27th and 28th July 2021 – Daily Current Affairs

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Questions

Which of the following statement(s) is/are incorrect with respect to UNESCO Heritage Sites

1) Ahmedabad and Jaipur has been selected by UNESCO under Historic Urban Landscape Project.

2) English Port city Liverpool has been removed from list of world heritage sites due to concerns of overdevelopment.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.    1 only

b.    2 only

c.    Both 1 and 2

d.    Neither 1 nor 2

2) Viswamitri River originates from which of the following states?

a.    Madhya Pradesh

b.    Chhattisgarh

c.    Jharkhand

d.    Gujarat

3) Renewable Integration in India Report is launched by NITI Aayog along with which of the following organizations?

a.   Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

b.   International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA)

c.    International Energy Agency (IEA)

d.   Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Only two sites have been dropped from the UNESCO World Heritage List previously, which include a wildlife sanctuary in Oman in 2007 after poaching and habitat loss and the Dresden Elbe valley in Germany in 2009 after a four-lane bridge was built over the river.

4) Kakatiya Ramappa Temple is located in which of the following states?

a.    Andhra Pradesh

b.    Karnataka

c.    Maharashtra

d.    Telangana

2) Which of the following explanations are correct for Gatekeeper Model?

a.   It is developed to block malicious software

b.   It is proposed to avoid strikes in public companies

c.    It aims to prevent suicides in Prison

d.   It is used by farmers to prevent Human-Wild animal conflict

3) Consider the following statements with respective to Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)

1. It is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by microorganisms to decompose organic matter under aerobic reaction.

2. The quality of water increases with an increase in Dissolved Oxygen levels.

3. The more organic matter like sewage and polluted bodies of water means the lesser is the BOD.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.    1 & 2 only

b.    2 & 3 only

c.    1 & 3 only

d.    All of the above

Prelims Specific News :-

National web portal for sharing R&D facilities I-STEM enters Phase-II :- Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM) Portal has been accorded an extension for five years until 2026 and enters its second phase with added features.

About I-STEM Portal:

I-STEM was launched in 2020. It is a National Web portal for sharing R&D (Research and Development) facilities.

Purpose: The portal is the gateway for researchers to locate the specific facility(ies) they need for their R&D work and identify the one that is either located closest to them or available the soonest.

Initiatives: The Portal Is an initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India under the aegis of Prime Minister Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council(PM-STIAC) mission.

2) Indian Naval Ship Talwar in Mombasa to Participate in Exercise Cutlass Express 2021 :– What is the News?

Indian Naval Ship Talwar is participating in a multinational training Exercise named “Cutlass Express 2021”. It is being conducted along the East Coast of Africa.

About Exercise Cutlass Express:

Exercise Cutlass Express is an annual maritime exercise, conducted to promote national and regional maritime security in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.

3) About NISHTHA Programme:

NISHTHA stands for National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement.

It is a capacity building programme for Improving Quality of School Education through Integrated Teacher Training.

Aim: It aims to build competencies among all the teachers and school principals at the elementary stage.

The functionaries (at the state, district, block, cluster level) shall be trained in an integrated manner on learning outcomes, school based assessment, learner – centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, among others.

This training is being organized by constituting National Resource Groups (NRGs) and State Resource Groups (SRGs) at the National and the State level who will be training 42 lakhs teachers subsequently.

4) DIKSHA:

DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for School Education) is an initiative of the National Council of Educational Research and Training(NCERT), Ministry of Education.

Purpose: The platform offers engaging learning material, relevant to the prescribed school curriculum, to teachers, students and parents.

5) Kandla Special Economic Zone(KASEZ) has become the first Green SEZ after it received the IGBC Green Cities Platinum Rating for Existing Cities.

