23rd and 24th July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Questions :-

Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) is a sub scheme of which of the following?

  • a.   Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana
  • b.   Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi
  • c.   Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana
  • d.   Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanraks Han Abhiyan

Etikoppaka Toys, sometimes seen in the news recently, belongs to which of the following regions?

  • a.   Karnataka
  • b.   Tamil Nadu
  • c.   Uttar Pradesh
  • d.   Andhra Pradesh

Harela Festival is celebrated in which of the following Himalayan States?

  • a.   Himachal Pradesh
  • b.   Uttarakhand
  • c.   Arunachal Pradesh
  • d.   Sikkim

Prelims Specific News Items

  1. Analysis by NGO reveals microplastics in Ganga :-
What is the News?

A Study titled ‘Quantitative analysis of Microplastics along River Ganga’ has been released by a Delhi-based environment NGO, Toxics Link.

About the Study:
  • The study was carried out in collaboration with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Goa.
  • It studied the water samples at Haridwar, Kanpur, and Varanasi along River Ganga.
Key Findings of the study:
  • Ganga is heavily polluted with microplastics at Varanasi, Haridwar, and Kanpur.
  • Among the three cities, the water samples at Varanasi showed the maximum load of microplastics as compared to the other two cities.
    • This might be due to cumulative downstream pollution as well as industrial and human activities.
What are Microplastics?
  • Microplastics are defined as synthetic solid particles sized ranging from 1 micrometre to 5 millimetre (mm) which are insoluble in water.

Source of Microplastics in Ganga River: Microplastics are recognised as a major source of marine pollution. Several sources of it include:

  • Untreated sewage from many cities along the river’s course enters into the river.
  • Industrial waste and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics pile pollutants enter into the river as it flows through several densely populated cities.
  • The plastic products and waste materials released or dumped in the river break down and are eventually broken down into microparticles.

2) Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project :-

The US, which had previously imposed sanctions to prevent the completion of a major new gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, has now signaled its approval for the project.

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

  • It is a system of offshore natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
  • It includes two active pipelines running from Vyborg to Lubmin near Greifswald forming the original Nord Stream, and two further pipelines under construction running from Ust-Luga to Lubmin termed Nord Stream 2.
  • In Lubmin the lines connect to the OPAL line to Olbernhau on the Czech border and to the NEL line to Rehden near Bremen.
  • The first line Nord Stream-1 was laid and inaugurated in 2011 and the second line in 2012.
  • At 1,222 km in length, Nord Stream is the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world, surpassing the Langeled pipeline.

Why is the pipeline controversial?

  • Since it was first planned, Nord Stream 2 has drawn criticism from the US which believed that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for natural gas.
  • Currently, EU countries already rely on Russia for 40 percent of their gas needs.
  • The project also has opponents in eastern Europe, especially Ukraine, whose ties with Russia have seriously deteriorated in the aftermath of the Crimean conflict in 2014.
  • There is an existing land pipeline between Russia and Europe that runs through Ukraine.
  • The country feels that once Nord Storm 2 is completed, Russia could bypass the Ukrainian pipeline, and deprive it of lucrative transit fees of around $3 billion per year.
  • Ukraine also fears another invasion by Russia once the new pipeline is operational.

3) Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) :-

The Union Minister of Agriculture has provided useful information regarding the Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP).

Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP)

  • Natural farming is promoted as BPKP under a centrally sponsored scheme- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
  • The scheme mainly emphasizes on the exclusion of all synthetic chemical inputs and promotes on-farm biomass recycling.
  • It stresses biomass mulching; use of cow dung-urine formulations; plant-based preparations and time to time working of soil for aeration.
  • Under BPKP, financial assistance of Rs 12200/ha for 3 years is provided for cluster formation, capacity building, and continuous handholding by trained personnel, certification and residue analysis.

About Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

  • “PKVY” is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of the major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • Under PKVY Organic farming is promoted through the adoption of the organic village by cluster approach and PGS certification.

The Scheme envisages:

  • Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
  • The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.
  • It will raise farmer’s income and create potential market for traders.
  • It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.

Programme implementation

  • Groups of farmers would be motivated to take up organic farming under PKVY.
  • Fifty or more farmers will form a cluster having 50 acre land to take up the organic farming under the scheme.
  • In this way during three years 10,000 clusters will be formed covering 5.0 lakh acre area under organic farming.
  • There will be no liability on the farmers for expenditure on certification.
  • Every farmer will be provided Rs. 20,000 per acre in three years for seed to harvesting of crops and to transport produce to the market.
  • Organic farming will be promoted by using traditional resources and the organic products will be linked with the market.
  • It will increase domestic production and certification of organic produce by involving farmers.

