Daily Current Affairs IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th January 2019

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  • January 16, 2019
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Daily Current Affairs IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th January 2019



Asian Waterbird Census, Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), Wetland International and Bombay Natural History Society

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Animal Conservation; Biodiversity; International Organizations

In news:

  • A waterbird survey conducted as part of the annual Asian Waterbird Census (in the Upper Kuttanad region, Kerala) has spotted three new species — Greater flamingo, Grey-headed lapwing, and Blue-cheeked bee-eater.
  • The survey however pointed that compared to the previous years, the number of winged visitors to the region has declined drastically.
  • In 2017, the survey recorded 28,198 birds whereas 41,576 were spotted last year.
  • Reasons: Severe floods that affected Kerala during August 2018 and subsequent delay in preparing paddy fields

Do you know?

  • The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is co-coordinated by Wetlands International– as part of global programme, the “International Waterbird Census”.
  • The survey would help understand the changes to wetland systems, change in migratory pattern of birds, and impact of climate change.
  • The information would be used to promote the designation and management of protected areas, Ramsar Sites, Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), and so on.

Important Value Additions:

About Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)

  • IBA is an initiative by BirdLife
  • It is a programme which aims to identify, monitor and protect a global network of IBAs for conservation of the world’s birds and associated biodiversity.
  • BirdLife’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Area concept has been developed and applied for over 30 years.
  • Initially, IBAs were identified only for terrestrial and freshwater environments, but over the past decade, the IBA process and method has been adapted and applied in the marine realm.
  • In 2012, BirdLife published the first Marine IBA “e-atlas”, with details of 3,000 IBAs in coastal and territorial waters as well as on the high seas.

According to Birdlife International, designation of IBAs is based on standardized criteria, namely

  • hold significant numbers of one or more globally threatened bird species,
  • be one of a set of sites that together hold a suite of restricted-range species or biome-restricted species and
  • have exceptionally large numbers of migratory or congregatory birds. The IBAs contain a range of habitats, such as wetlands, mudflats, microhabitats in biodiversity hotspots, grasslands and scrublands, making them excellent indicators of biodiversity richness.

About Wetland International

Wetlands International is a global organisation that works to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity. It is an independent, not-for-profit, global organisation, supported by government and NGO membership from around the world.

About Bombay Natural History Society

BNHS is a non government Organisation (NGO) founded in the year 1883. It engages itself in the conservation of nature and natural resources and also in the research and conservation of endangered species. Its mission is to conserve nature, primarily biological diversity through action based on research, education and public awareness.

Do you know?

  • In India, the AWC is annually coordinated by the Bombay Natural history Society (BNHS) and Wetlands International.
  • The Bombay Natural History Society and Birdlife International have identified 467 IBAs in India.

Human-animal conflicts

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Animal Conservation; Biodiversity

In news:

  • In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) released ‘Eco-friendly measures to mitigate impacts of linear infrastructure’, an advisory document for mitigating human-animal conflicts.
  • Despite this advisory, and many others issued by conservationists and organisations, deaths of wild animals in road and railway accidents have continued unabated.

Key facts/concerns:

  • 49 elephants were killed in Railway accidents between 2016-18 (nine in 2015-16, 21 casualties in 2016-17 and 19 in 2017-18).
  • In the same 3-year period, three tigers were killed in road accidents while eight tigers were mowed down by trains.
  • 10 lions died in railway and road accidents between 2016-2018.
  • West Bengal and Assam together accounted for 37 out of the 49 deaths of elephants on train tracks across the country.
  • The number of elephants dying in railway accidents in Assam have increased year-by-year ( 3 deaths in 2015-16, 10 in 2016-17, 14 in 2017-18)

Pic: https://d39gegkjaqduz9.cloudfront.net/TH/2019/01/14/DEL/Delhi/TH/5_07/895b67c0_2665580_101_mr.jpg

India-US: 2+2 intercession

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

In news:

  • India and the U.S. reviewed the progress on finalising two key agreements during the recently held 2+2 intercession.
  • The two key agreements are Industrial Security Annex (ISA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
  • The ISA is particularly essential as the Indian industry looks for a greater role in defence manufacturing. It allows sharing of classified information from the U.S. government and American companies with the Indian private sector, which is so far limited to the Indian government and the defence public sector undertakings.

