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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 26th January 2021

  • IASbaba
  • January 26, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Tributes being paid to Indian Bodo social activist

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- I – Culture

In news 

  • Tributes are being paid to Shri Upendra Nath Brahma by opening an institute in his name.

Important value additions 

  • Upendranath Brahma (1956 – 1990) was an Indian Bodo social activist and the former president of All Bodo Students’ Union.
  • The title of Bodofa (Guardian of Bodos) was posthumously conferred upon Brahma on 8 May 1990 in recognition of his vision and leadership. 
  • His life is celebrated each year on the anniversary of his death, which is now called Bodofa Day.

Bodos

  • The Bodo is the largest ethnolinguistic group in the Assam. 
  • They are concentrated mainly in the Bodoland Territorial Region of Assam.
  • The Bodo  are a Tibeto-Burmese-speaking ethnic group. 
  • The Bodo people speak the Bodo language, a Tibeto-Burman language recognized as one of twenty-two scheduled languages in the Indian Constitution.
  • The Bodo people are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. 

Related articles:

  • Bodoland University develops fungal powder to boost immunity: Click here
  • Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC): Click here

Cost of issuing green bonds remains higher than other bonds 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Economy

In news 

  • A study by RBI noted that the cost of issuing green bonds has generally remained higher than other bonds in India, largely due to asymmetric information.

Key takeaways 

  • The average coupon rate for green bonds issued since 2015 with maturities between 5 to 10 years have generally remained higher than the corporate and government bonds with similar tenure.
  • For the US dollar-denominated green bonds with tenure of more than or equal to 10 years, the coupon rate was lower than the corporate bonds.
  • Most of the green bonds in India are issued by the public sector units or corporates with better financial health.
  • Green bonds constituted only 0.7% of all the bonds issued in India since 2018,
  • Developing a better information management system in India may help in reducing maturity mismatches, borrowing costs and lead to efficient resource allocation in this segment.

Important value additions 

  • A green bond is a fixed-income instrument designed specifically to support specific climate-related or environmental projects.
  • Green bonds typically come with tax incentives to enhance their attractiveness to investors.
  • The World Bank issued the first official green bond in 2009.
  • Around $157 billion worth of green bonds were issued in 2019.

The Indian Sunderbans home to 428 species of birds: ZSI

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

In news 

  • A recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) states that the Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds. 
  • Of the 428 birds listed, some, like the masked finfoot and the Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
  • The area is home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country and rare species such as the Goliath heron and the spoon-billed sandpiper.

Important value additions 

  • The Indian Sunderbans also includes the Sunderban Tiger Reserve. 
  • It is home to about 96 royal Bengal tigers as per the last census in 2020.
  • It is a world heritage site and a Ramsar site. 

The masked finfoot 

  • The masked finfoot or Asian finfoot is an aquatic bird from the fresh and brackish wetlands of the eastern Indian subcontinent, Indochina, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

The buffy fish owl

  • The buffy fish owl, also known as the Malay fish owl, is a fish owl in the family Strigidae. 
  • It is native to Southeast Asia and lives foremost in tropical forests and wetlands. 
  • Due to its wide distribution and assumed stable population, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2004


Framework For Telemedicine Use In Management Of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease And Stroke In India

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II – Health

In news 

  • Recently, Union Health Minister released the Framework for Telemedicine use in Management of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in India.

Key takeaways 

  • Telemedicine with its components of tele-consultation, tele-monitoring, tele-triage can be integrated to build continuum of care model for major Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
  • The increasing burden of NCDs in India requires multipronged interventions that can address promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative aspects of NCD care and management.
  • Telemedicine can bridge and link all these aspects.
  • It can be adapted and used by medical practitioners from primary to tertiary health care level in India, through the national teleconsultation network and other similar platforms.”

National Non-Communicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II – Health

In news 

  • Union Health Minister released the ‘National Non-communicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS)’, the largest comprehensive national Survey on risk factors and health systems preparedness of NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASE (NCDs).

