DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 21st October 2020

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  • October 21, 2020
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Asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation to be introduced in India

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy; Agriculture

In news

  • CSIR constituent laboratory, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, recently made history by introducing asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation in Indian Himalayan region.

Key takeaways

  • The cultivation shall take place in the Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh.
  • India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately 100 million USD per year.
  • CSIR-IHBT has now introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi.
  • In the past thirty years, this has been the first attempt for introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country.
  • However, the challenge for the scientists is that heeng seeds remain under a prolonged dormant phase and the rate of seed germination is just 1%.

Important value additions


  • It is a herbaceous plant of the umbelliferae family. 
  • It is a perennial plant.
  • Its oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome.
  • The plant stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
  • It is endemic to Iran and Afghanistan, which are also the main global suppliers of it. 
  • It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. 
  • It can tolerate temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees. It can also survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degrees.
  • Ideal growth conditions: Sandy soil, very little moisture and annual rainfall of not more than 200mm 
  • However, during extreme weather, the plant can get dormant.
  • It has medicinal properties, including relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis.
  • The herb is used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and premature labour.

Do you know?

  • Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high value spice crop in India.
  • Although there are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, only Ferula assa-foetida is the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida.
  • In India, Ferula assa-foetida is not found, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh

Ayushman Sahakar scheme launched

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health

In news

  • Ayushman Sahakar scheme was recently launched.
  • Launched by: Ministry for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
  • Formulated by: National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), the apex autonomous development finance institution under the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • It is a unique scheme to assist cooperatives to play an important role in creation of healthcare infrastructure in the country.

Key takeaways

  • NCDC would extend term loans to prospective cooperatives to the tune of Rs.10, 000 Crore in the coming years.
  • There are about 52 hospitals across the country run by cooperatives.
  • The NCDC fund would give a boost to provision of healthcare services by cooperatives.
  • Ayushman Sahakar specifically covers establishment, modernization, expansion, repairs, renovation of hospitals and healthcare and education infrastructure.
  • Any Cooperative Society with suitable provision in its byelaws to undertake healthcare related activities would be able to access the NCDC fund. 
  • NCDC assistance will flow either through the State Governments/ UT Administrations or directly to the eligible cooperatives.
  • The scheme shall provide working capital and margin money to meet operational requirements.
  • The scheme shall also provide interest subvention of 1% to women majority cooperatives.
  • It is in line with the National Digital Health Mission and National Health Policy, 2017.

Do you know?

  • NCDC was set up under an Act of Parliament in 1963 for promotion and development of cooperatives. 
  • Since 1963, it has extended around Rs.1.60 lakh crore as loans to cooperatives.

District Development Councils (DDCs) to be set up in J&K

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Governance

In news

  • The Central Government recently amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.
  • The amendment shall facilitate the setting up of District Development Councils (DDC).
  • The members will be directly elected by voters in J&K.

Key takeaways

  • The DDCs will act as a new unit of governance in J&K. 
  • This structure will include a DDC and a District Planning Committee (DPC).
  • J&K Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, have also been amended to establish DDCs.
  • This system shall replace the District Planning and Development Boards in all districts.
  • It will also prepare and approve district plans and capital expenditure.
  • The term of the DDC will be five years. 
  • The electoral process will allow for reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
  • The Additional District Development Commissioner (or the Additional DC) of the district shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the District Development Council.

CMIE data highlights paradoxes in Indian Economy

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy

In news

  • Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data has recently highlighted some paradoxes for India during the economic recovery after the lockdown. 

Key takeaways

  • The data shows that there is a revival in employment but a fall in labour force participation. 
  • However, the usual trend is when more people find jobs, a greater number should have looked for jobs.
  • This unusual trend could be due to a rural-urban disaggregation of the data. 
  • Rural India is seeing an increase in jobs due to post harvest activity whereas employment in urban India is decreasing.
  • Besides, better quality and higher paying jobs in urban areas are not available.
  • These are getting replaced by lower-paid rural jobs.
  • This also points to the fact that a reversal of migration back to the cities is not happening as expected level.
  • The lower rates of supply side due to lockdown have led to an increase in headline inflation leading to increase in food prices.
  • However, there is a rise in core inflation also which is unusual.
  • Ideally, the reduced demand due to lockdown should have decreased core inflation.
  • Also, households have reported better prospects or hopes for the future.

Do you know?

  • Headline inflation is a measure of the total inflation within an economy, including commodities such as food and energy prices.
  • Core inflation is the change in the costs of goods and services but does not include those from the food and energy sectors.



Topic: General Studies 2,3:

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

Strategic implications of Bangladesh’s economic rise

Context:  The International Monetary Fund’s latest update on the World Economic Outlook.

Key Findings of Report

  • In the IMF’s estimation, in 2020, growth of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) will witness a contraction of over 10%
  • But more than the sharp contraction, what has caught everyone’s attention is that in 2020, the per capita income of an average Bangladeshi citizen would be more than the per capita income of an average Indian citizen.

