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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th September 2021

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  • September 17, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


The United in Science 2021 report

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

Context The United in Science 2021 report is a multi-organization compilation of the latest climate science information and gives a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system.

Key findings

Context Organization  Key findings
Greenhouse Gas Concentrations in the Atmosphere World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2 O) continued to increase in 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Reducing atmospheric methane (CH4 ) in the short term could support the achievement of the Paris Agreement.

Global greenhouse gas emissions and budgets  Global Carbon Project Recent emissions trends of N2O, the third most important greenhouse gas after CO2 and CH4 , exceed the most greenhouse gases 
Emissions Gap  UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the emissions gap is as large as ever: global emissions need to be lower than current unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions. 
Global Climate in 2017-2021 and 2021-2025 WMO Annual global mean near-surface temperature is likely to be at least 1 °C warmer than pre-industrial levels
Highlights of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
Sea- level Rise and Coastal Impacts World Climate Research Programme – WMO, IOC, ISC Even if emissions are reduced to limit warming to well below 2 °C, global mean sea level would likely rise by 0.3–0.6 m by 2100, and could rise 0.3–3.1 m by 2300.

Suggestions

  • For the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, known as COP26, to be a turning point, all countries must commit to net zero emissions by 2050, backed up by concrete long-term strategies, and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions which collectively cut global emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.

News source: TH 


PEACEFUL mission, 2021

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

Context  Indian Military Contingent Participated in the Exercise SCO Peaceful Mission 2021 recently.

About Peaceful mission

  • Joint Counter Terrorism Exercise PEACEFUL MISSION  is a Multilateral Exercise, which is conducted biennially as part of military diplomacy between Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) member states.
  • It is the 6th edition of Exercise PEACEFUL MISSION.
  • Hosted by: Russia in the Orenburg Region of South West Russia 
  • Aim of the exercise is to foster close relations between SCO member states and to enhance abilities of the military leaders to command multi-national military contingents.
  • The Indian contingent was inducted to the exercise area by two IL-76 aircrafts.  
  • The scope of the exercise includes professional interaction, mutual understanding of drills & procedures, establishment of joint command & control structures and elimination of terrorist threats.

REX MKII

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Security; Sci and tech

Context Recently Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has unveiled a remote-controlled armed robot REX MKII.

About REX MKII

  • The army robot is capable of patrolling battle zones, tracking infiltrators, and opening fire on enemy targets.
  • It is operated by an electronic tablet and can be equipped with two machine guns, cameras and sensors.
  • It shall provide logistical assistance to troops by carrying ammunition supplies, critical medical equipment, water, and food, as well as evacuating injured personnel on stretchers. 
  • The system can also gather intelligence through a situation-awareness system 
  • The unmanned vehicle is the latest addition to the world of drone technology, which is rapidly reshaping the modern battlefield.
  • These semi-autonomous machines allow armies to protect their soldiers, while critics fear this marks another dangerous step toward robots making life-or-death decisions.

Arsenic Contamination of Food Chain

Part of: Prelims and GS- II – Health and GS III – Environmental pollution

Context A recent study in Bihar has found Arsenic contamination not only in groundwater but in the food chain as well.

  • The research study was a part of the Project Nature and Nurture in Arsenic Induced Toxicity of Bihar jointly funded by the British Council in the United Kingdom and Department of Science and Technology in India.

Major Findings:

  • Arsenic has found its way into the food chain – mainly rice, wheat and potato.
  • Arsenic is present in the groundwater as it is used on a large scale for irrigation by farmers. That is how it finds its way into the food chain as well.
  • The food had more arsenic content than drinking water, even when arsenic levels in drinking water was above the World Health Organization (WHO) provisional guide value of 10 micrograms per litre (μg/L).

What is Arsenic?

  • Arsenic is an odourless and tasteless metalloid widely distributed in the earth’s crust.
  • It is naturally present at high levels in the earth crust and groundwater of a number of countries. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
  • Arsenicosis is the medical word for arsenic poisoning, which occurs due to accumulation of large amounts of arsenic in the body.
  • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


Cheraman Mosque

Part of: Prelims and GS- I – History

Context: The Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kerala, the oldest mosque in the Indian subcontinent that dates back to 629 AD, and the Holy Cross Church at Chendamangalam built by Jesuit priests in 1577 AD, were recently renovated under the Muziris Heritage Project.

  • The Government of Kerala has initiated the Muziris Heritage Project to reinstate the historical and cultural significance of the legendary port of Muziris. 
  • The Muziris Heritage Project is one of the biggest conservation projects in India, where the state and the central governments have come together to conserve a rich culture that is as old as 3000 years or more.
  • The region is dotted with numerous monuments of a bygone era that conjure up a vast and vivid past. 
  • The entire project is designed to involve and integrate the local community in all intended developmental initiatives.

