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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 3rd November 2020

  • IASbaba
  • November 3, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Indian Naval Ship Airavat enters Port Sudan under Mission Sagar – II

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Relations

In news

  • As part of ‘Mission Sagar-II’, Indian Naval Ship Airavat recently entered Port Sudan. 

Key takeaways 

  • The Government of India is providing assistance to Friendly Foreign Countries to overcome natural calamities and COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • INS Airavat is carrying a consignment of 100 Tonnes of food aid for the people of Sudan for the same purpose.
  • Mission Sagar-II follows the first ‘Mission Sagar’ undertaken in May-June 2020, wherein India reached out to Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, and provided food aid and medicines.
  • As part of Mission Sagar-II, Indian Naval Ship Airavat will deliver food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea.

First attempt at defining Platform Work outside traditional employment category

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II & GS-III– Employment; Inclusive growth

In news

  • The Code on Social Security, 2020, for the first time in Indian law, attempted to define ‘platform work’ outside the traditional employment category.

Key takeaways 

  • Platform work means a work arrangement outside a traditional employer-employee relationship. 
  • Organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals for specific problems or services. 
  • These activities may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.
  • Significance: (1) It promises workers flexibility and ownership over work delivery ; (2) Employment Intensive Sector; (3) Potential Sector for growth due to fast pace of Urbanisation; (4) Development of rural areas due to remittances sent by platform workers.

Important value additions 

Code on Social Security, 2020 

  • This will replace nine social security laws such as Maternity Benefit Act, Employees’ Provident Fund Act, Employees’ Pension Scheme, Employees’ Compensation Act, 
  • It universalizes social security coverage to those working in the unorganised sector. 
  • Provisions of social security will also be extended to agricultural workers also for the first time.
  • It reduces the time limit for receiving gratuity payment from five years to one year for all kinds of employees. 

Traces of Dairy Production found in Indus Valley Civilisation

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I – Ancient history

In news

  • Recently, a study by Indian and Canadian archaeologists has found that dairy products were being produced by the Harappans as far back as 2500 BCE.

Key takeaways 

  • The finding reveals the earliest evidence of dairy production.
  • The results are based on molecular chemical analysis of residue of pottery found at Kotada Bhadli, in Gujarat.
  • The researchers were able to identify that cattles were used for dairy through a process called stable isotope analysis.

Important value additions 

Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) 

  • It is also known as Harappan Civilization.
  • It marks the beginning of Indian history. 
  • It flourished around 2,500 BC, in the western part of South Asia, in contemporary Pakistan and Western India.
  • In the 1920s, the Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations in the Indus valley wherein the ruins of the two old cities, viz. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were unearthed.
  • In 1924, John Marshall, Director-General of the ASI, announced the discovery of a new civilisation in the Indus valley to the world.

National Cybercrime Reporting Portal

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Cybersecurity

In news

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written to all States to examine and register FIRs based on the complaints received on National Cybercrime Reporting Portal .

Key takeaways 

  • As per Ministry of Home Affairs, only 2.5% of total complaints registered on the portal are converted into FIRs.
  • Through the portal, the Government seeks to promote Cyber Crime Volunteers for identifying, reporting and removal of illegal/unlawful online content.
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of registered cybercrimes increased by 63.5% in the year 2019 compared to 2018.

Important value additions 

National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal

  • It is a citizen-centric initiative enabling citizens to report cybercrimes online.
  • It was launched in 2019. 
  • The portal specifically focuses on crimes against women, children, child pornography, online content pertaining to rapes/gang rapes, etc.
  • It also focuses on crimes like stalking, cyberbullying, etc.
  • It will improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies. 

Budapest Convention

  • The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Cybercrime Convention, also known as the Budapest Convention is the sole legally binding international multilateral treaty on cybercrime. 
  • It coordinates cybercrime investigations between nation-states and criminalizes certain cybercrime conduct.
  • India is not a party to it.

Funds meant for Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme siphoned off

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Welfare schemes

In news

  • A recent investigation has found that the money meant for poor students under the Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme in Jharkhand has been siphoned off and is not reaching the students.