Key takeaways 

  • While two in five adults have three or more risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD) in India, the status of health system in responding to the disease burden is also underscored.
  • Overweight or obese: More than 1 in every 4 adults and 6.2% adolescents  
  • Raised blood pressure: Almost 3 out of 10 adults 
  • Raised blood glucose: 9.3%.
  • Insufficient physical activity: More than 2 in 5 adults and 1 in 4 adolescents 
  • One in every three adults and more than one-fourth proportion of men used any form of tobacco and consumed alcohol in past 12 months respectively.

Do you know? 

  • Conducted during the period of 2017–18, the purpose of the survey was to collect reliable baseline data on key indicators (risk factors, select NCDs and health systems response) related to the National NCD monitoring framework and NCD Action Plan.
  • This is the first of its kind of a comprehensive survey on NCDs using standardised tools and methods, covering the age groups of 15-69 years, males and females residing in urban and rural areas of the country.

Miscellaneous

Padma Awards 2021

  • This year the President has approved conferment of 119 Padma Awards. 

  • Important ones are listed below.

Padma Vibhushan – Second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna

  • Shinzo Abe (Japan) – Public Affairs
  • S P Balasubramaniam (Posthumous) – Art
  • Belle Monappa Hegde – Medicine
  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan – Others: Spiritualism

Padma BhushanThird-highest civilian award in the Republic of India, preceded by the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan and followed by the Padma Shri

  • Krishnan Nair Shantakumari Chithra – Art
  • Tarun Gogoi (Posthumous) – Public Affairs
  • Chandrashekhar Kambara – Literature and Education
  • Sumitra Mahajan – Public Affairs
  • Kalbe Sadiq (Posthumous) – Others: Spiritualism

(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
  • GS-2:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment

Tech Giants vs Regulators

Context: Parliament in Australia is debating legislation that would require Google and Facebook to enter into payment negotiations with media companies for using their content, with an arbiter mandated to adjudicate in the event an agreement cannot be reached.

Response from Tech giants

  • Counter arguments: Facebook & Google argued that the media industry was already benefiting from traffic routed to them by the digital platforms, and that the proposed rules would expose them to “unmanageable levels of financial and operational risk”.
  • Threats of withdrawal: Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia. Facebook said it could block Australian users from posting or sharing news links if the proposed norms on royalty payments were put into operation.

What is the Core Issue in Australia?

  • Importance of news for Tech Giants: While links to news may not be direct advertising money-spinners for Facebook or Google, both see the presence of news as an important aspect of audience engagement with their products.
  • Payment of royalties not an issue for Tech Giants: While both companies are prepared to give some money to news publishers, they want to make deals on their own terms. 
  • Control over payout process: The fight in Australia is evidently centred on how much control these companies would be able to retain on their payout process — operational aspects such as deciding the quantum of payments for news feed sources, and having to reveal changes in their algorithms.
  • Balance of Bargaining Power: But Google and Facebook are two of the largest and most profitable companies in history – and each holds far more bargaining power than any news publisher. The news media bargaining code sets out to undo this imbalance.
  • Commercial Agreement preferred: The media bargaining code being introduced is far too systematic for them to want to accept it. They would rather pick and choose commercial agreements with “genuine commercial consideration”, and not be bound by a one-size-fits-all set of arbitration rules.
  • Difference with EU regulation: European authorities have specifically linked payments to copyright, without putting a forcing device into the agreements. Australia’s code, on the other hand, is almost entirely focused on the bargaining power of news outlets vis-a-vis the tech majors, and has some coercive features as well. 
  • Issue of Power Equations: It is more of a competition issue in Australia, of power equations between traditional news outlets and tech platforms, with the question of abuse of dominance by the latter hanging in the balance

Case Study: South Korea

  • Naver Online Platform: Nearly four years previously, Naver, South Korea’s most popular news site and biggest search engine (like Google), had thrashed out an unusual model for working with Korean news publisher.
  • New Business model to deal with News Media: Naver started designating some 125 outlets as “Naver News in-link partners”, and paying them for published stories on Naver. Another 500 odd news outlets are unpaid “search partners”. The total payout was over $40 million in 2017.
  • Criticism of model: While this may not be the perfect model — news outlets have generally been unsatisfied with their share; and there are allegations that Naver manipulated the ranking of articles critical of South Korea’s top football association on the latter’s request — the template remains operational in a nation where nearly 85% of the population accesses news online.

