Daily Current Affairs 14.11.2022 (G-20 summit to focus on food, energy security,Himachal Pradesh records 75.6% voter turnout, beats 2017 figure,Extra-regional fishing fleets present in Indian Ocean: Navy, Indian business groups are a rising presence at COP-27 , Biden will seek red lines in talks with Xi today , New regulations for awarding PhDs )

Daily Current Affairs 14.11.2022 (G-20 summit to focus on food, energy security,Himachal Pradesh records 75.6% voter turnout, beats 2017 figure,Extra-regional fishing fleets present in Indian Ocean: Navy, Indian business groups are a rising presence at COP-27 , Biden will seek red lines in talks with Xi today , New regulations for awarding PhDs )


1. G-20 summit to focus on food, energy security

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will leave for Bali on Monday to attend the G-20 summit on November 15 and 16. Food and energy security and post-COVID health issues will be at the top of the agenda in sessions at the summit in the Indonesian city.

Officials said Mr. Modi will meet with “several” G-20 leaders, but would not confirm who they were. He will also address the Indian community in Bali, and visit a mangrove forest.

Mr. Modi will also use the opportunity to invite all other G-20 leaders to the next summit in India in September 2023. “This G-20 summit is particularly special because India will hold the presidency of the G-20 from December 1, 2022 for a one-year period, and the presidency handover will take place during the summit in Bali,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said at a briefing.

Mr. Modi will discuss plans for India’s presidency of the G-20, environment and gender issues and a “greater voice for the global south in issues of international economic cooperation, [and] the need for reformed 21st century institutions,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of Mr. Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who cancelled his visit to India on Sunday at the last minute due to “scheduling difficulties”, Mr. Kwatra said, “Bilateral engagements with the other leaders are still in the process of being scheduled.”

Ahead of a possible meeting between Mr. Modi and U.S. President Joseph Biden, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Cambodia on the sidelines of East Asia Summit.

2. Himachal Pradesh records 75.6% voter turnout, beats 2017 figure

Himachal Pradesh registered a voter turnout of 75.6% in the Assembly election on Saturday, according to the Election Commission. The final turnout recorded in the 2017 election was 75.57%.

While 74.6% votes were registered through electronic voting machines, 1% was recorded through postal ballots, taking the overall turnout to 75.6%. Nearly 2% of the postal ballots are yet to be received.

At 85.25%, the highest polling percentage was reported from Doon. Shimla recorded the lowest of 62.53%. Dharampur registered an increase of 6.93%, going up to 70.54% from 63.6% in 2017, Chief Electoral Officer, Himachal Pradesh, said.

Similarly, in Jaisinghpur, the polling percentage improved from 63.79 in 2017 to 65.31, in Bhoranj from 65.04 to 68.55, in Solan from 66.45 to 66.84, in Barsar from 69.06 to 71.17, and in Hamirpur from 68.52 to 71.28%.

However, in Shimla (U) and Baijnath, the percentage dipped slightly from 63.93 in 2017 to 62.53 and from 64.92 to 63.46, respectively.

As many as 27,88,925 men, 27,36,306 women and 38 third gender voters exercised their franchise, comprising about 72.4% of the State’s total male, 76.8% of women and 68.4% of its third gender population.

3. Extra-regional fishing fleets present in Indian Ocean: Navy

More than 200 Chinese fishing vessels have been monitored in the Indian Ocean in the first half of this year, according to the Indian Navy, even as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to rise beyond India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Most of the illegal activities are found in the northern Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Such fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, puts fishermen at a disadvantage and affects coastal communities, especially in developing countries.

Vessels from China, European Union countries and other nations from outside the region were observed to be fishing in the Indian Ocean, the Navy said in its written reply to queries from The Hindu.

“The presence of extra-regional distant water fishing fleets has been monitored by the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC). Chinese fishing vessels numbering 200 to 250 have been monitored in the Indian Ocean, with a large concentration in the northern Indian Ocean,” said the Navy, in its written response, without giving any details of specific occurrences. “A total of 392 reported incidents of IUU fishing were monitored in 2021 compared to 379 in 2020 in the Indian Ocean.”

As reported earlier, there has been a growing incidence of Chinese deep-sea fishing trawlers in the Indian Ocean, in addition to an overall rise of China’s maritime presence in the region.

Two Chinese research vessels which can track missile tests are also currently in the IOR.

Chinese deep-sea trawlers have been a matter of concern for countries in the region, including India, as they are operating far from the Chinese coast and impacting local marine ecology. For instance, between 2015 and 2019, on an average, at least 500 Chinese deep-sea trawlers were present in the region.

