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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 30th September 2021

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  • September 30, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and Security 

Context The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister accorded approval to capital acquisition proposals of the three Services estimated at approximately Rs. 13,165 crore. 

  • The key proposals include helicopters, guided munitions and rocket ammunition. 

What is Defence Acquisition Council? 

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) is the highest decision-making body in the Defence Ministry for deciding on new policies and capital acquisitions for the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Indian Coast Guard.
  • The Minister of Defence is the Chairman of the Council.
  • It was formed, after the Group of Ministers recommendations on ‘Reforming the National Security System’, in 2001, post Kargil War (1999). 

India, Australia sign ‘Terms of Reference’

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations 

Context The Indian Navy and the Australian Navy have signed the ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) for the conduct of the navy to navy talks under the framework of the ‘Joint Guidance for the India-Australia Navy to Navy Relationship’ document, signed by the two Navy Chiefs in August. 

  • This is the first such document signed by the Indian Navy with any country.

Key takeaways 

  • The document would be pivotal in consolidating the shared commitment to promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region
  • The document provided flexibility for the implementation of separate agreements based on the specific outcomes of the talks. 
  • The highlights of the document included close cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Hypersonic missile

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations and GS III – Sci and tech 

Context North Korea has successfully tested a new hypersonic glide missile. 

What is a hypersonic missile?

  • Hypersonics are defined as being able to travel at velocities of at least five times the speed of sound — Mach 5, or more than 6,100 kilometres (3,800 miles) per hour. 
  • They can also manoeuvre in mid-flight, making them much harder to track and intercept than traditional projectiles.
  • By cutting flight times, they also reduce the opportunity to respond.
  • Depending on the design, they can be capable of carrying nuclear warheads or conventional only, and have the potential to alter the strategic balance.

Which countries possess them? 


Nipah antibodies found in bat samples in Kerala

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – Health 

Context Nipah virus antibodies (IgG antibodies) were detected in bat samples collected by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, from Kodiyathoor and Thamarassery in Kozhikode district (Kerala) near the panchayat where a Nipah infection was confirmed last month.

Key takeaways 

  • A sample belonging to the Pteropus species, collected from Thamarassery, was found to have Nipah antibodies, while the same was detected in another sample from the Rousettus species collected from Kodiyathoor.
  • Given the current evidence, it would be logical to conclude that the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode did originate from bats, even though the route of virus transmission from bats to humans is still unknown. 
  • Meanwhile, the State is past the 21-day incubation period since the lone case of Nipah was reported at Kozhikode on September 4, during which time there were no fresh cases.
  • If no more cases of Nipah surface in another 21 days’ time, it would be safe to declare that the outbreak has been completely brought under control.

What is Nipah? 

  • It is a zoonotic virus, meaning it has been transmitted from animals to human beings. 
  • Fruit bats, commonly known as flying fox, are considered to be a natural reservoir of the virus. 
  • Transmission: Humans get infected mainly through direct contact with these animals. The virus can also be passed on through food contaminated by saliva or urine of these infected animals or directly from person-to-person. 
  • Symptoms include acute encephalitis and respiratory illnesses.
  • The Nipah virus is known to spread far more slowly than SARS-CoV-2. However, it is its ability to kill that is the biggest concern. 

Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) extended

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Policies and interventions 

Context The government has extended the Rs. 4.5 lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) till March 31, 2022, to help businesses cope with the pandemic’s adverse effects.

What is Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS)? 

  • Launched by Government of India as a special scheme in view of COVID-19 crisis
  • Objective: To provide 100% guarantee coverage to Banks and NBFCs to enable them to extend emergency credit facilities to Business Enterprises / MSMEs in view of COVID-19 to meet their additional term loan/additional working capital requirements.
  • The amount of Emergency Credit line to be extended to Business Enterprises / MSMEs would be upto 20% of total outstanding as on Feb 29,2020. 
  • 100% Guarantee Coverage for the additional funds sanctioned under the Emergency Credit Line Scheme.
  • Eligible borrowers: Business Enterprises / MSMEs with outstanding loan of upto Rs.50 crore as on February 29, 2020 and turnover of upto Rs.250 crore in FY 2019-20.
  • Interest rate: Interest rate charged is capped at 9.25% for banks and 14% for NBFCs. 
  • No charges or Guarantee fees. 

Probe shows use of toxic material in firecrackers

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health and GS-III – Pollution 

Context The Supreme Court said a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry, including in Tamil Nadu, revealed rampant violation of its ban on use of toxic ingredients like barium and its salts.