Pic: https://d39gegkjaqduz9.cloudfront.net/TH/2019/01/14/DEL/Delhi/TH/5_11/d9d8c5e3_2665618_101_mr.jpg

India to grow crops for UAE, Saudi Arabia

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

In news:

  • UAE and Saudi Arabia has decided to use India as a base to address their food security concerns.
  • Farm-to-port project: For the first time, India’s export policy identifies the potential of agriculture along with horticulture, dairy, plantation and fisheries.
  • The farm-to-port project will be similar to a special economic zone but in the style of a corporatised farm, where crops would be grown keeping a specific UAE market in mind.



TOPIC:General studies 2

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • Policies of developed and developing countries and their impact on India’s interests.
  • India and its neighbours; International Relations

A better solution for Afghanistan crisis: idea of enabling its neutrality and engaging Taliban


  • The best way out for Afghanistan issue would be to re-place Afghanistan in its traditional mode of neutrality.
  • For that, two things were essential. The Afghans themselves must declare unequivocally that they would follow strict neutrality in their relations with external powers, and the outside powers must commit themselves to respect Afghanistan’s neutrality.
  • In other words, external powers must subscribe to a multilateral declaration not to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan together with an obligation on Afghanistan not to seek outside intervention in its internal situation.

The agreement on the Neutrality of Laos, concluded in 1962, could provide a model for the neutralisation of Afghanistan.

The U.S.’s plan to pull out of Afghanistan is an appropriate time to re-examine the idea of enabling its neutrality.

Engage with the Taliban

  • One thing that should already have been done and must be done is to engage in dialogue with the Taliban.
  • Taliban will definitely be a major player in the politics of Afghanistan in the coming months and years. They already control more than 50% of the country and are getting stronger and bolder by the day.
  • They are also engaged in direct talks with China, Russia, the Central Asian states and others.
  • The Americans, represented by former diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, have begun sustained dialogue with the Taliban.

The Taliban have refused to talk to the Kabul government so far, but as and when the Americans pull out, they might agree to engage with the Ashraf Ghani government.

In future, Taliban are guaranteed to play an important, perhaps even a decisive role in the governing structures of the country.

Do you know?

  • Security cooperation in Afghanistan is impossible without a political solution that involves reconciling various hostile elements. This would lead to a more inclusive national government which has representation from all groups.
  • It is also argued that conflict within Afghanistan can be resolved by distribution of power among the major ethnic groups and the political factions and between the central afghan government and the provinces. Finding a right balance that would keep all of the players satisfied, is the most crucial part.
  • India has so far refrained from establishing formal contacts with the Taliban. (No direct talks with Taliban as long as Taliban refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kabul government).
  • However, India must look after its own interests. In future, a Taliban-dominated government in Kabul may necessarily pose a serious security threat to India.
  • Even Iran, a Shia regime, has established official dialogue with the Taliban, a staunchly Sunni movement. It would not be difficult for our agencies to establish contacts that would facilitate initiating an official dialogue with Taliban.

Role of Regional Players

  • Regional players’ role is crucial for Afghan peace process.
  • It is important to promote a regional compact among all the neighbouring countries as well as relevant external powers, and with the endorsement of the UN Security Council, to commit themselves not to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
  • Pakistan should have no objection to formally agreeing to Afghanistan’s neutrality. Pakistan should respect the Bilateral Agreement on the Principles of Mutual Relations (in particular on Non-interference and Non-intervention), signed in Geneva in 1988 between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • According to that agreement, the parties should respect the right of the other side to determine its political, social and culture system without interference in any form; to refrain from over throwing or changing the political system of the other side; to ensure that its territory was not used to violate the sovereignty, etc of the other side, to prevent within its territory the training, etc of mercenaries from whatever origin for the purpose of hostile activities against the other side.

