25 October, 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Questions :-

1) The term “Ingenuity of NASA” often seen in news is related to which of the following?

  1. Venus mission
  2. Mars mission
  3. Jupiter mission
  4. Moon mission

2) The “Washi paper” is sometimes seen in news is famous in which of the following country?

  1. Philippines
  2. Indonesia
  3. Myanmar
  4. Japan

3) The term “Dickinsonia” is often seen in news is related to which of the following?

  1. Humanoid (robot) Artist
  2. Earliest known living animal
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) based calculator
  4. Space travelling robot

Prelims Specific News Items :-

1) UPSC Cadre Choice

The Supreme Court has ruled that the successful UPSC aspirants have no right to be allocated to a cadre of their choice.

About the case

An IAS officer from Kerala was allotted to the Himachal Pradesh cadre. Kerala government was not considered during the allocation of cadre. This is seen as a violation of the allocation circular and a case has been filed in Kerala High Court.

Note: Under Rule 5(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, the allocation of cadre officers to the various cadres has to be made by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government or the State Government concerned.

Kerala High Court has asked the Centre to grant the Kerala cadre to an IAS officer instead of the allotted cadre. The Centre filed an appeal challenging the HC decision in 2017. Now, the SC set aside the Kerala High Court order.

What are the SC’s observations regarding cadre allocation?

Previous cases: The court pointed out that the judgment in Union of India and Ors v. Rajiv Yadav, IAS and Ors case, 1995. According to the case judgment, the allotment of cadre is not a matter of right.

Allocation was an incidence of service: The court also said that “a selected candidate had a right to consider the appointment of the IAS, but he/she had no such right to be allocated to the cadre of his/her choice or to his/her home state. Allocation of cadre was an incidence of service.”

Nature of All India Service: The court also mentioned that as a candidate for All-India Service, the candidate has opted to serve anywhere in the country.

Home State has no discretion: The court held that the State has “no discretion of allocation of a cadre at its whims and fancies”, and “therefore, the Tribunal or the High Court should have refrained from interfering with the allocation of the cadre”.

2) DRDO Successfully tested HEAT

Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has successfully flight-tested Abhyas High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha.

What is Abhyas?

Abhyas is an indigenously developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV) that will be used as a target for the evaluation of various missile systems.

Developed by: It has been designed and developed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE).

What are the key Features of Abhyas?

  • Abhyas is powered by a small gas turbine engine to sustain a long endurance flight at subsonic speed.
  • It is also equipped with a MEMS-based Inertial Navigation System(INS) for navigation, along with the Flight Control Computer (FCC) for guidance and control.
  • Moreover, the Abhyas vehicle is programmed for fully autonomous flight. The check-out of air vehicle is done using a laptop-based Ground Control Station (GCS)

3) UNEP Report regarding marine litter and plastic pollution

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “From Pollution to Solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution”.

What is the purpose of the report?

The report examines the magnitude and severity of marine litter and plastic pollution and reviews existing solutions and actions.

What are the key findings of the report?

Recycling of Plastic Waste – Of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated so far, an estimated 10% was recycled, 14% incinerated and the remaining 76% went into landfills, dumps and litter in the natural environment.

Growing Problem of Marine Plastic

  • The microbial community on plastic debris also known as the plastisphere now covers the multiple biomes on Earth.
  • Currently, the amount of plastics in the oceans has been estimated to be around 75-199 million tonnes at present. By 2040, it will nearly triple, adding 23-37 million metric tons of waste into the ocean per year. This means about 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline.
  • Because of this, all marine life faces the grave risk of toxification, behavioral disorder, starvation and suffocation.

4) About Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary

Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary is located in Odisha. A third of the sanctuary’s area is bound by the Hirakud Dam, thus forming a mini catchment for the reservoir.

The sanctuary is also an important biogeographic zone from both the ecological and environmental points of view.

Significance: The sanctuary finds a special mention because of noted freedom fighter Veer SurendraSai. During his rebellion against the British Veer SurendraSai made his base at ‘Barapathara” located within the sanctuary.

Vegetation: The sanctuary comprises dry deciduous forests.

Why in News :- The Odisha Government has decided to relocate around 420 families from four zero-connectivity villages in Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary. The relocation is aimed at reducing man-animal conflict and providing better living conditions to the displaced families.

Important news :-

1) China’s new law ‘formalises’ its LAC actions

China’s legislature has adopted a new border law, to take effect on January 1, that calls on the state and military to safeguard territory and “combat any acts” that undermine China’s territorial claims.

The law was first proposed in March this year, a year into tensions that erupted along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobilized two divisions in forward areas and carried out multiple transgressions.

