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

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


India Should Be a ‘Country of Particular Concern ’: U.S. Panel 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – International Relations; Fundamental Rights

In news

  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bi-partisan commission, has recommended for the 2nd year in a row that the State Department put India on a list (‘Countries of Particular Concern’ or CPCs) for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2020.

Key takeaways 

  • The USCISRF recommended that the administration impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for “severe violations of religious freedom”.
  • A second recommendation was for the administration to promote inter-faith dialogue and the rights of all communities at bilateral and multilateral forums “such as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral [the Quad]”.
  • Another recommendation was to raise issues in the U.S.-India bilateral space, such as by hosting hearings, writing letters and constituting Congressional delegations.

Do you know? 

  • The USCIRF recommendations are non-binding. 
  • The key concerns of the 2021 report include the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

RESPOND Programme of ISRO

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Sci & tech; Space

In news

  • IIT, Delhi said that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it will support eight joint research projects mooted by the Space Technology Cell (STC), IIT-Delhi.

Key takeaways 

  • The ISRO will support the projects under its RESPOND programme with varying duration of 1-3 years. 
  • STC was set up at IIT, Delhi under an MoU signed between the ISRO and IIT-D in November 2019. 
  • Aim of STC: To strengthen the research collaboration between the two organisations and to carry out focused research projects in the space technology domain with specific deliverables.
  • Since then, eight collaborative research projects have been announced.
  • Some of the projects include developing a system for drought and flood forecasting and understanding land-atmosphere interactions.
  • Main objectives of the RESPOND Programme: To establish strong links with premiere academic institutions in India to carry out research and developmental projects which are of relevance to Space and derive useful outputs of such R&D to support ISRO programmes.

Production of Urea through coal gasification

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III Economy 

In news

  • Union Cabinet has given its approval for the proposal of the Department of Fertilizers. 
  • It had proposed for the formulation of a subsidy policy for Urea produced through coal gasification by Talcher Fertilizers Limited (TFL).

Key takeaways 

  • Considering the strategic energy security and urea self-sufficiency of India and looking into vast coal reserves, it has been decided to go ahead with TFL plant based on coal gasification technology.
  • The project shall improve availability of fertilizer to farmers thereby boosting development of eastern region and will save transport subsidy for supply of urea in the region.
  • It would assist in reducing Urea imports to the tune of 12.7 LMT per annum leading to savings in foreign exchange.

Do you know? 

  • Talcher Fertilizers Ltd. (TFL) is a Joint Venture Company of four PSUs namely Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers (RCF), GAIL (India) Ltd. (GAIL), Coal India Ltd. (CIL) and Fertilizer Corporation of India Ltd. (FCIL) which was incorporated on 13th November, 2015.

Important value additions

Coal gasification 

  • It is the process of producing syngas—a mixture consisting primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, natural gas, and water vapour —from coal and water, air and/or oxygen.

India on U.S.’s Currency Watchlist

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II International Relations 

In news

Key takeaways 

  • Another trigger for the inclusion on the currency watchlist is a trade surplus of $20 billion or more.
  • India’s trade surplus with the U.S. grew by about $5 billion to $23 billion in 2020-21 as imports fell more sharply than exports in the COVID-affected year.
  • According to India, the RBI had been taking necessary steps to maintain stability in the financial markets and not accumulating forex reserves. 
  • It is a mandate of the central bank to provide stability in the currency as a result of which central banks buy and sell foreign currency. 
  • India’s overall reserves have been fairly steady at $500 billion to $600 billion.

Boao Forum for Asia 

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

In news

  • Boao Forum was held recently. 

Important value additions 

Boao Forum for Asia (BFA)

  • Headquarter: China
  • It is an international organization jointly initiated by 29 member states.
  • It holds its annual conference in Boao, Hainan, China on a regular basis.
  • Founding purpose: To promote economic integration in Asia. 
  • Mission: To pool positive energy for the development of Asia and the world.
  • First conference: Feb. 26-27, 2001 
  • It is modelled on the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.


(Mains Focus)


HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Covid-19 Vaccination: Challenges, Chinese Model & Way Forward

Context: Eight months ago, India had begun a decline in daily Covid-19 infections to the extent that many experts believed that a devastating second wave was unlikely in India. However, the second wave of Covid-19 has brought health infrastructure to a near collapse

Moreover, India’s options for containing the pandemic are narrowing as it can ill-afford another lockdown now. In this context, the combination of panic, public pressure, and the magnitude of the crisis has prompted the Union Government to authorize vaccines to anyone above 18 and give states more control over procurement.