Important value additions 

Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme

  • It is a centrally funded scholarship scheme for students in all states. 
  • It opens every year and has to be applied between August and November.
  • Aim: To help students of minority communities – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists having annual income below Rs. 1 lakh.
  • Eligibility: Students need to score at least 50% in their class exams.
  • It is given in two tiers every year: (1) Students in class 1 to 5: Rs. 1,000 per year; (2) Students of class 6 to 10: Rs. 10,700 if a hosteller or Rs 5,700 if a day scholar.

Miscellaneous

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

  • It is a disease that causes severe damage to the brain because of repeated head injuries and is linked to memory loss, depression and dementia.
  • Former boxers are most commonly diagnosed with it. 
  • However, there have been instances of CTE in many other contact sports like pro wrestling, mixed martial arts, ice hockey, rugby, baseball, Australian rules football and football. 
  • Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. 
  • Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

(MAINS FOCUS)


ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2, 3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)

Context: The central government has notified an Ordinance to constitute a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas.

Key Points of the Ordinance

  • Overarching Body: CAQM will supersede all existing bodies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), as well as state governments in matters of air pollution mitigation
  • Abolition of EPCA: Through the Ordinance, the Centre has dissolved the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) for the NCR. 
  • Role of NGT: Only the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and not civil courts, is authorised to hear cases where the Commission is involved.

What is Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)?

  • EPCA was constituted in 1998 under section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 1998.
  • It has the power to take action suo-moto, or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organization functioning in the field of environment.
  • It takes all necessary steps for controlling vehicular pollution, ensuring compliance of fuel quality standards, monitoring and coordinating action for traffic planning and management.

Composition of CAQM

  • Strength: The new 18-member Commission brings together the Centre, states, and other stakeholders on one collaborative platform.
  • Chairperson: It will have a full-time chairperson “who is or has been Secretary to the Government of India or Chief Secretary to the Government of a state”. The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
  • State Representatives: The Commission will also have five ex officio members who are either Chief Secretaries, or Secretaries in charge of the department dealing with environment protection in the States of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh
  • Experts: Three full-time independent technical members with “specific scientific knowledge and experience in matters relating to air pollution”; a technical member each from the CPCB and nominated by ISRO, ex officio.
  • Civil Society: Three representatives of NGOs with experience in combating air pollution
  • Others: It will have members from Niti Aayog and several Ministries

Why CAQM was needed?

  • Need for Single Body: The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi NCR region has so far been done piecemeal by multiple bodies including the CPCB, state pollution control boards, the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Utttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and the EPCA.
  • Holistic Approach: The problem with the air pollution in Delhi is that the source of the pollution lies elsewhere – that is why it is important to tackle the whole region, rather than piecemeal approach taken by various bodies
  • More Powers: EPCA was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court (M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988)). It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states. 
  • Failure of previous mechanisms: Experts say that EPCA has failed miserably in cleaning the air even after being in force for more than 20 years. CAQM’s performance will be gauged by changes in the status quo when it comes to ground implementation and strict action on polluters.

Merits of CAQM

  • Effective Mechanism to tackle Pollution: The permanent Commission envisages a multi-sectoral, public participatory, multi-state dynamic body for combating pollution and with statutory status the body can deal with pollution on war footing
  • More Teeth: It will now be binding on state governments to follow the directions of the Commission regarding air quality management. It will also have powers to restrict the setting up of industries in vulnerable areas, and will be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.
  • Penal Powers: The penalty for non-compliance shall be imprisonment upto five years or fine upto Rs 1 crore, or both.
  • Relieves Supreme Court: The Centre seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various pollution-related cases.

Criticisms

  • Undemocratic process: It has been criticised that ordinance was passed with no consultation with states and other stakeholders
  • Doubts over approach: It is unsure whether a top-down implementation approach through CAQM (without third-party monitoring and citizen-driven enforcement) will work.
  • Inadequate targets: There is also the lack of a time-bound commitment to clean the air.
  • Overrepresentation of the Central Government: The Commission has a large number of members from the central government, which has not gone down well with the states. On the other hand, States will have just one member each.

