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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th JULY 2020

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  • July 18, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th July 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Sero Surveillance Analysis 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Health issue; Science – Health and Medicine

In news: 

  • Delhi High Court directed the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to submit a report and analysis of the serological survey that was recently conducted in the national capital. 
  • Blood samples were taken from randomly selected people as part of the survey, which involves rapid tests for antibodies, to study the scale of undetected infections.  

About: 

  • Sero Surveillance is an antibodies detection test which was done to assess the prevalence of infection at the community level and primarily used for evidence-based public health response.  
  • Antibodies, also referred to as immunoglobulins, are glycoproteins naturally produced in response to invading foreign particles (antigens) such as microorganisms and viruses. As such, they play a critical role in the immune system’s defense against infection and disease. 
  • In simple terms, antibodies are specialized, Y-shaped proteins that bind like a lock-and-key to the body’s foreign invaders — whether they are viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.  

KritiScan: UV Baggage Disinfection System 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Science and Technology; Indegenous technology 

In news: 

  • In order to control spread of infection through baggage, International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad and Vehant Technologies, Noida have co-developed KritiScan UV Baggage Disinfection System. 
  • The compact UVC conveyor system developed can efficiently disinfect the baggage passing through the conveyor within a few seconds. 
  • UVC based disinfection systems are known for their rapid disinfection capability. 
  • The disinfection process is dry and chemical-free. 

Do you know? 

  • UVC light, when irradiated on an infected surface, quickly disrupts the genetic material in the virus and thus inhibits its multiplication. 
  • The Kritiscan UV advanced baggage disinfecting system uses UVC light (254 nm) with appropriate irradiance to inactivate microbes and viruses. 
  • The system can efficiently disinfect the baggage within 8 seconds as compared to standard hand-held disinfection techniques. 

Tamil Nadu: top investment destination 

Part of: GS Mains III – Economy – Investment 

In news: 

  • Tamil Nadu has emerged as the country’s top investment destination in the first quarter of this financial year. 
  • Overall fresh investment announcements in India slumped to the lowest in five years.  
  • The Tamil Nadu government had signed 17 MoUs , whereas Maharashtra had signed 12 MoUs with firms from Singapore, South Korea and the U.S. through a virtual summit. 

Do you know? 

The nationwide lockdown has also led to suspension of work on investment projects worth around Rs. 21.12 lakh crore due to critical factors such as shortage of labour, funds and equipment. 


Miscellaneous: 

India-Nepal: Lord Ram birthplace issue 

In news: 

  • Nepal has planned to explore an archaeological site in Thori near the border town of Birgunj, Nepal. 
  • The development comes four days after Nepal Prime Minister said the real birthplace of Lord Ram is located in Thori village around Birgunj, a major border town and called for further studies of location of the ancient city of Ayodhya. 

Do you know? 

  • Thori is known to have a cluster of ancient Hindu religious sites that draw pilgrims from different parts of Nepal. 
  • Nepal PM’s remarks have drawn strong reaction from Indian civil society. 

270 mn Indians lifted out of poverty by UPA 

In news: 

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) study –  

  • 270 million Indians were lifted out of poverty by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 
  • The poverty data released by the United Nations Development Programme and OPHI pointed out that 65 out of 75 countries significantly reduced their multidimensional poverty levels between 2000 and 2019. 
  • About 273 million Indians moved out of multi-dimensional poverty between 2005-6 and 2015-16. 

About Multidimensional Poverty Index 

The Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched by the UNDP and the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in 2010. Basic philosophy and significance of MPI is that it is based on the idea that poverty is not unidimensional (not just depends on income and one individual may lack several basic needs like education, health etc.), rather it is multidimensional. 

The MPI measures overlapping deprivations at the household level across the same three dimensions as the Human Development Index (health, education and living standards). The index shows the proportion of poor people and the average number of deprivations each poor person experiences at the same time. 

For the estimation of deprivation or poverty from different dimensions, the MPI uses three dimensions and ten indicators. The three dimensions are health, education and standard of living. Deprivations are measured for the household and individual levels. The household data are aggregated to derive the national measure of multidimensional poverty. The three dimensions and ten indicators based on them are: 

The dimensions and the respective indicators used are: 

  • Education: Years of schooling and child enrollment (1/6 weightage each, total 2/6); 
  • Health: Child mortality and nutrition (1/6 weightage each, total 2/6); 
  • Standard of living: Electricity, flooring, drinking water, sanitation, cooking fuel and assets (1/18 weightage each, total 2/6) 

UN blacklists Pak. Taliban leader Noor Wali Mehsud 

In news: 

  • Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terror group’s leader Noor Wali Mehsud has been designated as a global terrorist by the UN. 
  • Noor Wali Mehsud had participated in the financing, planning and perpetrating acts on behalf of and in support of entities associated with al-Qaeda. 
  • The UN Security Council’s 1267 ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee added Noor Wali Mehsud to the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions List. 

