21 October, 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Questions :-

1) Washington Consensus sometimes seen in news is related to?

  1. Carbon neutrality targets
  2. Prevention of nuclear proliferation
  3. Permanent membership of Security Council
  4. Free market economy

2) D’Ering Wildlife Sanctuary, is situated in which of the following state:

  1. Assam
  2. Arunachal Pradesh
  3. Meghalaya
  4. Tripura

3) With reference to Earth shot Prize, consider the following statements:

  • 1. The award is also called as the “Eco Oscars”.
  • 2. It is an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation.
  • 3. The award recognizes nations alone for developing for developing solutions to fight the climate crisis.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

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

Prelims Specific News Items :-

1)  Decision Support System(DSS) –

The Union Minister has launched a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing Air Quality Early Warning System (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR.

Background

In 2018-19, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) had launched anAir Quality Early Warning System’ (AQEWS) to alert the citizens and the policymakers about the possible severe air-quality events about 7-10 days in advance.

However, the policymakers needed more precise information on the potential sources responsible for the degraded air quality during a forecast severe air-quality event.

Such information would help them monitor and control such emission sources and thus assist them in making decisions to manage air quality.

Hence, realizing this need, IITM has launched AQEWS with a ‘Decision Support System’ (DSS) for air-quality management in Delhi.

2) Inauguration of International Airport at Kushinagar and  Abhidhamma Day at Mahaparinirvana Temple –

The Prime Minister will visit Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh to inaugurate an international airport and attend an event marking Abhidhamma Day at Mahaparinirvana Temple.

What is Abhidhamma Day?

The Abhidhamma Day marks the end of a three-month rainy retreat – Varshavaas or Vassa – for the Buddhist monks and nuns, during which time they stay at one place and pray.

What is the story behind Abhidhamma Day?

According to widely held belief, this is the day when Lord Buddha came back to earth from heaven.

​​He is believed to have gone to heaven to teach Abhidhamma Pitaka (a basket of ultimate things) to his mother. The teaching took three months after which Buddha came back to Earth.

Hence, his followers too mark the three-month time by staying at one place and praying.

3) Nebra Sky Disc –

The British Museum in London will display an ancient object called the Nebra Sky Disc, which is thought to be the world’s oldest concrete depiction of stars.

Nebra Sky Disc is an ancient object that is considered as the world’s oldest concrete depiction of stars.

The object is widely believed to be 3,600 years old, dating from the Bronze Age. However, the date of origin of the disc has been called into question by some archaeologists.

The disc measures about 30 cm in diameter and has a blue-green patina emblazoned with gold symbols representing the Sun, Moon, stars, solstices and other cosmic phenomena.

The disc was unearthed in Germany in 1999 and is considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century.

It was ritually buried along with two precious swords, two axes, two spiral arm-rings and one bronze chisel circa near Nebra in Germany. The burial of these objects is thought to be made as a dedication to gods.

4) Allium negianum –

The Allium negianum is an onion species that grows in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand. It was discovered in 2019. In 2021, the plant was confirmed as a new species of Allium genus. The Allium genus includes many staple foods such as garlic and onion. It includes 1,100 species. The primary centre of evolution of Allium extends across the Mediterranean Sea, Iranian regions and western North America.

Important news :-

1) Indian team meets Taliban Dy. PM –

In Moscow, 10nation statement recognises the ‘new reality’ in Afghanistan.

India joined a 10 nation statement recognising the “new reality” of the Taliban in power in Afghanistan at the Moscow format meeting on Wednesday, as Indian officials reportedly met Taliban. Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi and offered humanitarian aid to the regime in Kabul.

2) Kushinagar now hub of Buddhist tourist circuit –

Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh, which will help connect key Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrim destination, and is believed to be the final resting place of Gautam Buddha.

Diplomats from 12 countries where Buddhism is practised, including Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bhutan, Republic of Korea, Nepal and Japan, were also present.

3) Jailed Russian Opposition leader wins top EU prize  –

Imprisoned Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize on Wednesday in a clear slap to President Vladimir Putin.

In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Mr. Navalny, the European Parliament praised his “immense personal bravery”. The 45yearold activist was poisoned with a nerve agent last year and promptly arrested upon his return to Moscow from treatment in Germany and later imprisoned.

4) Pentagon chief urges more Black Sea security ties –

Mr. Austin said action was needed by littoral states of the Black Sea amid Russia “militarisation” of the region.