For Critical analysis of the report from economic perspective: Click Here

Five key Strategic implications of Bangladesh’s economic success are:

  1. Altering the International Perception of Subcontinent
  • First, rapid and sustained economic growth in Bangladesh has begun to alter the world’s mental maps of the subcontinent. Over the last five decades and more, South Asia, for most purposes, has meant India and Pakistan. The economic rise of Bangladesh is changing some of that.
  1. Changing Weights of Pakistan & Bangladesh in region
  • The second implication is about the changing economic weights of Bangladesh and Pakistan in South Asia. 
  • A decade ago, Pakistan’s economy was $60 billion larger than Bangladesh. Today, Bangladesh’s weight is bigger than Pakistan by the same margin. 
  • A US dollar today gets you 85 Bangladeshi taka and 162 Pakistani rupees.
  • The trend is unlikely to change in future: Bangladesh has controlled its population growth and Pakistan has not. Dhaka has a grip over its inflation and Islamabad does no
  1. Scope for acceleration Regional Integration in India’s East
  • Third, Bangladesh’s economic growth can accelerate regional integration in the eastern subcontinent. 
  • Instead of merely praying for the revival of Saarc, Delhi could usefully focus on promoting regionalism among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
  1. Attracting Investments
  • Fourth, the economic success of Bangladesh is drawing attention from a range of countries in East Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. 
  • The US, which traditionally focused on India and Pakistan, has woken up to the possibilities in Bangladesh.
  1. Impetus to India’s Act East Policy
  • Finally, the economic rise of Bangladesh could boost India’s national plans to accelerate the development of its eastern and north-eastern states. 
  • Bangladesh’s economy is now one-and-a-half times as large as that of West Bengal; better integration between the two would provide a huge boost for eastern India. So would connectivity between India’s landlocked Northeast and Bangladesh.


In using Dhaka’s impressive economic performance to attack Delhi’s government, India is missing the bigger story about the strategic consequences of Bangladesh’s economic rise

Connecting the dots:

  • 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and the lingering Bangladeshi migrant issue


Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. 

India-US defence deals

Context:  India and the US are preparing for the third 2+2 ministerial meeting (Defence & Foreign Ministers of both countries)

In the last two meetings, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA were signed

One of the items on the agenda of this year’s (2020) 2+2 meeting will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) — a pact with deep military implications. 

What is BECA?

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence. 
  • Anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on geospatial intelligence.
  • Signing BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones. 
  • It will give access to topographical and aeronautical data and products that will aid navigation and targeting.
  • To use an everyday example, just like an Uber cab needs a good GPS to reach its destination quickly and efficiently, BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate and missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.
  • This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation.

About the Other two agreements

LEMOA: The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement 

  • It was signed between India and the US in August 2016.
  • It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed. 
  • This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Again, to put this simply, it is like going to a friend’s garage and workshop to refuel one’s car and getting repairs done. But, by doing this, one is also exposing one’s car and technology to the friend, and that requires trust.
  • If signing LEMOA needed trust, its application enhances the trust. It took almost a decade to negotiate LEMOA. 

COMCASA: The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement 

  • It was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue.
  • It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • To explain in lay terms again, it is like WhatsApp or Telegram for the two militaries, which is safe and real-time communication is possible hassle-free.
  • COMCASA paved the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

So, what do these three pacts put together mean?

  • LEMOA means one partner trusts the other enough to expose its valuable assets.
  • COMCASA means one is confident that it can rely on encrypted systems to connect the two militaries.
  • BECA means it can share highly classified information in real time without fear of being compromised. 
  • All this signals the level of trust that has developed between the two countries and their militaries, faced with an increasingly aggressive China

So, what does this mean in the context of the ongoing border standoff?

  • Amid the longest stand-off on the India-China border in three decades, India and the US have intensified under-the-radar intelligence and military cooperation at an unprecedented level, especially since June.
  • The cooperation includes sharing of high-end satellite images, telephone intercepts, and data sharing of Chinese troops and weapons deployment along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The Indian defence establishment also has enhanced capability with some American equipment. The armed forces have used at least five American platforms at the LAC which are— 
    • C-17 Globemaster III for military transport
    • Boeing’s Chinook CH-47 as heavy-lift helicopters
    • Boeing’s Apache as tank-killers
    • P-8I Poseidon for overland reconnaissance
    • Lockheed Martin’s C-130J for airlifting troops.
  • Now, with these key defence pacts in place, cooperation can happen in a more structured and efficient way, rather than episodic.

What are the obstacles/Challenges ahead?

  • Apprehensions of US: The US wants India to move away from Russian equipment and platforms, as it feels this may expose its technology and information to Moscow. 
  • So far, India is going ahead with the purchase of the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia, and this has been a sticking point for American interlocutors.
  • Apprehensions of India: For its part, India is wary of Pakistan’s deep-rooted ties with Pentagon, and US dependence on Pakistan military for access to Afghanistan as well as its exit strategy.


  • Chinese aggressive behaviour being the clear and present danger, New Delhi’s strategic embrace of Washington is the obvious outcome.
  • Every administration in the last 20 years have left the Indo-US relationship in a better shape than how they inherited it.

Connecting the dots:

  • Indo-US Nuclear deal and its progress


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


  • 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 Ayushman Sahakar scehme was launched by which of the following Ministry?

  1. Ministry of Health
  2. Ministry of Education
  3. Ministry of Agriculture
  4. Ministry of Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises

Q.2 Consider the following statements:

  1. In India, Ferula assa-foetida is found but not cultivated.
  2. Assafoetida crop remains dormant under extreme weather conditions.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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


1 D
2 A
3 A
4 B

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