14th October, 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Questions :-

1) Tiger Triumph is a tri-service military exercise between India and which other country?

  1. USA
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. UK

Answer – USA

2) Green Ribbon Initiative was seen in news recently. The initiative is launched for which of the following?

  1. The initiative aims to improve the adoption of green technologies in construction sector.
  2. The initiative aims to protect the forest cover all over the world.
  3. The initiative intends to convert all conventional vehicles into electric ones within a decade.
  4. The initiative intends to raise awareness on Mental Health as part of the activities being taken up during the Mental Health Awareness Week.

Answer – The initiative intends to raise awareness on Mental Health as part of the activities being taken up during the Mental Health Awareness Week.

3) With reference to High Court Judges, consider the following statements:

  1. The retirement age of High Court judges is equivalent to Supreme Court judges I.e. 65 years.
  2. They are appointed by the Governor of the state.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific News Items :-

1) Detoxification of Lukha River –  

Meghalaya government has claimed that a detoxing project through the use of phycoremediation has rejuvenated Lukha river. The project was funded by the “District Mineral Fund”.

What is the reason for contamination?

The Lukha River was considered toxic beyond redemption a decade ago. Meghalaya’s pollution control board in its report blamed drainage from ‘acid mines’ drainage and ‘rat-hole coal mines’ as the reason for toxicity in the river.

What is phycoremediation?

It is a type of bioremediation, can be defined in a broader sense as the use of macroalgae or microalgae for the removal or biotransformation of pollutants. It improves the PH of the water.

About Lukha river

  • It drains the southern part of ‘East Jaintia hills’(Meghalaya). It is fed by its major tributary ‘The Lunar River’ and streams from ‘Narpuh reserve forest’.
  • The river passes into southern Assam’s Barak Valley and ends up in the floodplains of Bangladesh.

What is District Mineral Fund?

  • DMFs were instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act 2015.
  • They are non-profit trusts to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations.

2) About Dhole :-

  • It is also known as the Asiatic wild dog, red dog, and whistling dog. It is about the size of a German shepherd, but looks more like a long-legged fox.
  • Furthermore, it is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
  • They are native to Central, South, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Habitat: Dholes occupy a wide variety of climates and habitats, including dense forests, scrub, steppes, and alpine regions. They vary in colour from charcoal grey to rust-red to sandy beige, depending on their habitat.

India: They are found in Western and Eastern Ghats, Central Indian landscape and North East India.

Conservation Status of Dhole

  • They are listed under Schedule II species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Endangered by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN).
  • Under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list.

 Threats

  • Depletion of prey base
  • Habitat loss and transformation
  • Retaliatory killings due to livestock predation
  • Disease and pathogens and
  • Competition with other species like Tigers and Leopards for prey.

3) Climate Resilience Information System and Planning CRISP-M :-

  • Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Giriraj Singh on Wednesday launched Climate Resilience Information System and Planning CRISP-M tool for integration of climate information in Geographic Information System, GIS-based watershed planning under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA.
  • CRISP-M tool will help embed climate information in the GIS-based planning and implementation of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA.
  • The tool will be issued in 7 states :- The states are Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan.

Important news :-

1) Gati Shakti’ will boost infra projects: PM

‘PM Gati Shakti’, a national master plan for synchronizing connectivity infrastructure projects across modes of transport, and will help India realise its dream of becoming the “business capital” of the world.

The Gati Shakti platform will provide information instantaneously, allowing for better coordination. The plan is aimed at achieving three basic goals – seamless multimodal connectivity to facilitate easy movement of goods and people, improved prioritisation, optimal usage of resources, timely creation of capacities, and resolution of issues such as disjointed planning, standardisation and clearances.

The Gati Shakti Master Plan will provide the framework for the National Infrastructure Pipeline program and is aimed at making Indian products more competitive by cutting down the logistics costs and improving the supply chains.

2) India, Iran discuss ways to fight drug trafficking from Afghanistan –

Why in news- 3,000 kg heroin in the Mundra port managed by the Adani Ports, on September 15.

The Golden Crescent is a mountainous area of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan where opium has been grown for hundreds of years.

3) Duplicates tea from Nepal add to India’s Darjeeling tea worries –

After years of countering cheaper teas imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka, the beverage industry in India has a new worryduplicate Darjeeling tea brought in from Nepal.

What is FSSAI?

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the administrative Ministry of FSSAI.
  • Headquarters: Delhi.

Genesis- FSS Act, 2006 consolidates various acts & orders that had earlier handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments, such as–

  • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
  • Fruit Products Order, 1955
  • Meat Food Products Order, 1973
  • Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
  • Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order 1988
  • Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992

These were repealed after commencement of FSS Act, 2006.

7 Key Processes of FSSAI –

  1. Set standards of food products
  2. Develop safe food practices
  3. License food businesses
  4. Ensure compliance through inspections
  5. Test food for standards
  6. Train and build capacity
  7. Citizens Outreach

4) ‘100 new Sainik Schools will admit students from 2022-23’

The 100 new Sainik Schools to be set up under public-private partnership will function in an exclusive vertical, distinct from the existing schools under the Defence Ministry, and admissions are targeted for the academic year 2022-23.