The Bonn Agreement of 2001, which made Hamid Karzai the interim chief of Afghan government, contains a request to the United Nations and the international community to ‘guarantee’ non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, a request not acted upon so far.


  • A regional pact on non-interference and non-intervention should be welcomed by all the regional states.
  • After the exit of US and other western countries, no other country will offer to put boots on the ground, nor should they; certainly not India.
  • The only alternative is to think of some neutrality arrangement.

Connecting the dots:


TOPIC:General studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

Right to information: A tool to strengthen democracy


  • Right to Information (RTI) is usually used as a synonym for democracy. This is a tool to strengthen citizens’ sovereignty.
  • The words of Sir Francis Bacon — “Knowledge is power” — aptly bring out the essence of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
  • Knowledge, gained through access to correct information, has the ability to upturn the power dynamic: It places a person at a formidable position to fight for their rights and enables them to ask vital questions.

Significance of RTI Act

  • The introduction of RTI Act has strengthened the principles of democracy, which in Abraham Lincoln’s words is “of the people, by the people and for the people”, by facilitating people’s participation in governance.
  • It has helped to keep a check on arbitrary decision making by public institutions.
  • RTI was not just limited to the urban elites; it gave voice to the poor sections of the society by providing them with a tool of information to hold the government accountable.
  • The RTI is all about making citizens informed. Informed societies mean a lively and functioning democracy.
  • RTI promotes transparency and accountability.
  • RTI laws can play a crucial role in combating corruption.
  • RTI also is important in promoting and upholding human rights.

However, lack of information may prevent citizens from realising their aspirations, because it leaves them without the basis to participate in any debate, discussion and question-answer session regarding the decision-making process.


  • In October 2018, the RTI completed 13 years of its inception. For the last few years, it has faced constant onslaught by the current regime.
  • The latest Global Right to Information Rating has ranked India at the sixth position, a rank lower than last year. While under the UPA government, India positioned itself at second place, under the BJP-led government the ranking has successively dropped.
  • Callous attitude of Central Information Commission and Information Commissioners (ICs): Findings of a study revealed that Central Information Commission took an average of 319 days to hear and give an order on an appeal from the date it was filed before the commission, with the maximum number of days taken by the CIC reaching to 862 days.
  • An average of 56 per cent of orders recorded violations of Section 20 of the RTI, but a penalty was imposed in only 4 per cent of the cases.
  • Poor strength of CIC: Only seven ICs working at present along with CIC. Now, fours ICs are to retire by the end of this year.
  • A fresh attempt to indirectly amend the RTI has also been made through the Personal Data Protection Bill that makes the wordings of Section 8(j) of the RTI vague, not specifying the extent of harm or differentiation between personal information and personal data.

Connecting the dots:


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


  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
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Q.1) The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is carried out each January as a voluntary activity. Which of the following statements are correct regarding AWC?

  1. It is an international Program that focuses on monitoring the status of waterbirds and wetlands.
  2. It aims to increase public awareness on issues related to wetland and waterbird conservation.
  3. In India AWC is annually coordinated by Bombay Natural History Society and Wetlands International.

Select the code from following:

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

Q.2) Consider the following statements about Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)

  1. It was developed and sites are identified by BirdLife International
  2. IBAs are places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity
  3. A site can be listed as an IBA only if it holds a population of a species categorized by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered

Select the correct statements

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

Q.3) With reference to Wetlands International, consider the below statements:

  1. It is an intergovernmental organization formed by the countries which are signatories to Ramsar Convention.
  2. It works at the field level to develop and mobilize knowledge, and use the practical experience to advocate for better policies.

Which of the statements given above is/are incorrect?

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

Q.4) Which of the following statements related to the Bird Life International is/are correct?

  1. It is a platform for all the stakeholders engaged in genetic resource conservation and management of birds in developing nations.
  2. It is the official Red List authority for birds, for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  3. It publishes the scientific journal Bird Conservation International.

Select the appropriate code

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 3
  4. All


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