About Kandla Special Economic Zone(KASEZ) as First Green SEZ:

Kandla has become the first green industrial city in India. It has received a platinum rating after a rigorous audit and inspections conducted by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

6) Govt. proposes to set up National Research Foundation (NRF) :- On 26th July, 2021, Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Education announced that the government of India is planning to set up a National Research Foundation (NRF) with the primary aim to strengthen the country’s research ecosystem.

A budget of Rs 50,000 crore has been announced as total proposed outlay for the NRF over a 5 year period.

About National Research Foundation (NRF)

The National Research Foundation (NRF) will be functioning as a structure that will connect the industry, academia and the R&D of the country. One of the primary aims of setting up the NRF is the facilitation and growth of research capabilities and outcomes in those institutions (colleges, universities, etc) where research capacity is currently developing. The National Research Foundation (NRF) will also support and fund multi-institutional, large scale, multi-investigator, high impact, multi-nation or interdisciplinary projects which will be dine in association or collaboration with the relevant departments or ministries as well as governmental and non-governmental industries of the country.

7) 13-year-old skater Nishiya- Japan’s youngest gold medallist :- 13 years old Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya won the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She became one of the youngest gold medalists ever at the Olympic Games.

8) Four new sports have been introduced in the Tokyo Olympics. They are karate, skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing. Karate Martial art, since the 1970s, has been a candidate for Olympic inclusion but the organizers never agreed to accept this sport until the Tokyo Games presented the perfect opportunity to showcase this sport from its homeland.

9) Bangladesh is going to launch its own social media platform named ‘Jogajog’ which is an alternative to the globally popular Facebook and ‘Alapon’ which will be  an alternative of WhatsApp. 

5) On 25th July, 2021 the Green Sohra Afforestation Campaign at Sohra (Cherrapunji) was launched by Home Minister Amit Shah. “Evergreen Northeast”, was the slogan given for this campaign highlighting the importance of tree plantation and afforestation. This campaign will be run by the Assam Rifles and the Meghalaya

10) On July 14, the European Union introduced new legislation, Fit for 55, to cut its GHG emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050.

Implications of Fit for 55 :- Legal backing: It turns the EU’s announcement into law, protecting it from the winds of political change.

It opens new markets for Indian industry, for example for electric vehicles.

CBAM: However, it also introduces a potentially adverse policy called the carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). CBAM is meant to discourage consumers from buying carbon-intensive products and encourage producers to invest in cleaner technologies.

What is CBAM? :– The EU has had a carbon emission trading system since 2005.

With Fit for 55, the EU’s carbon price is likely to go up.

High carbon price will make the EU’s domestic products more expensive than imports from countries that do not have such rules.

The new CBAM is meant to level the playing field between domestic and imported products.

CBAM will require foreign producers to pay for the carbon emitted while manufacturing their products.

The adjustment will be applied to energy-intensive products that are widely traded by the EU, such as iron and steel, aluminium, cement, fertiliser, and electricity.

Why CBAM is a cause for concern for India?

India is Europe’s third-largest trading partner, and it does not have its own carbon tax or cap.

So, CBAM should be a cause for concern for it.

A UNCTAD study predicts that India will lose $1-1.7 billion in exports of energy-intensive products such as steel and aluminium.

India’s goods trade with the EU was $74 billion in 2020.

Editorials of the Day

Emigration Bill 2021 does not go far enough

Context

The Emigration Bill 2021 could be introduced in Parliament soon and presents a long-overdue opportunity to reform the recruitment process for nationals seeking employment abroad.

An overview of Emigration Act 1983

  • Labour migration is governed by the Emigration Act, 1983.
  • The Act sets up a mechanism for hiring through government-certified recruiting agents — individuals or public or private agencies.
  • It outlines obligations for agents to conduct due diligence of prospective employers,
  • Sets up a cap on service fees.
  • Establishes a government review of worker travel and employment documents (known as emigration clearances) to 18 countries mainly in West Asian states and South-East Asian countries.

What are the improvements in Emigration Bill 2021?

