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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 6th JULY 2020

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  • July 6, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 6th July 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Aatmanirbhar Bharat Innovation Challenge

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Govt schemes and initiatives; Science and Technology; Innovation 

In news: 

  • Aatmanirbhar Bharat Innovation Challenge was launched to identify the best Indian Apps that are already being used by citizens and have the potential to scale and become world class Apps in their respective categories. 
  • Focus – To create world class Made in India Apps. 
  • PM urged tech community to participate in Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge. 
  • The scheme will run in two tracks: promotion of existing apps and development of new apps. 

World Bank and India sign $750 million Agreement for MSME programme 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Govt schemes and initiatives; Role of international organizations; Economy – Growth and Development 

In news: 

  • World Bank and the Government of India signed the $750 million agreement for the MSME Emergency Response Programme. 
  • The programme aims to support increased flow of finance into the hands of MSMEs severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • World Bank’s MSME Emergency Response Programme will address the immediate liquidity and credit needs of some 1.5 million viable MSMEs to help them withstand the impact and protect millions of jobs. 

Do you know? 

  • World Bank has to date committed $2.75 billion to support India’s emergency COVID-19 response, including the new MSME project. 

China-Bhutan: Border Dispute 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International relations; Security 

In news: 

  • Bhutan recently sent a demarche to China protesting against Chinese claims to the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in eastern Bhutan. 
  • China had recently attempted to stop funding for the Sakteng sanctuary from the UN Development Program’s Global Environment Facility (GEF), on the grounds that it was “disputed” territory. 
  • Bhutan has always maintained a discreet silence on its boundary negotiations with China, and it does not have any formal diplomatic relations with Beijing. 

Do you know? 

  • The Sakteng sanctuary has in the past, too, received such grants, including in 2018-2019 for a project on preventing soil erosion, without any objection from China. 

Pic: Sakteng wildlife sanctuary


FAO: India should remain on high alert against locust attack 

 Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Role of International Organization; Science  

 In news: 

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned India to remain on high alert against locust attack. 
  • India is facing the worst locust attack in 26 years. 

FAO’s three categories of Desert Locust situations 

  • The FAO has three categories of Desert Locust situations: outbreak, upsurge, and plague. 
  • The current locust attack (2019-2020) has been categorised as an upsurge. 
  • Outbreaks are common, but only a few result in upsurges. Similarly, few upsurges lead to plagues. 
  • The last major plague was in 1987-89 and the last major upsurge was in 2003-05. Upsurges and plagues do not occur overnight; instead, they take many months to develop. 

Do you know? 

  • When there are good rains and green vegetation develops, Desert Locusts – which are always present somewhere in the deserts between Mauritania and India – can rapidly increase in number and within a month or two, start to concentrate, gregarise. 
  • If left unchecked, they can lead to the formation of small groups or bands of wingless hoppers and small groups or swarms winged adults.  
  • Such a situation is called an ‘outbreak’, and usually occurs with an area of about 5,000 sq. km (100 km by 50 km) in one part of a country. 
  • Locust upsurge is more serious situation and generally affects an entire region. 
  • The most serious category, a ‘plague’ can develop when an upsurge is not controlled and ecological conditions remain favourable for breeding, locust populations continue to increase in number and size, and the majority of the infestations occur as bands and swarms. 
  • The area in which plagues occur covers about 29 million sq. km and can extend across 58 countries. 
  • There have been six major plagues in the 1900s, one of which lasted almost 13 years, the FAO website notes. 

Kawasaki disease

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

About: 

  • Kawasaki disease is a syndrome of unknown cause that results in a fever and mainly affects children under 5 years of age 
  • It is a form of vasculitis, where blood vessels become inflamed throughout the body. 
  • The fever typically lasts for more than five days and is not affected by usual medications. 

Why in news? 

  • Children with Covid-19 infection have often shown some symptoms similar to those associated with a rare illness called Kawasaki disease. 
  • World Health Organization (WHO) termed this new illness “multisystem inflammatory disorder”. 

Symptoms: 

  • It affects children.  
  • Its symptoms include red eyes, rashes, and a swollen tongue with reddened lips — often termed strawberry tongue — and an inflamed blood vessel system all over the body.  
  • There is constant high fever for at least five days.  
  • The disease also affects coronary functions in the heart. 

Do you know? 

