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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 3rd September 2021

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  • September 3, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Turtle Conservation

Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Environment 

Context Indian biologist Shailendra Singh has been awarded the Behler Turtle Conservation Award for bringing three critically endangered turtle conservation species back from the brink of extinction.

  • The award has been bestowed by several global bodies involved in turtle conservation such as Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and the Turtle Conservation Fund.
  • He and his team’s efforts now span much of India, impacting well over half of its turtle and tortoise species, many of which are among the most endangered turtles on the planet
  • For some species, such as the red-crowned roofed turtle ( Batagur kachuga ), northern river terrapin ( Batagur baska ), and black softshell turtle ( Nilssonia nigricans ), Dr. Singh and his team’s efforts are the last hope for their wild survival in the country.
Red-crowned roofed turtle  Northern river terrapin Black softshell turtle
Distribution  It is native to India, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Currently in India, the National Chambal River Gharial Sanctuary is the only area with a substantial population of the species, but even this Protected Area and habitat are under threat.

It is found in India and Bangladesh (Sundarbans), Myanmar, Malaysia (peninsular), Indonesia (Sumatra), Thailand, and Cambodia They are found in ponds of temples in northeastern India and Bangladesh. 

Its distribution range also includes the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries.

Characteristics  It is a freshwater turtle species, and found in deep flowing rivers with terrestrial nesting sites.Diet of the species consists exclusively of water plants. It lives in coastal mangrove estuaries and creeks, but ventures far upstream during the breeding season. It is a freshwater turtle species.
Threats Loss or degradation of habitat due to pollution and large scale development activities 

Sand mining and growing of seasonal crops

Drowning by illegal fishing nets.

Poaching and illegal trade.

Hunting and harvesting of eggs.

Pollution and loss of habitat

Drowning by illegal fishing nets.

Siltation and sedimentation due to watershed activities such as logging.

Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, 

Encroachment of wetlands 

Change in flooding pattern.

IUCN Critically endangered  Critically endangered  Critically Endangered
CITES Appendix II Appendix I Appendix I

Blue Straggler

Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Sci and Tech; Space 

Context Blue stragglers are a class of stars on open or globular clusters that stand out as they are bigger and bluer than the rest of the stars. 

  • They have intrigued scientists who have for long probed their origin.
  • Carrying out the first-ever comprehensive analysis of blue stragglers, Indian researchers recently found that half of the blue stragglers in their sample are formed through mass transfer from a close binary companion star. 

What is Blue Straggler? 

  • A bunch of stars born at the same time from the same cloud form a star cluster. 
  • As time passes, each star evolves differently depending on its mass. 
  • The most massive and bright stars evolve and move off the main sequence creating a bend in their track, known as the turnoff. 
  • Stars above this bend or brighter and hotter stars are not expected in a cluster, as they leave the main sequence to become red giants. 
  • But in 1953, Allan Sandage found that some stars seem to be hotter than the turnoff of the parent cluster. 
  • Initially, these blue stars, still straggling above the turnoff, were not part of these clusters.
  • However, later studies confirmed that these stars are indeed cluster members, and they were termed “Blue Stragglers”.  

Recent findings of the Indian researchers

  • The researchers utilised the Gaia telescope launched in 2013 by the European Space Agency with its excellent positional accuracy to select the blue stragglers in clusters 
  • They found that among the clusters they scanned, 228 have a total of 868 blue stragglers.
  • This is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of blue stragglers. 
  • It showed that these stars are primarily present in the older and massive star clusters. 
  • And due to their large mass, they are segregated towards the centre of the clusters. 
  • The researchers compared the mass of the blue stragglers to the mass of the turnoff stars (which are the most massive ‘normal’ stars in the cluster) and predicted the formation mechanisms. 
  • Significance of the recent findings: The study will help improve understanding of these stellar systems to uncover exciting results in studies of large stellar populations, including galaxies. 


Hurricane Ida

Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Disaster management 

Context Recently, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, US. It is an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm and one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US.

