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

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  • August 6, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Beirut explosion

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Science; Disaster and Hazards 

In news: 

  • At least 100 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured in a massive explosion at Lebanon’s capital Beirut. 
  • The explosion was of over 2700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for six years in a warehouse in the port. 

Do you know? 

  • Incident comes at one of the worst times for the country. 
  • The Western Asian country in the recent past has been crippled by serious economic crisis. 
  • It had led to large-scale closure of businesses and soaring prices of basic commodities resulting in social unrest. 
  • The country is also grappled by age-old Shia-Sunni rift. 

Ammonium nitrate 

  • In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water.  
  • It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction. 

Regulations: 

  • In India, The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884, define ammonium nitrate as the “compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate by weight including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels but excluding emulsion or slurry explosives and non explosives emulsion matrix and fertilizers from which the ammonium nitrate cannot be separated”. 
  • Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive on its own. It is classified as an oxidiser (Grade 5.1) under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods. If mixed with ingredients like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive. 

Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard  

Large quantities of stored ammonium nitrate are regarded as a major fire hazard, with multiple reported cases across the world.  

Big stockpiles of ammonium nitrate can explode in two possible ways.  

  • One is by some type of detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with explosive mixture or an outside source of energy.  
  • Second, the blast can result due to a fire which starts into the ammonium nitrate storage because of the heat generated due to the oxidation process at large scale. 

There are several documented examples of deadly ammonium nitrate fire and explosion incidents in the past, some with large numbers of fatalities like in China in 2015 and in Texas in 1947. 

Experts say that the world over, the main obstacles in regulating ammonium nitrate is its widespread use in industry and agriculture.  

While a legislative framework exists, repeated examples of misuse and mishaps show that a lot more needs to be done. 


103rd Constitution Amendment Act 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Polity – Constitution and recent amendments; Welfare/ Social issue 

About: 

  • It provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category. 
  • The Act amends Article 15 and 16 to provide for reservation based on economic backwardness. 

For the purposes of this article 15 and article 16, “economically weaker sections” to be notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage. 

Important points: 

  • The new clause (6) to Article 15 allows the government to carve reservation for the economically weaker sections of society in higher educational institutions, including private ones, whether they are aided or not by the State. Minority educational institutions are exempted.  
  • Likewise, the new clause (6) to Article 16 provides for quota for economically deprived sections in the initial appointment in government services. 

Indra Sawhney case (1992) 

  • Nine-judge Bench had fixed limit of 50% reservation ceiling 
  • Judgment also had barred reservation solely on economic criterion 

Do you know? 

  • Article 46 asks the government to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society. 

It provides reservation for: 

  1. People who have an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh, or 
  2. People who own less than five acres of farm land, or 
  3. People who have a house less than 1,000 sq feet in a town (or 100 sq yard in a notified municipal area). 

Red alert issued in Maharashtra 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains I and III – Climate; Disaster and natural Hazards; Disaster Management 

In news: 

  • Mumbai witnessed heavy rain leading to widespread damage.  
  • IMD has issued a ‘red’ alert for ‘extremely heavy’ rainfall in Mumbai and several parts of the State. 
  • There was heavy flooding in the low-lying areas of the city and suburbs. 

Reasons: 

  • Mumbai has already received 50 percent of its August average rainfall owing to incessant downpour over the past 16 hours. 
  • According to IMD, the influence of a low-pressure weather system developing over the north Bay of Bengal has led to the downpour.  
  • Active monsoon conditions over the Arabian Sea, led to high convection and localised circulation that enhanced rain activity, thunderstorms and overnight gusty winds. 

Basmati Rice

Context: GI tag for Basmati 

  • Madhya Pradesh has sought GI tag for Basmati produced in 13 districts of MP. 
  • However, All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA) argues that if MP is included in the GI list of Basmati crop then it will not only harm the reputation of Indian Basmati as a whole, but also the national interest. 

Do you know? 

  • India stands tall in the global arena as the only producer of premium Basmati. 
  • No other country (other than 18 districts of Pakistan) can call any of its rice as ‘Basmati’.  
  • In May 2010, Basmati rice got GI certification for the region located in Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) below the foothills of the Himalayas, spread across seven states — Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Western UP (26 districts) and Delhi. 

