16 November 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Question

1) Changing Wealth of nations report is released by which of the following organizations?

  1. IMF
  2. UNCTAD
  3. WB
  4. UNEP

2) With reference to Papier-mâché in Kashmir, consider the following statements:

  1. Saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani from Persia is said to have brought this craft to Kashmir.
  2. It is based primarily on creating colourful utility and decorative objects using walnut trees.

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

3) With respect to Global Hunger Index 2021, consider the following:

  1. It is jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  2. India has improved its ranking from its earlier position of 2020.

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

Important News Items of the Day

1) The name of Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station has been changed to Rani Kamlapati station.

How did the name of the railway station get changed?

While Indian Railways may own the station, it does not get involved in the business of naming it. Similarly, Indian Railways did not change the name of the stations. Change of station names is entirely a state subject.

Ministry of Home Affairs, the nodal ministry for the name change. The state governments send the request to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ministry accords its approval, keeping the Ministry of Railways in the loop.

Note: Usually, it is ensured that no other station with the new name proposed exists anywhere in India.

What happens when a name is changed?

Once the name change is notified by the state government following all due process, Indian Railways steps in to do the necessary work. A new station “code” for railway operation purposes may need to be invented.

The name change is then fed into its ticketing system so that the new name along with the code is reflected on its tickets and reservation and train information.

Lastly, it physically changes the name written at the station — building, platform signage, etc, and also in its communication materials for all practical purposes.

2) Centre amends rules to clear tenure extension

A day after promulgating two ordinances that would allow the Centre to extend the tenures of the Directors of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years, the Personnel Ministry issued an order to amend the Fundamental Rules, 1922 adding the two posts to the list whose services can be extended by up to two years beyond the two-year fixed tenure in “public interest”.

The previous list comprised Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Director, Intelligence Bureau and Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing. Though Director, CBI, was also mentioned in the previous order, the Monday notification adds the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946) under which the investigation agency’s head is appointed.

Environment

1) Bid to get heritage status for jackfruit tree

A jackfruit tree, aged around 250 years, located 40 km from Bengaluru, is believed to be Karnataka’s oldest tree of this variety and one of the oldest in the country. The tree at Janagere village in Magadi taluk is now in the limelight as agricultural and horticultural scientists are striving to get “heritage tree” status for it.

2) Urban factors, not farm fires, cause of pollution

The Supreme Court said the “cat is out of the bag” to prove that urban factors such as construction activities, industry, vehicular exhaust and road dust were actually the major causes of pollution in Delhi and not farmers’ stubble burning.

The Centre, for one, said farm fires in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh contributed to only 10% of the pollution.

“You say 76% of the pollution is caused by industry, dust, vehicles and construction and not due to stubble burning… So the cat is out of the bag… You are now trying to target pollution that is insignificant?” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Bench, asked both Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Centre and Delhi respectively.

ICMR moots change in cattle rearing practices, shift from coal

(ICMR) have recommended that India shift from “traditional animal husbandry practices” and “urgently wean away from coal as its main source of energy”.  

India needs to urgently wean away from coal as its main source of energy and needs to invest more on renewable, cleaner and sustainable sources such as solar, wind or hydro energy,” the brief noted.

India was also among the countries that did not sign on a methane pledge. The U.S. and the European Union have jointly pledged to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 2030 by 30% compared with the 2020 levels.

Society

PM reaches out to tribal people, unveils schemes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to tribal people, inaugurating the Birsa Munda museum in Ranchi as well as a slew of welfare schemes in Bhopal on what was the first-ever ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas’ or tribal pride day.

Earlier, he inaugurated the first of 10 new museums dedicated to tribal culture and contribution to the freedom movement and also marking the birth anniversary of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda in Ranchi.

About Birsa Munda –

  • Birth: 15th November 1875, belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chotanagpur Plateau area.
  • Also known as Dharti Aaba (Father of Earth), Birsa Munda is known to have mobilised the tribal community against the British and had also forced the colonial officials to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals.

Munda Rebellion:

  • It is one of the most important tribal movements.
    • It was led by Birsa Munda in the south of Ranchi in 1899-1900.
    • The movement identified following forces as the cause of the misery the Mundas were suffering:
      • The land policies of the British were destroying their traditional land system.
      • Hindu landlords and moneylenders were taking over their land.
      • Missionaries were criticising their traditional culture.
    • The ‘Ulgulan’ or the ‘Great Tumult’ as the movement came to be called, aimed at establishing Munda Raj by driving out the British.
      • Munda used traditional symbols and language to rouse people, urging them to destroy “Ravana” (dikus/outsiders and the Europeans) and establish a kingdom under his leadership.
    • Birsa’s followers began targeting the symbols of diku and European power. They attacked police stations and churches, and raided the property of moneylenders and zamindars. They raised the white flag as a symbol of Birsa Raj.
    • On 3rd March, 1900, Birsa Munda was arrested by the British police while he was sleeping with his tribal guerilla army at Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur (Jharkhand).
      • Birsa died of cholera in the jail and the movement faded out.

