28 June, 2022 Daily Current Affairs – THE EXAMS MADE SIMPLE

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Prelims Objective Practice Questions

(1.) Individual lava flows are normally only a few feet thick, but over a long period of time, repeated flows may build up a volcano. Such volcanoes are known as-
a) Composite volcano
b) Strato volcano
c) Shield volcano
d) Cinder-cone volcano

(2.) Which one of the following terms denotes the inputs in terms of tools, machines, buildings, raw materials and money in hand required at any stage of production ?
a) Working Capital
b) Physical Capital
c) Labour Capital
d) Fixed Capital
Note :- Fixed capital includes the assets and capital investments, such as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E), that are needed to start up and conduct business, even at a minimal stage.

(3.) The famous Modhera Sun temple is an example of-
a) Chandela Temple Architecture
b) Dravida Temple Architecture
c) Solanki Temple Architecture
d) Vesara Temple Architecture

Note:- The temple walls were devoid of any carvings. A unique feature of this school is the presence of step-tank, known as surya-kund in the proximity of the temple.

UPSC Mains Question :-

  • What do you understand by ‘democratic backsliding’? Is democratic backsliding happening in India? Cite examples to support your answer.

Prelims Specific Facts

1.) The National Monuments Authority has observed the Martyrdom Day of the great warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur at Red Fort in New Delhi.

  • Who was Baba Banda Singh Bahadur?
    Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was a great Sikh warrior.
    Contributions: He was a commander of the Khalsa army who defeated the Mughals and liberated a large part of North India from the oppressive Mughal rule and established the Khalsa rule in Punjab.
  • He abolished the Zamindari system and granted property rights to the tillers of the land.
  • He introduced the Nanak Shahi coins.
  • Death: He was captured by Mughal ruler Farrukhsiyar and his martyrdom took place in Mehrauli where a monument stands in his memory.

2.) What are ‘carbon bombs’, why environmentalists want them defused?

A group of environmentalists, lawyers and activists have come together to identify and ‘defuse carbon bombs’ that have the potential to contribute significantly to global warming.

  • What are Carbon Bombs?
    It is “an oil or gas project that will result in at least a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifetime.”
    In total, around 195 such projects have been identified the world over, including in the US, Russia, West Asia, Australia and India.
  • They will collectively overshoot the limit of emissions that had been agreed to in the Paris Agreement of 2015.
  • What is the plan for defusing Carbon Bombs?
    The network working towards this goal is called Leave It In the Ground Initiative (LINGO).
  • Its mission is to leave fossil fuels in the ground and learn to live without them. It believes the root of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels and the 100% use of renewable energy sources is the solution.
  • The network has listed carbon bomb projects from all over the world. This includes the Carmichael Coal Project owned by the Adani Group, Gevra Coal Mines in Chhattisgarh owned by Coal India, and Rajmahal Coal Mines in eastern Jharkhand owned by Eastern Coalfields.

3.) The Union Minister of Earth Sciences is participating in the “2022 UN Ocean Conference” in Lisbon, Portugal.

  • What is the Ocean Conference 2022?
    • Co-Hosted by: Governments of Kenya and Portugal
    • Aim: To propel much-needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
    • Theme: Scaling up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions.
  • What is the importance of Oceans?
    • The oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, are the planet’s largest biosphere and are home to up to 80% of all life in the world.
      It generates 50% of the oxygen human need, absorbs 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90% of the additional heat generated from those emissions.
      It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water
    • It was adopted in 2015. It is an integral aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of 17 transformative goals.
    • Goal 14 stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.

4.) The Global Liveability Index 2022 has been released.

  • What is the Global Liveability Index?
    • Published by: Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annually
    • Aim: To quantify the challenges presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 173 cities.
    • Categories: The index ranked the cities based on these categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
  • What are the key findings of the index?
    • Topped by: Austrian capital Vienna has once again topped the list of most liveable cities in the world.
    • The living conditions remained worst in the Syrian capital Damascus.
    • India: The cities in India have fared poorly in the list of the world’s most liveable cities. India’s national capital New Delhi has been ranked 112th on the list while Mumbai is ranked at 117th position.

