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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd January 2021

  • IASbaba
  • January 22, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Construction of village in Arunachal Pradesh by China

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I – Geography; GS-II – International Relations

In news 

  • Recently, China has said that its construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” because it had “never recognised” Arunachal. 
  • India’s Ministry of External Affairs has also said that it was aware of the construction.

Key takeaways

  • The village was built between November 2019 and November 2020. 
  • It is located a couple of kilometres across the LAC, beyond what India sees as the border separating Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, on the banks of the Tsari Chu river in Upper Subansiri district in Arunachal.
  • The site of the village is close to where China had attacked an Assam Rifles post in 1959, in what is known as the Longju incident. 
  • It is at least 2 km south of the McMahon Line, which is not recognised by China.
  • After the 1962 war, India stopped patrolling the area.
  • Another village built last year, called Pangda, was built 2-3 km inside what Bhutan sees as its territory, in another disputed area.

Do you know?

  • The Subansiri River is a trans-Himalayan river and a tributary of the Brahmaputra River that flows through Tibet’s Shannan Prefecture and the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • It is formed by joining three streams Lokong Chu, Chayal Chu and Tsari Chu.

Place in news: Namrup

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Energy Resources; Infrastructure

In news 

  • Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers recently chaired a meeting on upcoming 12.7 lakh MMTPA capacity urea plant at Namrup. 
  • The Namrup-IV unit is important for ensuring local development and creating job opportunities.

Important value additions

  • Namrup is a small town situated close to the foothills of the great Patkai Mountain Range (Purvanchal Range connecting to Myanmar) in the extreme south-eastern part of Assam.
  • The river Dihing or Disang flows through it.
  • Namrup today is an important industrial town of Assam.
  • Namrup is the first place in India where a natural gas based fertilizer factory was established – It made use of natural gas, water (in the form of steam) and Nitrogen (from air) to produce urea.

Patkai Mountain Range 

  • The Pat-kai or Patkai Bum are the hills on India’s north-eastern border with Burma or Myanmar. 
  • They were created by the same tectonic processes that created the Himalayas in the Mesozoic.
  • The Patkai hill range are not as rugged as the Himalayas and the peaks are much lower. 
  • Features of the range include conical peaks, steep slopes and deep valleys.
  • Three mountain ranges come under the Patkai. 
  • The Patkai-Bum, the Garo-Khasi-Jaintia, and the Lushai Hills – highest point Phawngpui Tlang, also known as ‘Blue Mountain’.

Mass digital migration of users to messaging platform Signal

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

In news 

  • Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently updated its privacy policy which led to a mass digital migration of users from the messaging platform to its rivals such as Signal app.

Important value additions

  • Signal is a cross-platform centralized encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. 
  • The non-profit Signal Foundation was launched in 2018 with initial funding of $50 million from Brian Acton.
  • It uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. 
  • It can also be used to make one-to-one and group voice and video calls.
  • Signal uses standard cellular telephone numbers as identifiers and secures all communications to other Signal users with end-to-end encryption.

Recent Development:

  • On 7 January 2021, Signal saw a surge in new user registrations due to a WhatsApp privacy policy change and a Signal endorsement by Elon Musk and Edward Snowden via Twitter.
  • Between 12 and 14 January 2021, the number of Signal installations listed on Google Play increased from over 10 million to over 50 million.

DRDO signs MoU with MoRTH on Geo-Hazard Management

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Disaster Management

In news 

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has entered into a framework MoU with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) to strengthen collaboration on sustainable Geo-Hazard management.

Key takeaways

  • DRDO’s Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is working for the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness in various kinds of terrains and avalanches.
  • It has been agreed that the expertise of DGRE will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.
  • MoRTH is responsible for development & maintenance of National Highways across the country.    

Faecal Sludge And Septage Management (FSSM)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- I – Social Issues

In news 

  • NITI Aayog released a book on faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) in urban areas.