4) India tough place for business: US report :-

What is the News?

The US State Department has released a report titled ‘2021 Investment Climate Statements: India’.

Key Findings of the Report: India remains a challenging place to do business despite taking up many reforms and improving its position in the ease of doing business index. This is because:

  • Protectionist Measures: New protectionist measures including increased tariffs, procurement rules that limit competitive choices, sanitary and phytosanitary measures restrict the expansion in bilateral trade.
  • FDI Rule for Aviation: Under FDI rules for aviation, 100% overseas flows have been permitted. But the substantial ownership and effective control (SOEC) rules that mandate majority control by Indian nationals have not been clarified yet.
  • FDI Rule for Insurance Sector: The report was also critical of discriminatory FDI policy for the insurance sector where the FDI ceiling has been increased to 74% but with the Indian management and control rider.
  • Data Localisation Norms: RBI’s order on storing data on payment transactions within the country has led to significant compliance costs and increased risk of cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Equalisation Levy: US had threatened retaliatory action over the equalisation levy on US tech companies.
  • Political Risk: The report also referred to the removal of the special constitutional status from the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Way Forward:

  • The report has urged India to foster an attractive and reliable investment climate by reducing barriers to investment and minimising the bureaucratic hurdles.

5) Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain(JSA:CTR) Campaign:

  • The campaign was launched on 22nd March 2021 on World Water Day with the theme “Catch the Rain – Where it Falls When it Falls”.
  • Focus: The focussed interventions under the campaign include:
    • water conservation & rainwater harvesting
    • renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks
    • reuse and recharge of borewells
    • watershed development and intensive afforestation.
  • Implementation: The campaign will be implemented by the National Water Mission(NWM), Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Coverage: The campaign will take place across the country, in both rural and urban areas. It will be implemented from March 22 to November 30 (the pre-monsoon and monsoon period) in the country.
Sahi Fasal Campaign:
  • The campaign was launched by the National Water Mission. It nudges farmers to favor agricultural crops which consume less water and to use water more efficiently in agriculture as a part of demand side management.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
  • AMRUT was launched in 2015 in selected 500 cities and towns across the country for a period of 5 years i.e. from FY 2015-2016 to FY 2019-2020
  • Focus: The mission focuses on the development of basic urban infrastructure in the Mission cities in the sectors of water supply, sewerage & septage management, stormwater drainage, green spaces & parks, and non-motorized urban transport.
Jal Jeevan Mission-Har Ghar Jal:
  • Aim: It aims at providing potable water of prescribed quality and inadequate quantity on a regular and long-term basis to every rural household including tribal areas of the country through tap water connections by 2024.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana(PMKSY):
  • PMKSY was launched in 2015-16. It aims to enhance physical access to water on farms and expand cultivable areas under assured irrigation, improve farm water use efficiency, introduce sustainable water conservation practices, etc.
  • Schemes: PMKSY has been conceived amalgamating the ongoing schemes:
    • Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme(AIBP) of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR)
    • Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) of Department of Land Resources (DoLR).
    • On Farm Water Management(OFWM) of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation(DAC).
Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme(AIBP):
  • The programme was launched in 1996. It aims to provide central assistance to major/medium irrigation projects in the country with the objective to accelerate the implementation of such projects which were beyond the resource capability of the States or were at an advanced stage of completion.
  • Merged Into: The programme has been merged into Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) in 2015-16.

6) UNESCO’s ‘Historic Urban Landscape’ project for Gwalior, Orchha launched :-

UNESCO has selected Gwalior and Orchha cities of Madhya Pradesh under its “Historic Urban Landscape Project”.

About Historic Urban Landscape Project:
  • The Historic Urban Landscape Project was adopted in 2011 by UNESCO’s General Conference.
  • The project aims for the inclusive and well-planned development of fast-growing historical cities while preserving the culture and heritage.
Gwalior and Orchha Cities under Historic Urban Landscape Project:
  • As part of the project, these places will be jointly developed by UNESCO, the Government of India, and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The development and management plan of these cities will be prepared by UNESCO.
  • All aspects including history, culture, lifestyle, economic development, community development will be included in it.

