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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 31st May 2021

  • IASbaba
  • May 31, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Edible oil prices rise sharply

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Economy 

In news

  • Edible oil prices have risen sharply in recent months.

Key takeaways 

  • Increase in prices was observed in six edible oils — groundnut oil, mustard oil, vanaspati, soya oil, sunflower oil and palm oil. 
  • With rising incomes and changing food habits, consumption of edible oils has been rising over the years. 
  • One main reason for increase in prices is the shift in usage of edible oils from food to biofuel.
  • Other reasons are: More buying by China, labour issues in Malaysia, Impact of laNina on palm and soya producing areas and imposition of export duty on crude palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia
  • To immediately reduce the prices, the import duty must be reduced which has increased because of imposition of cess after the budget.

Important value additions 

  • The major sources of these imports are Argentina and Brazil for soybean oil; Indonesia and Malaysia palm oil; and Ukraine and Argentina again for sunflower oil. 
  • The domestic demand of edible oil is around 24 Million Tonnes (MT) while India produces only 11 Mt. 
  • Thus, 13 MT of edible oils is imported. 
  • While mustard oil is consumed mostly in rural areas, the share of refined oils —sunflower oil and soybean oil — is higher in urban areas. 

Tianzhou-2 Cargo Spacecraft 

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

In news

  • China recently launched and docked a cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-2.
  • It is another step towards completing the construction of its first space station. 

Key takeaways 

  • It was launched on a Long March-7 rocket. 
  • It will be followed by the launch of another cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-3, and two manned missions, Shenzhou-12 and Shenzhou-13. 
  • The manned missions will each carry three astronauts who will spend several months in orbit.

Do you know? 

  • The launch was a third landmark for China’s space programme in recent weeks.
  • China landed a spacecraft in Mars on May 15 carrying its first Mars rover, Zhurong.
  • The Tianhe module, which the cargo spacecraft docked with was launched on April 29.

Related articles 

Mars Landing by China

Re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket 


Habitat guilds experience land-use change

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Environment 

In news

  • A new study has noted a drastic loss of bird species in all modified landscapes in Uttarakhand.
  • Natural oak-dominated forests and modified forests were analysed. 

Key takeaways 

  • Uttarakhand is home to the Western Himalayan temperate forests which harbour a large number of endemic bird species. 
  • Six major land-use types which included natural oak forest, degraded oak forest (lightly used), lopped oak forest (intensively used), pine forest, agricultural cultivation area and sites with buildings were studied.
  • The results showed that there was a low diversity of species in monoculture areas and urban sites. 
  • It also noticed strong decline in some of the habitat guilds in the areas that experienced land-use change. 
  • Habitat guilds are groups of bird species that have common habitat preferences. 

Patented ‘village rice’

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

In news

  • Recently, patented ‘village rice’ sourced from Kumbakonam, Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu by a start-up Udaya Agro Farm was exported to Ghana & Yemen 
  • Enriched with protein, fibre, and a variety of minerals, ‘village rice’ is sourced directly from farmers of Thanjavur, also known as rice bowl of Tamil Nadu.

Do you know?

  • In March, 2021, the first consignment of ‘red rice’ from Assam was exported to the USA.
  • Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer. The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food. 

Related articles 

Shahi Litchi

Jackfruit 


Floating jetty inaugurated in Goa

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

In news 

  • The second Floating jetty at Old Goa was inaugurated recently. 
  • Ministry: Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways

Key takeaways 

  • The jetty will offer safe, hassle free transportation to the tourists. 
  • The Government of India has approved setting up of two Concrete floating jetties on River Mondovi (NW-68) to connect Old Goa and Panjim.
  • This is the second floating jetty constructed. 
  • The first jetty located at Captain of Ports, Panjim Goa was inaugurated in February 2020 at Panjim. 

Important value additions 

Concrete floating jetties have many advantages over the fixed jetties

  • Their price is approximately 1/5th of the price of a fixed jetty.
  • Similarly, they are quicker to build and install, easier to use.
  • The designed life of a floating jetty is up to 50 years.
  • Also, being floating structures they don’t need CRZ clearances.
  • They can be increased in size or reduced as per changes in users’ requirements or the changes in jetty site’s hydrographic profile.

Miscellaneous

Reclining Buddha

  • A reclining Buddha statue or image represents The Buddha during his last illness, about to enter Parinirvana, the stage of great salvation after death that can only be attained by enlightened souls.

  • Statues and images of the Reclining Buddha show him lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or on his right elbow.
  • It was first depicted in Gandhara art. 
  • The largest Reclining Buddha in the world is the 600-foot Winsein Tawya Buddha built in 1992 in Mawlamyine, Myanmar.
  • Also, Cave No. 26 of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta contains a 24-foot-long and nine-foot-tall sculpture of the Reclining Buddha, believed to have been carved in the 5th century AD. 

(Mains Focus)


SCIENCE/ INTERNATIONAL

Topic:

  • GS-3: Science (Biology); Security
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries

US investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2

Context: On May 14, a group of 18 scientists, most of them from the U.S., published a letter in the journal Science, calling for further investigation to determine the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was necessary because the two theories on the origins — 

  • The virus could have been accidentally released from a laboratory in Wuhan, China or 
  • It was the result of a spillover from some animal species to humans 

Why understanding origin of virus is necessary?

Understanding the origin of the virus is important to both increase safety in laboratories undertaking biological research, and to prevent pandemics of animal origin.

What have U.S. intelligence agencies been asked to do?