Key takeaways

  • Jointly developed with National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance, the book presents 27 case studies across 10 states and various service and business models adopted by Indian cities while implementing FSSM initiatives.
  • About 60% of urban households rely on onsite sanitation systems, which require dedicated planning for management of waste collected in these systems’ containment structures.
  • Accordingly, FSSM planning prioritizes human excreta management, a waste stream with a high potential for spreading diseases.

Do you know?

  • Considering the importance of FSSM solutions, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs came up with the national policy on FSSM in 2017. 
  • More than 24 states have adopted it and 12 of them have come up with their own policies.
  • Universal access to toilets was achieved in urban India with the construction of 66 lakh household toilets and more than 6 lakh community and public toilets.
  • After achieving the target of ‘Open-Defecation-Free’ (ODF), India has now moved towards becoming ODF+ and ODF++. 
  • These targets go beyond the concept of access to sanitation and aim for safely managed sanitation systems, with adequate treatment and safe disposal of toilet waste.

RBI retains SBI, ICICI and HDFC Banks as ‘TOO BIG TO FAIL’ banks

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Banking

In news 

  • The RBI has retained State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as domestic systemically important banks (D-SIBs) or banks that are considered as “too big to fail”.

Key takeaways

  • The RBI had issued the framework for dealing with domestic systemically important banks on July 22, 2014.
  • The D-SIB framework requires the RBI to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs starting from 2015 and place these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their systemic importance scores (SISs).
  • According to analysts, too big to fail is a phrase used to describe a bank or company that’s so entwined in the economy that its failure would be catastrophic.
  • In case a foreign bank having branch presence in India is a global systemically important bank (G-SIB), it has to maintain additional capital surcharge in India as applicable to it as a G-SIB, proportionate to its risk weighted assets (RWAs) in India.

Miscellaneous

Exercise Kavach

  • A large scale Joint Military exercise ‘Exercise Kavach’ involving assets of Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard is being conducted in the coming week under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC).

  • The exercise involves synergised application of maritime surveillance assets, coordinated air and maritime strikes, air defence, submarine and landing operations.
  • Concurrently Joint Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) exercise involving various technical, electronic and human intelligence from three services will be conducted.
  • The tri-services exercise aims to fine tune joint war-fighting capabilities and SOPs towards enhancing operational synergy.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) is the only Joint Forces Command of the country.

(Mains Focus)


SCIENCE & TECH / ENVIRONMENT

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

Technology and Conservation: Elephants counted from Space

Context: Scientists are using very high-resolution satellite imagery to count and detect wildlife species, including African elephants.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Machine Learning Research Group detected elephants in South Africa from space using Artificial Intelligence with an accuracy that they have compared to human detection capabilities.

So, how did scientists track the elephants?

  • Earlier Methodology relied on manned aircrafts: Before researchers developed the new technique, one of the most common survey methods to keep a check on elephant populations in savannah environments involved aerial counts undertaken from manned aircraft.
  • Limitations of earlier method: However, this method does not deliver accurate results since observers on aircraft are prone to get exhausted, are sometimes hindered by poor visibility and may even succumb to bias. Further, aerial surveys are costly and logistically challenging.
  • Satellites Imagery Utilized: To test the new method, researchers chose the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, which has a high concentration of elephants. Researchers used the highest resolution satellite imagery currently available, called Worldview3.
  • Leveraging Artificial Intelligence Technology: At first, the satellite images appear to be of grey blobs in a forest of green splotches – but, on closer inspection, those blobs are revealed as elephants wandering through the trees. And all the laborious elephant counting is done via machine learning – a computer algorithm trained to identify elephants in a variety of backdrops.

