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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 23rd March 2021

  • IASbaba
  • March 23, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Government decides to increase the interval between doses of Covishield

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Health

In news

  • The government has decided to increase the interval between the first and second doses of Covishield to up to 8 weeks in its ongoing vaccination drive against Covid-19.

Key takeaways 

  • Covishield is Serum Institute of India’s version of AZD1222, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
  • Some data from global trials of AZD122 suggests that extending the duration between doses to 12 weeks increased its efficacy much more.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare took the decision on the recommendation of two expert groups – the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC).
  • The groups, after looking into available scientific evidence from clinical trials of the vaccine, concluded that the protection that it provides against Covid-19 is “enhanced” if the second dose is administered between 6-8 weeks.

Draft Plan for District-Wise Export Promotion

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

In news

  • The government has readied a draft district-wise export promotion plan for 451 districts after identifying such products and services which have export potential

Key takeaways 

  • Government has aimed for double-digit export growth from 500 districts over 3-5 years.
  • States are asked to prepare an annual ‘export ranking index’ of districts on export competitiveness with the assistance of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
  • While foreign trade constitutes 45% of India’s GDP, most export promotion efforts are driven by the Centre.
  • The district-specific approach involves the States in identifying potential export sectors and the logistics bottlenecks to be fixed.
  • In the initial phase, products and services with export potential in each district have been identified and an institutional mechanism of State and District Export Promotion Committees (SEPC) is being created, with an action plan to grow exports from each district.
  • District Export Promotion Committees have been notified in the districts of all the States except West Bengal.

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

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

In news

  • United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) entered into a partnership with the Government of Denmark to support the India’s flagship programme, Jal Jeevan Mission in Uttar Pradesh.

Key takeaways 

  • Aim: To provide strategic technical support to Jal Jeevan Mission (Water program).
  • UNOPS shall be focussing on instituting scalable delivery models in focused 11 water-scare districts of Uttar Pradesh in Bundelkhand and Vindhya regions.
  • Aim of Jal Jeevan Mission: To provide functional household tap connection to every rural household by 2024.
  • This coincides with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal-6.

Important value additions 

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

  • UNOPS is an operational arm of the United Nations
  • It is dedicated to implementing projects for the United Nations System, international financial institutions, governments, and other partners around the world.
  • Headquarters: UN City campus in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Established in: 1973 as part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • It became an independent, self-financing organization in 1995.

‘Buldhana Pattern’ for Water Conservation 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Policies and interventions & GS- III – Environment

In news

  • Minister for Jal Shakti informed Rajya Sabha about the ‘Buldhana Pattern’ for water conservation.

Key takeaways 

  • NITI Aayog has prepared draft guidelines for convergence of the activities of (i) sourcing earth for improvement/construction of national highways, state roads, and railways and (ii) water conservation works through desiltation/ deepening of water bodies.
  • This two-fold activity has already been successfully implemented as a pilot project in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra state.

Launch of Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Policies and interventions & GS- III – Environment

In news

  • Indian Prime Minister launched the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain’ campaign on World Water Day i.e. on 22nd March 2021.

Key takeaways 

  • The Campaign will be undertaken across the country, in both rural and urban areas.
  • Theme: “Catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls”.
  • It will be implemented from 22nd March 2021 to 30th November 2021 – the pre-monsoon and monsoon periods in the country.
  • It is launched as a Jan Andolan to take water conservation at the grass-roots level through people’s participation.
  • It is intended to encourage all stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures suitable to the climatic conditions and subsoil strata, to ensure proper storage of rainwater.
  • After the event, Gram Sabhas will be held in all Gram Panchayats of each district (except in the poll-bound states) to discuss issues related to water and water conservation.
  • Gram Sabhas will also take ‘Jal Shapath’ for water conservation.

Miscellaneous

Gandhi Peace Prize 

  • Gandhi Peace Prize for the Year 2019 and 2020 were announced.
  • The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2019: (Late) His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman.
  • Gandhi Peace Prize for 2020 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
  • Gandhi Peace Prize is an annual award instituted by Government of India since 1995
  • The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or sex.
  • The Jury for Gandhi Peace Prize is chaired by Prime Minister ,and comprises of two ex-officio members, the Chief Justice of India and  Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha.
  • The award carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handicraft/ handloom item.


(Mains Focus)


ENVIRONMENT/ ECONOMY

Topic:

  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development

Vehicle Scrappage Policy

Context: It is estimated that 17 lakh medium and heavy commercial vehicles were more than 15 years old and remained without a valid fitness certificate

About the Policy

  • Fitness Tests: The new policy provides for fitness tests after the completion of 20 years in the case of privately owned vehicles and 15 years in the case of commercial vehicles. Any vehicle that fails the fitness test or does not manage renewal of its registration certificate may be declared as an End of Life Vehicle.
  • Government Vehicles: All government vehicles and those owned by PSUs will be de-registered after 15 years.
  • Phased manner of implementation: The policy will kick-in for government vehicles from April 1, 2022. Mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will start from April 1, 2023, and for all other categories of vehicles, including personal vehicles, it will start in phases from June 1, 2024.
  • Incentives for Scrapping: Policy includes Central advisories to States to give up to 25% rebate in road tax for personal vehicles and up to 15% rebate for commercial vehicles. The government will also offer waiver of registration fees on the purchase of new vehicles.
  • Incentive for automakers: Central government to issue advisory to auto makers to offer the incentive of a 5% rebate for those who buy a new vehicle after producing a scrapping certificate.
  • Disinventivicing Older Vehicles: Older vehicles pollute the environment 10 to 12 times more. As a disincentive, increased re-registration fees would be applicable for vehicles 15 years or older from the initial date registration.