What are Hurricanes? 

  • Hurricanes are the biggest and most violent storms on the planet.
  • Tropical cyclones or hurricanes use warm, moist air as fuel, and therefore form over warm Equatorial water.

Mechanism of the hurricanes

  • When the warm, moist air rises upward from the surface of the ocean, it creates an area of low air pressure below.
  • When this happens, the air from the surrounding areas rushes to fill this place, eventually rising when it becomes warm and moist too.
  • An eye forms in the centre. It is the calmest part of the cyclone. Before the wind reaches the centre it gets warmed up and rises upwards.
  • When the warm air rises and cools off, the moisture forms clouds. This system of clouds and winds continues to grow and spin.
  • This disturbance is fuelled by the ocean’s heat and the water that evaporates from its surface.
  • Such storm systems rotate faster and faster.
  • Storms that form towards the north of the equator rotate counterclockwise, while those that form to the south spin clockwise because of the rotation of the Earth.

Names in Different Regions of the World:

  • Typhoons: Tropical cyclones are known as Typhoons in the China Sea and Pacific Ocean.
  • Hurricanes: In the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
  • Willy-willies: In north-western Australia 
  • Tropical Cyclones: In the Indian Ocean Region.

Categorization of Hurricanes:

  • Hurricanes are categorized on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which rates them on a scale of 1 to 5 based on wind speed.
  • Hurricanes that reach category three or higher are classified as major hurricanes.


No SC, ST, OBC quota for NRIs appearing for NEET

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II –  Policies and interventions 

Context Recent clarification by the Ministry of Health that aspiring candidates for NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) can only opt for one quota category.

About

  • NRI students belonging to SC, ST and OBC communities can no longer enjoy the reservation benefits provided to them in the upcoming NEET examinations
  • Aspiring NRI students have also pointed out how they are denied seats under NRI quota in central, state and deemed institutions if they opt for ‘Indian’ as their nationality. 
  • Such method of classification discriminates against NRI even though they hold an Indian citizenship

Who is considered as a Non-resident? (Check out the pic below)

About NEET examination

  • NEET is the qualifying test for MBBS and BDS programmes in Indian medical and dental colleges. 
  • It is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

(News from PIB)


TB Free India by 2025

Part of: GS Prelims 

In News:  

  • Union minister of health and family welfare Shri Mansukh Mandaviya chairs High Level Meet with all States to review Public Health gains against Tuberculosis.

Key takeaways from the meet:

  • The minister assured that the Union government is open to all suggestions from the States/UTs on Tuberculosis in its mission to fulfil Prime Minister’s dream of a TB Free India by 2025. 
  • He also encouraged the States and UTs to provide suggestions on the Public Health Management of COVID and other programs and initiatives of the Union Health Ministry.
  • On the threat to the gains made against TB due to COVID-19, he spoke on the ramping up of COVID Vaccination in the recent days and also highlighted the importance of vaccinating all teachers by the 5th of September for which additional doses are being provided to the States.
  • He encouraged states to ensure that COVID protocols are continued to be followed and no laxity in shown due to improved situation in the country.
  • He emphasised on encouraging the common people to join us in this mission for eradicating TB. It has to be made a people’s initiative.

TB and COVID-19:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is advising Member States that are leading the response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The WHO Global TB Programme, along with WHO regional and country offices, has developed an information note, in collaboration with stakeholders. 
  • This note is intended to assist national TB programmes and health personnel to urgently maintain continuity of essential services for people affected with TB during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by innovative people-centred approaches, as well as maximizing joint support to tackle both diseases. 
  • It is important that the progress made in TB prevention and care is not reversed by the COVID19 pandemic. Finding and treating people with TB remain the fundamental pillars of TB prevention and care and those would require maintained attention.