The new law, observers said, would formalize some of China’s recent actions in disputed territories with both India and Bhutan, including the PLA’s massing of troops in forward areas along the India border, multiple transgressions across the LAC, and the construction of new “frontier villages” along the border with Bhutan.

Advocating talks to resolve border disputes, the law says “The state shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust and friendly consultation, handle land border-related affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues.”

Chinese military “shall carry out border duties” including “organising drills” and “resolutely prevent, stop and combat invasion, encroachment, provocation and other acts,” it says.

The law also stresses on economic, social and infrastructural developments, with state support for the construction of border towns.

It calls for establishment of trade areas and border economic cooperation zones at the borders, and for improving the ecological environment along the border, including epidemic control and maintaining flood and fire control.

2) HC raps officials as Sabarmati river remains highly polluted

Centre allocated ₹200 cr. to curb pollution in the river from 2014-15 to 2017-18

About Sabarmati River –

The Sabarmati river is one of the major west-flowing rivers in India. It originates in the Aravalli Range of the Udaipur District of Rajasthan and meets the Gulf of Khambhat of Arabian Sea after travelling 371 km in a south-westerly direction across Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The major tributaries are the Watrak, Wakal, Hathmati, Harnav, and Sei rivers.

3) Villages on Periyar banks in alert mode

  • Periyar River is the longest river and the river with the largest discharge potential in the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It is one of the few perennial rivers in the region and provides drinking water for several major towns.
  • The Periyar is of utmost significance to the economy of Kerala. It generates a significant proportion of Kerala’s electrical power via the Idukki Dam and flows along a region of industrial and commercial activity.

Source of the River :- Chokkampatti Mala, Periyar Tiger Reserve

Tributaries:-

 Left – Cheruthoni

Right – Mullayar, Perinjankutti, Muthirapuzha, Edamala

4) Gorias feel heat of eviction drive in Assam

Indigenous Muslims in northern Assam’s Darrang district are now feeling the heat of an eviction drive that was ostensibly aimed at migrant Bengali Muslim settlers on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

Between June 7 and September 23, the district authorities evicted more than 1,000 migrant Muslim families from the Dhalpur area to make way for the Government-run Garukhuti farm project.

The indigenous Gorias — a category of Assamese Muslims who played a part in bringing the ‘encroachment’ issue to the fore six years ago — have found themselves at the receiving end.

They are worried about losing access to the land they had been using through generations for seasonal farming and grazing their livestock.

5) NCPCR seeks report on Minister’s visit to school

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is an Indian statutory body established by an Act of Parliament, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005. The Commission works under the aegis of Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI. The Commission began operational on 5 March 2007.

6) PMs’ Museum likely to miss another deadline

The Prime Ministers’ Museum on the Teen Murti Bhavan premises is likely to miss yet another deadline, this time the “October, 2021” tentative date, for completion given by Culture Minister G. Kishan Reddy to Parliament in August, according to officials.

The museum, being constructed next to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, was approved in March 2018 and would cost ₹271.07 crore, Mr. Reddy had said to a question in the Lok Sabha on August 9. He said it would “showcase the life and contribution made by all Prime Ministers of India”.

The museum was supposed to open in October 2020 but Culture Ministry officials said the pandemic had contributed to the delay.

The museum would open on a date of significance, with one option being the birth anniversary of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, December 25, which has been declared “Good Governance Day” by the Narendra Modi Government.

7) Taliban offer jobs for wheat to tackle hunger –

Afghanistan — which is already suffering from poverty, drought, electricity blackouts and a failing economic system — is now facing the onset of what may be a harsh winter.

The two-month programme will see 11,600 tonnes of wheat distributed in the capital, with about 55,000 tonnes for elsewhere in the country, including Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, MazariSharif and PoliKhomri.

Work for the labourers in Kabul will include digging water channels and catchment terraces for snow in the hills to combat drought.

Editorials of the day

Editorial 1In Glasgow, all eyes on 2030

The stage is set for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, starting October 31. Major preparatory conferences and bilateral meetings have been held to persuade countries to raise their emission reduction commitments from the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

The loudest buzz now, however, is around net zero emissions by 2050 i.e., greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions equalling absorption by sinks such as forests, even though the substance is much less than the slogan suggests.

Net zero mirage

Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in August 2021 with shock and awe, but the revealing scientific data were glossed over. Far from emphasising net zero alone, AR6 emphasised that to keep temperature rise within 1.5°C, global emissions should be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, on the way to net zero 2050.

Net zero drumbeats spurred on by the U.S. and the UN Secretary General, the foundational principle of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), has been forgotten. Developed countries, responsible for over 75% of accumulated atmospheric GHGs causing climate change, should shoulder most of the burden for reducing emissions, while developing countries should do what they can, with technological and financial assistance from the former. So, if the goal is global net zero emissions by 2050, all countries cannot be obliged to reach that goal by the same year. CBDR would imply that developed countries should reach net zero by, say, 2035-40, while developing countries can get there later.

