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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 10th October 2018

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  • October 10, 2018
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains

Focus)- 10th October 2018

Archives


(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


China to sell 48 armed drones to Pakistan

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – India and its neighbours; International Relations; Defence and Security

In news:

  • China to sell 48 high-end armed drones to its “all-weather ally” Pakistan
  • Drone name – Wing Loong II
  • It is a high-end reconnaissance, strike and multi-role endurance unmanned aerial system, capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons.
  • It is roughly equivalent to the American MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Do you know?

  • China is the largest supplier of weapon system to the Pakistan Army.
  • Both countries also jointly manufacture JF-Thunder a single engine multi-role combat aircraft.
  • The Trump administration has agreed to sell sell 22 Sea Guardian drones to India.
  • India has received 10 advanced Heron drones from Israel as well.

India-Italy ties: India-Italy Technology Summit 2018

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Relations; India and the World

In news:

  • Prime Minister of Italy Prof. Giuseppe Conte to visit India
  • He will participate in the 24th edition of the DST-CII India-Italy Technology Summit 2018.
  • The Technology Summit is organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • This edition of the Summit will focus on seven areas—Clean tech, Renewable, ICT, Healthcare, Aerospace, Education and Cultural Heritage.
  • The objective of the Summit is to facilitate technology transfers, joint ventures, Research and Development, and market access between industry and research institutions in India and Italy.
  • The visit will be part of the ongoing celebrations to commemorate 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Italy.

17th CHG meeting of SCO to be held Tajikistan

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Relations; India and the World

In news:

  • 17th Council of Heads of Government (CHG) meeting of SCO to be held Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
  • This will be the second CHG meeting since India became a full member of SCO in June 2017. Last year, CHG meeting was held in Sochi, Russia.
  • The SCO CHG meeting is a forum that enables India to engage with SCO member countries and Observer states of Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia. It is the first major meeting since Kyrgyzstan took over as chair of the Organisation.
  • The leaders will be discussing prospects for further development of SCO and will exchange in-depth views on current international and regional issues.

National Nutrition Mission soon to become mass movement in India

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – National/Health issue; Govt policies and schemes

In news:

  • NITI Aayog member, Dr Vinod Kumar Paul expressed the hope that the National Nutrition Mission will soon become a mass movement in the country.
  • September 2018 was celebrated as Rashtriya Poshan Maah under POSHAN Abhiyaan.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan is India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers by leveraging technology, a targeted approach and convergence.
  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the concerned ministry.

Do you know?

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan was launched on 8th March 2018 by the Prime Minister.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.

(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL/INFRASTRUCTURE

TOPIC: General Studies 2 and 3

  • Indian Government policies and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • Infrastructure: Energy

Amendments to Electricity Act 2003; Power politics at play

Introduction

  • The Central government has proposed a set of changes to the Electricity Act 2003.
  • The amendments seek to enable a market transformation in electricity.
  • The amendments include many other provisions, making the Act more up to date including with regard to renewable energy, which is a worthy objective.

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

Competition and choice

  • Bringing in competition and choice in supply for the final consumer has long been an aim of electricity reform and remains central to these amendments.
  • The idea is that while a single public utility will run the wires through which electricity flows, multiple supply licensees (both public and private) will be allowed to compete for consumers.
  • The intent is that the discipline of competing for customers will lead to improved supply and lower bills.
  • An earlier reform effort proposed mandatory and time-bound implementation of these reforms, and therefore was resisted by States.
  • The current amendment allows them discretion on the timing of implementation.

Concerns

  • India could have an electricity distribution sector with pockets of competition for wealthy consumers in a sea of monopoly inhabited by the poorest.
  • Private suppliers could cherry-pick profitable locations and consumers.
  • The state-owned incumbent supplier will be left with the obligation to serve low-paying consumers.

Cross subsidy

  • India has among the highest electricity tariffs for industry, which bears the burden of low-performance and losses among other consumers, impacting their global competitiveness.
  • The amendment (along with changes in the National Tariff Policy) aims to get the price right, by capping cross-subsidies and eliminating them within three years.
  • The cross-subsidy surcharge on open access customers would be eliminated within two years, leaving the only possibility of direct support from States.
  • Subsidies will not be allowed across consumer categories like industry and agriculture, but will be allowed across consumption categories — big consumers can subsidise small ones.