2) Mannu Bhandari passed away

Eminent Hindi writer Mannu Bhandari

She and Rajendra Yadav were perhaps the first writer couple in the Hindi literary world and blazed a new trail when both announced that they would write an experimental novel  Ek Inch Muskan (One-inch Smile).

Her collections of short stories include Ek Plate Sailab, Main Haar Gayee, Teen Nigahon Ki Ek Tasveer, Yahi Sach Hai, Trishanku and Sampoorna Kahaniyan. Besides Mahabhoj, her play Bina Deevaron Ke Ghar has also been quite popular.

Economy

WPI inflation quickens to 12.5%

Causes of Inflation

In any economy, generally two sets of factors result in inflation — Demand-pull factors and Cost-push factors.

Demand-pull factors may be those due to which there is an increase in the demand for goods and services in general leading to rising prices.

On the other hand, cost-push factors are those due to which there may be shortfall in supply of goods/services and/or rise in the cost of production of goods/services.

At any given point of time, inflation is attributed to both sets of factors. Sometimes one may be more potent than the other.

What is the Wholesale Price Index (WPI)?

  • The Wholesale Price Index represents the price of a basket of wholesale goods. WPI focuses on the price of goods that are traded between corporations. It does not concentrate on goods purchased by the consumers.
  • Compiling (Publishing) Authority: It is published by the Office of Economic Advisor (Ministry of Commerce & Industry).
  • Base Year for WPI: The base year of All-India WPI has been revised from 2004-05 to 2011-12 in 2017.
  • Commodities covered : Captures price changes in Goods only

Wholesale Price Index WPI

  • It is the most widely used inflation indicator in India. Published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • All transactions at the first point of bulk sale in the domestic market are included.
  • Major criticism for this index is that the general public does not buy products at wholesale price.
  • The base year of All-India WPI has been revised from 2004-05 to 2011-12 in 2017.

Major components of WPI

  • Primary articles is a major component of WPI, further subdivided into Food Articles and Non-Food Articles.
  • Food Articles include items such as Cereals, Paddy, Wheat, Pulses, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Eggs, Meat & Fish, etc.
  • Non-Food Articles include Oil Seeds, Minerals and Crude Petroleum
  • The next major basket in WPI is Fuel & Power, which tracks price movements in Petrol, Diesel and LPG
  • The biggest basket is Manufactured Goods. It spans across a variety of manufactured products such as Textiles, Apparels, Paper, Chemicals, Plastic, Cement, Metals, and more.
  • Manufactured Goods basket also includes manufactured food products such as Sugar, Tobacco Products, Vegetable and Animal Oils, and Fats.

2) India coffee output hit by rains

India’s arabica coffee production will drop by 30% and robusta by 20% this harvest season ending January on account of excessive rainfall, plant damage, bean splitting and berry dropping, as per data provided by the planters’ community.

However, continuous rains from September had resulted in causing significant damage to coffee plantations, reducing yields in arabica (30%) and robusta (20%), said Karnataka Planters’ Association (KPA) that represents more than 80% of coffee growers in India.

Brazilian frost

The Brazilian frost-induced supply shortage and price surge in the international coffee markets came as a respite for Indian coffee growers who have been reeling under existential crises.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 1 – Pegasus inquiry must reverse the ‘chilling effect’

About Pegasus:

  • It is a type of malicious software or malware classified as a spyware.
  • It is designed to gain access to devices, without the knowledge of users, and gather personal information and relay it back to whoever it is that is using the software to spy.
  • Pegasus has been developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group that was set up in 2010.

On October 27, 2021, a Bench of the Court, led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI), N.V. Ramana, constituted a three-member independent expert committee to conduct an investigation (it will be overseen by a retired judge of the Court) and protect public faith in the constitutional system. In the world over, this is the first-ever inquiry ordered by any Chief Justice with such wide-ranging terms into spying by Pegasus.

A worrying silence

The Union Government has been consistently silent on the question on whether it had or has invaded the privacy of hundreds of innocent non-accused citizens and what it has done with the collected ‘intelligence’. It has a constitutional duty now to justify its defence of ‘national security’ before the Court-appointed inquiry committee or face politico-constitutional consequences. More than anything else, what is worrisome is the Centre’s deafening silence.

