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17th July, 2020 Current Affairs

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USA Ends Hong Kong’s Special Status

Current Affairs
  • Recently, the President of the USA has issued an order to end Hong Kong’s special status and signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, a legislation that would sanction banks doing business with Chinese officials.

Key Points
Reasons Behind the Move:

  • China’s imposition of national security law in Hong Kong.
  • USA’s blame on China for mishandling the Covid-19 pandemic and not informing the world about its severity.
  • China's military buildup in the South China Sea and its treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Ending the Special Status:

  • Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China without any special privileges, special economic treatment or exports of sensitive technologies.
  • Under the USA’s Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the USA treats Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous part of China with its own legal and economic system, differently than the Chinese mainland in trade, commerce and other areas.

Sanctions on Banks:

  • The legislation would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials involved in the national security law which China has imposed on Hong Kong.
  • Under the legislation, banks are granted a kind of year-long grace period to stop doing business with entities and individuals (primary offenders) undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
  • After that period, a variety of penalties will be imposed like seizing their assets, barring top executives from entering the USA and restricting the ability to engage in USA dollar-denominated transactions.

Possible Outcomes:

  • The new law will force all but provincial Chinese banks to choose between assisting Beijing’s efforts in Hong Kong or being able to conduct transactions in USA dollars and operate in the world’s largest economy.
  • It will have a devastating impact on Hong Kong as the financial gateway to Western markets.
  • Completely ending Hong Kong's special treatment could prove self-defeating for the USA because it was the source of the largest bilateral US goods trade surplus last year, at USD 26.1 billion.
  • Hong Kong is a major destination for USA’s legal and accounting services. Around 85,000 USA citizens lived in Hong Kong in 2018 and more than 1,300 USAcompanies operate there, including nearly every major financial firm.

China’s Response:

  • China has held that the Hong Kong Autonomy Act “maliciously slanders” its legislation in Hong Kong and has vowed to retaliate.
  • It will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests and impose sanctions on relevant USA personnel and entities.

Azad Pattan: PoK Hydel Project
  • Recently, Pakistan and China have signed an agreement for the 700MW Azad Pattan hydel power project on the Jhelum river in Sudhnoti district ofPakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • The 1.5-billion USD project is under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Key Points

  • The Azad Pattan project is one of five hydropower schemes on the Jhelum, the other four are Mahl, Kohala, Chakothi Hattian and Karot projects.
  • Azad Pattan, Kohala and Karot are being developed under the CPEC framework.
  • It is a run-of-the-river scheme with a 90-metre-high dam, and a 3.8 sq km reservoir.
  • It will be developed on the ‘Build, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT)’ model.
  • It is expected to be commissioned by 2024.
  • The project will be transferred to the government of Pakistan after 30 years.

Concerns for India:

  • Territorial Integrity: India has protested the construction of dams and other infrastructure in PoK and Gilgit Baltistan, which are territories claimed by it as part of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Earlier India had also objected to the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam (on Indus river) in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of the PoK.
  • Conflict With China: The signing of the Hydel project comes at a time when India and China have been involved in military conflicts following the Galwan Valley incident in the Ladakh region.
  • Through these projects, China and Pakistan have been consolidating their presence in the Indian region.
  • Chabahar Rail Project: Recently, Iran along with China has gone ahead with the construction of the Chabahar rail project without India's assistance citing funding delay.
  • Chabahar has been considered as India’s strategic response to counter China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
  • Not Based on International Norms: These projects do not follow the principles of openness, transparency and financial responsibility given by the International agencies.
  • Security Concerns: China may use its economic power to increase its geopolitical leverage as these projects give a hold to China in the western Indian Ocean with the Gwadar port, located near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
  • The Strait of Hormuz is a vulnerable point for India, which sources more than 60% of its oil supplies from the Middle East.


First on-line NISHTHA programme for 1200 Key Resources Persons of Andhra Pradesh
  • Union HRD Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriya 'Nishank' and Minister of State for HRD Shri Sanjay Dhotre virtually launched the first on-line NISHTHA programme for 1200 Key Resources Persons of Andhra Pradesh on 16 July.