What has been the Firms’ response elsewhere?

  • Facebook plans to launch its news tab feature (available in the US since 2019) in the UK, with likely tie-ups with The Guardian, The Economist, and The Independent. 
  • Google is rolling out its news offering platform, Google News Showcase which features story panels that allow participating publishers to package the stories that appear within Google’s news products. It has on board more than 450 publications across a dozen countries, 
  • Google had announced in December 2020 that it would “soon start offering people access to paywalled content in partnership with select news publishers”. It had said it would pay participating partners to provide limited access to paywalled content for News Showcase users.
  • Both the platforms of Facebook and Google aim to formalise payment pacts with news outlets
  • However, Google’s first response to France adopting the EU copyright rules was to stop displaying news snippets – until the French competition regulator stepped in, in October last year. 
  • Google also stopped its Google News service in Spain, which made payments to publishers mandatory.

Do You Know?

  • In India, digital advertising spends in 2019 grew 24% year-on-year to Rs 27,900 crore, according to EY estimates, and are expected to grow to Rs 51,340 crore by 2022.
  • Globally, Facebook and Google together command 61% of the market share in digital ad spends, according to Edelweiss Research; Google leads with 37%. 

The debate in India

  • Big Market: According to a FICCI-EY report on India’s media and entertainment sector for 2020, there are 300 million users of online news sites, portals and aggregators in the country — making up approximately 46% of Internet users and 77% of smartphone users in India at the end of 2019. With 282 million unique visitors, India is the second largest online news consuming nation after China
  • Dominance of Intermediaries:  Policymakers in India have so far focused on the dominance of intermediaries such as Google and Facebook, which are positioned in a way that service providers cannot reach customers except through these platforms.
  • Lacks adequate discussion: A substantial discussion on the impact of intermediary platforms on the health of news media outlets is yet to commence in any meaningful way here.
  • Struggling Startups: Other major news aggregators in India are Dailyhunt and InShorts. According to a January 2020 report by Harvard University’s Nieman Lab, publishers were initially paid between Rs 5-6 lakh monthly for content hosted on Dailyhunt — but they started going off the platform after terms were changed.
  • Implication of Australia Events: The tussles in Australia and elsewhere could have broader implications for the regulation of the digital economy in India in the longer term.

Conclusion

Google and Facebook have locked horns with Australian govt over laws that propose to make them pay news organisations for using their content. The outcome of the fight will have implications for India as well.

Connecting the dots:

  • Dominance of Big Tech: Click here
  • Google Search Monopoly: Click here

SCIENCE & TECH/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • GS-2: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. 

Transfats and FSSAI

Context: In, 2020, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reduced the permissible limit of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022, against the earlier cap of 5%.

About new regulation

  • The decision was effected by an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations. 
  • The new rules apply to edible refined oils, vanaspati (partially hydrogenated oils), margarine, bakery shortenings, and other cooking media like vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads. 
  • In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) had called for a global elimination of industrially produced TFAs by 2023.

Different types of fats/ fatty acids

  • All natural fats and oils are a combination of 
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids
    • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
    • Saturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids. 
  • Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are ‘healthy’ fats as apart from being a major source of energy, they help absorb some vitamins and minerals and build cell membranes and the sheaths surrounding nerves. These fats are free-flowing.

About Transfats and their harmful nature

  • There are two broad types of trans fats found in foods: naturally-occurring and artificial trans fats. 
  • Artificial trans fats, which are considered harmful, are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, increase their shelf life, and for use as an adulterant as they are cheap. 
  • They are present in baked and fried foods as well as adulterated ghee, which becomes solid at room temperature.
  • Saturated fats or Trans fats are considered harmful as they clog arteries and result in hypertension, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues.
  • The WHO estimates that over 5 lakh people with cardiovascular issues die globally every year due to the consumption of industrially produced TFAs. As per FSSAI, about 77,000 deaths take place annually in India due to TFAs.

