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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd September 2021

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  • September 22, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Kasturirangan Committee to Develop a New National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Education 

Context The Centre has appointed former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan as the head of a 12-member steering committee responsible for developing a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF).

Key takeaways 

  • The steering committee has been given a tenure of three years to complete its task.
  • NCF is meant to be a guiding document for the development of textbooks, syllabi and teaching practices in schools across the country. 
  • It will develop four such frameworks, one each to guide the curriculum of school education, teacher education, early childhood education and adult education.

Major features of National Education Policy 2020

  • The current 10+2 system will be divided into 5 (3 to 8 years) +3 (8to 11 years) + 3 (11 to 14 years) + 4 (14 to 18 years) format.
  • Co-curriculum and vocational subjects like sports, arts, commerce, science will be treated at the same level.
  • Wherever possible, the medium of instruction in schools until at least Class 5, but preferably until Class 8 and beyond, will be the home language or mother tongue or regional language
  • Multi-disciplinary higher education framework with portable credits, and multiple exits with certificates, diplomas and degrees.
  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
  • National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology.


Central Vigilance Commission

Part of: Prelims and GS-II- Statutory Bodies 

Context Principal Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Sanjeev Sanyal has recently observed that the Vigilance Directorate of the Railways is functioning in violation of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines.

About Railways Vigilance Directorate

  • The Vigilance Directorate plays a very important role in the area of management in the Indian Railways. 
  • It investigates complaints, conducts sample checks in respect of managerial decisions to determine their conformity to rules and procedures.

About The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) 

  • It was set up by the Government in 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by K. Santhanam. (Santhanam Committee).
  • It is a statutory body governed by the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003.
  • Mandate: To inquire into offences which might have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by certain categories of public servants. 
  • Composition: The Commission shall consist of a Central Vigilance Commissioner (Chairperson); and not more than two Vigilance Commissioners (Members).
  • Appointment: They are appointed by the President of India on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Pew Study on the Religious Composition of India

Part of: Prelims and GS I – Population

Context A new study on the religious composition of India’s population since Partition was conducted recently by pew study.

  • The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C.
  • It provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world.

Major findings of the study

  • Marginal change in composition: Due to the “declining and converging fertility patterns” of Hindus and Muslims, there have been only marginal changes in the overall religious composition of the population since 1951.
  • Total Fertility Rate (1992 to 2015): For Muslims, it declined from 4.4 to 2.6, while that of Hindus declined from 3.3 to 2.1. This indicates that the gaps in childbearing between India’s religious groups are much smaller than they used to be.
    • Women in central India tended to have more children.
    • Bihar and Uttar Pradesh showed TFR of 3.4 and 2.7 respectively, in contrast to a TFR of 1.7 and 1.6 in Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively.
  • Positive overall growth: But all the six major religious groups — Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains — have grown in absolute numbers.
    • The sole exception to this trend are Parsis, whose number halved between 1951 and 2011, from 110,000 to 60,000.
  • Boy preference: Sex-selective abortions had caused an estimated deficit of 20 million girls. This practice is more common among Indian Hindus than among Muslims and Christians.”
  • Effect of migration: Since the 1950s, migration has had only a modest impact on India’s religious composition
    • Muslims more likely than Hindus to leave India while immigrants into India from Muslim-majority countries are disproportionately Hindu.
  • Religious conversionIt has also had a negligible impact on India’s overall composition, with 98% of Indian adults still identifying with the religion in which they were raised.

State Food Safety Index: FSSAI

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – policies and interventions

Context Recently, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has released the 3rd State Food Safety Index (SFSI).

  • Also, 19 Mobile Food Testing Vans (Food Safety on Wheels) have been flagged off to supplement the food safety ecosystem across the country.

About the Index:

Ranking of States:

  • Among the larger states, Gujarat was the top ranking state, followed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • Among the smaller states, Goa stood first followed by Meghalaya and Manipur.
  • Among UTs, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and New Delhi secured top ranks.

About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  • It is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
  • The Act aims to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi-departmental control to a single line of command.
  • Ministry: Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • It comprises a Chairperson and twenty two members out of which one – third are to be women. The Chairperson of FSSAI is appointed by the Central Government.
  • The primary responsibility for enforcement is largely with the State Food Safety Commissioners.

Pearl Farming in Tribal Areas

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Conservation 

Context Recently, the TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India) inked an agreement with the Jharkhand-based Purty Agrotech for the promotion of pearl farming in tribal areas.