Significance of using Satellite & AI Technology in counting Elephants

  • Accurate Count improves Conservation: In order to conserve the species, it is important for scientists to track elephant populations. This is because inaccurate counts can lead to misallocation of conservation resources, which are already limited and have resulted in misunderstanding population trends.
  • Helps arrest Declining Population: The population of African elephants has plummeted over the last century due to poaching, retaliatory killing from crop-raiding and habitat fragmentation. The scientists say better counting & monitoring could be used in anti-poaching work.
  • Useful in International borders: This approach of using satellites and AI could vastly improve the monitoring of threatened elephant populations in habitats that span international borders, where it can be difficult to obtain permission for aircraft surveys.
  • Cost effective: Scientists used satellite imagery that required no ground presence to monitor the elephants. The breakthrough could allow up to 5,000 sq km of elephant habitat to be surveyed on a single cloud-free day. 
  • Suited in Pandemic Situation: Also since these images are captured from space, there is no need for anyone on the ground, which is particularly helpful during these times of coronavirus

Did You Know?

  • But, this is not the first study of its kind to initiate tracking of elephants using satellites. In 2002, Smithsonian scientists started using geographic information systems (GIS) technology to understand how they could conserve Asian elephants. 
  • At the time, scientists launched the first satellite-tracking project on Asian elephants in Myanmar.

GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

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

Absence of Digital Regulator

Context: India today has over 500 million active internet users, who consume the highest volume of data in the world (average of 25GB per month) and pay the lowest rates in the world (average price of $0.30 per GB vs $8 in the US).

From a tele-density of 2% in 1995 to 12% in 2005 to over 90% in 2020, things have come a long way. This massive rise in the use of the mobile internet helped lay the foundation for many businesses, besides delivering governance efficiently.

India urgently needs an evolved regulatory framework which empowers the consumer to utilise this digital transformation without being vulnerable to data security threats.

What issues arise in the absence of regulator?

  • Data Sovereignty: India’s consumer internet is dominated by American Big Tech. Absence of regulator is therefore an associated issue of Sovereignty.
  • Implications on Freedoms: Presence and absence of regulator has implications for freedom of expression because its content rules and broader policy determinations will determine our online public squares. 
  • Continuation of offences: Repeated offences on data breaches and sharing of data between platforms have been ignored — in the absence of a regulator. 
  • Complexity of Regulation: India has conventionally resorted to broad trade and market restrictions — such as blocking — rather than nuanced regulation of the digital space. 
  • Regulation can be misconstrued as de-globalisation: In a digitally integrated world, globalisation of ideas and information has helped economies find novel ways to power growth and inclusion. Denying digital access to certain services be it through app bans or internet shutdowns, is an act of digital de-globalisation.
  • Existing regulations misused: Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which gives the government the provision to block public access to specific webpages, websites and mobile applications, has been used extensively, and often without accountability. In 2020 alone, India lost $2.8 billion due to internet shutdowns.
  • Proper Governance framework will act as propeller of growth: A strong and consistent governance framework together with a digitally empowered Indian consumer will be a great step in building an Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • Proportionate Governance required: Supreme Court, in 2019, acknowledged that internet access is integral to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Any restriction on internet access must pass the test of proportionality, and suggested the evolution of a rules-based mechanism to govern the internet

Way Ahead

  • As the government evolves its policies to empower a digital India, a comprehensive national security law needs to be brought in, which thrives on compliance rather than bans as a regulation mechanism.
  • One way to empower consumers is by creating mechanisms to ensure inter-operability, by making it easier to switch services from one platform to another.

(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 is or are tributaries of Brahmaputra river? 

  1. Teesta 
  2. Lohit 
  3. Subansiri 
  4. Manas 

Select the correct code 

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

Q.2 Which of the following mountain ranges come under the Pat Kai? 

  1. The Patkai Bum 
  2. The Garo-Khasi-Jaintia hills 
  3. Lushai Hills 

Select the correct code 

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

Q.3 Which of the following is responsible for development and maintenance of national highways across the country? 

  1. Ministry of Commerce and trade 
  2. Border Roads Organisation 
  3. Niti Aayog
  4. Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways

Q.4 Exercise Kavach is a joint military exercise between which of the following? 

  1. Indian and British army 
  2. Indian Army and Indian Navy 
  3. India and Chinese Air Force 
  4. Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard

ANSWERS FOR 21st January 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 D
3 B

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