5.) Karnataka to make 8 changes in textbooks –

  • The Karnataka government has issued a notification making eight corrections in Kannada and Social Science textbooks of Classes I to X.
  • The move comes following objections raised by members of the public, people’s representatives, and seers of various communities to the changes made in the textbooks by the Rohith Chakrathirtha led Textbook Revision Committee.
  • What are the 8 Changes :-
    • Class 9, social studies, part 1: Addition of the word “Samvidhana Shilipi” (architect of the constitution) while referring to B.R. Ambedkar which was eliminated in the new textbook.
    • Class 7, social studies, part 1: Reinstate prose on Bhakti Pantha and Sufis.
    • Class 7, first language Kannada: Chapter ‘Gombe Kalisuva Neethi’ has been wrongly attributed to Dr R N Jayagopal. This will be attributed to G Udayashankar while also including a brief introduction to the author.
    • Class 6, Social studies, part 1: Contributions of Siddaganga and Adichunchunagri Mutt to be added back in chapter ‘Namma hemmeya rajya Karnataka’. This comes after seers of the mutt expressed dismay.
    • Class 9, social studies, part 1: To modify details on Basavanna in the India’s revolutionaries chapter.
    • Class 7, social studies, part 1: Add back lines on Surpura Nayak in the chapter on Mysuru and its establishment.
    • Class 7, social studies, part 2: In the chapter ‘Integration of Karnataka and border disputes’, photographs of Kuvempu and Huilgol Narayana Rao to be included again.
    • Class 4, environmental studies: A line on Kuvempu in the chapter ‘Everyone is special’ that says that Kuvempu rose to fame because some people encouraged him to be deleted.

6.) India, EU resume FTA negotiations

  • India and the European Union (EU) on Monday resumed negotiations, after a gap of over eight years, for a comprehensive free trade agreement, a move aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two regions.
  • India had started negotiations for a trade pact with the EU in 2007, but the talks stalled in 2013 as both sides failed to reach an agreement on key issues.
  • A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them. Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

7.) World Bank approves $250-mn loan to boost India’s road safety

Editorial of the Day
States, Freebies and the costs of fiscal profligacy

  • During the planning last year and the campaign ahead of the Punjab Assembly election, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) promised a sum of Rs.1,000 per month to every woman in the State.
  • Arvind Kejriwal, emphasised that under AAP’s ‘Mission Punjab’ for the Punjab polls 2022, if there were three adult women in a household (daughter-in-law, daughter, moth er-in-law), each of them would get ₹1,000.
  • Growing freebie culture – Electoral promises of this kind raise several questions. Is borrowing and spending on freebies sustainable? Is this the best possible use of public money? What is their opportunity cost – what is it that the public are collectively giving A up so that the government can fund these payments? Should not there be some checks on how much can be spent on them?
  • Ideally, governments should use borrowed money to invest in physical and social infrastructure that will generate higher growth, and thereby higher revenues in the future so that the debt pays for itself. On the other hand, if governments spend the loan money on populist giveaways that generate no additional revenue, the growing debt burden will eventually implode and end in tears.
  • Much of the borrowing that funds these freebies happens off budget, beyond the pale of FRBM tracking. The typical modus operandi for States has been to borrow on the books of their public enterprises, in some cases by pledging future revenues of the State as guarantee. Effectively, the burden of debt is on the State exchequer, albeit well concealed.
  • The obvious motivation for States in expanding freebies is to use the exchequer to build vote banks.
  • The more States spend on transfer payments, the less they have for spending on physical infrastructure such as, for example, power and roads, and on social infrastructure such as education and health, which can potentially improve growth and generate jobs.
  • Institutional checks, balances
    • In theory, the first line of defence has to be the legislature, in particular the Opposition, whose responsibility it is to keep the Government in line. But given the perils of our vigorous democracy, the Opposition does not dare speak up for fear of forfeiting vote banks that are at the end of these freebies.
    • Another constitutional check is the CAG audit which should en force transparency and accountability. In practice, it has lost its teeth since audit reports necessarily come with a lag, by when political interest has typically shifted to other hot button issues.
    • The market is another potential check. It can signal the health or otherwise of State finances by pricing the loans floated by different State governments differently, reflecting their debt sustainability. But in practice this too fails since the market perceives all State borrowing as implicitly guaranteed by the Centre, never mind that there is no such guarantee in reality.
  • The costs can be huge
    • The costs can be huge The costs of fiscal profligacy at the State level can be huge.
      The need, therefore, for instituting more effective checks that can make wayward States fall in line is compelling.
  • Here are two suggestions:-
    • First, the FRBM Acts of the Centre as well as States need to be amended to enforce a more complete disclosure of the liabilities on their exchequers. Even under the current FRBM provisions, governments are mandated to disclose their contingent liabilities, but that disclosure is restricted to liabilities for which they have extended an explicit guarantee. The provision should be expanded to cover all liabilities whose servicing obligation falls on the Budget, or could potentially fall on the Budget, regardless of any guarantee.
    • Second, under the Constitution, States are required to take the Centre’s permission when they borrow. The Centre should not hesitate to impose conditionalities on wayward States when it ac cords such a permission. States slapped with conditionalities will of course baulk and allege political motives. The challenge for the Centre will be to act transparently and in accordance with well-de fined, objective and contestable criteria.
  • Finally, there is the draconian provision in the Constitution of India which allows the President to declare financial emergency in any State if she is satisfied that financial stability is threatened. This Brahmastra has never been invoked so far for fear that this will turn into a political weapon of mass destruction. But the provision is there in the Constitution for a reason. After all, the root cause of fiscal irresponsibility is the lure of electoral nirvana. It will stop only if the political leadership fears punishment.