Concern: 

  • GI tag is basically an assurance that the product is coming from that specific area. It’s kind of trademark in the international market. 
  • AIREA said that under WTO’s TRIPs (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement, physical attributes are not enough for a product to earn GI tag and that reputation linked to the geographical region is essential and imperative.  
  • As per GI of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act in 2003, ‘reputation’ to a geographical area is central to the recognition of a GI product and only seven states have that reputation. 
  • Even if the rice grown in MP has all the required characteristics (or maybe even better than Basmati rice grown in the traditional growing areas), the same would not still entitle such rice to qualify as Basmati. 
  • According to APEDA, the origin and reputation of Basmati rice as a ‘long grain, aromatic rice’ from the IGP is found in tradition, folklore, scientific and culinary literature and political and historical records. 
  • Exporters say that with the inclusion of MP, the ramifications will be disastrous. It had been a tough battle for the country to protect Basmati name from the encroachment of various nations which all came out with their own versions of Basmati. 
  • If MP is allowed to be included, it will nullify APEDA’s efforts made earlier to secure and protect Indian Basmati since 1995 by taking up over a 1,000 legal actions in nearly 50 countries, spread across all the continents. 

Pokkali rice

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Agriculture; Science and Tech; Research 

About: 

  • The pokkali variety is known for its saltwater resistance and ability to flourish  in the paddy fields of coastal districts of Kerala.  
  • The uniqueness of the rice has brought it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and is the subject of continuing research. 
  • Now, Sundarbans farmers are planning to use  pokkali seeds as about 80% of the rice paddies in the Sundarbans faced the problem of saltwater incursion. 
  • If Pokkali rice seedlings succeeds, it would be a good step to turn around the fortunes of the farmers.  

Vytilla-11 variety 

  • Five kilos of Vyttila­11 variety of pokkali seedlings were sent to Sunderbans. 
  • Vyttila­11 is the latest variety to come out of Kerala Agricultural University.  
  • Vyttila­11 promises better yield of about 5 tonnes per hectare than the previous varieties, and is crossed with the Jyoti variety of rice popular in Kerala. The crop duration is about 110 days. 

Miscellaneous:

Hezbollah

About: 

  • Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon. 
  • Hezbollah emerged during Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war, which broke out in 1975 when long-simmering discontent over the large, armed Palestinian presence in the country reached a boiling point.   
  • The Iran-backed group is driven by its opposition to Israel and its resistance to Western influence in the Middle East. 
  • With its history of carrying out global terrorist attacks, Hezbollah have been designated as a terrorist group by the United States and many other countries. 

Atomic Bomb Dome

About: 

  • It is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, to call for a non-nuclear world. 
  • The ruin of the hall serves as a memorial to the over 140,000 people who were killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. 


(MAINS FOCUS)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE 

Topic: General Studies 3

  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements
  • Issues of buffer stock and Food Security

Covid & milk sector

Context: The economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 had also impacted the milk sector. 

How Milk Sector is unique? 

  • Regular income: Milk is a unique “crop” that farmers harvest daily. 
  • Balancing Demand: Since it is consumed daily, supply-demand balancing isn’t as difficult as in, say, wheat that is harvested over 2-3 months 
  • Institutional Capabilities built: While production of milk is subject to seasonal fluctuations — animals, particularly buffaloes, produce more during winter-spring and less in the summer — dairies know to manage it 
  • Balanced Model: Surplus milk of the “flush” season is usually converted into skimmed milk powder (SMP) and ghee/butter for reconstitution in the “lean” months, when demand for curd, lassi and ice-cream also goes up 
  • Fast Consumption: Dairies don’t face the problem of unsold inventories, unlike sugar mills or the Food Corporation of India. This is because India’s milk output has more than doubled in the last 15 years, so too has consumption due to rising incomes.  

What are the Challenges faced by Sector due to COVID-19? 

  • Disruption of Existing Model: The above balancing model is being rendered dysfunctional by the demand destruction wrought by the post-COVID shutdown of hotels, restaurants etc 
  • Accumulation of Produce: With institutional sales collapsing — these make up a quarter of the country’s market for milk and milk products — dairies have been accumulating powder and fat stocks through the summer & monsoon months. 
  • Future Dangers: Not only is the drop in demand unprecedented, the situation will worsen once production increases in the coming months with improved fodder availability, calving of buffaloes and drop in temperatures 
  • Drop in Prices: Dairies selling only commodities (SMP and ghee) have already, since the March 25 lockdown, slashed milk prices by Rs 10-13 per litre. Even those largely into liquid milk marketing have cut by Rs 3-5/litre. 

