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

  • IASbaba
  • April 7, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Vigilance Officers to have restricted tenure

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Statutory Bodies 

In news

Key takeaways 

  • CVC has modified the guidelines pertaining to the transfer and posting of officials in the vigilance units of government organisations. 
  • The tenure may be extended to three more years, though at a different place of posting.
  • According to the CVC, undue long stay of an official in a vigilance department had the potential of developing vested interests, apart from giving rise to unnecessary complaints or allegations.
  • The new guidelines ensure transparency, objectivity and uniformity in approach. 
  • The order said after transfer from the vigilance unit, there would be a compulsory cooling off period of three years before anyone could be considered again for posting in the unit.

National Super Computing Mission (NSM)

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

In news

Important value additions 

  • The NSM was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in India by connecting them to form a Supercomputing grid, with National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone.
  • Guided by: Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) 
  • Implemented by: Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
  • Completion of Phase II of NSM in September 2021 will take the country’s computing power to 16 Petaflops (PF).

Do you know? 

  • PARAM Shivay, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, was installed in IIT (BHU), followed by PARAM Shakti, PARAM Brahma, PARAM Yukti, PARAM Sanganak at IIT-Kharagpur, IISER, Pune, JNCASR, Bengaluru and IIT Kanpur respectively.
  • PARAM Siddhi – AI, the high-performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, has achieved global ranking of 63 in TOP 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world, released on 16th November 2020

Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Policies and Interventions

In news

  • The President of India has promulgated the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021. 
  • According to the ordinance, the appellate authorities under nine Acts have been done away with and the right to hear appeals under the statute has been conferred to High Courts.

Key takeaways 

  • Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 has been amended to empower the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
  • The Ordinance omits following Tribunals/ Appellate Authorities from the purview of Finance Act:
  1. Airport Appellate Tribunal established under the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994
  2. Appellate Board established under the Trade Marks Act, 1999
  3. Authority for Advance Ruling established under the Income Tax Act, 1961
  4. Film Certification Appellate Tribunal established under the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • It substitutes the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

Launch of Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health 

In news

  • Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) was recently launched. 
  • Ministry: Ministry of Health 

Key takeaways 

  • IHIP is the next generation highly refined version of the presently used Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
  • India is the first country in the world to adopt such an advanced disease surveillance system.
  • It will house the data entry and management for India’s disease surveillance program.
  • In addition to tracking 33 diseases now as compared to the earlier 18 diseases, it shall ensure near-real-time data in digital mode. 
  • It is also the world’s biggest online disease surveillance platform. 
  • It is in sync with the National Digital Health Mission.

Chaff technology by DRDO

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Defence and security 

In news

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard the naval ships against enemy missile attack.

Key takeaways 

  • Defence Laboratory Jodhpur (DLJ), a DRDO laboratory, has indigenously developed three variants of this technology – Short Range Chaff Rocket (SRCR), Medium Range Chaff Rocket (MRCR) and Long Range Chaff Rocket (LRCR) meeting Indian Navy’s requirements.
  • Chaff is a passive expendable electronic countermeasure technology used worldwide to protect naval ships from enemy’s radar and Radio Frequency (RF) missile seekers.
  • The importance of this development lies in the fact that very less quantity of chaff material deployed in the air acts as decoy to deflect enemy’s missiles for safety of the ships.

Miscellaneous

Chenab Bridge

  • Arch closure of the Chenab Bridge was completed recently. 

  • Chenab bridge is the World’s highest Railway Bridge
  • Location: Jammu & Kashmir 
  • Developed by: Indian Railways.
  • The bridge is part of an ambitious 272-km rail link project being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of ₹28,000 crore.
  • The bridge will be able to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to eight and high-intensity blasts.
  • The bridge will have a design speed of around 100 km/hr with a lifespan of 120 years.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights

Context: An NAP becomes more relevant in the wake of COVID-19 in that the pandemic has exposed several systemic vulnerabilities in how businesses operate. Informal migrant workers in India are the worst hit, abruptly thrown out of work without food, shelter, and social protection – overnight. 