News source: TH 


(News from PIB)


India’s Energy Status Report at US India Strategic Partnership Forum

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – International Relations 

Vision: Energy independence by 2047

India has 

  • Set an ambitious target of having 175 GW capacity of RE by 2022 and 450 GW RE capacity by 2030
  • Reached 100 GW in Installed Solar and Wind Capacity and after adding Hydro capacity also, the total installed renewable capacity is 146 MW
  • 63 GW of renewable capacity is under construction which makes India one of the fastest growing economies in terms of renewable capacity addition.
  • Would be conducting competitive bids for green hydrogen in next 3-4 months to pave the road for viable usage of hydrogen as a fuel.

News Source: PIB


India’s first-ever Euro Green Bond

Part of: GS Prelims 

In News: Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC), the leading NBFC in power sector has successfully issued its maiden Euro 300 million 7-year Euro Bond

  • The pricing of 1.841% achieved is the lowest yield locked in by an Indian Issuer in the Euro markets. 
  • First ever Euro denominated Green bond issuance from India
  • First ever Euro issuance by an Indian NBFC and the first Euro bond issuance from India since 2017.

News Source: PIB


Solution for converting keratin waste

Part of:  GS Prelims 

In News: Indian scientists have developed a new sustainable and affordable solution for converting keratin waste (inexpensive sources of amino acids and protein) such as human hair, wool, and poultry feathers to fertilizers, pet, and animal feeds.

  • Patented, easily scalable, environment-friendly, energy-efficient, and it will make amino acid-rich liquid fertilizers more economical as compared to currently marketed products.
  • The key technology behind this involves pre-treatment followed by hydrolysis of keratin using a technique called Hydrodynamic Cavitation, which involves vaporization, bubble generation, and bubble implosion in a flowing liquid.

News Source: PIB


Development of Low carbon bricks 

Part of: GS Prelims

In News: Researchers have developed a technology to produce energy-efficient walling materials using construction and demolition (C&D) waste and alkali-activated binders. 

  • Do not require high-temperature firing
  • Avoid the use of high-energy materials such as Portland cement
  • Solves the disposal problems associated with C&D waste mitigation

News Source: PIB


27th Global Ozone Day

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Environment & Climate Change

  • World Ozone Day is celebrated on 16th September each year to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol, 
  • Montreal protocol is an international environmental treaty for phasing out of production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances, which came into force on this day in 1987.

India’s achievements in implementation of Montreal Protocol (since June 1992)

  • Met all the obligations of the Montreal Protocol 
  • India has phased out Chlorofluorocarbons, Carbon tetrachloride, Halons, Methyl Bromide and Methyl Chloroform for controlled uses in line with the Montreal Protocol. Currently Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are being phased out as per the accelerated schedule of the Montreal Protocol. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons Phase out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-II is currently under implementation from 2017 and will be completed by 2023.
  • Preparation of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons Phase out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-III will be commenced shortly, which shall address phase out of use of HCFC-22, a refrigerant used in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning manufacturing and the servicing sectors.
  • The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, finalized by the Parties during 2016, shall gradually reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – adoption of low-global warming potential and energy-efficient technologies will achieve energy efficiency gains and carbon dioxide emissions reduction – a “climate co-benefit.”
  • Synergizing the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning servicing sector training under the Hydrochlorofluorocarbons Phase out Management Plan (HPMP) with the Skill India Mission of the Government of India, to multiply the impact of skilling and training. 

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

IDEA – ‘India Digital Ecosystem for Agriculture’.

Context: Recently, Government has launched an initiative called  India Digital Ecosystem for Agriculture (IDEA) that would place the farmer in the centre of the agriculture ecosystem leveraging open digital technologies

Key Features of IDEA

  • It will incorporate a National Farmers Database, a sort of ‘super Aadhaar’ for farmers.
  • The database will include farmers’ digitised land records, and cross-linked with the Aadhaar database so as to create a unique FID, or a farmers’ ID.
    • More than 8.5 crore farmers’ data having been incorporated into the national database by Sep 2021.
  • On top of that, it will pull information from running schemes like the PM Kisan, soil health cards, the national crop insurance scheme PM Fasal Bima Yojna, and so on. 
  • The database is being built by Microsoft under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare (DoAFW)
  • This database will enable anyone with access to it to 
    • uniquely identify a landholder
    • know the extent of his holding 
    • the state of the soil
    • cropping patterns and average yields 
    • and other such information at a granular level.

What is the larger objective of IDEA?

  • Agri-Stack: The creation of the FID is only one part of the grand IDEA. The plan is to create the agriculture equivalent of the ‘India Stack’ — a set of APIs (Application Programming Interface). These apps enables stakeholders to offer proactive and personalised services to farmers and improve the efficiency of the agriculture sector.
  • Innovation through Collaborations: This Agricultural India Stack will allow governments, businesses, start-ups and developers to utilise an unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.
  • Governance Delivery: The FID — would enable ‘single sign-on’ for access to all government services offered to farmers.
  • Evidence based policy making: Such database for the agriculture sector, enables authorities to deliver seamless credit and insurance services, information related to seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, market information and price forecasts etc, driven by big data and analytics and powered by information technology.
  • The ‘agristack’, the government is hoping, will help eventually achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income.