How did India and other nations start acting on it?

  • In 2018, the WHO called for elimination of industrially produced TFAs by 2023, and brought out a step-by step guide called ‘REPLACE’ to help countries frame policies. 
  • This prompted accelerated action by member states and other stakeholders. 
  • However, threats posed by non-communicable diseases started gaining attention much earlier in the 1980s, following which Denmark became the first country to ban TFAs in 2003. In the next five years, Chile and Switzerland banned TFAs too. 
  • During the same period, several U.S. States, such as New York, implemented local bans. 
  • In its report in 2020, the WHO said that 58 countries had introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from TFAs by the end of 2021. 
  • But more than 100 countries still needed to take action. Last year, 11 of the 15 countries that account for two-thirds of deaths linked to trans fats still needed to act. These were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea.
  • In India, action against trans fats coincided with the setting up of the FSSAI. Though it came into existence in 2006, civil society organisations say that its functioning picked up by 2011-12. 
  • It was in 2011 that it imposed a cap of 10% on trans fats in oils and fats in India, which was further revised to 5% in 2015.
  • Civil society organisations in India are pushing for a cap of 3% for 2021 and 2% for 2022 to be imposed not just on trans fats in oils and fats, but in “all” foods. 

About FSSAI

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
  • The Act aims to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi-departmental control to a single line of command.
  • FSSAI works under the overall guidance of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • The FSSAI comprises of a Chairperson and twenty two members out of which one – third are to be women.
  • The Chairperson of FSSAI is appointed by the Central Government.
  • The Food Authority is assisted by Scientific Committees and Panels in setting standards and the Central Advisory Committee in coordinating with enforcement agencies.
  • The primary responsibility for enforcement is largely with the State Food Safety Commissioners.

Landmark cases with FSSAI:

  • Nestle India Limited Maggi Case: The maggi noodles were reported with excess lead unfit for human consumption and FSSAI prescribed for ban.
  • Cadbury India: It was reported that worms was found in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. The FSSAI declared packaging was not proper or airtight and made it mandatory to change the packaging.

Challenges and Shortcomings of FSSAI

  • Large Exemption: The “petty manufacturers, retailers and hawkers” are exempted from FSSAI ambit. These segments greatly contributes to unorganised food sector and due to its low prices, most of the population prefer food consumption from these segments.
  • Inadequate infrastructure: Many states don’t have sufficient food testing laboratories. There are only 87 National Accreditation Board for testing and calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited Labs, where as there are more than 1500 private labs in India.
  • Shortage of Human Resources: Shortage of qualified manpower and functional food testing equipment in state food laboratories and referral laboratories resulted in deficient testing of food samples. Also, there is an acute shortage of licensing and enforcement officers in the states which severely affected food safety measures.
  • Improper functioning: The body has been only prescriptive in nature and failed to ensure safety, quality and hygiene in food industry.  Also, there are no standard practices for food inspection, the process being mostly discretionary. Moreover, the list of FSSAI regulated items is not regularly reviewed.
  • Bureaucratic Hindrances: FSSAI is highly underfunded to monitor the widening ambit of food laws. Cumbersome and lengthy approval procedures have delayed the pre-launch approvals for products from the FSSAI for over a year. Differences of opinion between the food regulator and the food processing ministry also handicap the FSSAI functioning.
  • Federal Issues: Regulations are made by FSSAI in accordance with international norms & trends, but the challenge lies in implementation which is a State subject.
  • Instances of Irregularities: The CAG has found that “licenses were issued on the basis of incomplete documents in more than 50 per cent of cases, checked in Audit”.

Conclusion:

The FSSAI will need to pursue local governments to improve surveillance, inspection of food premises, sampling of food products, regular training of officers, upgradation of food labs, etc., 


(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 Bodo tribe belongs to which of the following state of India?

  1. Assam
  2. Meghalaya
  3. Jharkhand
  4. Manipur

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding green bond:

  1. It typically come with tax incentives to enhance their attractiveness to investors.
  2. The first official green bond was issues by United Nations Environment Programme in 2009.

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 25th January 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 A
3 D

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