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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 7th January 2021

  • IASbaba
  • January 7, 2021
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


CEPI centralized network lab at DBT-THSTI Faridabad inaugurated 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health & GS-III – Innovation; Sci & tech

In news 

  • One of the seven labs of the world called as the centralized network lab of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) established was recently established at Translational Health Science & Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad
  • Ministry: Ministry of Science & Technology

Key takeaways 

  • The CEPI centralized laboratory at DBT-THSTI Faridabad is first of its kind in India and one of the seven in the world. 
  • THSTI is the only laboratory of such kind in India and is also accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). 
  • CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organizations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.
  • The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology is implementing the Ind-CEPI mission titled ‘India Centric Epidemic Preparedness through Rapid Vaccine Development: Supporting Indian Vaccine Development Aligned with the Global Initiative of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)’.
  • Aim: (1) To strengthen the development of vaccines for the diseases of epidemic potential in India; (2) Build coordinated preparedness in the Indian public health system and vaccine industry to address existing and emergent infectious threats in India.

Supreme Court clarifies the position of law on vertical and horizontal reservations 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Judiciary

In news 

  • The Supreme Court clarified the position of law on vertical and horizontal reservations recently. 
  • The decision in Saurav Yadav Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh dealt with issues arising from the way different classes of reservation were to be applied in the selection process to fill posts of constables in the state.

Key takeaways 

  • The court ruled that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation, and cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
  • It argued that if both vertical and horizontal quotas were to be applied together then the overall selection would have candidates with lower scores.

Important value additions 

  • Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservation.
  • It applies separately for each of the groups specified under the law.
  • Horizontal reservation refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
  • The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board.
  • The interlocking of the two types of reservation throws up a host of questions on how certain groups are to be identified. 
  • For example would an SC woman be put in the category of women or SC?

Double Stack Long Haul Container Train Operation to be flagged off

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure

In news 

  • On 7th January 2021, Indian Prime Minister will flag off the world’s first Double Stack Long Haul 1.5 Km long Container Train pulled by electric traction from New Ateli -New Kishangarh.

Key takeaways 

  • Double Stack Long Haul Container Train Operation will have an enhanced axle load of 25 tons.
  • The design will maximize capacity utilization and uniform distributed and point loading.
  • These wagons can carry four times in terms of container units compared to the current traffic on Indian Railways.

New Rewari – New Madar Section Of WDFC to be flagged off

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure

In news 

  • Indian Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation the 306 Km New Rewari – New Madar Section of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) on 7th January 2021.

Key takeaways 

  • The New Rewari – New Madar section of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor is situated in Haryana and Rajasthan. 
  • The opening of this stretch will benefit various industries of Rajasthan & Haryana. 
  • It will also enable better usage of the container depot of CONCOR at Kathuwas.
  • This section will also ensure seamless connectivity with the western ports of Kandla, Pipavav, Mundhra, and Dahej situated in Gujarat.
  • With the inauguration of this section, seamless connectivity between the WDFC and EDFC will be achieved.
  • Earlier the 351-km New Bhaupur- New Khurja section of the EDFC was dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister on 29th December 2020.

DRDO Signs MOU with MAHA-METRO for implementation of Advanced Biodigester 

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

In news 

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (MAHA –METRO), a joint venture company of the GoI and Government of Maharashtra, are working together to conserve water and protect the environment by installing DRDO’s eco-friendly biodigester units in its facilities.
  •  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was inked recently between MAHA-METRO and DRDO. 

Key takeaways 

  • Through MoU, DRDO will render technical support for the implementation of its advanced biodigester Mk-II technology for the treatment of human waste in the metro rail network.
  • DRDO’s biodigester is an indigenous, green and cost-effective technology,
  • A customized version of this MK-II Biodigester, suitable for treating human waste generated from houseboats in Dal Lake was also successfully demonstrated by the DRDO to J&K Administration. 

