30 November 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Question

1) Consider the following statements regarding the NASA’s SOFIA Mission:

  1. It a lander-rover project on the surface of Moon.
  2. It has confirmed the presence of water on the surface of the Moon.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

  • SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter (106-inch) reflecting telescope (with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters or 100 inches).
  • SOFIA is designed to observe the infrared universe. Many objects in space emit almost all their energy at infrared wavelengths and are often invisible when observed with visible light.
  • NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.
  • SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.

2) Which of the following State(s) of India share border with Myanmar?

  1. Nagaland
  2. Manipur
  3. Arunachal Pradesh

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

3) Which of the following is/are correctly matched?

  1. Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant – Iran
  2. Barakah nuclear power plant – United Arab Emirates

Select the correct answer using the code given below

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Important News Items of the Day

1) Indian-origin Parag Agrawal to replace Dorsey as Twitter CEO

Indian origin technology executive Parag Agrawal was appointed the new chief executive officer of Twitter after the social media giant’s cofounder Jack Dorsey stepped down.

INDIAN-ORIGIN CEOs OF GLOBAL TECH COMPANIES

  • Parag Agrawal – Twitter
  • Satya Nadella – Microsoft. …
  • Sundar Pichai – Alphabet. …
  • Shantanu Narayen – Adobe. …
  • Arvind Krishna – IBM. …
  • Sanjay Mehrotra – Micron Technology. …
  • Nikesh Arora – Palo Alto Networks. …
  • Jayshree Ullal – Arista Networks.

2) About NPCI

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI; Hindi: भारतीय राष्ट्रीय भुगतान निगम) is the specialised division of Reserve Bank of India which is under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Finance, Government of India.It was created by RBI for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India.

Founded in 2008, the NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, established by the Reserve Bank of India and Indian Banks’ Association. The organisation is owned by a consortium of major banks, and has been promoted by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India.

Reports

1) Onus of contraception still on women, NFHS5 figures show

Less than one in 10 men use condoms in India, while nearly four in 10 women undergo sterilisation to avoid pregnancy, according to the latest National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), which also shows that female sterilisation continues to be on the rise.

The States with the highest increase in female sterilisation were Bihar (14.1% points to 34.8%), Goa (13.6% points to 29.9%) and Madhya Pradesh (9.7% points to 51.9%) .

Many stereotypes – “Condom usage is also low because family planning is considered the responsibility of women.

“Male sterilisation’s share in family planning methods has always been extremely low, despite the fact that it’s safer, quicker and easier.

Female sterilisation is also the preferred choice of contraception over methods such as pills (5.1%), injectables (0.6%) and intra-uterine devices (IUD) and post-partum intra-uterine devices (2.1%).

Environment

1) Researchers have released a study titled ‘Impact of climate change on two high-altitude restricted and endemic flycatchers of the Western Ghats, India.

  • The study was conducted on two species endemic to the Western Ghats, namely:
    • Black and-orange Flycatcher (BOF), and
    • Nilgiri Flycatcher(NIF)
  • The study’s aim was to determine the current potential suitability and possible responses of the species to future climate change. This was done using the MaxEntalgorithm.
  • MaxEnt which stands for ‘maximum entropy modelling’ predicts species’ occurrences by finding the distribution that is most spread out, or closest to uniform while taking into account the limits of the environmental variables of known locations.
  • Findings: The study has found that these two species could suffer a loss of 31% and 46% of their range respectively by 2050 due to climate change.

About Black-and-orange Flycatcher(BOF) and Nilgiri Flycatcher(NIF)

  • Black-and-orange Flycatcher and Nilgiri Flycatcher are monotypic species endemic to the southern Western Ghats and confined to higher elevations.
  • BOF prefers the understorey of shola forests, especially among the stunted evergreen forest patches in the sky islands of Western Ghats.
  • The NIF is also found above 600 m elevation but more frequently above 1200 m.
  • Moreover, about 75% of the currently suitable areas of both these species lie outside the protected area network in the Western Ghats.

What are Shola Grasslands?

The Shola vegetation are tropical montane forests found in the Western Ghats separated by rolling grasslands in high altitudes.

  1. Shola grasslands consist of dwarf trees growing 25-30 feet.
  2. It is a stunted forest growths of diverse grass species.
  3. Vegetation is double layered storey with closed canopy which hardly permits a single ray of sunlight to penetrate in the natural vegetation. 
  4. Nilgiris upper region is classified as southern grassland mountain grassland. 
  5. Between 1973-2014 Shola grasslands area had seen a 66.7% decline.

