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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 26th December 2020

  • IASbaba
  • December 26, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Water Quality Testing Innovation Challenge launched

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Policies and Interventions

In news 

  • The National Jal Jeevan Mission has launched an innovation challenge in partnership with Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade to develop portable devices for water testing.
  • The National Jal Jeevan Mission invites applicants to join the Innovation Challenge to develop portable devices for water testing and become a part of this life changing Jan Aandolan. 

Key takeaways 

  • Aim of the innovation challenge: To ensure that water sources are tested at various locations, at different levels; thereby, helping the policy framers to design programs which address the water contamination issues.
  • Main objective: To bring an innovative, modular, and cost-effective solution to develop portable devices that can be used at the household level to test the drinking water quality instantly, easily and accurately.  
  • People receiving piped water supply in their homes do not have any means to test the potability of water coming from their taps. 
  • This leads to a situation where people are reluctant to consume tap water directly. 
  • People in urban areas also end up installing household water treatment units incurring additional expenditure.
  • The challenge aims to address these issues in an innovative, modular and cost-effective manner.

Important value additions 

Jal Jeevan Mission 

  • In August, 2019, Government of India launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).
  • JJM aims at providing potable water at service level of 55 litre per capita per day (LPCD) to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) by 2024.
  • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
  • It is under implementation in partnership with the States to enable every rural home to have tap water connection by 2024.
  • Ministry: Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • Aim of the mission: To provide every rural household potable tap water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on a regular and long-term basis.
  • Water quality testing is one of the priority areas under Jal Jeevan Mission, the flagship programme of Union Government.
  • Since announcement of the Jal Jeevan Mission, till 23rd December, 2020, so far 2.90 Crore households have been provided tap water connections, thus increasing the tap water supply from 3.23 Crore (17%) in August, 2019 to 6.13 Crore (32%) rural households of the country. 

Do you know? 

  • The Uniform Drinking Water Quality Protocol, 2019 has specified some important parameters to be monitored for assuring portability of drinking water as per BIS IS 10500:2012 and subsequent amendments.

Related articles:


Endangered Species Research authors suggest existence of unknown Whale Population 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Environment; Biodiversity

In news 

  • In a paper published in the journal Endangered Species Research, authors described a new whale song, suggesting the existence of a population that was previously unknown.

Key takeaways 

  • Researchers have recorded the unique song off the coast of Oman in the northern Arabian Sea, off the western Chagos Archipalego, and off Madagascar in the southwestern Indian Ocean.
  • Since it is the only blue whale song identified by them in the western Arabian Sea, researchers have called it the “Northwest Indian Ocean”.
  • Researchers believe the source is either the blue whale or Bryde’s whale since both species have been documented off Oman previously.
  • Significance: Given that this song-type has not been reported before, the presence of it across a large geographic region indicates the likely existence of a previously undefined population of blue whales in the Western Indian Ocean.

Do you know? 

  • Not all whales sing. 
  • Only some, such as the baleen whale, have been found to sing songs.
  • Whales use songs to communicate and socialise. 
  • Their songs can be characterised as clicks, whistles and pulsed calls or a composition of “moans, snores, chirps and cries”.
  • Whales use clicks to navigate and identify their surroundings as the sound bounces off objects, helping whales determine their shapes.
  • These use whistles and pulses during social activities.
  • Their songs can last between 6-35 minutes, and some individual whales have been found to sing for 22 hours.
  • Whale songs are typically below 4 kHz in frequency, thus being inaudible to human ears.
  • Human hearing range is between 20 Hz to 20 kHz. 

E-Sampada: A new Web Portal and Mobile App launched 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Policies and Interventions

In news 

  • The Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs recently launched a new Web Portal and Mobile App, e-Sampada.

Key takeaways 

  • The new application provides a single window for all these services including allotment for over one lakh government residential accommodations, office space allotment to government organisations, etc.
  • In its endeavour to provide ‘One Nation, One System’, the erstwhile four websites (gpra.nic.in, eawas.nic.in, estates.gov.in, holidayhomes.nic.in), and two Mobile Apps (m-Awas & m-Ashoka5) of the Directorate of Estates have been integrated into one.

ISRO released to public the initial data from Chandrayaan-2

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Sci & Tech

In news 

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released to public the initial data from Chandrayaan-2. 
  • It was India’s second Moon mission, which was launched on July 22, 2019.

Key takeaways 

  • The Orbiter, which was injected into a lunar orbit on September 2, 2019, carried eight experiments/payloads, all of which have been performing well and sending data received.
  • The public release data archived at the Indian Space Science Data Center (ISSDC) in Byalalu (Bengaluru) is prepared in the standard, globally followed planetary data system-4 (PDS4) format for public release.
  • The ISSDC is the nodal center of planetary data archive for planetary missions of ISRO.