Important value additions 

  • A biodigester system utilizes organic waste, particularly animal and human excreta, to produce fertilizer and biogas.
  • It consists of an airtight, high-density polyethylene container within which excreta diluted in water flow continuously and are fermented by microorganisms present in the waste.
  • The fermentation process is anaerobic, i.e., it takes place without oxygen.
  • The bacteria responsible for decomposition are methanogenic (i.e., they produce methane known as biogas). 
  • The processed manure is an organic, pathogen-free fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • The products are primarily for self-consumption on farms.

Joint study group and surveillance squad constituted to check Ammoniacal Nitrogen in River Yamuna

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

In news 

  • Recently, a meeting was convened between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the officials of Delhi Pollution Control Committee(DPCC), Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Irrigation & Water Resources Department, Haryana and Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi. 
  • Objective: To discuss the recurring issue of increase in Ammoniacal Nitrogen in River Yamuna and short and long term remedial actions required. 

Key takeaways 

  • The long deliberations on the issue identified and agreed that possible reasons could be: (1) Discharge of untreated sewage from upstream towns in Haryana; (2) Discharge from industrial units, Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) and Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs); (3) Illegal discharge of sewage from unsewered colonies in outer Delhi through tankers; (4) Lean flow in the River Yamuna and anaerobic decomposition of accumulated sludge on river bed.​
  • A study group comprising Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, Haryana, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi has been constituted. 
  • The group will review: (1) Uniform monitoring protocol and requirement of strengthening monitoring mechanism; (2) Analyse past data and carry out field survey to identify critical hotspots as well as period of high ammonia levels. 
  • It has also been asked to suggest short and long term measures for sustained solutions, and submit its report within a month. 

Important value additions 

Ammoniacal nitrogen (NH3-N) is a measure for the amount of ammonia, a toxic pollutant often found in landfill leachate and in waste products, such as sewage, liquid manure and other liquid organic waste products.


World Bank Signs $105 Million Project to Improve Waterways in West Bengal

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Relations & GS-III – Infrastructure

In news 

  • The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the World Bank signed a $105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal.

Key takeaways 

  • The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project will facilitate: (1) Passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly river; (2) Undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area; (3) Enhance the quality of life of its residents; (4) Contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector.
  • The Inland waterways are now emerging as a cost effective and an environment friendly option for passenger and freight movement. 
  • This Project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in West Bengal and help in the economic development of the state by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centers in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area.
  • The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration — the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) where around 30 million people or one-third of West Bengal’s population live.

Do you know? 

  • In the first phase: The project will enhance the capacity and improve the safety of the Inland Water Transport system including rehabilitating existing jetties, buying new ferries with enhanced design and installing electric gates in 40 locations. 
  • In the second phase: It will support – (1) Long-term investments for passenger movements, including in terminals and jetties; (2) Improve the design of the inland water transport vessels; (3) Ensure night navigation on the most hazardous and trafficked routes and crossing points; (4) Encourage the private sector to invest in Ro-Ro vessels that will allow easier movement of trucks across the Hooghly river.
  • To better cope with increased precipitation and flooding, climate-smart engineering solutions will be applied.
  • The project will facilitate disable-friendly amenities, ensure women’s safety and encourage women’s employment.
  • The $105 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of 7 years.

Important value additions 

  • The Hooghly River is a distributary of the river Ganga in Kolkata. 
  • It separates the Kolkata port from its large consumption centres, which are, its wholesale market and its vast hinterland comprising among others the entire North Eastern India and two landlocked neighbouring countries namely, Nepal and Bhutan. 
  • More than 80% of freight and passenger traffic currently cross the river via Kolkata’s three bridges. 
  • To curtail congestion, the city has restricted the movement of trucks to the port to certain bridges and only during limited hours, reducing access to the port and increasing the cost of logistics.

Miscellaneous

Chattergala Tunnel

  • The proposed Chattergala tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir will connect district Kathua with district Doda enroute the new Highway via Basohli-Bani through Chattergalla to touch Bhaderwah and Doda.