Net zero 2050, as currently posed, is at best a distracting message and at worst deliberately diverts attention away from the urgent 2030 target that COP26 should focus on. The net zero 2050 target is also no proverbial silver bullet, as clearly shown by numbers put out in the UNFCCC Synthesis Report on the updated NDCs, released in September 2021.

2030 targets critical

The UN NDC report tells us that even accounting for these, global emissions in 2030 are expected to be 16.3% above the 2010 level, whereas the IPCC has called for 2030 emissions to be 45% less from 2010 levels for the 1.5°C goal. The report therefore calls for “a significant increase in the level of ambition of NDCs” till 2030.

Several large emitters have announced deeper emission cuts than in the Paris Agreement. The U.K. and the European Union have raised their targets to a significant 68% and 55%, respectively, compared with 1990 levels by 2030.

The Biden administration has also promised to reduce emissions by 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Others standing in the way of rapid reductions are Russia, Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro ravaging the Amazon forests, and China, the world’s largest emitter, whose relentless push to add maximum infrastructure, industrial and power-generation capacities before peaking in 2030, may use up much of the cumulative global emissions available for 1.5°C.

As the NDC report says, reaching net zero is necessary to stabilise global temperature rise at a particular level, “but limiting global temperature increase to a specific level would imply limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to within a carbon budget.”

Whither Glasgow COP26?

To reiterate, COP26 must focus sharply on reducing emissions till 2030, rather than on net zero 2050, which is too distant and with possibilities of gaming the system. If COP26 does not focus on achieving the 45% emission cuts from 2010 levels required by 2030 for limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, and continues with geopolitics as usual, then the world may well have squandered away one of its last chances to avert disastrous climate impacts.

As usual, India is in its own double-edged position. The country emits 7% of global emissions, has extremely low per-capita emissions that are far below the global average and yet ranks as the world’s third largest emitter. 

 For India to convert its ambitions of installing 450GW of renewable power by 2030, adding green hydrogen or increasing electric vehicles into commitments may require more homework than done so far. 

Editorial 2 – India’s Central Asian outreach

The dramatic developments in Afghanistan have catalysed new geostrategic and geoeconomic concerns for the region. The evolving situation has also thrown up renewed challenges for India’s regional and bilateral ties with Central Asia and the Caucasus, prompting India to recalibrate its rules of engagement with the region.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was in the region earlier this month — his third within a span of four months. In Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Jaishankar extended a credit line of $200 million for the support of development projects and signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) on High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP). His next stop was the Kazakhstan capital, Nur Sultan, where he attended the 6th Foreign Ministers’ Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

Before reaching Armenia on October 13, Mr. Jaishankar met his counterparts from Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to discuss regional cooperation.

India-Armenia ties

Mr. Jaishankar has become the first Indian External Affairs Minister to visit Armenia. The Minister and his Armenian counterpart, Ararat Mirzoyan, agreed to enhance trade and cultural exchanges to boost bilateral relations. During the visit, Mr. Jaishankar also supported efforts for a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk group.

The Taliban re-establishing its supremacy over Afghanistan has also exposed the weaknesses of coalitions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created in response to the threats of terrorism that sprang from Afghanistan. 

As the SCO failed to collectively respond to the Afghan crisis, the Central Asian leaders met in Turkmenistan in August to voice their concerns over the Afghan situation, and also discussed the presence of Central Asian terror groups within Afghanistan and along their borders.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the formation of the independent republics in Central Asia, India reset its ties with the strategically critical region. India provided financial aid to the region and established diplomatic relations. New Delhi signed the Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA) with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to stimulate defence cooperation and deepen trade relations. In 2012, New Delhi’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy aimed at furthering India’s political, economic, historical and cultural connections with the region. However, India’s efforts were stonewalled by Pakistan’s lack of willingness to allow India passage through its territory. 

Central Asian countries have been keen to have India as a partner as they have sought to diversify their strategic ties. They have admitted New Delhi into the Ashgabat Agreement, allowing India access to connectivity networks to facilitate trade and commercial interactions with both Central Asia and Eurasia, and also access the natural resources of the region. Rising anti-Chinese sentiments within the region and security threats from the Taliban allow New Delhi and Central Asia to reimagine their engagement. India cannot afford to lose any time in recalibrating its regional engagements.

The Ashgabat agreement is a multimodal transport agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Oman for creating an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

The agreement was originally signed by Iran, Oman, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on April 25, 2011. Qatar subsequently withdrew from the agreement in 2013, the same year Kazakhstan applied for membership, which was eventually approved in 2015. Pakistan has also joined the Agreement from November 2016.

India formally joined in February 2018.

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