20 October, 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Questions :-

1) Which of the following countries border Black Sea?

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Romania
  3. Ukraine

 Select the correct answer from the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

2) Tax Inspectors Without Borders, is a joint initiative between OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and which another organization?

  1. UNDP
  2. WB
  3. UNODC
  4. IMF

3) Bonn Challenge sometimes seen in news is related to?

  1. Restoration of degraded land
  2. Conservation of Migratory Species
  3. Protection of Ozone layer
  4. Convention on Biological Diversity

Prelims Specific News Items :-

1) Swadesh Darshan Scheme :-

  • Swadesh Darshan, a Central Sector Scheme, was launched in 2014 -15 for integrated development of theme based tourist circuits in the country.
  • This scheme is envisioned to synergise with other schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India etc.
  • Under the scheme, the Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for infrastructure development of circuits.
  • One of the objectives of the scheme is to develop theme-based tourist circuits on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Tourism Circuits:

Under the scheme, fifteen thematic circuits have been identified- Buddhist Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Heritage Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Krishna Circuit, North East Circuit, Ramayana Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Sufi Circuit, Tirthankar Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Wildlife Circuit.

Other Related Initiatives:

  • PRASHAD Scheme: 30 projects for development of infrastructure have also been undertaken under the PRASHAD Scheme.
  • Iconic Tourist Sites: Buddhist Sites at Bodhgaya, Ajanta & Ellora have been identified to be developed as Iconic Tourist Sites (aimed at enhancing India’s soft power).

2) IEA Invites India to be full time member –

International Energy Agency (IEA) has invited India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer, to become its full-time member – a proposal if accepted will require New Delhi to raise strategic oil reserves to 90 days requirement.

India in March 2017 became an associate member of the Paris-based body which advises industrialised nations on energy policies.

IEA is made up of 30 member countries and eight associate nations. Four countries are seeking accession to full membership – Chile, Colombia, Israel and Lithuania.

Requirements to become a member of IEA:-

According to IEA, a member country must maintain “crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports, to which the government has immediate access (even if it does not own them directly) and could be used to address disruptions to global oil supply.”

India’s current strategic oil reserves equal 9.5 days of its requirement.

Also, a member of IEA has to show “a demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%.”

About IEA:-

Established in 1974 as per framework of the OECD, IEA is an autonomous intergovernmental organisation.

MISSION – To ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its  member countries and beyond. Its mission is guided by four main areas of focus: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide

Headquarters (Secretariat): Paris, France.

Roles and functions: Established in the wake of the 1973-1974 oil crisis, to help its members respond to major oil supply disruptions, a role it continues to fulfil today. IEA’s mandate has expanded over time to include tracking and analyzing global key energy trends, promoting sound energy policy, and fostering multinational energy technology cooperation.

Important news :-

1) EU food recall linked to GM rice from India –

When candy giant Mars Wrigley carried out a mass recall of several batches of its Crispy M&Ms across Europe this August, it was due to the use of one ingredient: rice flour with genetically modified (GM) contamination that allegedly originated in India.

The Ministry alleged that the case was a “futile conspiracy to malign the image of India as a reliable food security provider”.

Genetically Modified (GM) Crops –

GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism. To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants will inherit the new DNA.  

2) India, Russia face common threats from Afghanistan’ –

“2+2” format meetings of Defence and Foreign Ministers as well as an Economic Joint Commission to prepare for the bilateral summit.

The Ambassador also confirmed that the S400 missile systems were “on track” for delivery in December this year.

About RIC:-

Conceived by the then Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov in 1998.

The group was founded on the basis of “ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the U.S.,” and “renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.”

Why was it formed?

  • In the early 2000s, the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order.
  • The RIC shared some non-West (as distinct from anti-West) perspectives on the global order, such as an emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity, impatience with homilies on social policies and opposition to regime change from abroad.
  • Their support for democratisation of the global economic and financial architecture moved to the agenda of BRIC (with the addition of Brazil).

3) India, Israel, UAE and U.S. launch quad forum –

India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have decided to launch a new quadrilateral economic forum, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joined his counterparts at a videoconference from Jerusalem, where he is on a five-day visit.

The quadrilateral, which followed his bilateral meeting with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, builds on ongoing cooperation between the U.S., Israel and the UAE after the Abraham Accords last year, and the India, Israel and UAE cooperation that was launched since.

Foreign Ministers of the U.S., Israel and the UAE had met in Washington on October 13 to discuss modalities of trilateral cooperation, and set up two working groups: on religious coexistence and the other on water and energy.

Business groups in India, the UAE and Israel have also been in talks for trilateral cooperation since diplomatic ties were established, and the International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (IFIIC) has predicted that the potential for agreements backed by Israeli innovation, UAE funding and Indian manufacturing, given India’s close ties and strategic partnership with the two other countries could cross $100 billion by 2030. In the first such venture, a UAE project for robotic solar panel cleaning technology was signed by Israeli company Ecoppia that has a manufacturing base in India.