Explainer of the Day

1.) From higher to hire education

  • In the interim, the University Grants Commission has relaxed the norms and standards for setting up open universities. In particular, land requirement has been reduced from 40 acres to just five acres. This is likely to open the flood gates for private open universities. Simultaneously, more universities are being enabled to offer courses in the distance, open and online mode, mostly in collaboration with EdTech startups and unicorns.
  • Students are also made to complete a certain portion of their course requirements through Massive Open Online Courses. Additionally, they can accumulate credits at will and deposit them in their Academic Bank of Credit to be exchanged for a degree at a later stage. Higher education in India is getting metamorphosed into ‘hire education’. In the process, higher education is now getting delivered by for-profit entities, in contravention of the long-held belief that education at all levels must be provided on a not-for-profit basis.
  • Technology-enabled and mediated digital learning is projected as the future of higher education. Such learning is supposed to end face-to-face formal education – so much so that some have already started writing the obituary of the brick-and-mortar universities.
  • Evidence of massive learning losses due to the digital divide, but primarily due to the inherent limitations of technology, are being regarded as mere teething troubles. Sold to the idea, policy planners and regulators are aggressively pushing the distance, open, virtual, and online modes of education.
  • How successful and effective would such programmes be? No one knows. Going by the evidence, employers across the world are generally negatively disposed towards this. Most recruiters prefer to hire those who have graduated in face-to-face mode.
  • Digital delivery and technology integration in education may undoubtedly serve a useful purpose. Higher education must indeed embrace and keep pace with the advancements in technology. Technology can be effectively lever aged as a quality-enhancement tool. It would, however, be a blunder to regard technology-mediated teaching-learning as an alternative to face-to-face education. Technology can supplement and not substitute teachers.
  • No world-class universities, including those with a high degree of technology integration in their teaching and learning processes, are planning to cut down their faculty cost or their number any time soon.

2.) Sterlite Copper plant in Thootthukudi

  • What was the impact of the closure Of the plant?
    • India has shifted from being a large net Exporter of refined copper to now being a Net importer of copper during the last Four years since the shutdown of the Tuticorin plant.
    • Sterlite was a major domestic supplier of Phosphoric acid with a capacity of 2,20,000 metric tonnes, which is a key Raw material for fertilizer manufacturing Companies. These fertilizer units were Impacted due to stoppage of supplies and had to start importing.
    • While operational, it was the largest supplier of sulphuric-acid (used in detergent and chemical industries) in Tamil Nadu, and had a 95% share of the Market.
  • On June 20, the Vedanta Group put out an advertisement which said that Sterlite Copper, Thoothukudi is up for sale.
  • In 2018, after the company announced that it would be enhancing its capacity, large-scale protests from local and neighboring localities broke out. On May 22, the protests turned violent and the police open fired which led to the death of 13 civilians. A week later the Tamil Nadu government sealed the plant.

3.) When defection is a mere detour for an MLA

  • The most prominent case of political defection was that of Haryana’s Gaya Lal, originally an independent MLA who, in 1967, juggled between the Congress and Janata Party for two weeks. The recurrence of this phenomenon led to the 1985 Anti-Defection Law.
  • The Anti-Defection Law provided a safeguard for defections made on genuine ideological differences. It accepted “split” within a party if at least one-third of the members of the legislative party defect, and allowed the formation of a new party or “merger” with other political party if not less than two-thirds of the party’s members commit to it.
  • Defections like these can only be stopped by extending the disqualification period from re-contesting to at least six years.
  • The legislation empowers the presiding officer of the House (i.e. the Speaker) to decide on complaints of defection under no time constraint.
  • The main Issue is that defectors treat disqualification as a mere detour, before they return to the House or government by re-contesting
    • However, this safeguard was struck down in KihotoHollohan v. Zachillhu and Others (1992). While the SC upheld the Speaker’s discretionary power, it underscored that the Speaker functioned as a tribunal under the anti-defection law, thereby making her/his decisions subject to judicial review. This judgment enabled judiciary to become the watchdog of the anti-defection law, instead of the Speaker, who increasingly had become a political character contrary to the expected neutral constitutional role. The same could be witnessed in ShrimanthBalasaheb Patel &Ors vs Speaker Karnataka Legislative Assembly &Ors (2019), where the three-judge SC bench upheld the then Karnataka Speaker’s decision of disqualification of the 17 rebel MLAs. However, it struck down his ban on the MLAs from contesting elections till 2023, negating the only possible permanent solution to the problem. The Supreme Court played the role of a neutral umpire in this political slugfest.

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