Note: The six cities of South Asia, including Ajmer and Varanasi in India, are already involved in this project. Orchha and Gwalior have been included as the 7th and 8th cities.

7) Adarsh Smarak Scheme :-

  • Ministry: Ministry of Culture
  • The scheme was launched in 2014 for providing improved visitor amenities, especially for the physically challenged, besides cleanliness, drinking water, and interpretation centres, cafeteria, souvenir shop, wi-fi, garbage disposal etc.
  • Objectives:
    • To make the monument accessible to differently-abled.
    • To make monument visitor friendly.
    • Furthermore, to implement Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
    • Also, to upgrade/provide washrooms, drinking water, signages, cafeteria, and wi-fi facilities.
    • To provide interpretation and audio-video centers.
    • To streamline wastewater and garbage disposal and a rainwater harvesting system.
    • Lastly, to provide safety and protection
About Adopt a Heritage scheme
  • An initiative of the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
  • Under this scheme, the government invites entities, including public sector companies, private sector firms and individuals, to develop selected monuments and heritage and tourist sites.
  • Basic amenities like drinking water, ease of access for the differently-abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, cleanliness, public convenience, surveillance system and night-viewing facilities are provided and maintained under the scheme.

8) Rare Diseases Policy :-

What is the News?

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare has informed Lok Sabha that the National Policy for Rare Diseases,2021 has been finalized and put in the public domain.

About National Policy for Rare Diseases,2021: The policy aims at lowering the incidence and prevalence of rare diseases based on an integrated and comprehensive preventive strategy comprising:

  • awareness generation
  • premarital, post-marital, pre-conception, and post-conception screening
  • counseling programmes to prevent births of children with rare diseases
  • enable access to affordable health care to patients of rare diseases.

Categorisation: The policy divides Rare Diseases into three groups, namely:

  • Group 1: Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment.
  • Group 2: Diseases requiring long-term / lifelong treatment with a relatively lower cost of treatment.
  • Group 3: Diseases for which definitive treatment is available, but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit, very high cost, and lifelong therapy.

Initiatives for treatment support for patients of rare diseases under the Policy are as follows: –

  • Financial support up to Rs. 20 lakhs under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme shall be provided by the Central Government for the treatment of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1).
    • Beneficiaries for such financial assistance would not be limited to BPL families. It will be extended to 40% of the population who are eligible as per the norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  • State Governments can consider supporting patients of such rare diseases that can be managed with special diets or hormonal supplements or other relatively low-cost interventions (Diseases listed under Group 2).
  • Alternate Funding Mechanism: The government will create an alternate funding mechanism by setting up a digital platform for voluntary individual and corporate donors to contribute to the treatment cost of patients with rare diseases.
    • The fund will be utilized for the treatment of patients suffering from rare diseases, especially those under Group 3.
    • The treatment cost of the patient will be the first charge on this fund. Any leftover fund after meeting treatment costs can be utilized for research purposes also.
  • Consortium of Centres of Excellence: It will synchronize prevention and treatment efforts. AIIMS, Delhi will be the nodal hospital to coordinate with other Centres of Excellence for various activities relating to the prevention and treatment of rare diseases.
  • National Consortium for R&D on therapeutics for Rare Diseases: It will be provided with the mandate to do R&D, technology transfer, and indigenization of therapeutics for rare diseases. It will be convened by the Department of Health Research(DHR) with ICMR as a member.

9) EV100 campaign:

  • The EV100 campaign is an initiative of Climate Group, an international non-profit organization.
  • The campaign aims to make electric transport the new normal by 2030. For that, it will encourage companies to switch from vehicles running on fossil fuels to EVs and install charging infrastructure.

How will the EV100 campaign help the Maharashtra Government?

  • Maharashtra’s Electric Vehicles(EV) policy aims to achieve 25% electrification of last-mile delivery vehicles by 2025.
  • Climate Group through its EV100 campaign will act as a bridge between private companies and the State government to ease the process of shifting their fleets to Electric Vehicles(EVs).

10) Defence Minister flags-in Indian Army Skiing Expedition, ARMEX-21 :-

What is the News?

Union Defence Minister has flagged-in the Indian Army Skiing Expedition (ARMEX-21) in New Delhi.

