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JULY 27, 2017

RCEP: Boost for India on easier visa norms

  • India’s push for easier norms on movement of professionals across borders for short-term work in 16 Asia-Pacific nations, including itself, under a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) — is learnt to have found favour with some ASEAN-bloc members.
  • The proposed FTA, officially known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is being negotiated by these countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Travel card

  • A few ASEAN countries are also understood to be supporting India’s proposal for an RCEP Travel Card to facilitate visa-free multiple short-term entry across the RCEP region for business and tourism purposes.
  • Australia and New Zealand (who are RCEP members) are blocking the move.
  • Temporary movement of professionals and skilled workers should not be confused with permanent movement (or immigration).

India pressed to open up procurement

  • Pressure is mounting on India to open up its more than $300 billion-worth public procurement market under the proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
  • Public/government procurement broadly refers to the process by which government (at the Central, State and local levels), its agencies/departments and State-owned enterprises procure goods and/or services only for their own use, and not for sale/resale commercially.
  • India would not give in to the demands from these countries for “market access and national treatment (equal treatment of foreign and local firms)”
  • The maximum extent that India could go to, is to agree to ensure transparency and cooperation in government procurement matters (including information exchange and sharing of knowledge) as part of the RCEP agreement

‘Language barrier’

  • Countries like China, Japan and South Korea, may outwardly have an open procurement market, but make it difficult for foreign firms to participate by phrasing requirements in local language, sources said.
  • India is not a signatory to the Government Procurement Agreement within the WTO framework because it wants to retain its policy space to meet its development needs through public procurement process.
  • In May, the Indian government had brought out a policy providing preference in government procurement to local goods and services suppliers. This was to push the ‘Make In India’ initiative
  • Then in June, it came up with an order restricting or excluding from public procurement tenders in India, the firms from those nations where Indian suppliers are not allowed to participate and/or compete in government procurement process.


‘India-Israel ties can affect Al Aqsa conflict’

  • India’s friendly ties with Israel could ‘interfere’ with the ongoing Israel-Palestinians conflict over the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, said the envoy of Palestine
  • India’s friendly ties with Israel could interfere with the present situation in Jerusalem,” said the envoy. “The Al Aqsa mosque is an Islamic place of worship. Jerusalem is a city of three religions and we respect all religions.”
  • The envoy said Israel had been trying to disturb the sanctity of the Al Aqsa mosque for a long time but for the first time since 1967 has begun the Judaisation process of the site which is holy to both Muslims and the Jewish. “The Judaisation campaign of Israel received a serious blow last year when UNESCO declared Al Aqsa mosque compound to be uniquely Muslim. This has infuriated Israel, which decided to go with the latest provocation,” he said.

Policy boosts care for blood disorders

  • People living with thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other haemoglobin disorders can now look forward to better screening and treatment, based on the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s new policy.
  • The Ministry recently released a policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India.



  • Supported by the National Health Mission, Blood Cell and the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, the guidelines provide for screening of pregnant women during antenatal check-up, pre-marital counselling at college level and one-time screening for variant anaemia in children.
    • The policy aims at creating treatment protocol benchmarks, to improve the quality of life of patients.
    • It is also a guide on prevention and control, which includes antenatal and prenatal testing to reduce the incidence of live haemoglobin disorder births (currently pegged at 10,000-15,000 live births a year).
    • Using public health awareness programmes and education, it highlights various haemoglobinopathies.
    • The guidelines include the creation of a national registry to plan future patient services.
    • The registry will also collect useful data, such as the location of patients to identify areas of high concentration, ethnicity or other characteristics, age distribution, records of deaths and their cause.
  • The policy, however, makes no reference to carrier testing for relatives of patients.

Glow-in-the-dark shark discovered in the Pacific

  • Scientists have identified a new species of glow-in-the-dark shark that has an unusually large nose, weighs a little less than a kilo and measures less than a foot.

  • The new species, a member of the lanternshark family, has been named Etmopterus lailae. It lives 1,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the northwestern Hawaiian islands.
  • “For one thing, it has a strange head shape and an unusually large and bulgy snout where its nostrils and olfactory organs are located. These creatures are living in a deep sea environment with almost no light so they need to have a big sniffer to find food,” he said.
  • Some of the other distinctive characteristics include its flank markings that go forward and backward on their bellies and a naked patch without scales on the underside of its snout.

Panel for action against farmers using herbicides on GM mustard

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee’s (GEAC) sub-committee has drafted several recommendations on GM mustard before it approved the crop for commercial release in May this year. These included a proposal for legal action on farmers using the glufosinate-based herbicide (Basta) on the crop unless otherwise approved by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee.
  • Glufosinate-based herbicides act as a neurotoxin and have adverse impacts on humans, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health.

  • The Attorney General explained to the Bench that the government did not consider privacy to be a single, homogenous right but rather a “sub-species of the fundamental right to personal liberty and consists of diverse aspects. Not every aspect of privacy is a fundamental right.”
  • Some aspects of privacy were expressly defined in the Constitution, while some were not. Mr. Venugopal said there was a “fundamental right to privacy. But this right is a wholly qualified right.”
  • Venugopal argued that privacy was submissive to the fundamental right to life under Article 21. Aadhaar was a measure by the state to ensure the teeming millions of poor in the country were not reduced to lead an “animal existence.”