The nation cannot afford to ignore the Pegasus Project, or the report of a consortium of 17 media organisations on July 18, 2021, which showed, based on its investigation, that a “list of over 50,000 phone numbers in more than 45 countries had been potentially targeted for surveillance by misusing Pegasus”. The list included the numbers of over 300 Indians, some of whom were senior journalists, doctors, lawyers, political persons and even court staff.

Privacy, a sacrosanct right

Though privacy was not a specifically guaranteed right earlier, unabated surveillance was never allowed. The Supreme Court emphatically defined it in R. Rajagopal in 1994. With the landmark order in 2017 by the Supreme Court declaring that the right to privacy is as sacrosanct as human existence and is inalienable to human dignity and autonomy, the burden to secure this right has also fallen on the top court.

Puttaswamy Case

Case Summary – Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) V Union of India

The right to privacy is widely considered one of the basic human rights and the same is explicitly stated under Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Snooping can be justified only on three counts:

  1. The restriction must be by law;
  2. It must be necessary and only if other means are not available, and
  3. Proportionate (only as much as needed); and it must promote a legitimate state interest (e.g., national security), according to paragraph 325 of the nine-judge Bench judgment on privacy). Without establishing this justification, the Government cannot use ‘national security’, in the case of Pegasus, as an empty or lame excuse, because surveillance directly infringes on the privacy right.

The Bench led by the CJI observed that surveillance injures the freedom of speech and results in fear based self-censorship. When it relates to the freedom of the press, it results in a chilling effect on the basic civil right of freedom of speech.

Editorial 2 – Batting for an important yet misunderstood species

Bats as Environment friendly

Bats devour insects in farms, fields, forests, grasslands and around our homes, including agricultural pests and disease-causing mosquitoes.

Some bats sip nectar, pollinate flowers, eat fruits, and spread the seeds of many important tree species including wild varieties of bananas, guava, cashew, mango, figs, mahua and other fruits.

Bat droppings (guano) mined from caves are widely used as a fertilizer for agricultural crops as they have high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous.

The Bomrr clan in Nagaland, for example, have traditionally celebrated the annual bat harvest for many years. They gather at a place called Mimi to smoke a cave full of bats and as bats start exiting, kill them for consumption. In the process, the bats bite them or scratch them. Yet, there has been no major disease outbreak among the Bomrr clan.

Study of human-bat interface

Several indigenous people had understood the importance of giving enough space to all animals including bats whilst staying with them.

The NCBS (National Centre for Biological Sciences)  is also in the process of sequencing whole genomes of bat viruses. This study could help build a bank of virus genomes as baselines to be prepared for any possible future outbreaks.

Avoiding handling or eating bats,and not eating fallen fruits gnawed by bats or fruits likely to be contaminated by bat fluids. This would greatly reduce the risk of spillover. In the longer term, we should work towards restricting and reversing land-use change practices that are bringing us in greater contact with, and increasingly stressing out, animals that may harbour ‘emerging infections’.

One Health, where human health is linked to that of the environment and animals can result in the best possible outcomes. Any such future will require a global commitment to reduction of habitat loss, and the preservation and restoration of our natural habitats and biodiversity. A world with fewer bats around us will be one that suffers greater crop losses to agricultural pests, witnesses increased incidences of other diseases such as those transmitted by mosquitoes, and one without mahua, too.

Editorial 3 – Building a multi-tier air defence system

The story so far: India has contracted five S400 Triumf (NATO designation SA-21 Growler) regiments from Russia under a $5.43 billion deal signed in October 2018. Delivery was to begin in 24 months by the end of 2020 but was slightly delayed due to late payments as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eventually, both sides worked out a Rupee-Rouble exchange for payments, following which India paid a 15% advance amount, triggering the delivery cycle. The delivery is likely to be completed by April 2023 but the final timeline has not been stated.

What is the S-400 system?

S-400 Triumf is considered one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems that can simultaneously track and neutralise a range of incoming objects spanning aircraft, missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) over very long ranges.

As per the manufacturer Almaz-Antey State Corporation of Russia, the system can provide air interception against early warning aircraft, airborne missile strategic carriers, tactical and theatre ballistic missiles, medium-range ballistic missiles, among others, in a dense radio countermeasure scenario. Given their capabilities, the S-400s have emerged as one of the most controversial arms exports of Russia and a major point of contention between Washington and Moscow.

Development of S-400 began in 1993 but was delayed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eventually, testing of the system began in 1999 and early 2000. It entered operational service in 2007.

Why is the S-400 important for India?

The S-400 fills important gaps in India’s national air defence network and would complement India’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and create a multitier air defence over the country.

With delivery beginning, India faces the prospect of U.S. sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), on which the Biden administration has not conveyed a clear signal that it would give a waiver. The issue is expected to top discussions at the India-U.S. 2+2 ministerial dialogue scheduled to be held in early December.

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