News Source: PIB


DefExpo-2022

Part of: GS Prelims 

In News:  

  • Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Vijay Rupani jointly reviewed the preparations of DefExpo-2022, at Kevadia, Gujarat on September 02, 2021. 
  • The 12th edition of DefExpo, which is India’s flagship event showcasing the land, naval, air as well as homeland security systems, will be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat between March 10-13, 2022.
  • The Gujarat Government aims to utilise the opportunity to further its aerospace & defence vision and seek foreign investments.
  • In February 2021, India was the first country to conduct a hybrid aerospace exhibition, Aero India-2021 at Bengaluru, in compliance with strict COVID-19 protocols. The event, under the aegis of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, had witnessed tremendous global response.

DefExpo-2022

  • The DefExpo, the premier event in the international aerospace and defence calendar, has witnessed year-on-year growth, both in the quantity and quality of participation.
  • The aim of DefExpo-2022 is to build upon the vision to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence and reach USD five billion defence exports target by 2024. 
  • The objective is to make India a major destination of land, naval, air & homeland security systems and defence engineering. 
  • Keeping with future warfare in mind, the event aims to recognise the impact of disruptive technologies on conflicts and its consequent impact on the equipment and platforms required.
  • The DefExpo-2022 will be organised keeping with the COVID-19 protocols and aims to ensure maximum international and domestic participation. 
  • The events planned include Conclave, Hybrid events, live demonstrations & business seminars.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ JUDICIARY

  • GS-1: Fundamental Freedoms & Restrictions
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Monoculture in Punjab

Context: Amidst the ongoing farmers’ protests are also questions that are being raised on the sustainability of paddy-wheat cultivation, especially in Punjab.

What is the extent of paddy-wheat monoculture in Punjab?

  • Punjab’s gross cropped area in 2018-19 was estimated at 78.30 lakh hectares (lh). 
  • Out of that, 35.20 lh was sown under wheat and another 31.03 lh under paddy, adding up to 84.6% of the total area planted to all crops. 
    • That ratio was just over 32% in 1960-61 and 47.4% in 1970-71.
  • This has been at the expense of pulses (after 1960-61), maize, bajra and oilseeds (after 1970-71) and cotton (after 1990-91)
  • Wheat replaced chana, masur, mustard and sunflower, while cotton, maize, groundnut and sugarcane area got diverted to paddy. 
  • The only crops that have registered some acreage expansions are vegetables (especially potato and pea) and fruits (kinnow), but they hardly amount to any diversification

Why is monoculture such a problem?

  • Growing the same crops year after year on the same land increases vulnerability to pest and disease attacks. 
  • The more the crop and genetic diversity, the more difficult it is for insects and pathogens to infect. 
  • Wheat and paddy cannot also, unlike pulses and legumes, fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. 
  • Their continuous cultivation without any crop rotation, then, leads to depletion of soil nutrients. As a result, crops will have to increasingly depend on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
  • In Punjab’s case, the issue isn’t as much with wheat, which is naturally adapted to its soil and agro-climatic conditions. 
    • Wheat is a cool season crop that can be grown only in regions – particularly north of the Vindhyas – where day temperatures are within early 30oC range through March (temperature sensitive)
  • Its cultivation in Punjab is also desirable from a national food security standpoint. 
  • Punjab’s wheat yields – at 5 tonnes-plus per hectare, as against the national average of 3.4-3.5 tonnes – are far too high to make any reduction in its cultivation area.

So, it is basically paddy that needs fixing?

Yes, there are two reasons for it. 

  • The first has to do with paddy being a warm season crop not very sensitive to high temperature stress. It can be grown in much of eastern, central and southern India, where water is sufficiently available. 
  • Punjab contributed 10.88 mt of rice (milled paddy) out of total Central pool procurement of 52 mt in 2019-20. Probably half of this rice of Punjab can, instead, be procured from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal or Assam.
  • The second has to do with water usage. Farmers usually irrigate wheat five times. In paddy, 30 irrigations or more are given. 
  • Punjab’s groundwater table has been declining by 0.5 m/annum on an average – largely due to paddy cultivation and the state’s policy of supplying free power for irrigation. 
  • This has encouraged farmers to grow long-duration (160 days) water-guzzling paddy varieties like Pusa-44.
    • Long duration meant that nursery-raising happened in April last week and transplanting by mid-May. But being peak summer time, it also translated into very high water requirement.
    • Crops were then harvested from October leaving ample time for planting of the next wheat crop (by mid-November).
    • Before Pusa-44’s release in 1993, Punjab farmers were mostly cultivating PR-106, which required less water and was short duration(145 days).