Background

  • In June 2011, the UNHRC endorsed the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
  • The UNGPs elucidate the duties and responsibilities of the State and businesses in addressing adverse business‐ related human rights impacts. 
  • The objective of the UNGPs is to enhance standards and practices with regard to business and human rights to achieve tangible results for affected individuals and communities, and thereby contribute to a socially sustainable globalization

UNGPs are broadly based on three pillars: 

  • Pillar I ‐ The State Duty to Protect Human Rights.
  • Pillar II ‐ The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights.
  • Pillar III ‐ Access to Remedy. 

What is NAP on Business and HRs?

  • In June 2014, the UNHRC called upon its member States to develop a National Action Plan(NAP) to promote the effective implementation of the UNGPs. 
  • The NAP is a policy document by which a government articulates its action to fulfil its commitment to implementing the UNGPs. 
  • The vision of India’s NAP stems from the Gandhian principle of trusteeship that defines that the purpose of business is to serve all stakeholders
  • The Indian government has acknowledged the importance of responsible business conduct since 2011 by introducing the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs). 
  • The NVGs were recently updated to National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC). 
  • In addition to these voluntary measures, SEBI has had mandatory environment, social and governance (ESG) disclosures for the top 100 companies listed (gradually expanded to 1000 companies) on Indian stock exchanges since 2012. 

Instances of HR and Environmental violations by Business

  1. Several plants were shut down in the last two decades on charges of violating human rights and environmental rights:
    • Coca Cola Co’s plants in Plachimada (2004), Mehdiganj (2013) and Hapur (2016)
    • Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s (mercury) factory in Kodaikanal (2001)
    • Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi (2018)
  1. In the Maggi case, Nestle SA justified the misleading ‘No added MSG’ label, stating: “Everyone in the industry was doing it”.
  2. There is a law that prevents companies from advertising tobacco near school premises. But tobacco giant ITC Ltd’s notebooks, complete with its logo, are available right inside classrooms. Again, seemingly, there is nothing illegal about it.
  3. More than a million people die in India each year from due to consuming tobacco. One of the investors of a tobacco company is LIC, owned by the Government of India — that has signed the WHO convention on tobacco control.
  4. When children are glued to games like PUBG, the young ones and their parents are blamed. But in a class suit in Canada, parents alleged: “companies hire psychologists, who dig into the human brain and they really made the efforts to make the game as addictive as possible”.

Way Forward

  1. A NAP should precisely target the following five objectives
  • Encourage CAG to evolve auditing standards that seek to ensure human-rights compliance and extend the same to all public-private partnerships. This should ensure respect to human rights in all cases of public procurement and of public investment.
  • Mandate the Central Election Commissions to regulate corporate funding of political parties, including directing mandatory disclosures of donations as well as of any conflict of interests by both businesses and political parties.
  • Obligate UPSC to direct all public enterprises and companies invested with public funds or loans to organise diversity audits. They should put the findings and appropriate action plans in the public domain.
  • Expand the powers of Human Rights Commissions to issue notices to businesses and to create business and human rights ombudsperson to monitor human rights situation in businesses.
  • Authorise the National & State Commissions for SC/ST/Women/OBCs to issue notices to businesses on violations in their workspaces and value chains. These authorities, although working with limited powers, for sure, have the potential to create and facilitate narratives around business and human rights.
  1. Changes at International Level: An indicator on human rights within the Ease of Doing Business Index would transform the way various Governments look at business
  2. Changes in Educational Curriculum: There has to be proactive attempt to make Business and Human Rights a core part of management curriculum. Every business manager groomed should be a human rights defender: That should be the motto of all educational institutions.
  3. Adoption by MSMEs: India has a significantly large number of micro, small, and medium (MSME) enterprises. The success of India’s NAP rests on the ability of the MSME sector to adopt it. The government as well as large companies have a crucial role in building the capacity of the MSME sector through training, awareness and providing incentives
  4. Adoption by Technology Companies: The rising influence and dominance of technology on future of work, privacy and inequality is a growing area of concern in India. The NAP should take steps to embed accountability of technology companies on human rights issues beginning with rights of workers in the gig-economy.
  5. A smart mix of voluntary and mandatory provisions is crucial for the NAP to create a level playing field for companies by mandating necessary minimums such as a mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence mechanism.
  6. Grievance Redressal Mechanisms:The lack of operational-level grievance mechanisms could be another stumbling block for the rights holders to access remedy mechanisms. Therefore, to make NAP success, a proper grievance redressal mechanism should be established at State & National level.