About ARMEX-21:
  • ARMEX-21 is an Army Skilling Expedition conducted by the Indian Army.
  • Purpose: It was conducted in the mountain ranges of the Himalayan region to promote the adventure activity in the country and the Indian Army.
  • During the expedition, the team covered 1,660 kms from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Malari in Uttarakhand. They also gathered information about several hitherto uncharted areas along the international boundary.
About Karakoram Pass:
  • Karakoram Pass is a mountain pass between India and China in the Karakoram Range.
  • The mountain pass is located on the boundary between the Indian Union Territory of Ladakh and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, and connects Leh with Yarkand.
  • The pass has no vegetation nor snow because of the high-speed wind, which constantly blows in the region. Animal life is also non-existent in the area. However, temperatures are low and blizzards are common.
  • The pass also plays a major geographic role in the dispute between Pakistan and India over control of the Siachen Glacier area immediately to the southwest of the pass.

11) Gig economy :-

According to a study by UNDP and FICCI, the rise of the gig economy has the potential to boost women’s employment in formal jobs.

Key Findings of the Study:

  • The rise of the gig economy following the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to boost women’s employment in formal jobs.
  • However, re-skilling will be crucial to expand opportunities for women in the formal sector.
  • Sectors such as health and pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronics, and fast-moving consumer goods are likely to see more female employment.
  • But the women’s employment in the finance and accounting divisions may moderately change because of the adoption of new technology.

What is the Gig Economy?

  • The Gig Economy is characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. It often involves connecting with customers through an online platform. Example: Delivery boys of app-based food, consultants, bloggers.
  • According to the World Bank, around 6% of the world’s labor force is part of the gig economy.
  • Globally, more than half of gig jobs are driven by demand for low-skilled, low-wage work. Only around 30% of them require specialized skills and expertise.

11) About Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project:

  • Nord Stream 2 Pipeline is a 1,200 km-long offshore natural gas pipeline being constructed from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
  • Route: The pipeline will run along with the already completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany per year.
  • Benefits: The pipeline is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while providing Russia with more direct access to the European gas market.

Editorial of the Day

Editorial 01 :- ‘Gatekeeper Model’ mooted to prevent suicides in prisons

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) issues guidelines for dealing with mental health challenges. It proposes a ‘Gatekeeper Model’, where selected inmates would be trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide and subsequently refer them to treatment or supportive services.

Background:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) observed that the COVID-19 virus had posed unique challenges to the world. It has also affected the prisons and correctional facilities.
  • Acting on the request of the MHA, NIMHANS has issued a set of guidelines on the management of mental health issues of the prisoners and prison staff.

Guidelines by NIMHANS:

  • Prisoners with mental disorders had to be regularly assessed for the severity of the suicidal risk and also put on regular and supervised medication. 
  • It proposes a ‘Gatekeeper Model’ where selected inmates would be trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide and subsequently refer them to treatment or supportive services.
  • To address the prisoner’s mental health needs, the correctional facility should have links to community-based initiatives like the District Mental Health Program.
  • It proposes the introduction of a buddy system in prisons. Under this, social support through trained prisoners called “buddies” or “listeners” is provided to the prisoners.
  • Periodic telephone conversations with friends and family should be conducted at regular intervals.
    • For instance, 58 mobile phones were purchased for prisoners in Tamil Nadu. It enabled them to make video calls to their family members in lieu of the physical interviews that were temporarily suspended in view of the pandemic.

Need of Guidelines:

  • There is a prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder in about 80% of the prison population as per a Bangalore Prison Mental Health Study.
  • Further, incarcerated people are facing many vulnerabilities during the pandemic, which might impact their mental wellbeing.
  • The prison staff is also working under tremendous pressure. It is facing challenges in performing their duty while safeguarding themselves from contracting the infection.

Editorial 02 : Countering China means more role for Navy and Airforce

Synopsis: We can face China by giving bigger roles to the navy and air force and downsizing the army by 200,000 men.

China: An aspiring world power
  • Huge defence budget: China is an aspiring world power that spends $252 billion on its defence budget, as compared to the $72.9 billion that India spends. Both countries limit their budget to around 2% of their GDP, which in China’s case is five times our size.
  • Formidable navy: They have downsized their army and built a navy, which is growing faster than the US navy.
Strategic weakness of China
Countering China at choke points
Choke points in the Indian Ocean

Their only strategic weakness is 70% of their imported oil. Hence, the only guarantee of Chinese non-aggression and good behavior is a well-crafted threat to their oil tankers and a complete naval mastery of the escalation that will follow.