  • This is going to be a historic landmark project providing all-weather alternate road connectivity between the two distant regions and reducing the travel time from Doda to Lakhanpur on the Punjab border to just around four hours.
  • It is going to be a 6.8 Km long tunnel.
  • The tunnel is likely to take about 4 years for completion after the execution work starts and its construction cost is around Rs. 3,000 crore.

(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Important International Events and their impacts. 

US Capitol Violence

Context: A ceremonial session of Congress to formally declare President-elect Joe Biden’s victory devolved in an instant into a scene of violence and mayhem in the Capitol on Wednesday when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building, halting the counting of electoral votes.

What were the protesters targeting?

  • Allegation of Fraud in Election: Mr Trump has refused to concede the 3 November election, repeatedly alleging fraud without providing any evidence.
  • Opposition to results by Republicans: A joint session of Congress was being held to certify Mr Biden’s election victory on 3 November. The proceedings are usually brief and ceremonial but Republican lawmakers have been objecting to some results.
  • Pressure from Trump: For days Mr Trump, who has lost the election, had also been putting pressure on Mr Pence (acting Vice-President), who is presiding over the session, to block certification of the result
  • Mobilisation of Trump Supporters: The protesters arrived at the Capitol from a “Save America Rally”, where Mr Trump had urged them to support those legislators opposing Mr Biden’s confirmation.
  • Obstructing Certification Process: The protestor’s attack on the capitol forced lawmakers to flee the US Capitol and resulted in the death of one woman, disrupted the process of certification of Biden as the winner.
  • Demands of Protestors to restore Trump: The conviction of protestors is that the election was stolen from President Trump, and the lawmakers inside the building should do their duty and somehow award the election to him.
  • Incitement by Trump: Even though Mr Trump recorded a video message on Twitter calling on supporters to leave the Capitol, but he continued to make unsubstantiated claims that Democrats had stolen the election. There are also reports of protests at state legislatures around the country

How is the situation now?

  • Election result is secured: As lawmakers and staff rushed out, aides grabbed hold of the boxes containing the Electoral College certificates, making sure that the vandals could not literally steal the results of the election.
  • Curfew by Mayor: Troops and police were mobilised in neighbouring states, and the FBI was deployed to help Capitol police. Mayor of the city announced curfew to help bring the situation under control.
  • Action by Social Media Platforms: Trump’s Twitter and Facebook account was locked for 12 hours after he pushed baseless claims about the election, and the social media platform warned him of permanent ban if he didn’t remove his rule-breaking tweets
  • Judiciary’s Actions: Multiple state and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, have already dismissed or ruled against Trump and his allies in the Republican Party in lawsuits seeking to change the election results. 

Critical Analysis of episode:

  • International Reaction: Several world leader including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed their shock over the incident.
  • Shows Unpredictable Behaviour of Mr Trump: His use of tariffs as a political weapon against trade partners like Europe and China, his divisive rhetoric since long before his election in 2016, and his refusal to accept electoral loss in 2020, are continuation of his unpredictable behaviour. The violence is unlikely to be the last such challenge by Trump to established US System.
  • Sets Dangerous Precedent: Pro-Trump supporters efforts to overturn a U.S. election would send its democracy into a death spiral.
  • Investor Sentiment tested: America is a safe haven for financial investors around the world. The violence puts the United States and its sanctuary status to a serious test
  • Faith in US Institutions put to test: If Washington gets back to work quickly, faith in U.S. institutions may be strengthened, else the credibility of US system, which is torchbearer of Democracy in the world, will be hampered.
  • Fault lines in Society: Biden has called for peace and unity, but fractures in U.S. society remain. Pro-Trump supporters are not in mood to accept the defeat of Mr. Trump (that is partly aided by Trump’s unfounded allegations & rumours). This has further widened the faultlines in US Society.

Conclusion

  • Institutional integrity, a robust system of checks and balances, mostly means that people do their jobs. For the most part, it doesn’t require heroism or bravery.

Connecting the dots:

  • Violence US Capitol has seen over the years: Click here

WOMEN / GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1,2:

  • Social empowerment
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections. 