  • Since the call issued by scientists, U.S. President Joe Biden, on May 26, ordered an investigation by intelligence agencies into the origins of the virus. 
  • The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also acknowledged that more work needs to be done on the lab leak theory, although a WHO team that visited Wuhan thought a leak to be the least likely hypothesis
  • Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute in the U.S. have hypothesised that the virus emerged from natural mutations.

Why has the demand for a fresh inquiry arisen?

  • WHO’s governing forum, the World Health Assembly, mandated the Director-General in May 2020 to conduct an inquiry into the origin of SARS-CoV-2, and a joint probe was carried out by WHO and China in January-February 2021. 
  • Since there was no conclusive evidence for either hypothesis — natural spillover or lab leak — there were apprehensions when the report leaned in favour of the animal origin hypothesis, describing it as “likely to very likely”, and stated that a laboratory incident was “extremely unlikely”.
  • WHO Director-General said he did not see the investigation as being extensive enough, and went along with the view that requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, were necessary. 
  • Some researchers from US have expresses concerns that the lab leak possibility had been given inadequate attention by the WHO team, and, in fact, treated as a “conspiracy theory”. 

What is the basis for the natural origin hypothesis?

  • Based on its study of possible natural origins, the Joint WHO-China study report identifies a SARS-related coronavirus in a (horseshoe) bat (SARSr-CoV; RaTG13) to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus has 96.2% genomic similarity. 
  • The novel coronavirus is less similar, by comparison, to the genome of viruses that have caused other epidemics such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). 
  • Again, the higher infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 is attributed to peculiarities that it contains in the form of unique insertion of four amino acids in its spike protein that makes it more efficient than the virus causing SARS, for instance.
  • Some coronaviruses found in pangolins in China are similar to SARS-CoV-2 in the RBD, showing that the optimised spike protein for efficient binding with human-like ACE2 may have resulted from natural selection. 
  • It could be hypothesised that while no direct link could be identified to a progenitor virus for the one that has paralysed the world, the process by which the virus could adapt itself to spread among intermediate animals and then humans was a natural one.
  • It is also possible that a progenitor virus was acquired by humans, and it became more efficient at transmission as it spread among humans during an undetected phase. 
  • Scientists examined the possibility that there could have been an inadvertent release of SARS-CoV-2 from a laboratory, but argues that no progenitor virus with very high genetic similarity for such an experiment has been described, and the changes to the virus to transmit efficiently would have involved its repeated passage through cell cultures or animals with similar ACE2 receptors, which have not been described either.

Conclusion

What does stand out in the present crisis is the emerging call for a global framework for safe biological laboratory research, and more insight into related coronaviruses, animal hosts, mutations, and pathways by which novel viruses infect humans.


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic:

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

COVID & Tokyo Olympics

Context: Japan has been gearing up to host the Olympics in July 2021 as fresh infections have been steadily declining.

However, things started to change from mid-April when Japan was hit by the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Japan’s Covid situation

  • Japan was recording a seven-day average of less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases this March, and experts believed the country had overcome the pandemic for the third time in the last one year
  • On May 8, Japan’s Covid-19 cases topped 7,000 for the first time since mid-January and currently, Japan is still recording more than 4,000 cases a day.
  • The country has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 Covid-19 deaths from the virus.
  • With Japan witnessing Covid-19 cases at a rate that it has never before, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has already announced emergencies in nine prefectures of the country, including Tokyo — the venue of July’s month’s Olympic Games.

Why has the fourth wave hit Japan so badly? (Compare these points with situation in India)

  • Slow Vaccination: Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialised world, with only 2.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. It started inoculating people only in February, much later than other developed nations.
  • Small Target group: Also, it is only this week that the government started mass vaccination campaigns in Tokyo and Osaka. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games are slated to begin.
  • Multiple Hurdles to Vaccination: However, the progress is considerably slow owing to supply shortages and logistical hurdles, such as getting enough local doctors to help out. There has also been considerable confusion over how to secure slots. Many across the country have complained about errors while booking their slots for the new mass vaccination centres run by the government 

What about the Olympics?

  • After having been postponed by a year (supposed to have been held in 2020), the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to go ahead despite severe criticism from around the world. 
  • Resistance towards holding the Games under the shadow of the pandemic has also grown in Japan, with one of the country’s most prominent business tycoons calling out the government over its decision to continue with the Games.
  • In a survey released in Japan, 83 per cent of those polled said they did not want Tokyo to hold the Olympics and the Paralympics. That total was up 14 percentage points from a survey in April. 
  • The medical organisation, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors, posted an open letter to PM Yoshihide Suga on its website saying that it would “strongly request” the authorities to arrange a cancellation.
  • Athletes have also come out to voice their hesitation over holding the Games. America’s track and field team earlier this week cancelled its pre-Olympics training camp in Japan out of safety concerns. 
  • The United States Center for Disease Control has also said that “travellers should avoid all travel” to the country, warning that in the “current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of contracting and spreading” different Covid variants.
  • Olympics, to date, has been cancelled only thrice in 1916, 1940 and 1944 — all three cases due to the two World Wars. So, despite mounting criticism and protests, John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, has promised that the Games would “absolutely” go ahead, even under Covid restrictions.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:p

  • 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 does the statue of Reclining Buddha, seen recently in news, represents?

  1. It represents discussion and transmission of the teaching of Buddha
  2. It represents the moment of Buddha’s awakening
  3. It represents Buddha during his last illness, about to enter Parinirvana
  4. It represents supreme enlightenment by connecting oneself with divine universal energy

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding floating jetties:

  1. Their price is approximately 1/5th of the price of a fixed jetty.
  2. They are quicker to build and install, easier to use than a fixed jetty

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 29th May 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

D
D
3 D

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