Background 

  • In an order in March 2020, the court ordered the CBI Joint Director in Chennai to conduct a “detailed” probe . 
  • The CBI was directed to examine the allegations of violation of the court ban in 2018.

Key findings of the probe

  • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed barium content.
  • The court stated that loose quantities of barium were purchased from the market.
  • Firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates. 

What is barium? 

  • Barium is a chemical element having atomic number 56. 
  • It is a soft, silvery alkaline earth metal. 
  • Because of its high chemical reactivity, barium is never found in nature as a free element.
  • Applications: 
    • As a component of  high-temperature superconductors and electroceramics 
    • Added to steel and cast iron to reduce the size of carbon grains 
    • Added to fireworks to impart a green color.
    • As X-ray radiocontrast agents for imaging the human gastrointestinal tract. 
    • As rodenticides. 
  • Harmful effects: 
    • Soluble barium compounds are poisonous. 
    • In higher doses, they affect the nervous system, causing cardiac irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxiety, etc. 
    • However, Barium is not carcinogenic and does not bioaccumulate. 

Miscellaneous

Najla Bouden named as Tunisia’s first woman PM 

  • Tunisia’s President on Wednesday named geologist Najla Bouden as the country’s first ever woman Prime Minister-designate,

  • His moves followed months of political deadlock in the face of a pressing economic crisis and mounting coronavirus deaths.
  • Last week he extended the suspension of Parliament and moved to rule by decree, suspending parts of the country’s post-revolution Constitution. 

Mihira Bhoja

  • Mihira Bhoja (c. 836–885 CE) or Bhoja I was a king belonging to the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty. 
  • He succeeded his father Ramabhadra. 
  • Bhoja was a devotee of Vishnu and adopted the title of Ādivarāha which is inscribed on some of his coins. 
  • One of the outstanding political figures of India in the ninth century, he ranks with Dhruva Dharavarsha and Dharmapala as a great general and empire builder. 

(News from PIB)


PRAGATI

Part of: GS-Prelims and Mains GS-II- Governance

In News: Recently, the Prime Minister (PM) has chaired the 38th PRAGATI meeting.

  • Launched in 2015, PRAGATI is the multimodal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation involving central and state governments – enables the PM to discuss the issues with the concerned central and state officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground-level situation.
  • Designed by: Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) team with the help of the National Informatics Center (NIC).
  • It is a three-tier system: PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States.
  • Objective: 
    • Grievance Redressal; 
    • Programme Implementation; 
    • Project Monitoring
  • Significance: 
    • It promotes cooperative federalism; 
    • It is a robust system for bringing e-transparency and e-accountability with real-time presence and exchange among the key stakeholders; 
    • It is an innovative project in e-governance and good governance.

News Source: PIB


Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission

Part of: GS-Prelims and Mains GS-III- Health

Context: Pradhan Mantri Digital Health Mission has been launched.

  • Will create a seamless online platform through the provision of a wide-range of data, information and infrastructure services, duly leveraging open, interoperable, standards-based digital systems while ensuring the security, confidentiality and privacy of health-related personal information. 
  • Enable access and exchange of longitudinal health records of citizens with their consent.
  • Create interoperability within the digital health ecosystem, similar to the role played by the Unified Payments Interface in revolutionizing payments. Citizens will only be a click-away from accessing healthcare facilities.

Key components 

  • A health ID for every citizen that will also work as their health account, to which personal health records can be linked and viewed with the help of a mobile application; 
  • A Healthcare Professionals Registry (HPR) and Healthcare Facilities Registries (HFR) that will act as a repository of all healthcare providers across both modern and traditional systems of medicine ensuring ease of doing business for doctors/hospitals and healthcare service providers.

News Source: PIB


Cost-effective production of hydrogen

Part of: GS-Prelims and Mains GS-III- Science & Tech

In News: A team of scientists have, for the first time, developed a large-scale reactor which produces a substantial amount of hydrogen using sustainable sources like sunlight and water, which is a cost-effective and sustainable process.

India has set a target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. One of the most economical ways to achieve this is to produce hydrogen at a large scale through photocatalytic water splitting. It is the long-term persistent solution for the growing renewable energy needs and a low-cost economic process which will benefit society in the longer term. 