  • What causes Kawasaki disease is not yet known. 
  • It is an immunological reaction to an infection or a virus. A child’s immunity system responds to a particular infection and develops these symptoms.  

Scientists and experts raise concerns over vaccine launch by Aug 15 

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

 In news: 

  • We had recently read about ICMR calling for fast-tracking the trial process of Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine and to launch by Aug.15 – Click here. 
  • Scientists and experts have raised serious concerns over the ICMR’s communication. 
  • WHO Chief Scientist has said a vaccine trial usually takes at least six months to complete. 

Do you know? 

  • Any vaccine must demonstrate efficacy and safety on a sizeable number of participants. A realistic timeline could be about six to nine months. 
  • Experts globally have been saying it would take at least 12 to 18 months to launch a vaccine for COVID-19. 

Miscellaneous:

Ethics case-study example: U.P. wanted criminal received information from police 

In news: 

  • U.P. wanted criminal (Vikas Dubey), who recently killed eight policemen during Kanpur encounter, received information about the police raid through a phone call from the local police station. 

 

DRDO hospital 

 In news: 

  • 1,000-bed COVID hospital, which includes a 250-bed ICUs designed and constructed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with the Tata Trust, was inaugurated by Defence Minister and Home Minister in Delhi. 
  • DRDO built it in record time of 12 days with assistance from Home Ministry, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), armed forces and Tata Trust. 

 

Govt. blocks 40 websites of Sikhs For Justice 

In news:  

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued orders for blocking 40 websites of the U.S.-based Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.  
  • The ban orders came on recommendations from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). 

 

Indian Railways to transform itself as ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Mass Transportation Network by 2030 

In news: 

  • Indian Railways announced that it would endeavour to be self-reliant for its energy needs and committed to utilize solar energy for meeting its traction power requirements and become a complete ‘Green mode of transportation’. 
  • The Ministry of Railways has decided to install solar power plants on its vacant unused lands on mega scale. 
  • The move will help to achieve conversion of Indian Railways to ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Railway. 

(MAINS FOCUS)


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY/ INFRASTRUCTURE

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3:

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

Indian Railways opening doors for Private Players 

Context: Indian Railways has launched the process of opening up train operations to private entities on 109 origin destination(OD) pairs of routes using 151 modern trains. 

Did You Know? 

  • The IRCTC, in which the government is the majority shareholder, was given pilot Tejas operations in the New Delhi-Lucknow, and Mumbai-Ahmedabad sectors.  
  • These were the first trains allowed to be run by a ‘non-Railway’ operator.  
  • In 2018 India had 68,443 route kilometres of railways. It is among the four largest rail networks in the world, along with the USA, China, and Russia. 

Background to the decision 

  • In 2015, Bibek Debroy Committee recommended that the way forward for the railways was “liberalisation and not privatisation” in order to allow entry of new operators “to encourage growth and improve services.”  
  • From a passenger perspective, there is a need for more train services, particularly between big cities. The Railway Board says five crore intending passengers could not be accommodated during 2019-20 for want of capacity 
  • Without an expansion, and with growth of road travel, the share of the Railways would steadily decline in coming years. 

Why is the move significant for Indian Railways? 

  • Better Service: The overall objective is to introduce a new train travel experience for passengers who are used to travelling by aircraft and air-conditioned buses. 
  • Augments Capacity: Every kilometre of track in India covers geographical area much less than Germany, Russia, China or Canada, indicating scope for expansion, which can be accelerated by private participation 
  • Attracts Investments: The move is estimated to attract investments of nearly ₹30,000 crore 
  • Multiplier Effect: It is estimated that a one-rupee push in the railway sector would have a forward linkage effect of increasing output in other sectors by ₹2.50.  
  • Reverses the trend of InefficiencyAn analysis of passenger and freight operations in the Railways, showed that a steady shift to other modes of travel for both categories was affecting economic growth: by as much as 4.5% of GDP-equivalent 
  • Catering to Market: Bibek Debroy panel had noted that passengers were willing to pay more, if they had guaranteed and better quality of travel and ease of access.  
  • Monetization of expensive fixed assets such as track, signalling and stations 

Challenges Ahead 

  • InadequateThe present invitation for private operators to participate in train operation constitute only 5% of the 2,800 Mail and Express services operated by Indian Railways 
  • Private Player should meet expectations with better services 
  • The first IRCTC-run trains have a higher cost of travel between Lucknow and Delhi than a Shatabdi train on the same route that almost matches it for speed. 
  • Therefore, Private operators would have to raise the level of their offering even higher, to justify higher fares, and attract a segment of the population that is ready to pay premium prices 
  • Need for level playing field 
  • As the experience of private operators in running container trains suggests, setting up an independent regulator will be critical for creating a level playing field for private players 

Conclusion 

Private rail operations can thus be seen as a government-led pilot plan, not a full programme for unbundling of the monolithic Indian Railways, although the more attractive parts are being opened for private exploitation. 