  • Around 23,000 Key Resource Persons and 17.5 lakh teachers and school heads have been trained under this NISHTHA face to face mode till date.
  • For training the remaining 24 lakh teachers and school heads, NISHTHA has been customized for online mode.
  • NISHTHA is a National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement at the elementary stage under Samagra Shiksha -a flagship programme of MHRD to improve learning outcomes.

About ‘National Initiative for School Heads' and Teachers' Holistic Advancement’

  • NISHTHA is the largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world.

Objective: To motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.

  • Teachers will get awareness and develop their skills on various aspects related to:
  • Learning Outcomes,
  • Competency-Based learning and Testing,
  • Learner-centered Pedagogy,
  • School Safety and Security,
  • Personal-social qualities,
  • Inclusive Education,
  • ICT in teaching-learning including Artificial Intelligence,
  • Health and well-being including yoga,
  • Initiatives in School Education including library, eco-club, youth club, kitchen garden,
  • School Leadership qualities,
  • Environmental Concerns,
  • Pre-school, Pre-vocational Education and School-Based assessment.

India’s Population Trends: Lancet
  • According to a recent analysis by the Lancet, India’s population is forecasted to peak around 1.6 billion in 2048 from 1.38billion in 2017.
  • It will be followed by a 32% decline to around 1.09 billion in 2100.

Key Points

  • For the study, researchers used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017.
  • The Global Burden of Disease Study is a comprehensive regional and global assessment of mortality and disability from major diseases, injuries and risk factors.
  • The study was initiated in the 1990s as a collaborative effort of hundreds of experts worldwide, including researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank.
  • Hampered Economic Growth: The study has predicted dramatic declines in working-age populations in countries such as India and China, which will hamper economic growth and lead to shifts in global powers.

India Specific Data:

  • India in 2100 will be the world’s most populous country.
  • The number of working-age adults aged 20-64 in India is projected to fall from around 762 million in 2017 to around 578 million in 2100.
  • However, India has been forecasted to have the largest working-age population in the world by 2100.
  • India is also expected to surpass China’s workforce population in the mid-2020s, where the working-age population is estimated to decline from 950 million in 2017 to 357 million in 2100.
  • From 2017 to 2100, India is projected to rise up the rankings of countries with the largest total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) globally from 7th to 3rd, in terms of nominal GDP.
  • The country’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) declined to below 2.1 in 2019 (data taken from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017) and is projected to have a continued steep fertility decline until about 2040, reaching a TFR of 1.29 in 2100.
  • TFR indicates the average number of children expected to be born to a woman during her reproductive span of 15-49 years.
  • India is also forecasted to have the second-largest net immigration in 2100, with an estimated half a million more people immigrating to India in 2100 than emigrating out.
  • Given the trends of countries like the USA banning work visas and India being a developing country, has the potential to offer a huge manufacturing market to immigrants who want to work here.

Global Data:

  • The world population is forecasted to peak at around 9.7 billion people in 2064 and fall to 8.8 billion by the century’s end, with 23 countries seeing populations shrink by more than 50%, including Japan, Thailand, Italy and Spain.
  • By 2100, a total of 183 out of 195 countries will have TFR below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. The global TFR is predicted to steadily decline from 2.37 in 2017 to 1.66 in 2100, well below the minimum rate of 2.1.
  • Replacement level fertility is the number of children needed to replace the parents, after accounting for fatalities, skewed sex ratio, infant mortality, etc. The population starts falling below this level.
  • Huge shifts in the global age structure, with an estimated 2.37 billion individuals over 65 years globally in 2100 compared with the 703 million in 2019.

Vallarpadam Terminal
  • Recently, the Ministry of Shipping reviewed the development of the country's first trans-shipment hub - Kochi International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT).
  • ICTT is locally known as the Vallarpadam Terminal.

Key Points
Trans-shipment Hub:

  • It is a terminal at a port which handles containers, stores them temporarily and transfers them to other ships for the onward destination.
  • It basically acts as a switching point for cargo carried by deep-sea vessels operating on trans-continental trade routes.

