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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 27th April 2020

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  • April 27, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 27th April 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Hydrogen fuel based buses and cars: Expression of Interest issued by NTPC

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Environment; Science and Technology

In News:

  • NTPC Ltd, has invited Global Expression of Interest (EoI) to provide Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and electric cars in Leh and Delhi.
  • NTPC Ltd. Is India’s largest power producer and a central PSU under Ministry of Power.

Key takeaways:

  • The move to procure Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles is first of its kind project in the country.
  • Under this project, a complete solution from green energy to the fuel cell vehicle would be developed.
  • The initiative has been undertaken with support of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
  • The initiative will also harness renewable energy for generation of hydrogen and develop its storage and dispensation facilities at Leh and Delhi.
  • The project aims at reducing carbon emissions from automobiles.

Important value additions:

Hydrogen Fuel

  • Hydrogen does not occur free in nature in useful quantities.
  • It can be made from natural gas or it can be made by passing electric current through water.
  • When hydrogen is burned, it only emits water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced. 
  • It is more efficient than internal combustion engine. 
  • However, manufacturing hydrogen fuel based vehicle is still expensive.

GW190412: Merger of two unequal-mass black holes. 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Space

In News:

  • The gravitational wave observatories at LIGO scientific collaboration have detected a merger of two unequal-mass black holes for the first time since it started functioning.

Key takeaways:

  • The event is dubbed as GW190412
  • It was detected nearly a year ago. 
  • The event involved two black holes of unequal masses combining together. 
  • One of the black holes was around 30 times the mass of the Sun and the other had a mass nearly 8 times the sun’s mass.
  • The actual merger took place at a distance of 2.5 billion light years away.

Important value additions:

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) 

  • It is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations. 
  • It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory. 
  • It consists of two detectors situated 1,865 miles (3,002 kilometers) apart in isolated regions in the states of Washington and Louisiana. 

Central Vigilance Commission: New commissioner appointed 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Statutory Bodies

In News:

  • Retired bureaucrat Sanjay Kothari was sworn in as the next Central Vigilance Commissioner by President Ram Nath Kovind at an official oath-taking ceremony, recently. 

Important value additions:

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) 

Background: It was set up by the Government in 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by K. Santhanam.

Status: It is a statutory body governed by the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003.

Mandate: To inquire into offences which might have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by certain categories of public servants. 

Composition: The Commission shall consist of a Central Vigilance Commissioner (Chairperson); and not more than two Vigilance Commissioners (Members).

Appointment: They are appointed by the President of India on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. 


Miscellaneous 

Benzalkonium Chloride

  • Most of the household cleaning agents consist of benzalkonium chloride solution. 
  • It is a chemical with antimicrobial properties acting against pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.
  • It is primarily a skin irritant
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPC) classifies benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) in toxicity category II by oral and inhalation routes and category III via the dermal (skin) route. 

Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerators

  • Many countries, industry groups, and NGOs have committed to join a project called Access to COVID-19 Tools led by the World Health Organization. 
  • It is a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to New COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

(MAINS FOCUS)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India
  • India’s Security challenges

At the edge of New Nuclear Arms Race

Context: US State department in its reports have stated that 

  • Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments 
  • China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site

However, both Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims

What does these allegations by US suggest?

  • Growing strategic competition between major powers 
  • Suggests the end of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter century.

What is CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty)?

  • CTBT is a global treaty that aims to ban all nuclear explosions across the world. 
  • It provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing and was open for signature from 1996
  • However, the Treaty enters into force when 44 specific States signs and ratifies it. These States had nuclear facilities at that time & included India 
  • Till date, 36 have ratified the treaty. 
  • China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified. 
  • India, North Korea and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty but all three have undertaken tests after 1996

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization(CTBTO)

  • It was founded in 1996 to promote the Treaty so that it can enter into force. 
  • It also establishes a verification regime to monitor adherence to the Treaty.
  • The CTBT verification includes
    • International Monitoring System (IMS), 
    • International Data Centre (IDC)
    • On-site inspections (OSI).