Conclusion

The NAP process is an opportunity for India to demonstrate leadership in achieving sustainable and inclusive growth and position itself as the world’s largest sustainable and responsible economy. The NAP can serve as an important tool to guide Indian businesses to redefine their purpose and emerge out of this pandemic more humane


SECURITY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in Health sectors 
  • GS-3:Challenges to National Security

Biological Threats

The country faces three major biological threats: 

  1. Naturally occurring infections in humans, plants, or animals
  • India often faces naturally occurring agricultural infestations, such as the recent locust attacks; diseases that affect animals and have not yet infected humans, such as the bird flu outbreak and zoonotic infections that have jumped from animals to humans, such as COVID-19. 
  • Yet, the country does not have a proper strategy to tackle infections.
  • Instead, it follows a reactive approach, convening emergency committees, ad hoc response panels and groups once a disaster has struck.
  1. Unintentional release of pathogens from laboratories leading to diseases
  • The country has so far not reported any case of accidental spilling of pathogens. But there has been illegal cultivation of transgenic crops in different regions. 
  • This illegal growth of transgenic crops challenges the implementation of guidelines for maintaining safety of biotechnological research.
  1. Bioterrorism
  • This category of risks involves terrorists or other bad actors deliberately misusing biotechnology to create biological weapons that can affect humans, animals or crops.
  • India has been similarly fortunate not to experience bioterrorism, so far.

Is India Prepared?

India follows differing approaches to tackle biological threats emerging from both natural and human-made sources. However, there are some glaring gaps in its ability to manage these risks.

  • Poor disease-surveillance network in India makes timely detection of outbreaks difficult. 
  • Inadequate coordination among ministries to prevent zoonotic infections complicates the response. 
  • Dismal investment in scientific research disincentivises researchers involved in the public health sector, who could help by developing capacities to identify, treat and vaccinate against threatening organism
  • Multiplicity of organisations operating under different ministries makes it difficult to ensure the implementation of biosafety guidelines across the country.
  • Minimal interventions of experts: Discussions regarding possible threats to national security due to deliberate biological attacks are often limited to closed policy circles with minimal or no intervention of experts from outside the government.
  • Poor biosecurity awareness further complicates India’s preparedness towards threats emerging from deliberate sources.

Way Ahead 

  • Need for dedicated Governmental Body: The spread of infectious diseases is a long-term, continually evolving threat and India needs a governmental body prevent and mitigate all three types of biological threats.
  • Integration with NDMA: A full-time office of biological threats preparedness and response under the National Disaster Management Authority can be one possible alternative in this regard. This office could become the nodal agency that brings together experts from the various ministries, representatives from the private sector, and professionals from the academic and the scientific communities.

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 Consider the following statements regarding Central Vigilance Commission

  1. It is a statutory body 
  2. It consists of a chairperson and three Vigilance Commissioners 

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.2 Consider the following statements regarding Consumer Protection Act 2019:

  1. The act establishes central Consumer Protection authority
  2. Every e-commerce entity is required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty, etc. for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision 

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 Consider the following statements regarding Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP):

  1. It shall ensure near-real-time data in digital mode. 
  2. It is also the world’s biggest online disease surveillance platform. 

Which of the above is or are correct?

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

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

1 B
2 B
3 C

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