Vallarpadam Terminal:

  • It is a part of the Cochin Port in Kochi, Kerala. It is located on Vallarpadam Island.
  • It was built with an investment of about Rs. 3,200 crore, shared by the government and the Dubai-government-owned entity (Dubai Ports World).
  • It was opened in February 2011 and can handle cargo up to one million TEUs (Twenty-foot equivalent units) per annum.
  • It is proposed to be a leading trans-shipment hub of South Asia. This is because of its:
  • Proximity to International sea routes.
  • Location with respect to all Indian feeder (secondary/smaller) ports.
  • Proximity to key hinterland markets of India.
  • Large infrastructure to manage large ships and capacity to scale it up as per requirement.

Expected Benefits:

  • It will cut India’s dependence on neighboring hub ports such as Colombo inSri Lanka, Jebel Ali in Dubai and Port Klang in Malaysia to send and receive container cargo, thus saving time and cost for exporters and importers.
  • It is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. It will ensure that Indian cargo trans-ship through an Indian Port.
  • Further, the Indian ocean is one of the most critical maritime transportation links in the world.
  • It will facilitate the setting up of port based industries and their allied facilities such as Container Freight Station, Island Container Depots, etc. in Kerala which will generate additional employment opportunities.


Report on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients: TIFAC
  • Recently, the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has brought a report titled ‘Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients- Status, Issues, Technology Readiness, and Challenges’.
  • TIFAC is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.

Key Points
Recommendations from the Report:

  • Indigenous production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) needs to be scaled up to a level where the production is economically viable.
  • Need for Mission modeChemical Engineering with defined targets for uninterrupted synthesis of API molecules.
  • To create mega drug manufacturing clusters with common infrastructure in India.
  • Developing a Technology platform for biocatalysis for cost optimization and investing in the fermentation sector of large capacity.
  • Biocatalysis refers to the use of natural substances from biological sources (such as enzymes) to speed up (catalyze) chemical reactions.
  • Attention to technologies like hazardous reactions, cryogenic reactions, and membrane technology.
  • Cryogenic reactions are chemical reactions performed at very low temperatures (below -150 °C).
  • Membrane technology covers all engineering approaches for the transport of substances between two fractions with the help of permeable membranes.
  • Focus on antiviral drugs, which require nucleic acid building blocks - Thymine, Cytosine, Adenine and Guanine - none of which are manufactured in India because of lack of manufacturing plants.
  • Government encouragement for Indian companies working in chemical segments such as steroids, amino acids, carbohydrates, nucleosides, etc., to collaborate for technology development or quick technology transfer.
  • Need for closer academia-industry interaction for technology development and commercialization.

India’s Pharmaceutical Industry:

  • It is third largest in the world, in terms of volume, behind China and Italy, and fourteenth largest in terms of value.
  • It has a strong network of 3,000 drug companies and about 10,500 manufacturing units with a domestic turnover of Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2019, with exports to more than 200 countries in the world.
  • Recently, India has approved two schemes, namely the Scheme on Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks and Production Linked Incentive (PLI) and Scheme to promote domestic manufacturing of critical Key Starting Materials/Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in the country.

Issues Involved:

  • Low-profit margins and non-lucrative industry forced domestic pharmaceutical companies to stop manufacturing APIs and start importing, which is a cheaper option with increased profit margins on drugs.
  • With the availability of cheaper APIs from China, the pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on imports. The imports from China have been increasing steadily and now stand around 68%.

India-EU Virtual Summit
  • Recently, India and the European Union (EU) held their 15th “annual” summit after a gap of more than two years.
  • The practice was put off due to disagreements over trade and investment that define their bilateral ties.

Key Points
India-EU Strategic Partnership:

  • India-EU Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025 has been endorsed between India and EU as a common roadmap to guide joint action and further strengthen the Strategic Partnership over the next five years.
  • Same Values: India and EU both are "unions of diversity", sharing values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Both are equally convinced of the necessity to preserve the rules-based international order and effective multilateralism.
  • Common Interests: Both have a common interest in each other's security, prosperity and sustainable development. They can contribute jointly to a safer, cleaner and more stable world.