Challenges

  • India has more than 14 crore working farms making the digitisation process challenging.
  • India’s land records in general and rural, agricultural land records in particular, are complex & not having common standards.
  • Nearly about 12% of agricultural households operated on leased land — in other words, they are tenant farmers. However, there is no legal recognition of land tenancy agreements in India, with most such agreements tending to be informal and verbal in nature. In such case, FID will exclude these farmers from receiving benefits, as they won’t figure in database at all.
  • Then there is problem of women farmers as vast majority of land titles continue to be held by men. 
  • There is a concern that the agristack is the precursor to a complete privatisation of government services extended to agriculture. 
  • There is also the big concern over data privacy. Giving away this kind of sensitive, financial and landholding information in the absence of a data privacy law raises multiple concerns over potential misuse. 

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • 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.

Bad Bank: NARCL-IDRCL

Context: Following up the Union Budget announcement, government has incorporated “National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited” (NARCL) under the Companies Act. 

  • It will acquire stressed assets worth about Rs 2 lakh crore from various commercial banks in different phases. 
  • Another entity — India Debt Resolution Company Ltd (IDRCL), which has also been set up — will then try to sell the stressed assets in the market. 
  • The NARCL-IDRCL structure is the new bad bank. 
  • To make it work, the government has provided Rs 30,600 crore to be used as a guarantee.

What is a bad bank? 

  • In every country, commercial banks accept deposits and extend loans. 
  • The deposits are a bank’s “liability” because that is the money it has taken from a common man, and it will have to return that money when the depositor asks for it.
  • Moreover, in the interim, it has to pay the depositor an interest rate on those deposits.
  • In contrast, the loans that banks give out are their “assets” because this is where the banks earn interest and this is money that the borrower has to return to the bank.
  • The whole business model is premised on the idea that a bank will earn more money from extending loans to borrowers than what it would have to pay back to the depositors.
  • A loan can turn bad when the borrower is unable to repay it back. In such case two things happen. 
    • One, the concerned bank becomes less profitable because it has to use some of its profits from other loans to make up for the loss on the bad loans.
    •  Two, it becomes more risk-averse. In other words, its officials hesitate from extending loans.
  • If such “bad loans” in a bank rise alarmingly, the bank could close down.
  • When several banks in an economy face high levels of bad loans and all at the same time, it will threaten the stability of the whole economy.
  • From the taxpayer’s perspective, the most worrisome fact was that an overwhelming proportion of bad loans was with the public sector banks (PSB), which were owned by the government and hence by the Indian public. 
  • To keep such PSBs in business, the government was forced to recapitalise them — that is, use taxpayers’ money to improve the financial health of PSBs so that they could carry on with the business of lending and funding economic activity.
  • Despite recapitalisation, the problem of bad loans did not subside. Therefore, it was argued by many that the government needs to create a bad bank — that is, an entity where all the bad loans from all the banks can be parked

Why was Bad Bank needed?

Advantage of having bad bank was 

  • Relieving the commercial banks of their “stressed assets” and allowing them to focus on resuming normal banking operations, especially lending.
  • While commercial banks resume lending, the so-called bad bank, or a bank of bad loans, would try to sell these “assets” in the market.

How will the NARCL-IDRCL work?

  • The NARCL will first purchase bad loans from banks. It will pay 15% of the agreed price in cash and the remaining 85% will be in the form of “Security Receipts”. 
  • When the assets are sold , with the help of IDRCL, the commercial banks will be paid back the rest.
  • If the bad bank is unable to sell the bad loan, or has to sell it at a loss, then the government guarantee will be invoked and the difference between what the commercial bank was supposed to get and what the bad bank was able to raise will be paid from the Rs 30,600 crore that has been provided by the governmen

Will a bad bank resolve matters?

  • From the perspective of a commercial bank saddled with high bad loans, it will help. That’s because such a bank will get rid of all its toxic assets, which were eating up its profits, in one quick move. 
  • When the recovery money is paid back, it will further improve the bank’s position. Meanwhile, it can start lending again.
  • From the perspective of the government and the taxpayer, the situation is a little more complex. After all the money for security receipts is coming from the taxpayers’ pocket. 
  • Lastly, the plan of bailing out commercial banks will collapse if the bad bank is unable to sell such impaired assets in the market.

Conclusion

While recapitalisation and such guarantees are often designated as “reforms”, they are band aids at best. The only sustainable solution is to improve the lending operation in PSBs.

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.

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):

  1. The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
  2. The venue of the SCO council meetings moves between the eight members

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 :

  1. Bad bank refers to a financial institution that takes over bad assets of lenders and undertakes resolution.
  2. National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL)is a bad bank created by Government of India 

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 Which of the following can be found as pollutants in the drinking water in some parts of India?

  1. Arsenic
  2. Fluoride
  3. Formaldehyde
  4. Sorbitol
  5. Uranium

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2, 4 and 5 only
  3. 1, 2 and 5 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

ANSWERS FOR 16th Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B  
2 C
3 B

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