Concerns

  • If transfers from state are not forthcoming, or late, the cash-starved incumbent supplier will be locked into a cycle of poor quality of service for its customers who have no ‘exit’ option, leading to more bill evasion, and further financial deterioration.
  • These shifts could be highly disruptive if the profit-making side is allowed to flee, without devising a transition pathway for the loss-making side of electricity.
  • Because of these political sensitivities, the proposed approach to eliminating cross-subsidies is complicated.
  • The abolition of the cross-subsidy surcharge, which will open the flood gates for large consumers to migrate through ‘open access’ to cheaper sources and avoid paying any subsidy.

OTHER POSITIVE PROVISIONS AND THEIR IMPACTS

Collective responsibility of centre and states

  • The proposed legislation makes subsidy to the poor the collective responsibility of the States and the Centre, which has so far been only the responsibility of each State.
  • The Centre may have access to enhanced tax revenues from electricity because it stands to gain from additional tax revenue from profitable new wires companies and private suppliers.
  • Thus, the Centre could become a new kingpin of redistribution from wealthy areas in wealthy States, to needy customers that are concentrated in a few States.
  • While this may be a pragmatic fiscal strategy allowing redistribution across States, it also has undeniable political implications.

Pump priming generation

  • Many generating companies have been in the news recently due to decreasing demand for their power and consequently their stranded assets.
  • The amendments potentially provide comfort to them at the expense of distribution companies.
  • Specifically, they mandate that suppliers sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) to meet the annual average demand, ostensibly to ensure 24×7 power for all, which will be subject to review and compliance measures.

OTHER NEGATIVE PROVISIONS AND THEIR IMPACTS

Centralising dimensions

  • It provides greater control to the Centre and limits the States’ and regional political parties’ capability to make electoral use of electricity pricing.
  • In an electoral context where the battle lines may be drawn between the ruling coalition and strong regional parties, the politics of power prices will shift from sub-national to national electoral politics.
  • The amendment proposes a re-formulation of the selection committee for State regulators, from a majority of State representatives to a majority of Central representatives.
  • The Centre will also gain more oversight on capacity addition, through the requirement of detailed project report submission to the Central Electricity Authority.
  • There is no doubt that State performance has been poor on both fronts. But the amendments reflect a clear choice of solution: re-direct responsibility to the Centre instead of fixing the process in the States.

Challenges remains

  • The amendment recognises the need to subsidise the poor, but mandates this be done through direct benefit transfers. Identifying and targeting beneficiaries remains a challenge.
  • With these changes, the mechanism of support for poorer customers will shift from the electricity customer to the taxpayer.
  • The challenge of low demand for existing power is an issue. The disincentives to serve poor customers rather than availability of power is the real obstacle to 24×7 power.
  • The gain to generators could come at the cost of customers, who have to ultimately bear the risk of uncertain load growth, prices and migration.

Conclusion

  • There is no doubt the status quo is unsatisfactory; India’s electricity sector remains beset with problems.
  • Yet, the amendments leave quite unclear what happens to those left behind by distribution reforms and by efforts to help out generators.
  • Disruptive change in Indian electricity may be needed, even inevitable.
  • But the amendments risk placing the cost of disruption on the backs of the poorest, and shifts the potential for remedial measures to the hands of the Centre, rather than the States.

Connecting the dots:

  • Draft Electricity Amendment Act, 2018 proposes a slew of measures to bring transparency in power generation market. Discuss.

ENVIRONMENT/ECOLOGY

TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • International organisations and reports on climate change and its mitigation
  • Climate financing

Another warning on warming

Introduction

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released a special report on global warming of 1.5°C, over pre-industrial temperatures.
  • It provides details on how the global response to climate change needs to be strengthened within the broader context of sustainable development and continuing efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • The impacts of 1.5°C of warming and the possible development pathways by which the world could get there are its main focus.

Background

  • In 2015, at the Paris climate conference, the global community made a pact to pursue efforts to limit warming to within 1.5°C — half a degree below the previous target of 2°C.
  • With the increase in extreme events and the very survival of small islands at stake, the lower limit was greeted then with surprise and enthusiasm.

What is the difference: 1.5°C and 2°C?