The existing 33 Sainik Schools had an admission capacity of approximately 3,000 students in Class 6.

About Sainik Schools –

The Sainik Schools are a system of schools in India established and managed by the Sainik Schools Society under Ministry of Defence (MoD). They were conceived in 1961 by V. K. Krishna Menon, the then Defence Minister of India, to rectify the regional and class imbalance amongst the Officer cadre of the Indian Military, and to prepare students mentally and physically for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Naval Academy (INA).

Sainik Schools, along with 1 RIMC and 5 RMS (Rashtriya Military Schools), contribute 25% to 30% officer cadets to NDA and INA. As of 2021, there were 33 Sainik Schools, and MoD will establish 100 more boarding Sainik Schools in public–private partnership (PPP) mode.

5) ‘Captain Kirk’ goes to space, for real this time –

Life imitated art as actor William Shatner, 90, who played the iconic Star Trek character Captain James T. Kirk, became the oldest person to fly into space.

Leonard Nimoy (left) and William Shatner in the television series Star Trek.

Star Trek Series was created by American writer and producer Gene Roddenberry and chronicles the exploits of the crew of the starship USS Enterprise, whose five-year mission is to explore space and, as stated in the title sequence, “to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

6) Aluminium industry rings alarm bells over coal shortage –

The aluminium industry has sent an SOS to Coal India, demanding the immediate resumption of supplies for survival of the industry that is facing an ‘alarming’ situation following coal shortage.

“Aluminium smelting requires uninterrupted quality power supply for production which can be met only through in-house captive power plants (CPPs) which operate 24/7 and 365 days, and have signed fuel-supply agreement with CIL and its subsidiaries for assured long term coal supply,”

Any power outage/failure (2 hours or more) results in freezing of molten aluminium in the pots which will lead to shutting down of plant for at least six months rendering heavy losses and restart expenses, and once restarted will take almost a year to get desired metal purity.”

What is the reason behind India’s coal shortage?

  • Increased power demand – A sharp uptick in power demand as the economy recovers from Covid-19 pandemic coupled with supply issues have led to coal shortage.India consumed 124 billion units of power in August 2021 compared to 106 billion units of power in August 2019.
  • Supply crunches – Lower than normal stock accumulation by thermal power plants in the April-June period is another reason.
  • Continuous rainfall in coal bearing areas in August and September caused fewer despatches of coal from coal mines.
  • Fall in imports – There has been sharp fall in imports due to high international prices.
  • Non-payments of coal dues – The non-payments of coal dues by States such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also resulted in inadequate supplies.

Types of coal found in India :-

  • Anthracite: It is the highest grade of coal containing a high percentage of fixed carbon. It is hard, brittle, black and lustrous. It is found in smaller quantity in regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Bituminous: It is a medium grade of coal having high heating capacity. It is the most commonly used type of coal for electricity generation in India. Most of bituminous coal is found in Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Sub-bituminous: It is black in colour, dull (not shiny) and has a higher heating value than lignite.
  • Lignite: It is the lowest grade coal with the least carbon content. It is found in the regions of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu & Kashmir.

7) India’s trade with China set to exceed $100 billion in 2021

India’s trade with China is set to cross the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2021, with shipments hitting $90 billion after three quarters, an almost 30% jump from pre-pandemic levels.

India-China Trade Chart

India-China Trade

  • Two-way trade in 2020 reached $87.6 billion, down by 5.6%, according to new figures from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC).
  • India’s imports from China accounted for $66.7 billion, declining by 10.8% year-on-year and the lowest figure since 2016.
  • It, however, rose to the highest figure on record, for the first time crossing the $20 billion-mark and growing 16% last year to $20.86 billion.

Editorial of the day

1) The global war on terror grinds along –

Persistent challenge

Two decades of the Global war on terror did not, however, eradicate terrorism. Notwithstanding leadership losses, including that of leaders like bin Laden and al Baghdadi, and despite organisational fracturing and territorial degradation, terror groups such as al-Qaeda and the IS today pose a persistent challenge. Hard intelligence on the myriad terror modules has been hard to come by and the absence of a single core for either al- Qaeda or the IS, is making it even more difficult to assess the true nature of the threat that looms. It would be tempting for intelligence agencies to think that the current low-tech attacks, involving small arms, the occasional use of Improvised Explosive Devices, and random ‘lone wolf’ attacks reflect the weakening of terror modules, including that of al-Qaeda and the IS. Nothing could be more misleading. Not only the major terror groups but even smaller terror modules currently retain the potential for both sophisticated and mass casualty attacks.