Chandrayaan-2 key facts:

  • 1st space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon’s south polar region
  • 1st Indian expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface with home-grown technology
  • It is India’s first interplanetary mission to be steered by two women: project director M Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal.
  • 1st Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology
  • 4th country ever to soft land on the lunar surface

India’s First Driverless Metro to be inaugurated 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure

In news 

  • Indian Prime Minister is scheduled to flag off the country’s first ‘driverless’ metro in Delhi on December 28.
  • It will mark a milestone in India’s urban mass rapid Transit. 

Key takeaways 

  • The first ‘driverless’ train will roll out on Magenta Line of the Delhi Metro. 
  • Delhi metro is a network spread across the national capital and adjoining cities such as Noida, Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Bahadurgarh.
  • The Centre has also notified changes in the Metro Railways General Rules, 2020 as the previous norms did not allow driverless services.
  • The trials of DMRC’s new ‘driverless trains’ were started in December 2017 where the automation of the new metro trains, that were equipped with Unattended Train Operations (UTO) and CBTC (Communication Based Train Control) signalling systems were tested .
  • The driverless train operation (DTO) will only be applicable for Line 7 and Line 8 of the DMRC network which comes under the Phase III expansion.
  • These corridors are equipped with an advanced signalling technology which makes the transition possible.

Indian Institute Of Skills, Mumbai inaugurated

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Education & GS-III – Skill generation

In news 

  • The first batch of Indian Institute of Skills in Mumbai was recently inaugurated
  • Ministry: Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

Key takeaways 

  • The institute is a joint initiative between Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India and Tata Indian Institute of Skills.
  • The first batch at TATA-Indian Institute of Skills will commence training with two courses in Factory Automation, envisaged to be the foundation for future courses and Smart Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) technology and applications.

Foundation stone for highway projects in Assam inaugurated

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure

In news 

  • Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs recently inaugurated and laid foundation stone for 27 highway projects in Assam. 

Key takeaways 

  • Benefits: (1) Ease the transportation of commercial goods within and across the State; (2) Improve connectivity at the borders; (3) Enhance employment opportunities; (4) Save time and fuel; (5) Improve tourism and infra development; (6) Result in providing connectivity for agricultural produce up to larger markets.
  • A life-size bronze statue of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also unveiled. 
  • Construction of a multi modal logistic park (MMLP) in Silchar was also announced. 
  • This will be the second MMLP in Assam after the one being made in Jogighopa.
  • This will benefit the people by way of development of Road and waterways connectivity.
  • Construction of Dhuvri-Phoolbari bridge in the coming month was also announced .

(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Challenges associated with Judiciary & executive
  • Judicial Accountability

A.P. High Court order and Article 356

Context: In October, in the Andhra Pradesh high court order Justice Uma Devi converted the hearings on a batch of habeas corpus petitions and pleas alleging police excess into a hearing on whether there is a “constitutional breakdown” in Andhra Pradesh, requiring a declaration of President’s rule.

What has the State argued?

  • Unprecedented: The order of the High Court, on October 1, came while deciding habeas corpus petitions filed by relatives of persons remanded in judicial custody or on bail. The High Court had suo motu summoned the State counsel to assist it in deciding “whether in circumstances prevailing in the State of AP, the court can record a finding that there is constitutional breakdown in the State or not”.
  • Lacks Basis: The state government then asked for that order to be recalled, saying none of the original applications had asked the question of “Constitutional Breakdown”.
  • Against Article 356: Judiciary has no role in deciding whether there is Constitutional breakdown in the state, necessitating President’s rule. This power is vested in the executive under Article 356 of the Constitution.
  • Against Doctrine of Separation of Powers: The HC Order is a “serious encroachment” on the powers of the executive as enumerated under the Constitution and is thus violative of doctrine of Separation of powers.
  • Appealed to Supreme Court: The order was clearly seen as a case of judicial over-reach by the A.P. High Court and was thus appealed to Supreme Court

What did Supreme Court say?

  • The Supreme Court stayed the order issued by the AP High Court asking the Andhra Pradesh government whether there was breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.
  • Supreme Court observed that they had not seen any order issued like this by the AP High Court in any case and the apex court found it to be disturbing.
  • The Court directed issue of notice and stay and ordered the registry to list the case after the Supreme Court vacation.

Significance of the Incident

  • The HC was shocking as it opens up the possibility of use or even misuse of Article 356 by the judiciary. 
  • The Supreme Court’s order comes in the wake of incidents pointing to a tussle between the judiciary and the elected government in Andhra Pradesh. 
  • CM Jagan Mohan Reddy had, in an unprecedented letter to the CJI, complained about the alleged hostile attitude of the High Court against him and his government besides making controversial allegations against a senior Supreme Court judge.
  • The onus is now on the Supreme Court to put an end to the unseemly tussle between the judiciary and government in the State. Ordering an internal inquiry into the Chief Minister’s letter would be a good beginning. 
  • A clear nullification of the High Court order will also ensure that such legal adventures impinging upon the separation of powers in the State are not repeated.