2) A ₹1 bounty on giant African snails

An offer to buy the highly invasive African giant snails is not something one comes across very often. But posters, complete with contact numbers, making exactly such an offer are turning heads in the coastal panchayats of Nayarambalam and Njarackal in Kerala.

The rather novel initiative is the brainchild of Sunrise, a combine of morning walkers. Since putting up the posters a week ago, they have been flooded with calls from affected people, as the invasive African snails are crop pests apart from posing health hazards.

Art & Culture

1) Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has launched two projects

  • i) Revival of Namda craft of Kashmir as a special pilot project under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) 3.0 and
  • (ii) Upskilling of artisans and weavers of Kashmir under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), component of PMKVY.

What is the objective of these projects?

Objective: To boost and preserve the traditional Namda craft of Kashmir and upskill the local weavers and artisans to enhance their productivity through RPL assessment and certification.

What is Namda Craft?

  • Namda craft is widely thought to have originated in the 16th century during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar.
  • Made of: Namda craft is a rug made of sheep wool through a felting technique instead of the normal weaving process.
  • Uses: Namda Craft is extensively used in Kashmir households for floor covering and mattresses.

Science

1) PASIPHAE Project 

  • Scientists aim to study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.
  • Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarisation High-Accuracy Experiment (PASIPHAE) is an international collaborative sky surveying project.
  • Polarization is a property of light that represents the direction that the light wave oscillates.
  • It is an opto polarimetric survey aiming to measure the linear polarization from millions of stars.
  • The survey will use two high-tech optical polarimeters to observe the northern and southern skies, simultaneously.
  • The survey will be conducted concurrently from the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, South Africa in the southern hemisphere, and the Skinakas Observatory in Crete, Greece, in the north.
  • It will focus on capturing starlight polarisation of very faint stars that are so far away that polarisation signals from there have not been systematically studied.
  • The distances to these stars will be obtained from measurements of the GAIA satellite.
  • Scientists aim to study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.

GAIA is on a mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. It is a European Space Agency astronomical observatory mission.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 1 – A launch window for India as a space start-up hub

The great space race of the 20th century was kicked off by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957.

India, a very marginal player

Last year, according to a report, the Government of India created a new organisation known as IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre) which is a “single window nodal agency” established to boost the commercialisation of Indian space activities. A supplement to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the agency promotes the entry of the Non-Government Private Entities (NGPEs) in the Indian space sector. 

Today, the space economy is a $440 billion global sector, with India having less than 2% share in the sector.

The hurdles

Another aspect to throw light on is the extensive brain drain in India, which has increased by 85% since 2005. This can be linked to the bottlenecks in policies which create hindrances for private space ventures and founders to attract investors, making it virtually non-feasible to operate in India.

Currently, a report on a leading news portal says: the reason for the lack of independent private participation in space includes the absence of a framework to provide transparency and clarity in laws.

Another crucial aspect of space law is insurance and indemnification clarity, particularly about who or which entity undertakes the liability in case of a mishap.

Involving Private Firms –

Mature space agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States, China’s China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Russia’s Roscosmos (Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities) seek support from private players such as Boeing, SpaceX and Blue Origin for complex operations beyond manufacturing support, such as sending crew and supplies to the International Space Station.

Way Forward –

India currently stands on the cusp of building a space ecosystem and with ISRO being the guiding body, India can now evolve as a space start-up hub for the world. The sector is in the embryonic stage where the possibilities are limitless with a scope to build a feasible business model. Already 350 plus start-ups such as AgniKul Cosmos, Skyroot Technologies, Dhruva Space and Pixxel have established firm grounds for home-grown technologies with a practical unit of economics. However, to continue the growth engine, investors need to look up to the sector as the next “new-age” boom and ISRO needs to turn into an enabler from being a supporter.

Editorial 2 – Boosting green hydrogen

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that India would aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.

What is Green Hydrogen?

Green Hydrogen is the clean hydrogen generated by using renewable energy such as solar power and wind energy. The by-products are water and water vapor.

Green hydrogen is produced via the electrolysis of water. All you need to produce large amounts of hydrogen is water, a big electrolyzer, and large supplies of electricity. If the electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro, then the hydrogen is effectively green; the only carbon emissions in its production will occur from the generation infrastructure.

Challenges in using green hydrogen

  • The major challenge in the usage of green hydrogen will be its storage. Given the very low density of hydrogen, it will require large volumes for its storage. Alternatively if one chooses to store it in the liquid form, reducing the storage space requires the maintenance of temperatures as low as minus 253° C. This will entail huge costs.
  • The ‘production cost’ of ‘Green hydrogen’ has been considered to be a prime obstacle to the usage of green hydrogen. According to studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the production cost of this ‘green hydrogen’ is expected to be around $1.5 per kilogram by adopting various conservative measures.

