Rohingya refugees in the country, estimated to number about 40,000 can be considered heartless.

Problems

  • Myanmar had refuses to accept most Rohingya as its citizens, rendering them stateless, and hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh. The intention to deport them by itself constitutes an unusual abandonment of humanitarian principles, as India has an exemplary record in taking care of refugees from many countries since Independence.
  • Rohingya Muslims live in the Rakhine region of Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Though they trace their roots in that country to the 15th century, successive governments have regarded them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
  • The violence against them has increased since 2012, when a Buddhist woman in Rakhine was raped and murdered, allegedly by two Rohingya men. Since then, many from the community have fled to Bangladesh and India, while others have formed armed extremist groups.
  • Though the government mentioned that India is not a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967, and hence, is not obliged to follow its provisions.
  • The principle of non-refoulement or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger is considered part of customary international law and is binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.
  • But India need has so far adhered to its normative standards. And the fundamental rights relating to movement and settlement within the country are available only to citizens, but it cannot be forgotten that the right to life and liberty under Article 21 is not confined to citizens, but anyone who has to face the rigours of law on Indian soil.
  • The government quoted the 1955 Hans Muller case judgment by a Supreme Court Constitution Bench, which held that The Foreigners Act (of 1946) vests the Central Government with an “absolute and unfettered discretion” to expel foreigners.
  • Human Rights watch urged India, the world’s biggest democracy, to follow the international principle of non-refoulement which prohibits sending back refugees to a place where their lives are in danger.
  • According to UN data, India is home to two million refugees. It doesn’t have a domestic refugee law, but since Independence has provided refuge to people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Tibetan Buddhists from China, Hindus from Bangladesh and Pakistan and Tamils from Sri Lanka. But the Rohingya have remained an exception.

Way ahead

  • The Proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protections of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person. This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of ‘Non-Refoulement’, which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law”.

Question– Who are Rohingyas? How it is much more than a refugee crisis?

Explained

3.Pearl millet fight climate change (Down to Earth) (GS paper III)

About pearl millet

  • Pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet. It has been grown in Africa and the Indian subcontinent since prehistoric times. It is a staple food crop for millions of people living in the arid and semi-arid areas of Africa and Asia. Currently, pearl millet is grown on about 27 million hectares worldwide and is a daily food for more than 90 million people.
  • Pearl millet is a nutritious dryland cereal, rich in protein, fibre and essential micronutrients like iron, zinc and folate. Studies have shown that this cereal has the potential to fight iron deficiency. In India, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are the highest producers of pearl millet. However, its yields have remained low over the last six decades, as the cereal is grown on poor soil.

Crops and climate change

  • As there is increasing incidents of droughts and high temperatures in the coming years due to climate change. The higher global temperatures can affect the nutritional quality of crops and affect their productivity, so it is time we need to develop grains that can withstand the negative effects of climate change.
  • According to the journal “Nature Biotechnology”, pearl millet seems to be the solution for a future when temperatures will soar. Decoding and sequencing the pearl millet grain by a team comprising 65 scientists from across 30 research institutions have proved its adaptive capacity and increasing tolerance to drought.
  • It has been highlighted that wax bio-synthesis genes present in the crop is the reason for this high level of heat resistance. Most cereals like rice and maize cannot support temperatures over 30 to maximum 35 degrees Celsius when they start forming their grains whereas pearl millet will fill its grain in air temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius.
  • According to the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, India, BGI-Shenzhen, China and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, the latest innovations in DNA sequencing and analysis to identify new genetic tools like molecular markers related to drought and heat tolerance, as well as other important traits like better nutrition profile and pest resistance.
  • The scientists had unravelled the genetic code of pearl millet, sequencing the genome will help the search for new varieties with higher yields and better resistance to climate change, and it will help farmers grow the crop better in terms of productivity, as pearl millet is a staple food crop for millions of people living in the arid and semi-arid areas of Africa and Asia.

Question– What are the relation between the climate change and cultivation of hardy crops such as pearl millets?