  • It launches a new emigration policy division.
  • It establishes help desks and welfare committees.
  • It requires manpower agencies to conduct pre-departure briefings for migrants.
  • It increases accountability of brokers and other intermediaries who are also involved in labour hiring.

Shortcoming in Emigration Bill 2021

  • Lacks human rights framework: The 2021 Bill lacks a human rights framework aimed at securing the rights of migrants and their families.
  • For example, in a country such as the Philippines, it explicitly recognises the contributions of Filipino workers and “the dignity and fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Filipino citizens”.
  • Workers to bear recruitment payments and service charges: the Bill permits manpower agencies to charge workers’ service fees, and even allows agents to set their own limits.
  • This provision goes against International Labour Organization (ILO) Private Employment Agencies Convention No. 181 and the ILO general principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment.
  • The ILO Convention and guidelines recognises that it is employers, not workers who should bear recruitment payments including the costs of their visas, air travel, medical exams, and service charges to recruiters.
  • Criminalise worker: The Bill permits government authorities to punish workers by cancelling or suspending their passports and imposing fines up to ₹50,000 for violating any of the Bill’s provisions.
  • Criminalising the choices migrant workers make is deplorable, runs contradictory to the purpose of protecting migrants and their families, and violates international human rights standards.
  •  Recruiters and public officials could misuse the law to instil fear among workers and report or threaten to report them.
  • Gender dimension not adequadely addressed: This Bill does not also adequately reflect the gender dimensions of labour migration where women have limited agency in recruitment compared to their counterparts.
  • Women are more likely to be employed in marginalised and informal sectors and/or isolated occupations in which labour, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse are common.
  • Limited space for representation: The Bill also provides limited space for worker representation or civil society engagement in the policy and welfare bodies that it sets up.

Way forward

  • The Ministry of External Affairs must start at the top, and draft a clearer purpose which explicitly recognises the contributions of Indian workers, the unique challenges they face, and uphold the dignity and human rights of migrants and their families.

Conclusion

The new Bill is better than the Emigration Act 1983, but more reforms are needed to protect Indian workers.

Editorial 02 :- Evaluating India’s options in Afghanistan

Relevance: Future course of action for India vis-a-vis situation in Afghanistan

Synopsis: With the West done with Afghanistan, New Delhi needs to adopt a layered approach in finding a political solution. It has to work with Eurasian powers to protect its interests and stabilise Afghanistan.

Background
  • The U.S. is retreating from Afghanistan as part of a grand strategy to take on China in maritime Asia. It has failed to defeat the Taliban but has been successful in killing Osama Bin Laden and disrupting al-Qaeda networks.
  • The Taliban is currently gaining more and more territory, which raises a crucial question in front of India regarding its future engagement in Afghanistan.
Evolution of Indo – Afghan relations
  • Barring a brief period in the 1990s, India has historically enjoyed good ties with Afghanistan, which go back to the 1950 Treaty of Friendship. 
  • Indian interests and influence suffered when the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, captured Kabul in 1996. But India was back in action as soon as the Taliban were ousted from power after the U.S. invasion in 2001. 
  • India has made huge investments and commitments ever since, which run into over $3 billion. It has cultivated strong economic and defence ties with the Afghan government. 
  • Now, its again facing uncertainty in Afghanistan.
What can India do?
  • Talking with the Taliban: It would allow New Delhi to seek security guarantees from the insurgents in return for continued development assistance or other pledges. It will also explore the possibility of the Taliban’s autonomy from Pakistan.
    • India should not overlook the deep ties between Pakistan’s security establishment and the Haqqani Network. It is a major faction within the Taliban that’s driving the successful campaigns on the battlefield.  
    • However there is no guarantee that India’s quest for engagement with the Taliban would produce a desirable outcome. 
  • Enhance support towards Afghan Government: New Delhi should also enhance aid to Afghanistan’s legitimate government and security forces as Taliban is quickly expanding its territories. 
    • India should urgently step up training Afghan forces and provide military hardware, intelligence and logistical and financial support. This would enable Kabul to continue its efforts to defend the cities. 
  • Regional Cooperation: It should work with other regional powers for long-term stability in the country. There is a convergence of interests between India and three key regional players in seeing a political settlement in Afghanistan. 
    • For China, whose Xinjiang province shares a border with Afghanistan, a jihadist-oriented Taliban regime would not serve its internal interests. India should talk with China, with the objective of finding a political settlement and lasting stability in Afghanistan.
    • Russia, which fears that instability would spill over into the former Soviet Republics, has already moved to secure its Central Asian perimeter. Russia has cultivated links with the Taliban in recent years. India would need Russia’s support in any form of direct engagement with the Taliban.
    • Iran: For the Shia theocratic Iran, a Sunni Deobandi Taliban with which it had almost gone to war in 1998, will continue to remain an ideological, sectarian and strategic challenge. Building strategic ties with Iran, irrespective of the U.S.’s policy towards the Islamic Republic, is essential for India’s Afghan bets. 