About the agreement 

  • As part of the agreement, Purty Agrotech pearls will be sold through 141 Tribes India outlets, apart from various e-commerce platforms.
  • Purty Agrotech’s centre will be developed into a Van Dhan Vikas Kendra Cluster (VDVKC). Besides, there is a plan to develop 25 such VDVKCs for pearl farming in Jharkhand.
  • The breeding of oysters and development of pearls is a sustainable mode of business and can be easily practised by tribals who have access to nearby water bodies.
  • It will prove to be game-changers for tribal livelihoods in the times to come.

About Pearl Farming

  • Pearls are the only gemstones in the world that come from a living creature. 
  • Mollusks such as oysters and mussels produce these precious jewels 
  • Pearl oysters are farmed in a number of countries in the world in the production of cultured pearls.
  • Freshwater pearls are pearls that are grown on pearl farms using freshwater mussels. 
  • Since mussels are the organic hosts, the pearls can grow up to 10 times bigger than those made by saltwater oysters, naturally. 

About The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED)

  • Established in 1987, under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984, this statutory body works for the social and economic development of the tribal people of the country 
  • Ministry: Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It has been registered as a National Level Cooperative body by the Government of the country.
  • It helps tribal people manufacture products for national and international markets on a sustainable basis and also supports the formation of Self-Help Groups and imparting training to them.

(News from PIB)


International Blue Flag Certification

Part of: GS-Prelims 

In News: The globally recognized and the coveted International eco-label “Blue Flag”, has accorded the Blue Flag Certification for 2 new beaches this year –Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry beaches.

  • Foundation for Environment Education in Denmark (FEE) which accords the globally recognized eco-label – Blue Flag certification, has also given re-certification for 8 nominated beaches Shivrajpur-Gujarat, Ghoghla-Diu, Kasarkod and Padubidri-Karnataka, Kappad-Kerala, Rushikonda- Andhra Pradesh, Golden-Odisha and Radhanagar- Andaman and Nicobar, which were awarded the Blue Flag certificate last year.
  • Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services (BEAMS): 
    • To protect and conserve the pristine coastal and marine ecosystems through  holistic management of the resources
    • To abate pollution in coastal waters, promote sustainable development of beach facilities, protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources, and seriously challenge local authorities & stakeholders to strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness, hygiene & safety for beachgoers in accordance with coastal environment & regulations.

News Source: PIB


Space weather

Part of: GS-Prelims 

In News: A recent study has shown how conditions and events in the solar atmosphere like coronal mass ejections influence the accuracy of space weather prediction, which is crucial for the health of our satellites. This understanding will aid the interpretation of data from the upcoming Aditya-L1, India’s first solar mission.

  • Space weather refers to the conditions in the solar wind and near-Earth space, which can adversely affect the performance of space-borne and ground-based technological systems.
  • The space weather near the Earth is mainly due to Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), which are frequent explosive expulsions of huge magnetized plasma from the Sun into its surroundings, which can blow past the Earth. Sun emits a continuous stream of charged particles called the Solar Wind.
  • Example of space weather events is the geomagnetic storm, a perturbation in the Earth’s magnetic field, which can last for few hours to few days. Understanding of how events in the solar atmosphere influence space weather is necessary for monitoring and maintaining our satellites.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. 
  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

The big deal behind the ruckus over AUKUS

Context: There has been strengthening of security dialogues and structures, though diferent in scope & activity but converge on the core issue of maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

  • In April 2021, France, which has historically been an Indo-Pacific power with territories and bases across the region, participated in a multi-nation naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal with the four Quad nations (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India).
  • Recently, UK’s flagship aircraft carrier -HMS Queen Elizabeth – arrived in Japan after exercising with India, Malaysia and Singapore and traversing the disputed waters of the South China Sea. 
  • Exercise Malabar 2021, held in the Western Pacific from August 26-29, 2021, brought together, for the second year, the navies of U.S., Japan, Australian and India.
  • In the last week of September, there will be the first in-person Quad Leaders Summit (USA, India, Japan, Australia) to be hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington.
  • On September 15, the heads of government of Australia, the UK and US announced the formation of a trilateral security pact, to be known as AUKUS.

Key aspects of AUKUS

  • The AUKUS pact will be providing Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines (i.e. submarines run by nuclear power).
    • It will mean at least eight nuclear powered submarines are built in Australia, and will be the first time the UK and US have shared nuclear capabilities with another nation.
    • These submarines will potentially be fully equipped with advanced U.S. weapons such as the Mark-48 torpedoes, the Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Tomahawk cruise missiles. 
  • The US and Britain would also share, with Australia, intelligence and advanced technologies in areas like artificial intelligence, cyber-warfare, quantum computing etc.