Need for Green Hydrogen

  • The Government of India is advocating for the use of green hydrogen in the production of fertilisers and the refining of petroleum.
  • Eventually, any company would be supposed to rely on hydrogen for all of its energy needs.
  • Carbon has traditionally been employed to suck up oxygen, resulting in carbon dioxide emissions, although hydrogen can also accomplish the job.
 What is the way forward?

Attract private investments through government funding and progressive long-term policies.

Hydrogen’s uses in different sectors should be encouraged, according to each sector’s cost and ease of adoption.

  • Firstly, a few key sectors with low transition costs, such as refineries, fertilizers, and natural gas, should be
    mandated to use hydrogen to bring down costs.
  • Secondly, as part of medium-term goals new demand from steel, cement, and road mobility should be exploited.
  • Thirdly, in the long run, heavy-duty vehicles should receive government incentives. For example Shipping,   aviation, solutions for energy storage should be mandated to use green hydrogen in the long run.

Editorial 3 – The logistics behind a caste census

The Government’s affidavit covers three different aspects of the caste census issue.

  • It first explains why it cannot make public the caste data collected under the SECC-2011 census.
  • Then it argues that the judiciary cannot direct the Government to conduct a caste census because it is a “policy decision” not to do so.
  • And finally, it elaborates on why it is not practical to attempt a caste census.

Why will castes not be counted along with the regular 2021 census?

  1. The government has cited numerous administrative, operational and logistical reasons to argue that collecting caste data during the 2021 census — postponed to next year due to COVID-19 — is unfeasible and attempting it could endanger the census exercise itself. 
  2. Secondly, the preparatory work for a census starts three to four years earlier. As for the census, the questionnaires have already been finalised and field-tested. It is, therefore, not possible to add additional questions about caste now.
  3. Third, unlike in the case of the SCs and the STs, there is no constitutional mandate for the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, India, to provide the census figures of the OBCs and the BCCs.
  4. And lastly, it has cited the 2014 Supreme Court judgment setting aside two orders of the Madras High Court directing the Centre to conduct a caste census.

As per this Supreme Court judgment, what information to collect in a census is a policy decision of the government, and while the court may find a certain policy untenable, it was “legally impermissible” for the court to dictate to the government what policy it ought to follow.

Editorial 4 – A National Court of Appeal? Aye. || Not a court of everyday appeals

Point: An appellate body would be able to reduce the number of appeals the Supreme Court deals with. It would also be accessible to citizens from remote locations. It would give the Court more time and resources to constitute Constitution benches.

Counterpoint: The installation of an appellate court would be too impractical. The solution lies in strengthening existing lower judicial bodies and not completely restructuring the system.

What is a National Court of Appeal?

The National Court Appeal with regional benches is meant to act as final court of justice in dealing with appeals from the decisions of the High Courts and tribunals within their region in civil, criminal, labour and revenue matters. In such a scenario, a much-relieved Supreme Court of India situated in Delhi would only hear matters of constitutional law and public law.

How will the NCA help ease the apex court’s burden?

The Supreme Court is saddled with civil and criminal appeals that arise out of >everyday and even mundane disputes. As a result of entertaining these appeals, the Supreme Court’s real mandate — that of a Constitutional Court, the ultimate arbiter on disputes concerning any interpretation of the Constitution — is not fulfilled. By taking up the Supreme Court’s appeals jurisdiction, the NCA will give the former more time for its >primal functions.

What is the government’s position on the NCA?

In an order dated December 3, 2014 the Centre rejected Mr. Vasanthakumar’s proposal for a National Court of Appeal with regional Benches. The Ministry cited three grounds for rejecting the idea — The Supreme Court always sits in Delhi as per the Constitution; the Chief Justices of India in the past have “consistently opposed” the idea of an NCA or regional benches to the Supreme Court; and the Attorney-General said an NCA would “completely change the constitution of the Supreme Court”.

Bottom-up approach needed

What the NCA is meant to do, therefore, can quite easily be achieved by strengthening the lower judiciary, which generally constitutes the courts of first instance. Correspondingly, the High Courts can be viewed as the regular appellate courts. To achieve this, there must be greater rigour in choosing our judges. This would reduce the Supreme Court’s burden of acting as a corrector of simple errors.

The real issues of accessing justice relate not to the Supreme Court but the lower judiciary becomes even more apparent in data that show that there is only one judge for every 73,000 people in India. What’s clear is that our judiciary isn’t broken because of any deficiencies in structure, but because of feeble infrastructure.

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