 

Connecting the dots 

  • Bibek Debroy Committee report 
  • Rakesh Mohan committee report 

POLITY/ GOVERNANCE / SOCIETY 

Topic: General Studies 2

  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
    Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
    Functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies – ECI

Re-enfranchise the forgotten voter 

ContextIn response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has made it possible for senior citizens above the age of 65 to vote by postal ballot, given that they are at greater risk from exposure to the novel coronavirus 

 Hitherto, this option was available only to disabled citizens and those above 80 years. 

Significance of the move 

  • Facilitates voting and remove obstacles to voters exercising their franchise 
  • Indicates the efforts of ECI to ensure that no one is left out of Democratic process 

Voting Scenario in India 

  • India currently has over 91.05 crore registered voters and in the 2019 general election, a record 67.4%, i.e., 61.36 crore voters, cast their vote. 
  • The ECI would do well to focus attention on the one-third, a substantial 29.68 crore, who did not cast their vote. 
  • About 10% of registered voters refrain from voting due to a lack of interest in politics.  
  • That leaves approximately 20 crore voters who want to vote but are unable to do so 
  • Of these there are about three crore Non Resident Indians (NRIs). Only about one lakh NRIs have registered to vote, presumably because voting requires their physical presence in India. 

Did You Know? 

  • About 25,000 NRIs voted in the 2019 elections.  
  • To enable NRIs to exercise their franchise, the government brought in legislation to enable voting through authorised proxies. However, the legislation has lapsed 
  • Service voters (government employees) posted away from home can vote through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS). Classified service voters (e.g., military personnel) can do so through their proxies.  

Migrants and difficulties they face while exercising their franchise 

  • Constitute major chunk of labour force: As per Economic Survey of 2017, Internal migrant workers constitute about 13.9 crore – nearly a third of India’s labour force 
  • Temporary Settlements: Many migrants never intend to settle down and wish to return to their native villages and towns once their work is completed or the working season ends.  
  • Loss of Dignified Life: They toil in exploitative low-wage jobs, lacking identity and proper living conditions, without access to welfare and unable to exercise their voting rights 
  • Politically powerless:  
  • Migrant workers become quasi-disenfranchised, forgotten voters because they cannot afford to return home on election day to choose their representatives 
  • Internal migrant workers do not enroll as voters in their place of employment since they find proof of residence hard to provide. 
  • Also, host State governments ignore them as they do not constitute a vote bank worthy of attention and sometimes target them for allegedly taking jobs away from the local population. 

Way Ahead- re-enfranchising migrant workers 

  • To facilitate voting by migrant workers, the ECI could undertake substantial outreach measures using the network of District Collectorates.  
  • Migrants should be able to physically vote in their city of work based on the address on their existing voter IDs and duration of their temporary stay.  
  • Voting must be viewed not just as a civic duty but as a civic right.  
  • There must be the political will to usher in a ‘One Nation One Voter ID’ to ensure ballot portability and empower the forgotten migrant voter. 
  • ECI must fast track its testing an Aadhaar-linked voter-ID based solution to enable electors to cast their votes digitally from anywhere in the country.  

 

Connecting the dots 

  • One Nation- One Ration Card Scheme 
  • VVPAT – Why was it needed? 

(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 Which of the following are UN specialized agencies?

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 
  2. International Labour Organization (ILO) 
  3. International Maritime Organization (IMO) 

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

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

Q.2 Consider the following statements about Kawasaki disease: 

  1. It is syndrome that affects only children under 5 years of age.   
  2. It is a viral infection, which derives its name from a Japanese origin virus Tomisaku Kawasaki. 

Select the correct statements

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

ANSWERS FOR 4th July 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1  D 
2  B 
3  A 

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