Do you know? 

  • The TTP was blacklisted by the UN on July 29, 2011 for its association with al-Qaeda. 
  • Under Noor Wali’s leadership, TTP has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly terrorist attacks across Pakistan. 
  • Blacklisting by the Security Council entails that all states are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities. 

(MAINS FOCUS)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY/ ECONOMY 

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3

  • India and its neighborhood- relations
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 

Iran ties need quiet diplomacy

Context: Recently Iran’s Transport and Urban Development Minister had launched the track laying programme for the 628 km long rail link between Chabahar and Zahidan  

The event sparked concerns that India was being excluded from the project especially in the backdrop of Iran finalising a 25-year strategic partnership deal with China worth $400 billion, negotiated in secrecy. 

Later Developments 

  • Iran has since clarified that India has not been excluded and it could join the project at a later stage.  
  • This keeps the door open for Ircon International Limited (IRCON) which has been associated with the project even as India continues with the development of Chabahar port. 

Need for Chabahar Port & Rail Project- Connectivity for Afghanistan 

  • The Chabahar port project, signed in 2003, has been jointly developed by India, Iran, and Afghanistan.  
  • The Chabahar port actually contains two separate ports called Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti 
  • Chabahar port on Iran’s Makran coast, just 1,000 km from Kandla(Guajarat), is well situated but road and rail links from Chabahar to Zahidan and then 200 km further on to Zaranj in Afghanistan, need to be built.  
  • Indian PSU IRCON had prepared engineering studies estimating that the 800 km long railway project would need an outlay of $1.6 billion.  
  • With Iran under sanctions during 2005-13, there was little progress in Iran. 
  • Meanwhile, India concentrated on the 220 km road to connect Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan that was completed in 2008 at a cost of $150 million. 

Developments post 2015 

  • Things moved forward after 2015 when sanctions on Iran eased with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal 
  • In 2016, MoU was signed to equip and operate two terminals at the Shahid Beheshti port (part of Chabahar port) as part of Phase I of the project. This was operational in 2018 and India’s wheat shipments to Afghanistan have been using this route. 
  • Another milestone was the signing of the Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor between Afghanistan, Iran and India.  
  • A special economic zone (SEZ) at Chabahar was planned but re-imposition of U.S. sanctions has slowed investments into the SEZ. 

Did India face hurdles due to US re-imposing Sanction on Iran? 

  • India was given a waiver from U.S. sanctions to continue cooperation on Chabahar as it contributed to Afghanistan’s development 
  • Despite the waiver, the project has suffered delays because of the time taken by the U.S. Treasury to actually clear the import of heavy equipment such as rail mounted gantry cranes, mobile harbour cranes, etc. 

Why Iran needs China? 

  • Investments: Chinese promises investment (much needed in sanctions era) in Iranian infrastructure in return for assured supplies of Iranian oil and gas at concessional rates. 
  • Rising tensions in the region: There has been missile strikes in Saudi Arabia claimed by the Houthis and a U.S. drone strike killed Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Iran thus finds a strategic partner in China 
  • Provocation by USA: During June-July 2020, there have been more than half-a-dozen mysterious explosions in Iran. Reports attribute these to U.S. and Israeli agencies in an attempt to provoke Iran before the U.S. elections.  
  • Closer relations with China sends a signal to US that Iran will not take lightly of such provocations 
  • Friend at UNSC: Russia and China are the only countries to veto the U.S.’s moves in the UNSC. Hence, Iran’s closeness with China will help in UNSC Diplomacy 

Does that mean that Strategic space for India in Iran has been closed? 

  • China’s aggressiveness: Iran may well be considering a long-term partnership with China, but Iranian negotiators are wary of growing Chinese mercantilist tendencies.  
  • Waiver for India: Iran realises the advantage of working with India- its only partner that enjoys a sanctions waiver from U.S. for Chabahar since it provides connectivity for land-locked Afghanistan. 
  • Common Enemy: Iran and India also share an antipathy to a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. This is why Iran would like to keep the door open for India 

Way Ahead 

  • India needs to improve its implementation record of infrastructure projects that it has taken up in its neighbourhood.  
  • The key is to continue to remain politically engaged with Iran so that there is a better appreciation of each other’s sensitivities and compulsions. 