Trade Pact:

  • India and EU have agreed to launch a high-level trade dialogue to foster progress on “balanced, ambitious and mutually beneficial” trade and investment agreements, address trade irritants and discuss supply chain linkages.
  • High-level trade dialogue will be held between the EU trade commissioner and India’s Commerce Minister.
  • India and EU had launched talks for having a wide-ranging Free Trade Agreement (FTA), officially called broad-based BilateralTrade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), long ago in 2007.
  • The BTIA was proposed to encompass trade in goods, services and investments.
  • However, the talks stalled in 2013 over differences on market access and movement of professionals.
  • The EU is India’s largest trading partner grouping (countrywise USA is India’s largest trading partner), while India is the EU 's ninth biggest trading partner.

Civil Nuclear Cooperation:

  • A civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed between the European Atomic Energy Community or Euratom and Department of Atomic Energy, India.
  • The agreement will focus on research and development cooperation for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and on new ways of using nuclear energy.

Defence and Security Cooperation:

  • The two sides also agreed to scale up defence and security ties which included:
  • The launch of a new maritime security dialogue.
  • Consultations on crisis management and deeper cooperation between the Indian Navy and the European Union Naval Force Atalanta.
  • The EU’s counter-piracy military operation in the western Indian Ocean.
  • The EU officials described the recent India-China border standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as a matter of considerable concern.
  • India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Europol launched negotiations to combat organised crime and terrorism.
  • Both decided to intensify cooperation to tackle terror and its financing, radicalisation and abuse of the internet for such activities.
  • Pakistan’s support for terrorism aimed at India and other countries in the region was also figured in the discussions.

Other Negotiations:

  • A joint declaration on circular economy and resource efficiency.
  • A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.
  • The renewal of a science and technology cooperation agreement and stepping up cooperation in environment and climate change.

Issues Involved:

  • The EU is critical about India’s “protectionist” measures on tariffs, on opening up India’s services sector for European Companies and the termination of bilateral investment treaties with 25 EU member states.
  • The EU also views India's recent Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan as an initiative which might lead to protectionism.
  • The trade relationship is also far below the potential, with India accounting for less than 3% of EU’s total trade.
  • The EU has been critical over the removal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act, which according to India is an internal matter.


Melghat Tiger Reserve
  • The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has requested the Union government for considering an alternative alignment for the Akola-Khandwa rail line that passes through the Melghat Tiger Reserve.

Key Points

  • It lies in Melghat Forests of Amravati district in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra bordering Madhya Pradesh in the North and East.
  • It is a part of the Satpura-Maikal landscape.

Tiger Reserve:

  • It is spread over an area of 2768.52 sq km.
  • It is among the first nine places in the country designated as tiger reserves in 1973-74.
  • Project Tiger was launched in 1973.
  • It was the first Tiger Reserve to be declared in the State of Maharashtra.
  • Protected Areas within the Reserve:
  • It consists of Gugamal National Park, Wan, Ambawarba and Narnala sanctuaries.


  • It is the Deccan trap and underlying rock is basalt in one form or another.
  • It has various species of mammals including Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Gaur, etc.
  • The forests are of deciduous nature and have been classified as ‘dry deciduous forests’. Most prominent is Teak.
  • It forms a very important catchment to Tapi river systems.
  • The Korku tribe adds to the cultural diversity of the Reserve.
  • Other Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra:
  • Tadoba-Andhari
  • Pench
  • Sahyadri
  • Navegaon-Nagzira
  • Bor

Science &Technology

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine
  • The Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd, Pune, has been granted permission to manufacture the first indigenously developed Pneumonia Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) i.e. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide.
  • The permission has been granted by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), a drug regulatory authority.
  • India is planning for the nationwide rollout of PCV under Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

Key Points
Description: PCV prevents pneumococcal disease

  • Pneumococcal disease refers to any illness caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
  • The vaccine is a mix of several bacteria of the pneumococci family, which are known to cause pneumonia — hence ‘conjugate’ is included in the name of the vaccine.
  • Conjugate vaccines are made using a combination of two different components.
  • It is used for active immunisation against invasive disease and pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae in infants.
  • In invasive diseases bacteria invades parts of the body like blood fluid, brain and spinal cords.
  • It is administered intramuscularly, i.e injected deep into the muscles.
  • Earlier the demand for such vaccines were provided by licensed importers since the manufacturers were all based outside India.
  • Clinical Trials: Institute has conducted the Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials of Conjugate Vaccine in India.
  • It has also conducted clinical trials in Gambia.
Published on 7/17/2020 5:22:00 PM