“The security and stability of the Black Sea are in the U.S.’s national interest and critical for the security of NATO’s eastern flank,”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental-military alliance between 30 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.

NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. NATO’s Headquarters are located in Evere, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.

5) High oil prices will sap global recovery –

India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer, on Wednesday warned that high oil prices will undermine global economic recovery, and nudged Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations to work towards affordable and reliable supplies.

Petrol and diesel prices have hit record highs across the country after relentless price increases since May. “If energy prices remain high, global economic recovery will be undermined,”

Global oil prices crashed to $19 per barrel in April 2020 as demand evaporated with most nations clamping lockdowns to control the spread of the novel corona-virus. Demand recovered this year as vaccination against the infection revived economies worldwide.

International benchmark Brent crude has since rallied to $84 per barrel. This, he said, had made fuel expensive and was stoking fears of inflation.

Why the prices are up?

Slow production by OPEC+: OPEC+ had agreed to sharp cuts in supply in 2020 in response to Covid-19 global travel restrictions in 2020 but the organisation has been slow to boost production as demand has recovered.

Supply side issues in the US including disruptions caused by hurricane Ida

Lower than expected natural gas supplies from Russia amid increasing demand in Europe have raised the prospect of natural gas shortages in the winter.

What is the impact on India?

  • Impact on fuel prices: High crude oil prices have contributed to the prices of petrol and diesel regularly setting new record highs across the country in 2021.
  • Impact on domestically produced natural gas price: High international gas prices have led to an upward revision in the price of domestically produced natural gas.
  • The increase in gas prices has put upward pressure on the price of both Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) used as a transport fuel and Piped Natural Gas (PNG) used as a cooking fuel.
  • High international prices of coal have added to a coal shortage at India’s thermal power plants by forcing thermal plants using imported coal that could not pass on the higher price of coal to procurers to stop supplying power.
  • India and other oil importing nations have called on OPEC+ to boost oil supply faster, arguing that elevated crude oil prices could undermine the recovery of the global economy.
  • The non-OPEC countries which export crude oil are termed as OPEC plus countries.
  • OPEC plus countries include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan and Sudan.

Editorial of the day

Editorial 1 – The carbon markets conundrum at COP26

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement would be the king to be checkmated and captured for concluding the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement introduces provisions for using international carbon markets to facilitate fulfilment of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by countries. The success of COP26 at Glasgow hinges, to a great extent, on the conclusion of carbon markets discussions. Despite several rounds of high-level meetings, it remains one of the most technical and highly contentious unresolved issues of the PAWP.

A sensitive issue

Developing countries, particularly India, China and Brazil, gained significantly from the carbon market under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

Total carbon credits known as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) issued for these projects are around 255 million which corresponds to an overall anticipated inflow of approximately U.S.$2.55 billion in the country at a conservative price of U.S.$10 per CER.

However, with the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the rules of the game have changed.

What should be debated

For developing countries, the new market mechanism is much more than a tool for achieving mitigation targets under the NDCs. Much like its predecessor, it should help promote sustainable development and assist climate change adaptation in the developing countries. It should encourage private sector participation and attract foreign investments to support low carbon development. While over 50% of the countries have communicated their intention of using market mechanisms to achieve NDC targets, India is not one of them as it aims to rely on domestic mitigation efforts to meet its NDC goals.

The three critical issues that would be hotly debated in Article 6 negotiating rooms are CDM Transition, Accounting rules and Share of Proceeds to the Adaptation Fund. Let us examine them one by one.

However, some countries have cast doubts on the environmental integrity of these credits and while there is greater acceptance for transition of projects/activities, the same is not the case for transition of credits. 

 2) Editorial 2 – The outlines of a national security policy

An equaliser

Innovations in weapons moved from stones in the pre-historic era, to bows and arrows, and later to cannons and guns in the 19th century. These were followed by aeroplanes, nuclear bombs, and intercontinental missiles in the 20th century. In the 21st century, the world is moving to cyber weapons-based warfare which will also immobilise current tangible advanced weapon systems in a war.

Therefore, in the 21st century, after cybertechnology enters as an important variable in nations’ defence policies, the size of a country will cease to matter. Sri Lanka, or North Korea, empowered by cybertechnology, will be equal to the United States, Russia, India or China, in their capability to cause unacceptable damage. Weapons in the 21st century will merely mean a cyber button on the desk of the nation’s military and the leader of the government.