The team has 

  • Developed a prototype reactor which operates under natural sunlight to produce hydrogen at a larger scale (around 6.1 L in 8 hours). 
  • Employed the low-cost organic semiconductor in carbon nitrides which can be prepared using cheaper precursors like urea and melamine at ease in a kilogram scale. 
  • When the sunlight falls on this semiconductor, electrons, and holes are generated. The electrons reduced the protons to produce hydrogen, and holes are consumed by some chemical agents called sacrificial agents. If the holes are not consumed, then they will recombine with the electrons. 

Benefits: Hydrogen generated in this manner can be used in many forms like electricity generation through fuel cells in remote tribal areas, hydrogen stoves, and powering small gadgets, to mention a few. Eventually, they can power the transformers and e-vehicles, which are long-term research goals under progress.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ GOVERNANCE

  • 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

Four Geopolitical developments and a window of opportunity for India

Context: A number of important developments has taken place over the past several weeks. They may appear disconnected but in fact add up to a significant shift in regional and global geopolitics.

These developments and implications on India are:

  1. First is the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan and the complete takeover of the country by the Taliban; 
    • The Afghan situation is a setback for India in the short run. The political capital and economic presence it had built up in the country over the past two decades has been substantially eroded. 
    • In the longer run, it seems unlikely that the Taliban will give up its extremist agenda and severe its links with Jihadist groups. This increases regional and international fears over cross-border terrorism may be revived.
    • This would deny both Pakistan and China the anticipated payoff from the US withdrawal.
    • India’s response should be to 
      • Wait for its time 
      • Strengthen its defences against an increase in cross-border terrorism
      • Keep its faith with the ordinary people of Afghanistan
      • Provide shelter to those who have sought refuge 
      • Join in any international effort to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
  1. Second development is significant domestic political changes in China, including the ideological and regulatory assault against its private high-tech companies and real estate companies. 
    • China’s vibrant private sector is being reined in while the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) are back in a central role.
    • This has increased risk perception among international businesses who had seen China as a huge commercial opportunity.
    • If India plays its cards well, this time round there could be significant capital and technology flows from the US, Japan and Europe diverted towards India because it offers scale comparable to China.
    • The constraints are policy unpredictability, regulatory rigidities and bureaucratic red tape in India. Some of these issues are being addressed, such as dropping of retrospective taxation. But there is still a long way to go.
    • In this context, India should consider rejoining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
  1. Third development is the announcement of the Australia-UK and US (AUKUS) alliance. 
    • The alliance reflects a clear strategic choice by Australia that it will be firmly on the US side of the fence despite its considerable economic and commercial equities in China.
    • This raises the level of deterrence against China. 
    • As a result, China becomes more preoccupied with threats on its eastern flank, it could move to reduce tensions on its western flank, chiefly with India. 
    • China may advance its forcible takeover of Taiwan before the AUKUS gets consolidated.
  1. The fourth development is related to QUAD
    • The convening of the four-nation (India, Australia, Japan and the US) Quad physical summit in Washington, reflects a major step towards its formalisation as an influential grouping in the Indo-Pacific going beyond security.
    • We may be entering a period of enhanced danger and tensions in the Indo-Pacific. India should be aware about this uncertain times and be prepared accordingly. 

Conclusion

These four developments, taken together, present India with both risks but also with opportunities. However, we can notice that the opportunities outweigh the risks.

Connecting the dots:

  • Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative 

GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

  • 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 it.

Auditors’ Auditor: NFRA

Context: The National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) will be headless from October 1 if the government does not announce, either a successor or another term, to the incumbent Chairman.

What is NFRA?

  • NFRA came into being in late-2018 in the wake of the IL&FS financial scandal.
  • The NFRA is a national regulator for auditors set up under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • NFRA was born due to the failure of self-regulation of the audit profession by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
  • It was set up specifically to investigate the role of auditors in frauds in listed and large public interest entities.
  • It came into being in late-2018 in the wake of the IL&FS financial scandal.
  • Composition – NFRA will have a chairperson who will be appointed by the Central Government and a maximum of 15 members. 
  • An important function of NFRA is to make recommendation to Central Government on the formulation and laying down of accounting and auditing policies and standards for adoption by companies or class of companies or their auditors.
  • With the establishment of NFRA, audit practices were put under the scanner with such serious intent 

Do You Know?

  • India is unique among the big economies of the world in statutorily mandating compulsory audit for all companies, irrespective of their size and characteristics. 
  • Major economies of the world require statutory audit for small companies only in case some minimum criteria of public interest are satisfied. 
  • Even in India, income tax audit is now not compulsory where the turnover is Rs. 10 crore or less provided not more than 5% of the transactions are in cash. GST audit has also been completely done away with.