Significance of AUKUS

  • Australia is set to play a more robust role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Australia will now have a more meaningful naval deterrence of its own to protect its sovereign interests.
  • The AUKUS pact is also an assertion of the relevance of the U.S.-Australia Security Treaty.
  • The AUKUS submarine deal, that enhances capabilities of Australian Navy, is an example of strategic defence collaboration, and a game-changer in the maritime security architecture of the Indo-Pacific.
  • The trilateral security partnership shows that Australia now assess China through the strategic lens, overcoming its earlier purely economic considerations with China.
  • AUKUS provides a fresh opportunity to the United Kingdom to reinsert itself more directly into the Indo-Pacific. 
    • UK is already a member of the Five Eyes (FVEY), an intelligence-sharing alliance built on Anglo-Saxon solidarity (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.).
  • Australia’s nuclear submarines would help create a new balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, especially in tandem with the U.S. and the U.K. 

Limitations

  • China has strongly criticised AUKUS and the submarine deal as promoting instability and stoking an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Angry France: Since 2016 France has been in negotiations with Australia to build a fleet of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines ($90bn deal). The announcement of AUKUS has seen Australia cancel its contract with France resulting in the loss of investment and job opportunities for France. 
    • France says it feels “betrayed” and took the unprecedented step of withdrawing its US ambassadors
  • The Quad is not a security arrangement though there is a widespread feeling that without stronger security underpinnings it would play a limited role in dealing with the real challenge of China’s militarisation.
  • The Malabar exercise is not a naval alliance, even though the habit of cooperation is geared to facilitate communication and interoperability in times of need.

Conclusion

  • France is an important part of the regional security calculus. The setback may incentivise France to focus afresh on partners such as India.
  • While preparing to fight its own battles, India will need to seek external balancing. If realpolitik so demands, it has to strike new partnerships — wherever there is convergence of interests.

Connecting the dots:


INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY

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

Evergrande Crisis of China

Context: Recent global markets rout, including a sharp decline in Indian stock market, was triggered by two events.

  • One, the fund crisis at Evergrande, China’s biggest developer which could potentially spiral into a global financial contagion.
  • Two, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s warning of an “economic catastrophe” if American lawmakers failed to increase a legally-imposed debt ceiling. There are also concerns of US Federal reserve taking steps to reduce its liquidity push program (reduced liquidity -> reduced inflow into emerging countries as FII/FDI -> Stock markets decline)

What’s the crisis at Evergrande?

  • Evergrande, a company that started out in 1996 selling bottled water followed by a stint in pig farming, now owns China’s top professional soccer team and has long been the poster boy of the Chinese real estate boom. 
  • The main driver of the post-pandemic Chinese economic expansion has been real estate sector. Consequently, Evergrande rode on a sustained property prices surge in China to expand into more than 250 Chinese cities selling home-ownership dreams to the country’s middle class.
  • There were two immediate triggers that precipitated the crisis at Evergrande. 
  • Chinese regulators, as part of a widespread crackdown on sectors such as the digital economy and education, started investigations into the high borrowings of property developers. 
  • To counter that, Evergrande tried selling off some of its business. But a progressive slowing down of China’s property market and reduced demand for new houses adversely impacted its cash flows. 
  • The company is now struggling under a $300 billion liabilities burden that has reduced its credibility and decimated its share price. 
  • It is faced with nearly 800 unfinished residential buildings, many unpaid suppliers and over a million home buyers who have partially paid for their properties.

Does the Evergrande crisis trigger systemic risks?

There are two factors here. 

  • One, China’s control of virus spread & quickly restarting its industries has played an instrumental role in the post-pandemic global economic recovery. Therefore, China effectively emerged as the key driver of the global commodities upcycle.
  • Second, China’s extended property boom that started in the mid-1990s has now ensured that nearly three quarters of the country’s household wealth is locked up in housing. Any collapse at the biggest real estate company could have a serious knock-on effect on the entire economy, dragging down its growth and potentially setting off a cascading impact on the global commodities and financial markets.
  • There are also concerns about Huarong, a Chinese state-owned financial conglomerate that has liabilities of nearly $240 billion. Huarong is reported to be in trouble as well, escalating the perception of a wider systemic crisis in China. 
  • But there are also indications that Chinese Communist Party will provide adequate supportive measures so as to ensure that the crisis at both these companies does not spiral out of control.

Impact on India 

  • India’s buoyant iron ore exports, much of which is headed to China, could also see an impact if the twin crises in China triggers an extended slowdown in the Chinese real estate market.
  • And there could potentially be a sustained impact on global growth prospects, hurting the economic recovery that is underway in markets such as India.