Unregistered vessels

In a changing pattern, there is now a huge surge in unregistered Chinese fishing vessels among those operating in the IOR, it has been learnt.

An official in the know said that in the last couple of months, close to 140 Chinese fishing vessels have been monitored carrying out fishing beyond India’s EEZ, in the North Western IOR. “However, only approximately one-third of these had licences for such activities, which borders on the lines of being categorised as IUU,” the official stated.

As per United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal nations are responsible for addressing IUU fishing issues within their respective EEZ. There are regional fisheries management organisations such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement operating under the mandate of UNCLOS as regulatory bodies to monitor IUU fishing on the high seas.

Joint Quad monitoring

Recognising the impact of such fishing which can lead to the depletion of fish stocks affecting marine ecology, the Quad, comprising India, Australia, Japan and U.S., in May 2022 announced a major regional effort within the ambit of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA).

It aims to provide a more accurate maritime picture of “near-real-time” activities in the region. “It (IPMDA) is expected to catalyse joint efforts of India and other Quad partners towards addressing IUU in Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said.

All vessel movements on the high seas are monitored by the Indian Navy’s IMAC in Gurugram and the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), which is co-located with it. IFC-IOR has been collaborating with other regional monitoring centres across the globe to enhance maritime safety and security, including efforts to monitor IUU, the Navy said, adding that it “undertakes satellite monitoring of vessels operating in the IOR to track such vessels.”

There are two main regulations globally on IUU fishing: the Cape Town Agreement and the Agreement on Ports State Measures. So far, India is not a signatory of either agreement.

Fishing vessels across the world are supposed to have vehicle management systems installed which not only identify their position, but also requires them to record the volume and location of their catch, helping to tackle the issue of IUU fishing.

4. Indian business groups are a rising presence at COP-27

While the annual gatherings of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) are dominated by the presence of government delegations and climate activists, there is a sharp rise in participation by Indian business delegations in recent years, according to analysts and long-time participants at these conferences.

While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the umbrella body under which the COPs are held, maintains statistics on participation by different interest groups and their national affiliations, it doesn’t, however, specifically break them down by businesses or environmental organisations. Nearly 33,000 delegates have registered for COP27, making it likely the second-largest in COP history. India’s delegation size, which represents government representatives, is 70.

Mahendra Singhi, managing director and CEO, Dalmia Cement, told The Hindu that there were “12-15 businesses” at the ongoing COP and this was a steady increase from previous COPs. “The opportunity to learn, be part of panels, and present the steps we have taken as a country, industry and company to adapt to newer practices to nearly 40,000 participants [who attend the two weeks of the conference] is very valuable,” he said in a phone conversation from Sharm el-Sheikh. “Going ahead, we are in talks with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to increase Indian participation.”

The 21st COP in Paris in 2015, which resulted in the Paris Agreement, was a turning point that piqued participation, say experts. The Paris Agreement saw all countries accept that the globe could not be allowed to warm beyond 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and as far as possible, this ought to be limited to 1.5 degrees. In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the commitment that India would be “net zero” or carbon neutral by 2070.

“Net zero is a big shift but even a few years before that, government policy has been visibly changing its stance from the traditional position [of not being significantly responsible for historical CO2 levels], such as promoting solar energy. Private sector can see this visibly, they have their money on the table. Till 2015, they felt they could ignore it but now the global rhetoric is changing and they see they have to adapt,” Vaibhav Chaturvedi, who has attended multiple COP conferences and leads climate and energy policy at the public policy think tank Council for Energy, Environment and Water, said.

“There are three groups of businesspersons who visit COP: those in the renewable energy business; industrialists dependent on fossil fuel; and those interested in the ‘optics’, such as conglomerates who not only want to be seen as committed to clean energy but also eyeing potential agreements,” Sambitosh Mahaptra, a participant in COPs who leads the environment and sustainability practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers India, said.

5. Biden will seek red lines in talks with Xi today

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sunday he will seek to establish “red lines” in America’s fraught relations with Beijing in high-stakes talks with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The superpower sit-down will come on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Indonesia on Monday, with leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies holding their biggest gathering since the pandemic.

Mr. Biden said he was going into his first face-to-face with Mr. Xi as President “stronger”, after his Democratic Party’s unexpected success in the midterm elections they had been forecast to lose heavily.

But the summit comes with Beijing and Washington’s rivalry intensifying as a more powerful and assertive China tries to disrupt the U.S.-led international order.

Straightforward talks

The world’s two largest economies are at loggerheads on everything from trade to human rights in China’s Xinjiang region and the status of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, and Mr. Biden said he expected “straightforward discussions” with Mr. Xi.