Has the Punjab government done anything to address this?

  • The one significant step that it took was enacting the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act in 2009, that prohibited any nursery-sowing and transplanting of paddy before May 15 and June 15, respectively. 
  • Therefore, transplanting of Pusa-44 was permitted only after the monsoon rains arrived in mid-June. This was done to address the water requirements. 
  • As a result, harvesting was pushed to October-end, leaving a narrow time window for sowing wheat before the November 15 deadline. 
  • Farmers, then, had no option other than burning the paddy stubble left behind after harvesting. 
  • Simply put, groundwater conservation in Punjab ended up causing air pollution in Delhi.

Has there been any way to avoid this trade-off?

  • One thing that scientists at the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana have done is breed shorter-duration paddy varieties. These take between 13 and 37 days less time to mature than Pusa-44, while yielding almost the same (see table 2). 
  • PR-126, a variety released in 2017, has a mere 123 days duration (inclusive of 30 days post nursery-raising) and its yield is 30 quintals per acre.
  • In 2012, 39% of Punjab’s non-basmati paddy area was under Pusa-44. That was down to 20% in 2021, while the share of shorter-duration varieties, mainly PR-121 and PR-126, has crossed 71%. 
  • While Pusa-44 requires around 31 irrigations, it is only 23 in PR-126 and 26 in PR-121. There would be further 3-4 irrigation savings if farmers adopt direct seeding of paddy, as opposed to transplanting in flooded fields.
    • A single irrigation consumes roughly 2 lakh litres of water per acre.

Way forward

  • A sensible strategy could be to limit Punjab’s paddy area and ensure planting of only shorter-duration varieties. 
  • Further water savings can be induced through metering of electricity and direct seeding of paddy.

Connecting the dots:


ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

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

A hydro onslaught the Himalayas cannot take

Context: The affidavit filed recently by Union Ministry of Environment in an ongoing matter in the Supreme Court has recommended the construction of seven partially constructed hydroelectric projects in the Uttarakhand Himalaya.

Expert Committees on Hydro Projects in Himalayas

  • After the Kedarnath tragedy of 2013, under guidance of SC,an expert body (EB-I) was constituted to investigate whether the increasing number of hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand was linked to the disaster. 
  • In its findings, EB-I said there was a “direct and indirect impact” of these dams in intensifying the disaster. 
  • Later, Union Government formed committee after committee until it got approval for these projects with some design changes.

Concerns/ Criticisms

  • Short-Term gains long-term loss: Dam lobby who promote hydro projects as green energy, wants to go ahead with such projects for short-term monetary gains despite the dire warnings of climate change threats and environmental challenges.
  • Questions over sustainability of the dams: Hydropower solely relies on the excess availability of water. Retreating glaciers and the alternating phases of floods and drought will impact the seasonal flows of rivers.
  • Existence of sediment hotspot paraglacial zones, which at the time of a cloud burst, contributes huge amounts of debris and silt in the river, thereby increasing the river volume & endangering dams. 
  • Social Displacement: Hydro projects are capital intensive ventures that negatively impact local communities and their livelihoods. 
  • Intensifies Natural Disasters: The proliferation of the hydroelectric projects in these eco-sensitive Himalayan regions accelerate the intensity of flash floods, avalanches, and landslides. Ex: Rishi Ganga tragedy and the disasters of 2012 (flashfloods) was aggravated by dams.
  • Sinking of mountain slopes: The construction and maintenance of an extensive network of underground tunnels carrying water to the powerhouses contribute to the failure of mountain slopes.
  • Economic Feasibility issues: By the time they are constructed, the cost of electricity generated will also be phenomenally high and would have no buyers. 