Value Addition about Article 356

  • Article 356 of the Constitution empowers President to proclaim President’s rule in the state if he, on receipt of report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
  • No liberal democratic Constitution in the world has a provision such as Article 356 that gives the central government the power to dismiss a democratically-elected State government except the Constitution of Pakistan. 
  • Both India and Pakistan borrowed this provision from the Government of India Act, 1935. 
  • Interestingly, the leaders of our freedom struggle were so very opposed to this provision that they forced the British government to suspend it; thus, Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935 was never brought into effect. 
  • The provision which we had opposed during our freedom struggle was incorporated in the Constitution strangely in the name of democracy, federalism and stability.

Connecting the dots:

  • National Judicial Appointments Commission
  • Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill

POLITY/ GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development 

Urban Local bodies (ULBs) & Municipal Bonds

Context: The inability of urban local bodies (ULBs) to raise resources has limited the growth of municipal income and led to a fiscal crisis.

What are the key financial issues plaguing ULBs?

  • Decline in Municipal Revenue: Although it is envisaged that municipal revenue should be 1% of GDP, between 2010 and 2018 revenues declined from 0.48% to 0.43%. This reduction came on the back of a decline in own-source revenue from 56 to 44%.
  • Delay in Salaries: Low municipal incomes affects the low-levels of municipal services and translates into salary delays for employees.
  • Low Property Tax Collection: Property taxes only account for 0.15% of GDP, whereas in developing economies they account for 0.6% and the global average is 1.04%.

Way Ahead

  • Property tax base needs to be expanded using GIS mapping, cross-checking with building licenses, ration cards, mutations, electricity/gas accounts, and review of exemptions. This also needs to cover government properties as per GoI circular 2009 and the SC judgement in Rajkot Corporation vs Railways.
  • The value capture taxes need to include upward revision of building license fee and new sources like impact fee, as imposed in Telangana, exactions and betterment levy like the one imposed in Gujarat.
  • Local fee/charges – An advertisement fee needs to be levied as there are large number of Unauthorized boards. Recovery on user charges (water, etc) which is only 20%, Right of way from gas/electricity and fibre optic lines, Cell tower, Leasing electricity poles and giving maintenance of parks to RWAs.
  • Potential of participatory funding (private sector, CSR and local community) needs to be tapped as has been done by Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Mathura (Hybrid Annuity project), Indore and Pune.
  • Article 243X needs suitable revision to allow larger inclusion of fiscal instruments above within the scope of a municipality’s own sources.
  • Municipal Bonds can be tapped into by ULBs to raise their revenues and reduce the dependence on Government support.

What is Municipal Bond?

  • A municipal bond is a kind of debt instrument where investors offer loans to local governments. They are issued by civic bodies for specific projects and usually have a 10-year tenure. The ULB pays the annual interest on the bonds to the investor at the decided rate
  • Benefits of Municipal Bonds: The bond helps raise funds from the stock market. The bond also increases the number of investors available to the civic body, as compared to a loan from a single bank. Bonds help ensure improved credit profiles, direct transfer of funds by the Centre, transparency and efficient revenue generation
  • Support from Centre: Under AMRUT (ULBs) are encouraged to tap the bond market. Union government also pays ULBs Rs 13 crore for every Rs 100 crore raised via bonds, subject to a ceiling of Rs 26 crore for each. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, in 2018-19, eight ULBs issued bonds and were incentivised with Rs 181.33 crore by the ministry
  • The difference between a bank loan and a municipal bond is that any institution can secure a bond only if it has favourable credit ratings. The interest rates for the bond is usually market determined, where Bank Loans are much more opaque and politicised in nature
  • Fair Process: The bidding for Bonds takes place on an electronic trading platform after the bond is listed on the exchange. The bidding is open to all investors and is facilitated by the transaction agent appointed by the ULB, who usually gets a commission of 0.10% after the money is transferred to the account of the ULB.
  • There could be a single investor as in the case of Ahmedabad and Surat, where Gujarat State Financial Services (GSFS) picked the entire bond of Rs 200 crore each, or there could be multiple investors, who can bid for any number of slots having a value of Rs 10 lakhs each

Value Addition

  • Ahmedabad was the first city in south Asia to launch a municipal bond of Rs 100 crore in 1998, which was completely subscribed.
  • Surat Municipal Corporation was the second city in Gujarat to announce bonds in 2018, to fund a sewage treatment project worth Rs 450 crore
  • Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) is expected to launch municipal bonds in January, and will become the third Urban Local Body (ULB) in Gujarat to use this method to raise money to fund development work sanctioned under AMRUT Scheme.

(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 Assam borders which of the following states?

  1. West Bengal
  2. Arunachal Pradesh
  3. Nagaland
  4. Meghalaya

Select the correct code:

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

Q.2 E-Sampada, a new Web Portal and Mobile App was recently launched by which of the following Ministry?

  1. Ministry of Jal Shakti
  2. Ministry of Agriculture
  3. Ministry of Defence
  4. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

ANSWERS FOR 25th December 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 B
3 D
4 D

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