“I know Xi Jinping, he knows me,” he told reporters in Phnom Penh where he met with Asian leaders before heading to the G-20 on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

“We have very little misunderstanding. We just got to figure out what the red lines are,” Mr. Biden said.

The U.S. President hopes to “come out of this meeting with areas where the two countries and the two Presidents and their teams can work cooperatively on substantive issues, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as Mr. Biden flew to Bali.

Rein in North Korea

Mr. Biden will push China to rein in North Korea after a record-breaking series of missile tests fuelled expectations the reclusive regime will soon carry out its seventh nuclear test.

China is Pyongyang’s main ally and while Mr. Biden is not expected to make demands, he will warn Mr. Xi that further missile and nuclear build-up would mean the U.S. boosting its military presence in the region — something Beijing bitterly opposes. Mr. Biden met Japan and South Korea’s leaders before flying to Bali, with the allies pledging a “strong and resolute response” to any North Korean nuclear test.

6. New regulations for awarding PhDs

The story so far:

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has made sweeping changes in its latest regulations governing the award of PhDs. Important changes such as abolishing of MPhils, relaxing course work for obtaining PhDs and allowing candidates to register for a PhD after finishing four years of a graduation programme, have been seen as steps that could lead to diminishing academic rigour as well as impediments to inclusivity in higher education.

What are the key changes?

The UGC on November 7, 2022 notified the University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedures for Award of PhD Degree) Regulations, 2022. One of the notable changes it made was to the evaluation and assessment criteria for the award of the degree, where it has waived the need to mandatorily publish a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal. This is accompanied by completely abolishing MPhil, which has been a gateway for PhD programmes, in line with the recommendation in the National Education Policy 2020. The eligibility criteria for admissions too have been revised, and a candidate can register after completing a one-year (or two semester) master’s degree programme after a four-year (or 8-semester) bachelor’s degree programme or a two-year (or four-semester) master’s degree programme after a three-year bachelor’s degree programme with at least 55% marks or its equivalent grade.

There are also important changes to course work. Earlier, the description of course work candidates needed to finish was more detailed, with at least four credits assigned to courses on research methodology. Candidates were also required to finish this either in the first semester, or by the second semester. Only candidates who were awarded MPhil or had completed their MPhil were exempted. But the new regulations leave it more open ended and says that all PhD scholars “shall be required to train in teaching/ education/ pedagogy/ writing related to their chosen PhD subject.” They can also now be assigned 4-6 hours per week of teaching/research assistantship for conducting tutorial, or laboratory work and evaluations.

The UGC now also allows part-time PhDs, a practice that was disallowed under the 2009 and 2016 regulations.

How will research scholars be evaluated under the new regulations?

PhD scholars will be required to undertake research work after completing their course work, make a presentation and produce a draft dissertation or thesis. If the evaluation of the submission is satisfactory, the candidate will have to defend the thesis in a public viva voce. They will not have to publish a research paper in refereed journal and make two paper presentations in conferences or seminars before submitting the thesis. The Chairman of UGC M. Jagadesh Kumar says that while publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal is not mandatory anymore in order to curb unethical practices such as pay-to-publish or plagiarism, students should be motivated and trained to publish in peer-reviewed journals and present at conferences. He says that a one-size-fits-all approach is not desirable as doctorals in computer science prefer presenting their papers at conferences rather than publishing them in journals. Former UGC Chairman and Ambedkarite, Sukhdaeo Thorat, welcomed the move to discontinue publishing papers in journals as it would often lead poor candidates to pay to get published like their peers, as well as put them at a disadvantage as they wouldn’t have contacts to get published. However, Jamia Milia Islamia Professor Furqan Qamar says that while these concerns are valid, there is a need to provide enhanced and cost-effective opportunities to the researcher to publish as there is a limited availability of quality journals but far more researchers. He cites from the Scopus database of scientific publications for 2020 to point out that India accounted for only 4.52% of total research papers in the world though it accounts for 12% of the global faculty pool.

Are there other concerns?

Experts like Professor Thorat say that discontinuing MPhils, along with the introduction of four-year BA course and 2-year MA course with multiple exits will hurt socially disadvantaged groups who may not be able to pay for longer-duration courses and may have to exit earlier, which will put them at a disadvantage in the job market. He adds that while a four-year Bachelors course will allow some students to pursue Masters abroad without studying for one more year, others will be discriminated against. Though UGC says the move is intended to attract younger students for research.

There are also concerns over diminishing scholarships and fellowships to support PhD scholars as well as severe shortage of teachers, impacting the number of research supervisors available.

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