Strategy to counter China

Leveraging QUAD & Indian naval and Airforce capabilities: India can start by dividing the Indo-Pacific, including the South China seas and the Eastern Indian Ocean, into areas of maritime search responsibility between the QUAD. All nations operate on a common reporting communication net, centered either in Port Blair or Visakhapatnam.

The QUAD aircraft can gain information dominance over the Indo-Pacific to monitor all PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) movements in Malacca Straits. This dominance can be used during the confrontation, to funnel PLAN units through the geographically constrained straits (like the Strait of Malacca, see the map above) into a killing ground. However, for this strategy to work, some changes are required:

  1. Turn Car Nicobar into an airbase: Hence, it would be really beneficial to build up the Car Nicobar airfield into a full-fledged airbase and permanently station a squadron of suitable aircraft.
  2. Collaborating with Oman: India can negotiate with Oman for the use of the old RAF airbase at Masirah to dominate the Gulf of Hormuz and threaten the Chinese base at Djibouti.

As it is evident, countering China with this strategy requires co-operation b/w QUAD members and is more reliant on India’s naval & Airforce power instead of being military-dominant.

Why Navy & Airforce should be given bigger roles?
  • Unfavorable geography: Relying on maritime and Airforce power offers a better alternative to militarily reinforcing the unfavorable geography of the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas.
  • Expensive manpower: In the future, manpower is going to get increasingly expensive. At present, our strategic options are constrained because the army gets 61% of the defence budget and 81% of it goes into manpower and maintenance.
  • Better conventional deterrence: We can achieve better conventional deterrence against China by giving bigger roles to the navy and air force and downsizing the army by 2,00,000 men over five years through retirement and reduced recruitment.
    • The reduction in manpower will save approximately Rs 30,000 crore, which can be utilized equally by the three services.
Way forward

Countering China cannot be done by throwing expensive manpower at the problem. It is only possible by shifting the battlespace to advantageous geography, by a united navy and air force effort, while a technically advanced army holds the Himalayan border.

Editorial 03 :- China-led South Asian Initiative

Synopsis: China-led South Asian initiative feels like yet another attempt by China to create a parallel bloc in South Asia to counter India.

Background

Bangladesh has said that India too can join the China-led South Asian initiative for COVID-19 vaccines and poverty alleviation if it desires. It denied that a six-nation grouping launched recently was meant to exclude India.

  • The Chinese initiative comes also at a time when India has been reluctant to revive SAARC, turning its focus more on yet another regional bloc–BIMSTEC.
About China-led South Asian initiative

The initiative includes China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, and a Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre. They were set up in China on July 8.

  • Member countries: China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
  • India, Bhutan, and the Maldives are the only SAARC countries not a part of the China-led initiative.
  • The Emergency Supplies Reserve is a joint stockpile of emergency supplies as part of efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic and other crises.
  • The Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center aims to pool strength, integrate resources, and exchange wisdom to support and help the South Asian countries’ economic development and livelihood improvement, jointly promoting the cause of poverty reduction.
Issues/Concerns
  • A new regional bloc in Asia: This might be an attempt by the Chinese to counter India and carve a totally new regional bloc in Asia minus India. If poverty alleviation in South Asia is its major objective, then why is India left out? After all, it has the highest number of poor people, equal to those in the Sub-Saharan region. Also, only those South Asian nations which are part of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative are its members. Sooner, Maldives will also join the initiative as it has also signed up under BRI.
  • Counter to SAARC: China is targeting South Asia and wants to counter SAARC, so it is now connecting with South Asian nations in the name of different initiatives. SAARC is coping with several problems within the region and is mostly distracted by the long-standing rivalry between India and Pakistan. After Nepal hosted its 18th summit in 2014, the 19th summit, which was scheduled to be held in 2016 in Pakistan, is still in limbo.
  • Counter to QUAD: The China-led bloc could be Beijing’s plan to create what some call a northern Himalayan QUAD aimed at countering the Washington-led Quad, of which India is an active member.
India’s stand

Given continuing tensions over Chinese army aggression in Ladakh and New Delhi’s firm stand that other bilateral relations cannot move ahead without a resolution of the boundary stand-off, it is unlikely that India would consider a new grouping involving China, especially one that could be seen to dilute its role in the SAARC region.

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