Benefits of the Policy

  • Boosts Automobile Sector: The policy pushes for buying of new vehicles by phasing out older vehicles. It is estimated that automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to ₹10 lakh crore from ₹4.5 lakh crore.
  • Increase government’s revenue collection from the sale of new vehicles.
  • Help reduce pollution: Older vehicles are known to pollute environment 10-12 times more than new vehicles, thus this policy is a step in reducing pollution.
  • Improve fuel efficiency: Older vehicles performance is lower thereby consuming more fuel. Replacing older vehicles with new vehicles will therefore boost fuel efficiency of the economy.
  • Spare Parts Prices will fall: The prices of auto components would fall substantially with the recycling of metal and plastic parts.
  • Post-COVID Recovery: Vehicle scrappage and replacement is seen internationally as a route to rejuvenate COVID-19-affected economies by privileging green technologies, notably electric vehicles (EVs)
  • Creates Recycling Ecosystem: The policy will pave the way for the creation of an ecosystem of vehicular scrapping facilities and a market for recycled raw materials.
  • Helps achieve Paris Climate Goals: The policy is also seen as an initiative to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century under Paris Agreement commitments.

Challenges

  • Enforcement will be key to get them scrapped once they are found unfit for use and to stop them from moving to smaller towns.
  • Federal Challenges: All the States should be on board.
  • Backing of manufacturers is also essential who stand to benefit from a spurt in demand.
  • Heavy commercial vehicles, which contribute disproportionately to pollution — 1.7 million lack fitness certificates — pose the biggest challenge.
  • Disproportionately impacts small operators: Many of these cannot be replaced quickly in the absence of financial arrangements for small operators, who have opposed the new measures.
  • Advisory Nature of incentives: Interestingly, the discounts against scrapping certificates are merely an advisory and not a mandate, i.e. it will be up to automakers’ to offer discounts at all.

What more can be done?

  • States must also come on board to provide road tax and registration concessions, while the automobile industry is expected to sweeten the deal with genuine discounts on new vehicles.
  • The Centre has to arrive at a balance and have incentives that reward manufacturers of vehicles that are the most fuel-efficient.
  • Failure to prioritise fuel efficiency and mandate even higher standards and enhance taxes on fuel guzzlers will only repeat the mistakes of vehicle exchange programmes abroad, where full environmental benefits could not be realised, and taxpayers ended up subsidising inefficiency.

Conclusion

  • Ecological scrapping, as a concept, must lead to high rates of materials recovery, reduce air pollution, mining and pressure on the environment.

Connecting the dots

  • Electric Vehicles Vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell based Vehicles

SOCIETY/ ECONOMY

Topic:

  • GS-1: Women Empowerment
  • GS-3:  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development

Energy and Women Empowerment

Interlinkage between Women & Environment

  • Decentralized Power Generation helps women: In remote regions it is cheaper and more efficient to deploy distributed renewable energy technologies—such as mini-grids, solar pumps, and other standalone productive power systems—rather than extend centralised, grid-based power.
  • Reduces Workload of Women: Electrical appliances also ease the burden of household chores, which usually fall on women.
  • Saves Time in collecting firewood: Clean energy for cooking saves the time spent gathering dirty fuels such as firewood or cow dung and reduces exposure to indoor air pollution—responsible for 3.8 million premature deaths a year.
  • Increased Literacy & Productivity: Light at night makes it possible for women and girls to work and study. Electricity not only helps earn an income but also enhances productivity.
  • Promotes Self-Employment: Access to reliable electricity and the consequent time savings enable women to avail of opportunities for skill-training, which can help them to earn an income as an employee or even start their own businessNon-farm Employment: A World Bank paper reports that household electrification in rural India led to a significant albeit small increase in women’s non-farm self-employment and had a positive effect on girls’ schooling.
  • Energy access, however, is not enough; we need greater inclusion of women in the energy workforce as well for equitable outcomes.

Way Ahead

  • The energy supply chain gives women opportunities to earn higher wages and upskill vis-à-vis traditional income-generating activities.
  • Since many clean energy jobs go to unskilled and semi-skilled workers, they could provide a viable alternative for women, who are less likely to have the education or training required to work in the formal sector.
  • A female workforce could also contribute to greater energy access. Since women are part of different social networks vis-à-vis men, their inclusion can help businesses reach out to more households.
  • Studies have shown that women perform as well as men in energy supply businesses despite it being a male-dominated sector. Employing women in the industry challenges traditional norms and stereotypes about what women are capable of.
  • Example of Bijulee didis: For electricity suppliers in Odisha, employing women to enhance customer services has not only shaved off losses but also increased revenues by Rs 7 crore. A network of 120 women, known as bijulee didis, collect bill payments and address users’ problems. As a result, an additional 8,000 customers started paying bills on time and over 1,250 houses and 300 businesses got connected to the solar grid.
  • For energy access to benefit women, policies need to be “gender-aware”, that is, they must account for social hierarchies and differences in energy use among men and women.

Conclusion

Distributed renewable energy can transform women’s lives. We need to build upon the connections between energy access, agriculture, water availability and gender equity.

Connecting the dots


(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 What other viruses belong to the coronavirus family?

  1. SARS and HIV
  2. MERS and influenza
  3. SARS and MERS
  4. None of the above

Q.2 Consider the following statements: 

  1. Foreign trade constitutes 45% of India’s GDP with most export promotion efforts driven by the Centre.
  2. State and District Export Promotion Committees (SEPC) are being created to grow exports from each district.

Which of the above is or are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has entered into a partnership with which of the following country to support India’s flagship programme, Jal Jeevan Mission in Uttar Pradesh?

  1. USA
  2. Israel
  3. France
  4. Denmark

ANSWERS FOR 22nd March 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 A
3 B

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