Conclusion

While CAQM is welcome, it alone cannot clean the air. Its success will depend on how it tackles different interest groups; outlines a time-bound commitment to achieving the set standards; ensures adequate personnel and funds for pollution control bodies


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2, 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Natural Gas Marketing Reforms

Context: At the India Energy Forum, a much talked about subject was India’s Natural Gas Marketing Reforms that was announced in October 2020.

What are the Natural Gas Marketing Reforms recently announced by Government?

  • The objective of the policy is to prescribe standard procedure to discover market price of gas to be sold in the market by gas producers, through a transparent and competitive process.
  • The Director General of Hydrocarbon (DGH) will suggest an e-bidding platform to producers. It will list all government entities and other Credible companies. DGH will also issue guidelines for the same.
  • Producers will have a choice between different platforms in transparent public domain akin to how coal, spectrum and mineral auctions takes place in the country.
  • While producing companies themselves will not be allowed to participate in the bidding process, all other players and affiliate companies will be allowed to bid. This will facilitate and promote more competition in marketing of gas
  • The policy will also grant marketing freedom to the Field Development Plans (FDPs) of those Blocks in which Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.

Significance of the reforms

  • Uniformity in Bidding: This will bring uniformity in the bidding process across the various contractual regimes and policies to avoid ambiguity and contribute towards ease of doing business
  • Enhances Ease of Doing Business: The whole eco-system of policies relating to production, infrastructure and marketing of natural gas has been made more transparent with a focus on ease of doing business
  • Encouraging investment in domestic production: These reforms will prove very significant for Atmanirbhar Bharat by encouraging investments in the domestic production of natural gas and reducing import dependence.
  • Climate Friendly: The increased gas production consumption will help in improvement of environment.  For example, when natural gas is burned, it produces 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than oil.
  • Employment generation: The domestic production will further help in increasing investment in the downstream industries such as City Gas Distribution and related industries. It will also help in creating employment opportunities in the gas consuming sectors including MSMEs.

Criticism of the reforms

  1. New reforms doesn’t apply to all gas production
  • The new e-bidding process will govern discoveries which came on stream from February 2019 onwards. Essentially, the new regime will be applicable to producers from the areas offered under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) rounds
  • Government clarified that the existing gas-pricing formula will continue to be in force for production from existing discoveries awarded under the nomination regime
  • Almost 80 per cent of Indian domestic gas is produced from blocks given on nomination basis to national oil companies. As a result, this gas doesn’t get the benefit of the new marketing freedom given. 
  • The reason for not freeing up prices of all natural gas is that if gas prices rise, so will the costs of fertiliser and electricity; 
  • Consequence is muted domestic Production: Unless existing producers like ONGC are able to earn more from the gas they produce, they are not going to get the resources to invest in exploring/extracting more gas
  1. Existence of multiple types of prices for gas
  • There are the ‘domestic price guidelines’—this used to be called Administered Price Mechanism (APM) earlier—and gas produced under this is sold at $1.79 per mmBtu; the costs of production, though, are significantly higher.
  • Since keeping gas prices low dissuaded new investment, in 2016, the government raised the prices (in the range of $4.5 to $5.5 per mBtu) but only for new discoveries and that too, for gas produced in the deep or ultra-deep waters or high-temperature-high-pressure areas; if the gas was produced onshore, it didn’t get the higher price.
  • In addition, there are imported prices that are around $5-7 per mmBtu. 
  • After reforms, there will be a price for gas that is, for instance, found onshore or in relatively shallow waters; this price will be market-determined.
  1. Apart from the fact that the ‘marketing’ freedom has not been extended to crude oil—and to existing natural gas production

Conclusion

The ‘Natural Gas Marketing Reforms’ will bear fruit when domestic production takes off and the market matures


(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 Recently, traces of dairy production with regard to Indus Valley Civilization was recently found in:

  1. Gujarat
  2. Rajasthan
  3. Haryana
  4. Lahore

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Budapest Convention

  1. It is the sole legally binding international multilateral treaty on cybercrime.
  2. India is not a party to it.

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 2nd November 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 D
3 A
4 A

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