Did You Know? 

  • Iran has ambitious plans to extend the railway line from Zahidan to Mashad (about 1,000 km) and then another 150 km onwards to Sarakhs on the border with Turkmenistan.  
  • Another plan is to link it with the International North-South Transport Corridor towards Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea.  
  • In 2011, a consortium of seven Indian companies led by Steel Authority of India Limited had also successfully bid for mining rights at Hajigak mines in Afghanistan that contain large reserves of iron ore.  
  • However, developments at Hajigak remain stalled because of the precarious security situation in Afghanistan continues. 

EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE 

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

University examination guidelines 

Context: The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) guidelines of July 6, 2020 on conducting final-year examinations for university students have created debate on exams 

What were the guidelines? 

  • Final Year Examinations to be conducted by the universities/ institutions by end of September 
  • Universities/ Institutions may choose any of mode – pen and paper, online or a combination of both as per the feasibility and suitability 
  • Students who not in their final year can be promoted on the basis of a combination of internal evaluation and marks/grades in previous semesters i.e. cancellation of intermediate semester examinations 

What was idea behind conducting exams only for final year students? 

  • UGC stated that performance in examinations is necessary for “reflection of competence, performance and credibility that is necessary for global acceptability 
  • These guidelines state that the decision has been taken keeping in view the future of the students — jobs and higher education 
  • The new guidelines are also in sync with the decision taken by NTA to further postpone the national level examinations  – JEE and NEET in the month of September 
  • Centre is legally empowered to order the conduct of examinations by September-end, because higher education is in the concurrent list 

Criticism of UGC decision 

  • Logistical Difficulties: There will be challenges in conducting a physical exam during the COVID-19 pandemic especially when States are empowered to impose lockdown based on local conditions 
  • Learning Process affected: When the coronavirus disrupted the teaching-learning process, the very basis of conducting exams is being questioned 
  • Not aligned with Global practice: The world’s finest educational institutions have cancelled exams during the pandemic and chosen to conduct internal assessments. 
  • Objection from States: Given the incalculable risks involved, States such as Punjab, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and later Delhi decided against holding final year examinations. 
  • Credibility of Exams: India’s education system continues to be examination-centric and these guidelines fail to take into account the fact that the validity of examinations fundamentally depends on their reliability. 
  • Institutional Challenges: Most teachers too are not trained in setting good papers particularly for online open-book examinations.  
  • Discriminatory: Flexibility provided to intermediate year students (not conducting exams) was not extended to final-year students. 
  • Uncertainty: In case the infection does not subside, it would mean that the UGC either extends the deadline further or universities are forced to conduct online exams. In latter case there would issue of digital divide favouring the elites over poor 
  • Idea of Final Exams being sacrosanct: It is baffling that the idea that just one semester of examinations will be determinative of the integrity and value of a degree for which students would have worked hard for six to 10 semesters. 

Criticism of University Grants Commission (UGC) 

  • There is nothing like the UGC in the United States.  
  • The UGC was fundamentally meant to be the fund granting institution as is clear from its nomenclature.  
  • But the UGC Act 1956 does confer on it the power of ‘coordination and determination of standards’ in universities as well and, therefore, it has become the regulator of higher education. 
  • Today, the higher education sector is overregulated and underfunded 

Way Ahead 

  • UGC should eventually take the decision that would be equitable, fair, pragmatic and beneficial and not one that is risky and exclusionary of any set of students. 
  • Results should be declared taking into account student performance in earlier semesters and internal evaluation of the final semester.  

Connecting the dots 

  • Higher Education Commission 
  • NEET 

(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) When a ready-made antibodies are directly given to protect the body against foreign agents, it is called

  1. Passive immunity
  2. Active immunity 
  3. Responsive immunity 
  4. None 

Q.2) With reference to Multidimensional Poverty Index, consider the following statements:

  1. MPI was developed by World Bank in collaboration with OECD. 
  2. The MPI can help in the effective allocation of resources and implement some SDGs strategically. 
  3. It complements monetary measures of poverty by considering deprivations in access to water, sanitation, and electricity. 

Select the correct statements

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

Q.3) Consider the following statements about Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI):

  1. The MPI measures overlapping deprivations at the household level across the same three dimensions as the Human Development Index (HDI). 
  2. Indicators for education are number of children enrolled and years of schooling. 
  3. Indicators for Health are only based on nutrition. 

Select the correct statements

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

ANSWERS FOR 17th July 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 A
3 A

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