4) Bhaskarabda to be added to official calendar of Assam –

  • Bhaskarabda, an era counted from the date of the ascension of a seventh century local ruler, will be added to Saka and Gregorian eras in the official calendar of the Assam Government.
  • Bhaskarabda began when Bhaskaravarman was crowned ruler of the Kamrupa kingdom. He was a contemporary and political ally of northern Indian ruler Harshavardhana.
  • Bhaskarabda will be used in the official calendar by the Assam Government.
  • Unlike Gregorian, where a day starts at midnight, the Assamese calendar begins and ends at sunrise over 24 hours.

Editorial of the day

Editorial 1-  No excuses please, India awaits a full caste headcount

The official arguments focus on the impracticability of full caste enumeration, suggesting that operational difficulties are simply too overwhelming.

Overstating ‘mistakes’, ‘flaws’

As detailed in the affidavit, while the total number of castes counted in the 1931 Census was 4,147, the SECC of 2011 returned over 46 lakh caste names. Such a humongous number of castes were returned partly because Indian people use the names of their caste, sub-caste, clan, gotra and surnames interchangeably. The question is, if the 46 lakh caste names that were returned in the SECC 2011 were the results of “mistakes by the enumerators” or “inherent flaws in the manner of conducting census” as alleged in the official affidavit, why could not those mistakes and flaws be rectified in a decade?

The Union Cabinet had appointed an Expert Committee headed by the then NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya in July 2015, charging it with the classification of caste names returned in SECC 2011. The Government’s affidavit admits that no other member was appointed to the committee. Therefore, neither did the committee ever meet nor did it fulfil its mandate in six years. Who is responsible for this negligence?

 In this report dated August 31, 2016, the Union government is quoted as categorically stating that the data errors on caste and religion in SECC 2011 accounted for 1.34 crore out of 118.64 crore people, i.e., only around 1% of the total enumerated population. 

Complex, yet feasible

Population census in a vast and uniquely diverse country such as India cannot but be a complex exercise. Over the decades, the census machinery has moved on a learning curve, credibly enumerating complicated categories such as language and religion, which also display considerable diversity. For instance, as per Paper 1 of 2018 on the Language Census of 2011, the number of initial raw returns of mother tongues had totalled 19,569 for the entire country. Following scrutiny, editing and linguistic grouping, these raw returns were first rationalised into 1,369 mother tongues and subsequently classified on the basis of at least 10,000 or more speakers for 22 scheduled and 99 non-scheduled languages, i.e., 121 languages at the all-India level.

While caste appears to be an even more complex category than language in the Indian context, technologies to enumerate and analyse complex big data have become easily accessible today. Yet, the affidavit cites the absence of an all-India Registry of Castes to rule out the conduct of full caste enumeration in the forthcoming census.

The aggregate number of castes and tribes included in those lists would currently be around 5,000 at the all-India level. For any individual State, the maximum number of castes cannot be above 500. Rationalisation and classification of the numerous raw caste returns into a maximum of 500 castes at the State level or around 5,000 castes at the all-India level, is eminently feasible. Training manuals for the enumerators can also be drawn up on the basis of a single, consolidated caste list for each State.

Articles 15(4) and 15(5) of the Indian Constitution have explicitly recognised “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” as a category distinct from SCs and STs and enabled the State to make special provisions for their advancement. Counting the population of these Backward Classes would therefore be very much within the constitutional framework.

Yet, the official affidavit alleges that full caste enumeration may compromise the basic integrity of the Census exercise, distorting the fundamental population count itself. If enumeration of individual castes under the “SC”, “ST” and “Other” categories in all censuses since 1951 have not led to such perverse outcomes, why should the additional enumeration under another “OBC” category cause such a catastrophe?

The logistical or legal justifications of the Union government to not disclose caste census data and refuse to conduct a full caste enumeration in the forthcoming Census do not stand scrutiny.

Editorial 2 – Findings of Economics Nobel Prize 2021

Professor Card and Alan Krueger’s most influential 1992 study estimated the effect of minimum wage increases. The two economists utilised a ‘natural experiment’ (in which individuals are randomly exposed to a change caused by nature, institutions, or policy changes): in this case, a policy change in New Jersey that raised minimum wages for its low-skilled workers. Instead of comparing change in employment in New Jersey before and after the wage increase, as that could be affected by several other factors, they compared a double difference (‘difference-in-differences’): employment in New Jersey before and after the policy change compared to neighbouring Pennsylvania, where wages did not change, over the same period. Contrary to established wisdom, they found that an increase in minimum wages did not lead to a reduction in employment. This study has been replicated since by other researchers across several rounds of minimum wage increase and each time, the result has been the same, viz., no adverse impact on employment.

A source of great anxiety in the contemporary world is the apprehension that entry of immigrants will adversely affect employment and wages of non-immigrant residents. Prof. Card’s analysis of another natural experiment — the Mariel boat lift that brought 1,25,000 Cubans to the U.S. in 1980, half of whom settled in Miami — showed this anxiety to be invalid. As a result of the boat lift, the Miami workforce increased by 7% but this had no adverse impact on the wages or employment of the non-Cuban native workforce.

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