Issues with Accelerated Rollout of the Vaccine

  • Vaccine Shortage: Problems in scaling up production, and in the supply and management of vaccines continue amid the surge in cases. At the optimistic rate of three million doses a day, it would take at least 260 days from April for every adult to get at least a single shot.
  • Changing Vaccination Policy: The processes initiated by the government in early January 2021 to expand India’s manufacturing capacity were under the assumption that it would be at least August before vaccines could be fully opened up for all. Given the shortage of vaccines, India cannot afford to have a single or universal policy and needs to make it more targeted.
  • Weak Bargaining Power of States: Leading international vaccinators such as Pfizer and Moderna have supply commitments already tied up and it is unclear if merely the policy move of liberalising vaccine supply will leave States in India with the finances and negotiating power to procure enough stocks of vaccines. 
  • Unequal Access between States: Leaving states to their own means will only increase policy incoherence and unequal access between states with different fiscal capacities and healthcare infrastructure
  • Shortage of Raw Material: The inability of getting the much-needed raw materials from the United States – bags, vials, cell culture media, single-use tubing, specialized chemicals, etc. that have now been banned for export has disrupted the vaccine production in India.
  • Balancing Global Commitments: Another issue is concerning international obligations. Of the 38 million doses the global alliance program Covax has so far distributed to 84 countries, 28 million doses were from India. That obligation may have to be followed up perhaps as they would need for their second dose.

How China Contained COVID-19 Virus? – Stellar role by Residential Committees

  • At the grassroots, the most critical role was played by the residential committees (RCs). Though officially not part of the state and defined as institutions of self-governance, these committees are the instruments of the communist party for effective governance and political control. 
  • They are mandated to perform administrative tasks, implement policy, mediate local disputes, and assist government agencies with maintaining public surveillance, health and sanitation, care for the elderly, etc.
  • At the outbreak of the epidemic, after the initial days of confusion and voluntary action by individuals, the RCs soon took charge.
  • In Wuhan, for example, all 7,148 communities were closed off. Community workers strictly enforced rules of entry and exit.
  • They also made calls to residents asking about family members’ health and status, knocked on residents’ doors to conduct regular temperature checks, gathered information about travel history, provided home delivery of daily food necessities to people in self-quarantine and elderly residents, helped in contact tracing and transferring sick persons to community health centres. etc.
  • Central leadership made provisions for the benefit of the workers like subsidies, provision of health equipment, insurance, publicity, and other institutional support. Clear channels were established by Central Leadership to pass down resources and authority from central to local organisations.

Way Ahead

  • Massive Multimedia Campaigns: If fresh lockdowns are to be avoided, we need to enforce masks by investing in massive multimedia campaigns for information, education, and communication, like it was done for polio and HIV.
  • Strengthening VaccineSupply Chain: Enhancing Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) system will enhance real-time information on vaccine stocks and storage temperatures across all country’s cold chain points.
  • Boosting Domestic Production: Government should provide necessary financial packages for ramping up domestic production of vaccine manufacturers for expanding their production facilities and improving upon their supply chains.
  • Learning from China’s RC Model: Many urban areas have residential associations and local governments that can undertake similar mobilisation as RCs in China. However, this cannot be done without a centralised plan of action, which is the key aspect of this model. 
  • Centralised Leadership & Support to states: Given the nature of this pandemic, the need of the hour is for the central leadership to step up and coordinate policy measures across the country.

INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life 

Data and A New Global Order

Digital Data Revolution – Strategic Implications

  • Military and civilian systems are symbiotic due nature and pervasiveness of digital data
  • Cybersecurity is national security, and this requires both a new military doctrine and a diplomatic framework.
  • Massive amounts of data generated by people & economic activities give a sustained productivity advantage to Asia.
  • Data streams are now at the centre of global trade and countries’ economic and national power. 
  • India, thus, has the capacity to negotiate new rules as an equal with the U.S. and China.

China and Digital Sector

  • Innovation based on data streams has contributed to China’s rise as the second-largest economy and the “near-peer” of the U.S.
  • China’s digital technology-led capitalism is moving fast to utilise the economic potential of data, pushing the recently launched e-yuan and shaking the dollar-based settlement for global trade.
  • China has a $53-trillion mobile payments market and it is the global leader in the online transactions arena, controlling over 50% of the global market value.
  • China formed a joint venture with SWIFT for cross-border payments and suggested foundational principles for interoperability between central bank digital currencies at the Bank for International Settlements.

Dynamics

  • With Asia at the centre of the world, major powers see value in relationships with India. 
  • India fits into the U.S. frame to provide leverage. China wants India, also a digital power, to see it as a partner, not a rival. 
  • And China remains the largest trading partner of both the U.S. and India despite sanctions and border skirmishes.
  • India alone straddles both U.S. and China-led strategic groupings, providing an equity-based perspective to competing visions. 
  • India must be prepared to play a key role in moulding rules for the hyper-connected world, facing off both the U.S. and China to realise its potential of becoming the second-largest economy.

(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 Consider the following statements regarding RESPOND programme:

  1. It is a program by DRDO.
  2. To establish strong links with premiere academic institutions in India is one of the objectives of the programme. 

Which of the above is/are correct? 

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

Q.2 Headquarter of Boao Forum is situated in? 

  1. China
  2. Philippines 
  3. Vietnam 
  4. Japan

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

1 A
2 D
3 A

Must Read

On Tribunalisation of Justice:

The Hindu

On Election rallies amidst Pandemic:

The Hindu

On Pandemic’s impact on informal Sector:

Indian Express

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