A grim warning

Apart from giving radical Islam a fresh lease of life and a new thrust, it has come at a time when the democratic world is demonstrating a diminishing appetite to fight terror away from their own ‘locales’, thus leaving the field wide open to the forces of Terror Inc., of which the Taliban is an indispensable entity. Several terror groups which possess varying capabilities such as al-Qaeda, the IS, the Daesh across Asia, the LeT, JeM and the TRF (The Resistance Front, which is backed by the LeT) in India, the Al-Shabab in Africa, etc., are certain to feel energised and gain a fresh lease of life.

In India

One can already see emerging signs of what can be expected in Afghanistan given that its capital, Kabul, has been wracked by a series of bomb blasts, reflecting a more intensified intra-denominational strife which has the potential to become a ‘prairie fire’. Nearer home, Kashmir is beginning to see a new wave of terror attacks reviving grim memories of the 1990s. Targeted killings of minorities have begun to send shockwaves across not only Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), but many other pockets of the country. Given the prevailing scenario, the dice is heavily loaded against India, with J&K being in the cross-hairs of several terror factions, further complicated by Pakistan’s efforts to aid and abet them through the use of its ‘regulars’. That Sirajuddin Haqqani, a Pakistani acolyte, holds a key position in the new interim Government of Afghanistan, makes it easier for forces inimical to India in the region, essentially Pakistan, to wage an ‘undeclared war’ against India.

The forms of ‘new era’ terror

Intelligence and terror specialists must begin to anticipate how to deal with ‘new era terrorists’, recruited over the Internet, who would thereafter be guided through different steps, over a sustained period, by anonymous handlers located elsewhere. This is not science fiction. There is already evidence of the existence of remote controllers who choose the targets, the actual operatives, the nature of the attack itself, and even the weaponry to be used, operating behind a wall of anonymity. Internet-enabled terrorism — a completely new genre of terrorism — would be very different from what we have seen so far.

2) A portrait of the Nobel masters of ‘metrics’ –

Context – The quest for causality, the subject of the Economics Nobel for 2021, is doubly important in this era of big data

A different technique

This year’s Nobel Prize winners use a different technique called Natural Experiments.

Take for instance the work of David Card (with the late Alan Krueger who many believed would have shared the Nobel) on minimum wages. Typically, economists believed that raising the minimum wage will lead to greater unemployment as firms will hire fewer workers. In 1992, New Jersey increased its minimum wage while neighbouring Pennsylvania did not. Card and Krueger surveyed a large number of fast food workers on either side of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border in this natural experiment and established that the higher wages had no impact on employment! This study has helped change how economists view minimum wages; today it is widely believed that minimum wages may not affect employment since firms may pass on the costs to consumers.

Statistical techniques

One drawback of natural experiments is that we cannot control who participates in them. This is where the work of Angrist and Imbens has been very important to economics and other related fields. Angrist and Imbens developed a framework and demonstrated how statistical techniques can be used to draw precise conclusions about causal relationships from natural experiments.

3) Deconstructing climate finance –

In the run-up to the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), media reports have claimed that developed countries are inching closer to the target of providing $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries by 2025 (the original target was 2020). This view has been bolstered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which claimed that climate finance provided by developed countries had reached $78.9 billion in 2018.

Flawed claims

First, the OECD figure includes private finance and export credits. Developing countries have insisted that developed country climate finance should be from public sources and should be provided as grants or as concessional loans. 

Significantly, the final figure comes by adding loans and grants. Of the public finance component, loans comprise 74%, while grants make up only 20%. 

The OECD reports on climate finance have long been criticised for inflating climate finance figures by including funds for development projects such as health and education that only notionally target climate action. The Oxfam report on climate finance discounts for the climate relevance of reported funds to estimate how much climate finance is actually targeting climate action and also discounts for grant equivalence. In contrast to the OECD report, Oxfam estimates that in 2017-18, out of an average of $59.5 billion of public climate finance reported by developed countries, the climate-specific net assistance ranged only between $19 and $22.5 billion per year.

The hollowness of the OECD claims is also exposed by the accounts provided by the developed countries themselves in their Biennial Reports submitted to the UNFCCC. The 2018 Biennial Assessment of UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance reports that on average, developed countries provided only $26 billion per year as climate-specific finance between 2011-2016 even if these numbers are still open to challenge. This rose to an average of $36.2 billion in 2017-18.

About Green Climate Fund (GCF) –

  • Established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is mandated to help the world avoid the dangerous trajectory highlighted by the IPCC Report by financing climate action in developing countries.
  • The GCF is based in Incheon, South Korea
  • The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010.
  • The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, was held at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 7 and 18 December

Broken promises

The U.S. also has a history of broken commitments, having promised $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under President Barack Obama, but delivering only $1 billion before President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. support from the GCF. Mr. Biden initially promised only $1.2 billion to the GCF, which fell well short of what was already owed.

In any case, the future focus of U.S. climate finance is the mobilisation of private sector investment.

The 2016 Adaptation Gap Report of the UN Environment Programme had noted that the annual costs of adaptation in developing countries could range from $140 to $300 billion annually by 2030 and rise to $500 billion by 2050. Currently available adaptation finance is significantly lower than the needs expressed in the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by developing countries.

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