Punitive Responses To Sexual Violence Need Rethink

Context: On Human Rights Day 2020, the Maharashtra cabinet approved the Shakti Bill, enlarging the scope of harsher and mandatory sentences — including the death penalty — for non-homicidal rape, to purportedly deter sexual offences.

Do You Know?

  • The Shakti Bill comes amid the recent legislative trend to invoke the death penalty for sexual offences, beginning with the introduction of the death penalty for child rape in 2018. 
  • In 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government passed the Disha Bill, pending presidential assent, that provides the death penalty for the rape of adult women.

Criticisms of the Shakti Bill

1. Doesn’t address reporting and investigating mechanism

  • The death penalty is the last phase of a criminal trial while rape survivors face serious obstacles much earlier, especially at the time of registration of the complaint. 
  • The most severe gaps in the justice delivery system are related to reporting a police complaint. 
  • The focus of the criminal justice system, therefore, needs to shift from sentencing and punishment to the stages of reporting, investigation and victim-support mechanisms. The bill does not address these concerns.

2. Counter-Productive

  • Second, harsh penalties often have the consequence of reducing the rate of conviction for the offence.
  • For instance, a study published in the Indian Law Review based on rape judgments in Delhi shows a lower rate of conviction after the removal of judicial discretion in 2013. 
  • Introducing harsher penalties does not remove systemic prejudices from the minds of judges and the police, who might refuse to register complaints, or acquit offenders in cases they do not consider as “serious” enough to warrant a mandatory minimum

3. Ignores Empirical Evidence

  • Third, studies on child sexual abuse have shown that in the few cases of convictions, the minimum sentence was the norm and the award of the maximum punishment was an exception. 
  • Moreover, crime data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows that in 93.6 per cent of these cases, the perpetrators were known to the victims. 
  • Introducing capital punishment would deter complainants from registering complaints. The Shakti Bill ignores crucial empirical evidence on these cases.

4. Issue relating to Consent

  • The other anti-women assertion in the bill is the move away from the standard of affirmative consent in cases involving adult victims and offenders. 
  • Significant advocacy from the women’s movement led to the introduction of an affirmative standard of consent, rooted in unequivocal voluntary agreement by women through words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication. 
  • In a sharp departure, the bill stipulates that valid consent can be presumed from the “conduct of the parties” and the “circumstances surrounding it”. 
  • The vaguely worded explanation in the bill holds dangerous possibilities of expecting survivors to respond only in a certain manner, thus creating the stereotype of an “ideal” victim
  • It also overlooks the fact that perpetrators are known to the survivors in nearly 94 per cent of rapes, which often do not involve any brutal violence.

Conclusion

  • The Shakti Bill, while serving the populist agenda of making the public believe that the state is doing “something”, does not achieve more than that. 
  • Tackling crimes against women and children requires broader social reforms, sustained governance efforts and strengthening investigative and reporting mechanisms, instead of merely enhancing punishment. 
  • Punitive responses to sexual violence need serious rethinking, given the multitude of perverse consequences and their negligible role in addressing the actual needs of rape survivors.

(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 Chattergala Tunnel will be constructed at which of the following? 

  1. Jammu and Kashmir 
  2. Goa
  3. Sikkim
  4. Assam

Q.2 Which of the following is the only riverine major port of India?

  1. Mumbai 
  2. Kandla
  3. Mangalore
  4. Kolkata

Q.3 World Bank is headquartered at which of the following?

  1. Washington
  2. Paris
  3. Switzerland
  4. Netherlands

Q.4 Which of the following statement regarding a biodigester is incorrect?

  1. A biodigester system utilizes organic waste, particularly animal and human excreta, to produce fertilizer and biogas.
  2. It consists of an airtight polyethylene container within which excreta diluted in water flow continuously.
  3. The fermentation process is aerobic.
  4. The bacteria responsible for decomposition are methanogenic.

ANSWERS FOR 6th January 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 A
3 B
4 D

Must Read

On US efforts to Wikileaks founder:

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About boosting India with maritime domain awareness:

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