  • For most people, the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C may seem trivial when daily temperatures fluctuate much more widely. However, the reference here is to global average temperatures.
  • Different regions of the earth will warm at different rates. For instance, the Arctic is already experiencing warming that is many times higher than the global average.
  • Half a degree of warming makes a world of difference to many species whose chance of survival is significantly reduced at the higher temperature.
  • At 1.5°C warming, ocean acidification will be reduced (compared to 2°C warming), with better prospects for marine ecosystems.
  • There will likely be less intense and frequent hurricanes, not as intense droughts and heat waves with smaller effects on crops, and the reduced likelihood of an ice-free Arctic in summers.
  • Studies conservatively estimate sea levels to rise on average by about 50 cm by 2100 in a 2°C warmer world, 10 cm more than for 1.5°C warming.
  • But beyond 2100, the overall assurance of much higher sea level rise is greater in a 2°C world.
  • The risks to food security, health, fresh water, human security, livelihoods and economic growth are already on the rise and will be worse in a 2°C world.
  • The number of people exposed to the complex and compounded risks will also increase and the poorest, mostly in Asia and Africa, will suffer the worst impacts.
  • Adaptation, or the changes required to withstand the temperature rise, will also be lower at the lower temperature limit.
  • The danger of crossing tipping points, or thresholds beyond which the earth’s systems are no longer able to stabilise, becomes higher with more warming.
  • Such tipping points include melting of Greenland ice, collapse of Antarctic glaciers (which would lead to several metres of sea level rise), destruction of Amazon forests, melting of all the permafrost and so on.

Pathways and polices: The IPCC report identifies two main strategies.

  • The first stabilises global temperature around the 1.5°C mark with limited overshoot and the second permits temperatures to exceed 1.5°C temporarily before coming back down.
  • The consequences of the temporary overshoot would cause worse impacts than the first approach.
  • To limit warming to around 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around mid-century.
  • In comparison, to limit warming to just below 2°C, the reductions needed are about 20% by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075.
  • There are several mitigation pathways illustrated to achieve these reductions and all of them incorporate different levels of CO2 removal.
  • Emissions need to peak early within the next decade or so, and then drop.
  • These different methods will themselves involve various risks, costs and trade-offs. But there are also many synergies between achieving mitigation targets and fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals.
  • To stay below 1.5°C, the transitions required by energy systems and human societies, in land use, transport, and infrastructure, would have to be rapid and on an unprecedented scale with deep emission reductions.

Challenges ahead

  • How is the remaining carbon budget, that is the room available in the atmosphere to safely contain more CO2, going to be shared among different countries?
  • This is a difficult question to address, given the contentious nature of the negotiations.
  • For instance, that the U.S. has been obstructionist in the deliberations in Incheon, South Korea, at the recent meeting to determine the final text of the report.
  • The U.S. also reiterated its intent to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
  • Contributions from the U.S. and other rich countries to the Green Climate Fund and other funding mechanisms for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation are vital even to reach the goals of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • Even if all the NDCs are implemented, the world is expected to warm by over 3°C.

Conclusion

  • Disputes over the implementation of the Paris Agreement at numerous meetings depict the deep divides among rich countries, emerging economies and least developed countries.
  • This special report poses options for the global community of nations, which they will have to contend with in Poland — the next Conference of the Parties.
  • Each will have to decide whether to play politics on a global scale for one’s own interests or to collaborate to protect the world and its ecosystems as a whole.

Connecting the dots:

  • Disputes over the implementation of the Paris Agreement depict the deep divides among countries but the window of opportunity to take action is very small and closing fast. Comment in the light of IPCC report on keeping warming to under 1.5°C as compared to pre-industrial times.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)

Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) Names like Wing Loong II, Sea Guardian, Heron are in news. they are associated with –

  1. Tropical Cyclones
  2. Hurricanes
  3. Drones
  4. Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft

Q.2) TAPI Pipeline passes through which of the following?

  1. Tajikistan
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Pakistan
  4. Iran

Select the correct statements

  1. 2 and 3
  2. 1, 2 and 3
  3. 1, 3 and 4
  4. 1, 2 and 4

Q.3) Consider the following statements with regard to POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  1. It is India’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  2. Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal ministry.
  3. Under POSHAN Abhiyaan, September was celebrated as the Rashtriya Poshan Maah or National Nutrition Month.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 1 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Q.4) Which of the following are beneficiaries of National Nutrition Mission (NNM)?

  1. Children from 0-6 years
  2. Adolescent Girls
  3. Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 Only
  2. 1 and 3
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. 1 and 2

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