Way Forward

  • It is high time the MoEFCC formulated a written position on climate change adaptation with respect to the hydropower sector, after a thorough public discourse.
  • Considering the environmental and cultural significance of these areas, it is imperative that the Government declares the upper reaches of the Ganga as eco-sensitive zones. It must allow the river to flow unfettered and free.

Connecting the dots:


(AIR Spotlight)


Spotlight 24 (Aug): Discussion on New Education Policy and The road ahead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWxchc0QcKg

EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE

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

Discussion on New Education Policy and the road ahead 

  • Union Education and Skill Development Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Virendra Kumar jointly launched the booklet on One-year New Education Policy (NEP) – 2020 Achievement.
  • They also launched some major initiatives of the New Education Policy- 2020 such as 
    • NIPUN Bharat foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) tools and resources on DIKSHA; 
    • Virtual School of National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS); 
    • Alternate Academic Calendar of NCERT; 
    • Release of ‘Priya’- accessibility booklet developed by the NCERT and Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
  • NEP 2020 envisages education as a continuum without any segmentation. With this perspective, the Department of School Education and Literacy has taken up a multitude of initiatives at all levels of school education and has achieved 62 major milestones which will eventually transform the school education sector.

Vidya Pravesh:

  • The Vidya Pravesh scheme is 3 months play preparation program for the students studying in class one that aims at education for all in the country.
  • It aims at spreading the concept of playschools to the remotest parts of the country and to ensure that no student is deprived of education. 
  • Through this scheme, all the remote students will have access to playschools. 

Priya -The Accessibility Warrior

  • It provides glimpses into the world of a girl named Priya who met an accident and could not walk, due to plastered leg with depiction of how Priya managed to participate in all activities at school, and in the process learnt the importance of the accessibility thus taking the pledge of being an accessibility warrior. 
  • The comic book is also available with Indian Sign Language (ISL) explanatory videos.

NIPUN Bharat FLN:

  • The full form of NIPUN Bharat Programme is the National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy Bharat Programme. 
  • NIPUN Bharat FLN is a program with a vision to ensure every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27
  • NIPUN Bharat FLN tools and resources has been made available under a separate vertical for FLN resources developed under DIKSHA to assist and mentor States/UTs and teachers for implementing NIPUN Bharat guidelines. 
    • Diksha Portal was launched in 2017 for providing a digital platform to teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community.
  • This vertical has infographics and videos on learning outcomes and assessment tools for teachers to facilitate them.

Challenges and way ahead:

  • Acceptability by all universities is the first and foremost challenge in the effective implementation.
  • Credits earned in first institution when taken forward to another institution, both institutions must be of equivalent standards otherwise it will create problem in encashing the credits in the new institution. So, we need to have a standardised definition of credits valuation. For example, there is 10-point system or an 8-point system or 6-point system.
  • So there has to be a framework to exchange from one system to the other, it has been prepared by committee already and is yet to be approved, regulated and also different institutions have to be given choices of joining hands together. 

(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 of the following statement is/are true about Hurricane?

  1. A hurricane is a violent storm originating over tropical or subtropical waters.
  2. It is constituted by a low pressure centre, a closed low level atmospheric circulation, and strong winds.
  3. It is accompanied by a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms which produce heavy rain.
  4. All the above

Q.2 Consider the following statements:

  1. The most massive and bright stars evolve and move off the main sequence creating a bend in their track, known as the turnoff stars 
  2. Blue stragglers are a class of stars on open or globular clusters that are bigger, hotter and bluer than the rest of the stars.  

Select the correct statements:

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

Q.3 The National Chambal River Gharial Sanctuary is the only area with a substantial population of which of the following species? 

  1. Leatherback turtle
  2. Red-crowned roofed turtle 
  3. Northern river terrapin
  4. Black softshell turtle 

ANSWERS FOR 2nd Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 B
3 B

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