Way Ahead – Creation of Buffer Stock 

  • The government should direct the National Dairy Development Board to create a buffer stock of about 60,000 tonnes of SMP and 30,000 tonnes of butter 
  • The cost of this — at Rs 200/kg for SMP and Rs 300/kg for butter, corresponding to a Rs 25/litre cow milk procurement price — may come to around Rs 2,100 crore, which can be managed 
  • The funds for buffer stock can be recouped in the next “lean” summer season, when some demand normalcy would also have returned. 

Conclusion 

Not intervening now will hurt farmers. 

Connecting the dots 

  • White Revolution 
  • Dangers to Dairy Sector from Multilateral Trade Treaties like RCEP 

SECURITY/ INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3:

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

Taking nuclear vulnerabilities seriously

Context: Seventy-five years ago on 5th Aug 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by one single atomic bomb. Three days later, a second bomb destroyed Nagasaki.  

Do You Know? 

  • Those two bombs killed over 2,00,000 people, some of them instantaneously, and others within five months.  
  • Another 2,00,000 people or more who survived the bombings of these two cities, were injured because of the long-lasting effects of radiation exposure. 

Increasing Vulnerability of Nuclear Weapons 

  • Rising Nuclear arms: Over 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age.  
  • Increasing Number of Countries adopting Nuclear arms path: Since 1945 US,UK, Russia, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, & North Korea have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 
  • Damage to Environment due to Testing: Over 2,000 of nuclear weapons have been used in nuclear tests, above and below the ground, to demonstrate their explosive power, causing long-lasting damage to the environment and public health.  
  • The invention of ballistic missiles at the end of the 1950s has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched.  Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defence systems have succeeded in negating this vulnerability. 
  • No protection: There is no realistic way to protect against nuclear weapons, whether they are used deliberately, inadvertently, or accidentally. 

What has prevented the nuclear war? 

  • Nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them, because such use would invite retaliation in kind. 
  • Also, no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens. That was the idea of deterrence. 
  • Mutual assured destruction is a strategic military doctrine in which the use of nuclear weapons on a full scale would theoretically result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. 
  • Therefore, the use of nuclear weapons is impossible because of deterrence it causes and this has prevented the nuclear war 
  • Deterrence enthusiasts claim that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability. 

What are the Problem of Deterrence? 

Deterrence has not worked every time 

  • Nuclear threats have not always produced fear and, in turn, fear has not always induced caution. 
  • To the contrary, nuclear threats in some cases have produced anger, and anger can trigger a drive to escalate, as was the case during Cuban missile crisis of 1962 

Promotes War Mentality 

  • All nuclear weapon states have admitted to the possibility that deterrence could fail and have made plans for using nuclear weapons, in effect, preparing to fight nuclear war. 

Promotes Overconfidence that is dangerous 

  •  In the real world, it is not possible for planners to have complete control.  
  • The desire to believe in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous 
  • Overconfidence, as many scholars studying safety say, is more likely to lead to accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons. 

Conclusion 

In several historical instances, what prevented the use of nuclear weapons was not control practices but either their failure or factors outside institutional control (Ex: Cuban Missile Crisis). Thus, one needs to relook at the idea of deterrence created by Nuclear weapons. 

Connecting the dots 

  • India’s Nuclear Doctrine and No First Use Policy 

(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”.

Q1. Consider the following statements about Ammonium nitrate: 

  1. It is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water.
  2. It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
  3. Pure ammonium nitrate is classified as an oxidiser under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods.  

Select the correct code 

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

Q2. Which of the following Fundamental Rights are available only to Indian Citizens?

  1. Equal opportunity in Public employment.
  2. No discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  3. Protection of language and script
  4. Right to establish and administer educational institutions 

Select the correct answer

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

Q3. To promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other weaker sections of the society and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation is a provision under –

  1. FRs
  2. FDs
  3. DPSPs
  4. None of the above

ANSWERS FOR 5th AUG 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1  B 
2  B 
3  D 
4  A 
5  A 

Must Read

About ways to finance the Corona stimulus package:

The Hindu

About blasts in Lebanon:

The Hindu

About Jammu & Kashmir changed status: 

The Indian Express

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