Criticism of the Treaty

  • Defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests. 
  • Anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework, as proposed by India, was not accepted
  • The treaty’s entry-into-force- provisions, which listed 44 countries by name, was protested by India as arm-twisting tactic and violation of Sovereign right of India
  • CTBTO is largely funded by US and unable to promote the treaty effectively.

Recent trends in Nuclear Arms

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that limits U.S. and Russian arsenals will expire in 2021 and US is not inclined to extend it
  • US has embarked on a $1.2 trillion nuclear modernisation plan spanning 30 years
  • China has also embarked on modernisation plan to enhance the lifespane of its smaller nuclear arsenal
  • Russia has responded by developing hypersonic delivery systems

Potential for a New Arms race

  • US wants to China into some kind of nuclear arms control agreement
  • But China is not interested by pointing to the fact that the U.S. and Russia still account for over 90% of global nuclear arsenals.
  • China also maintains that it will ratify CTBT only after the U.S.
  • This indicates the increasing divergence between US and China trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and coronavirus pandemic. 
  • U.S. could also be preparing the ground for resuming nuclear testing at Nevada indicating the beginning of new arms race

Conclusion

The developments between US and China could be the signs for a new cold war

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s Nuclear Doctrine
  • India’s attempt to become a member of Nuclear Supplier Group

GOVERNANCE/ FEDERALISM/ ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources 

Institutional challenges to migrants’ welfare

Context: The relief package announced by Union Government directed States to provide relief to Construction workers using provisions under Building and Other Construction Workers Act(BOCW), 1996.

What is BOCW Act?

  • The Act regulates the employment and conditions of service of building and other construction workers.
  • It provides for the levy and collection of cess at 1-2 % of the cost of construction, as the Central government may notify.
  • The cess is collected by the State governments and UTs.
  • It is utilised for the welfare of building and other construction workers by the respective State BOCW Boards.
  • Presently Rs 31,000 crore of funds is available with such welfare boards

Therefore, the basic framework of the governance is

  • States collect a cess from construction projects, register construction workers, and design schemes to use the funds collected for their welfare.

Constraints to provide assistance to casual workers during this pandemic

  1. Dependent on Formalisation: Only registered construction workers benefit from the welfare schemes
  2. Low worker registrations–  As of end-2018, according to Union Labour Ministry only 3.24 crore workers were registered across India, which represented about 60% of the construction workforce in India
  3. Low Awareness among the workers and their organisations about the benefits which can be availed through such legislation
  4. Limited State capacity for expenditure 
    • Chhattisgarh’s board would go bankrupt if they paid workers the central minimum daily NREGA wage of Rs 202 for the lockdown period
  5. Significant variations across states
    • Six states—Tamil Nadu, UP, MP, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal—have 54% of the registered workforce, but only 32% of cess funds collected.
  6. Issues of interstate migrants
    • They constitute 42.7% of the urban construction workforce (Census 2001)
    • State BOCW Boards are reluctant to register migrants due to lack of political incentives

Way Ahead

  • Centre can use the expertise of the Central BOCW Advisory Committee to play a proactive role in coordinating amongst states
  • Centre can facilitate sharing beneficiary lists and funds between these states through interstate MoU
  • States—labour departments and welfare boards- need to improve the registration process. 
  • The quarantine camps for migrants are an opportunity to disseminate information, and even register such workers by utilizing the services of Civil Society groups.

Connecting the dots:

  • Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016
  • Farmers distress during Pandemic

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 The event GW190412 is associated with which of the following? 

  1. Merger of two galaxies 
  2. Merger of two equal-mass black holes 
  3. Merger of two unequal-mass black holes 
  4. Merger of two dwarf planets

Q.2 Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerators is led by which of the following?

  1. World Health Organisation 
  2. United Nations Human Rights Commission 
  3. Bill Gates Foundation 
  4. UNICEF

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding Benzalkonium Chloride? 

  1. It acts only against the bacteria.
  2. It is a skin irritant.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

Q.4 Consider the following statements regarding Central Vigilance Commission? 

  1. The Commissioner is appointed by the President of India. 
  2. It is a non-statutory body.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

Q.5 Consider the following statements regarding hydrogen fuel?

  1. It is less efficient than internal combustion engine. 
  2. The manufacture of hydrogen fuel is expensive.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

ANSWERS FOR 25th April 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 A
4 A

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