What are the challenges in effective functioning of NFRA?

  • Functioning with a skeletal staff: Apart from the Chairman there is just one whole-time director on the board, and three part-time directors who are nominees of ICAI
  • Conflict of interest: NFRA board is unique in that it has representation from the constituency (nominee of ICAI) that it seeks to regulate.  It is akin to the SEBI having stock brokers on its board or the RBI appointing practising bankers as Deputy Governors.

Way Ahead

  • The ICAI’s efforts to capture the regulatory body through appointments of its office-bearers as part-time directors should be rebuffed.
  • The NFRA is at the crucial take-off stage now and it needs an independent head who is not an ex or present office-bearer of ICAI.
  • With greater participation of retail investors in the stock market and increasing shareholder activism, we need a strong, autonomous regulator who can keep auditors in check and help develop the auditing profession. 

Connecting the dots:


(AIR Spotlight)


Spotlight Sep 28: Ease of Living – https://youtu.be/Zhb78PBkrEA 

GOVERNANCE

  • GS-I: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies
  • GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Ease of Living

Aim: To help assess the progress made in cities through various initiatives and empower them to use evidence to plan, implement & monitor their performance 

By: The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs

Ease of Living Index is aimed at providing a holistic view of Indian cities – beginning from the services provided by local bodies, the effectiveness of the administration, the outcomes generated through these services in terms of the liveability within cities and, finally, the citizen perception of these outcomes. It provides a comprehensive understanding of participating cities across India based on the quality of life, the economic ability of a city, and its sustainability and resilience.

The key objectives of the Ease of Living Index are four-folds, viz. 

  1. Generate information to guide evidence-based policy making; 
  2. Catalyse action to achieve broader developmental outcomes including the SDG; 
  3. Assess and compare the outcomes achieved from various urban policies and schemes; and
  4. Obtain the perception of citizens about their view of the services provided by the city administration. 

Quality of Life

  1. Education: Household expenditure on education; literacy rate; pupil-teacher ratio; dropout rate; access to digital education; professionally trained teachers; national achievement survey score.
  2. Health: Household expenditure on health; availability of healthcare; professionals; accredited public health facilities; availability of hospital beds; prevalence of water borne diseases; prevalence of vector borne diseases;
  3. Mobility: Availability of public transport; transport related fatalities; road infrastructure (road density, footpath density).
  4. WASH and SWM: Water supply to household; households with piped water; supply Swachh Survekshan score; amount of waste water treated; connected to sewerage network.
  5. Housing and Shelter: Households with electrical; connections; average length of electrical; interruptions; beneficiaries under PMAY; slum population.
  6. Safety and security: Prevalence of violent crime; extent of crime recorded against women; extent of crime recorded against children; extent of crime recorded against elderly.
  7. Recreation: Availability of open space; availability of recreation facilities.

Economic Ability

  1. Level of Economic Development: Traded clusters
  2. Economic Opportunities: Cluster strength; credit availability; number of incubation centres/skill development centres.
  3. Gini Coefficient: Inequality index based on consumption expenditure.

Sustainability

  1. Environment: Water quality; total tree cover; households using clean fuel for cooking; hazardous waste generation; air quality index (SO2, NO2, PM10).
  2. Green Spaces and buildings: Availability of green spaces; does the city incentivise green buildings?; green buildings in the city.
  3. City Resilience: Has the city implemented local disaster reduction strategies?; number of deaths and directly affected persons attributed to disasters.
  4. Energy Consumption: Energy requirement vs energy supplied; energy generated from renewable sources; number of energy parks.

(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 Which sea is to the north of Tunisia? 

  1. Black Sea 
  2. Mediterranean sea 
  3. Adriatic sea 
  4. Red Sea 

Q.2 Which of the following is/are true regarding Nipah virus: 

  1. It is a zoonotic virus. 
  2. Fruit bats, commonly known as flying fox, are considered to be a natural reservoir of the virus. 

Select the correct statements:

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

Q.3 Indian Navy has signed the ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) for the conduct of the navy to navy talks for the first time with which of the following countries? 

  1. Japan
  2. Singapore 
  3. USA
  4. Australia 

ANSWERS FOR 29th Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 D
3 D

Must Read

On IT Rules:

Indian Express

On India’s maritime moment:

Hindustan Times

On Rural Debt Trap:

Indian Express

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