Editorial 03 :- Needed, a more unified Asian voice for Afghanistan

In news: In the backdrop of US pull out of troops from Afghanistan, three recent meetings are turning the spotlight on the Central Asia’s role in dealing with the situation in Afghanistan

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) contact group on Afghanistan 
  • SCO Defence Ministers in Tajikistan, 
  • Central and South Asia conference on regional connectivity in Uzbekistan

Concerns for India in Central Asia

  • The same powers that invaded Afghanistan post 9/11, and declared the Taliban leadership as UNSC-designated terrorists, are now advocating talks with the Taliban
  • India’s original hesitation in opening talks with the Taliban has cut India out of the current reconciliation process. 
  • The end of any formal dialogue between India and Pakistan since 2016 and trade since 2019, have resulted in Pakistan blocking India’s over-land access to Afghanistan
  • India’s alternative route through Chabahar, though operational, cannot be viable or cost-effective also long as U.S. sanctions on Iran are in place.
  • India’s boycott of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) make another route to Afghanistan off-limits.
  • U.S. has announced a new, surprise formation of a “Quad” on regional connectivity — U.S.-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan that does not include India
  • All the above portends to India’s narrowing window of engagement in Central Asia.

What are the calculation of Central Asian neighbours?

  • Necessity of Afghanistan for access to Ocean: First is that prosperity for these land-locked countries can only flow from access through Afghanistan to the closest ocean, i.e. the Indian Ocean. 
  • Need for Taliban’s Support: Second, all transit through Afghanistan depends on guarantees of safe passage from the Taliban, backed by the group’s mentors in Pakistan. Therefore, Central Asian countries have been at the forefront of mediation of talks with Taliban. 
  • Alignment with China: Third, all five Central Asian Countries are now a part of China’s BRI. Tying their connectivity initiatives with Beijing’s BRI will bring the double promise of investment and some modicum of control over Pakistan.

Given the above, New Delhi’s room for manoeuvre with the five Central Asian countries on Afghanistan appears limited.

Way Ahead for India 

  • Realizing Common Concerns: India and the Central Asian States share common concerns about an Afghanistan overrun by the Taliban and under Pakistan’s thumb: the worries of battles at their borders, safe havens for jihadist terror groups inside Afghanistan and the spill-over of radicalism into their own countries.
  • Supporting Afghan Government: India to work with Central Asian states, and other neighbours to shore up finances for the Afghanistan government to ensure that the government structure does not collapse
  • Fighting Terror: As part of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), India must also step up its engagement with the Central Asian countries on fighting terror.
  • Supporting Afghan Defence Forces: India can support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) where it needs it most: in terms of air power. 
  • Engaging with Pakistan: India’s reluctant discussions with the Taliban leadership make little sense unless a less tactical and more strategic engagement with Pakistan is also envisaged.

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