More innovations

These fundamental changes are entirely due to the earlier 20th century innovations in cybertechnology and software developments. Drones, robots, satellites and advanced computers as weapons are already in use. More innovations are around the corner. Some examples of further innovations are artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.

Warfare, therefore, will be no more just mobilisation of weapons or be dependent on the size of the armed forces of men. It will be cyber warfare. From remote controlled drones to artificial intelligence driven weapons systems, etc., will matter in the 21st century.

National security in the 21st century covers not merely the overt and covert operations but, more crucially, electronic operations from a remote centre beyond the front lines of ground forces or air power to track enemy assets by these newly weaponised cyber instruments of technology. Tracking those cyber warfare centres of the adversary will need a new national security policy.

The four dimensions to this

Objectives: the objective of the National Security Policy in the 21st century is to define what assets are required to be defended, the identity of opponents who seek to overawe the people of a target nation, by unfamiliar moves to cause disorientation of people.

Priorities: In such scenarios of uncertainties about the future in the 21st century, national security priorities will require new departments for supporting several frontiers of innovation and technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, desalination of seawater, thorium for nuclear technology, anti-computer viruses, and new immunity-creating medicines. This focus on a new priority will require compulsory science and mathematics education, especially in applications for analytical subjects.

Strategy: The strategy required for this new national security policy will be to anticipate our enemies in many dimensions and by demonstrative but limited pre-emptive strikes by developing a strategy of deterrence of the enemy.

For India, it will be the China cyber capability factor which is the new threat for which it has to devise a new strategy.

Methods to use

Resource mobilisation: The macroeconomics of resource mobilisation depends on whether a nation has ‘demand’ as an economic deficit or not. That means, for example, if demand for a commodity or service is in deficit or insufficient to clear the market of the available supply of the same, then liberal printing of currency and placing it in the hands of consumers is recommended for the economy to recover the demand supply parity. This then is one way of facilitating resource mobilisation in a demand supply balanced market. A way to increase demand is by lowering the interest rate on bank loans or raising the rates in fixed deposits which will enable banks to obtain liquidity and lend liberally for enhancing investment for production.

Editorial 3 – The supply of coal in India is well below the demand

“Crisis” is a subjective term. There are no objective criteria of determining whether there is a crisis or not. However, “shortage” can be determined objectively. No one can deny the fact that the supply of coal in India is well below the demand. Whereas the demand is nearly a billion million tonnes (MT), the supply is well below 800 MT within the country. When this shortage becomes acute, in terms of the availability of coal at power plants, it is sometimes called a crisis. The acute shortage can be on the account of production, an increased demand or a failure of supply chain management when the stocks are sufficient at the pit head but requisite supply is not made to the power plants.

The immediate coal crisis is attributed to an increase in the demand for power on account of the post-pandemic economic recovery, an increase in international prices of coal, unseasonal rainfall and a mismanagement of the supply chain within the country.

No one seems to be talking about the stagnation in the production of coal by Coal India Limited (CIL). The production has stood at 600 MT for the past three years. Had the production grown at the rate at which it was increasing (8-9%) during 2014-16, the current production of CIL itself would have been more than 750 MT. Also not being discussed is the stagnant coal production from the non-CIL domain.

The Union Government has an important role to play. CIL should focus on mining. Government officers should interact with the States, but before that, this ongoing “war” between the Union Government and the States will have to stop. Ironically, all the coal resides in States that are ruled by non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) parties. Officers from the Union Government will have to go down to the States, convey a value proposition and sit with State-level officers to resolve issues related to land acquisition and forest clearances.

CIL, which had reserves of around ₹35,000 crore in 2015, now appears to be strapped for funds

First, the Union Government should stop squeezing more funds out of CIL as it has done during the past few years by way of dividends to balance its own Budget, when this money should have been used for opening new mines and expanding existing ones. Second, it should consider providing cash to CIL against the dues owed by GENCOs. Non-CIL production will have to be augmented. There was an inter-ministerial Coal Project Monitoring Group (CPMG), which was set up in 2015 to fast-track clearances, that became dormant. This will need to be revived.

The coal crisis may be temporarily over, but if the fundamentals of the crisis are not taken care of, it is likely to recur. 

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