Connecting the dots:


(ORF – Expert Speak)


Sep 17: A ‘just transition’: Is India’s green transition inclusive? – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/a-just-transition-is-indias-green-transition-inclusive/  

GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY/ SOCIETY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Conservation

Is India’s Green Transition Inclusive?

India’s Status: India crossed the 100-GigaWatts mark for installed renewable power generation capacity and with this, the share of renewables stands at approx. 26 percent of the total installed power generation capacity. If other non-fossil-based energy resources such as nuclear and hydro are accounted for, the share of non-fossils in the cumulative installed power generation capacity stands at 39 percent, which is very close to the 40 percent target enshrined in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

What is missing – Putting people at the heart of the ‘Green’ transition?

It is time the policymakers, environmental activists, sector experts, and other relevant stakeholders to emerge out of the fact that estimations, figures, and numbers are the only ways to measure the success of the energy transition journey.

Lack of Social Dialogue: There is wide disarray and disagreement within different stakeholders regarding the form, shape, and nature of energy transition which is being pursued nationally. For example, the chase for higher and higher levels of renewable energy capacity or the existing “coal is bad, green is great” mindset that appears to be governing the clean energy transition. The social dialogue needs to change in the very first stages of planning and articulating the vision of energy transition.

What about the quality of life?: The quantitative numbers are often delusional when it comes to their manifestation on the quality of life of the people concerned. 

  • An unbiased exploration of the nature of jobs in the outgoing as well as incoming sectors is required so that the transition weeds out the ills of the past and does not repeat them while reimagining the shape of the energy ecosystem. 
  • Seriously monitor the quality of jobs that the ‘green’ investments are creating as merely being a renewable energy project does not guarantee a job that is well-paying, has scope of skill and income enhancement, is safe from occupational hazards, promotes collectivism amongst workers and provides the social safety net required for leading a dignified life.

Lack of transparency, accountability, and social participation in the decision-making processes related to clean energy transition: As per several ground reports, the processes of land acquisition pertaining to various solar projects and wind projects in various parts of the country has been evasive of public concerns and lacks public participation. 

  • Locals are hardly aware of even the basic distinction between any private project and public project, especially when the entity acquiring their land is the State.
  • In many instances, this information asymmetry has been used by the private parties to voice down, sometimes using the force of law and local police, any dissent or resistance which came up while the land acquisition or project construction was being done. 
  • Similarly, in case of public utility lands, the ‘public’ which was utilising such land for livelihood, agriculture, and other purposes is hardly informed and consulted before acquiring their lands. Often, the locals are cheated on by being given promises of preference in jobs but without any written assurance for the same by the renewable energy companies.

Thus, with the motive of profiteering on any cost, the green energy projects seem to be treading the same path that various exploitative industries and capitalists have been treading for a long time now.

The Way Forward – To truly make the energy transition a ‘just’ one, unbiased, inclusive and rigorous

  • Each and every stakeholder must introspect, drop their respective biases, come clean about their own motives and then listen carefully to the concerns of each other so that the dialogue does not become a war of words, but a constructive and forward-looking strategy-making process. This will actuate the optimal usage of one of the most important and often overlooked pillar of the just transition framework – social dialogue.
  • Dialogues are required to hear the historically unheard voices from the ground – each stakeholder shoul come together on a platform and collectively shape the facets of energy transition.

Must Read: Climate Change and India in 2021

Can you answer this question?

  1. Examine how can the ‘green’ transition address the challenges in the existing scheme of things and capitalise on the opportunities to come from the transition? 
  2. What institutional and procedural systems are required to check the smoothness of transition and address the unintended consequences, if any? Discuss.

(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 Recently a study was conducted by a Pew research Centre on religious composition of India’s population. Consider the following statements regarding its findings:

  1. Total fertility rate declined for both Muslims and Hindus
  2. Migration has had a huge impact on India’s religious composition in recent times 

Select the correct answer from the codes given below:

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

Q.2 Consider the following statements on Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)

  1. It is a Constitutional Body whose members are appointed by President
  2. It was set up by the Government in 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by K. Santhanam

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

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

Q.3 Consider the following Statements About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  1. It is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
  2. It comes under the Ministry of Agriculture. 

Select the correct answer from the codes given below:

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

ANSWERS FOR 21st Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 C
3 A

Must Read

On Census:

The Hindu

On Citizen Centric Police:

Indian Express

On WTO & Agriculture:

Hindustan Times

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