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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 15th October 2021

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  • October 15, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Global Hunger Index ranks India at 101 out of 116 countries

Part of: Prelims and GS I – Society

Context The Global Hunger Index ranked India at 101st out of a total 116 countries. 

Key takeaways

  • Only 15 countries fare worse than India which includes countries like Papua New Guinea (102), Afghanistan (103), Nigeria (103), Congo (105), Mozambique (106), Sierra Leone (106), Timor-Leste (108), etc.
  • India is also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92 rank, Nepal at 76 and Bangladesh also at 76.
  • Somalia has the highest level of hunger according to the 2021 GHI ranking
  • Current projections based on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) show that the world as a whole — and 47 countries in particular — will fail to achieve even low hunger by 2030.
  • After decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment is increasing. This shift may be an indication of reversals in other measures of hunger.

What is the Global Hunger Index?

  • The GHI is an annual peer-reviewed publication by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. 
  • It aims to track hunger at global, regional and national levels. 
  • It uses four parameters to calculate its scores – 
    • Undernourishment
    • child wasting
    • child stunting and 
    • child mortality.
  • Information from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations are taken to calculate these parameters.
  • All these international organisations draw from national data, which, in India’s case, includes the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS).


UN Human Rights Council

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – International Relations

Context India has been re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council (2022-24) for a record 6th term with an overwhelming majority.

  • It vowed to continue to work for the promotion and protection of Human Rights through “Samman, Samvad and Sahyog.”

Key takeaways

  • India’s current term was set to end on December 31 2021.
  • Countries elected by the UN General Assembly through secret ballot: Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia, UAE and the US.
  • USA, which had quit the council in 2018 under the previous Donald Trump’s regime, was re-elected to the global rights body for a period of three-and-a-half years.

About UN Human Rights Council 

  • It is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations which consists of 47 Member States elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.
  • Location: Geneva.
  • Establishment: It was founded in 2006.
  • Functions: (1) It investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states; (2) It also addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of expression, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
  • The members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.
  • The membership is based on equitable geographical distribution.

One Health Consortium

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, supported a mega consortium on ‘One Health’ and launched the First ‘One Health’ project of DBT.

Key takeaways 

  • This Consortium consists of 27 organisations led by DBT-National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, Hyderabad.
  • It is one of the biggest one health programs launched by Govt of India in post-COVID times.
  • This programme envisages carrying out surveillance of important bacterial, viral and parasitic infections of zoonotic as well as transboundary pathogens in India.
  • Use of existing diagnostic tests and the development of additional methodologies when required are mandated for the surveillance and for understanding the spread of emerging diseases.

UFill

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – IT 

Context Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) – a PSU under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has announced the launch of “UFill”.

  • It is a digital customer experience which ensures that their customers have complete control over Time, Technology and Transparency as part of their fuelling experience.

Key takeaways

  • The UFill proposition has been launched in 65 cities across India and will soon be launched across the country.
  • The technology provides the customer with control of fuel as well as touch less pre-payment solution.
  • The dispensing unit can be automatically preset for the value of fuel paid for by him/her in advance and eliminates any manual intervention at the point of sale.

Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2021

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security

Context As part of the ongoing Indo-US Defence Cooperation, the Joint Military Training Exercise “Ex Yudh Abhyas 2021” will be conducted at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska (USA) from 15 to 29 October 2021.

  • Exercise YudhAbhyas is the largest running joint military training and defence cooperation endeavor between India and USA.
  • This will be the 17th Edition of the joint exercise which is hosted alternately between both countries.
  • The previous version of this exercise was held at Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Bikaner, Rajasthan in February 2021.

Vishwakarma Vatika

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Skill development; employment 

Context Union Minister for Minority Affairs announced that “Vishwakarma Vatika” will be set up at “Hunar Haats”.

  • Objective:  to promote and preserve precious traditional skills of artisans and craftsmen 
  • The first such “Vishwakarma Vatika”, which has been set up in “Hunar Haat” at Rampur, Uttar Pradesh will be inaugurated by Union Minister for Education and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship on 16th October, 2021
  • Proficient craftsmen, sculptors, stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters, potter and other artisans from across the country, will give live demonstrations of how India’s traditional exquisite and elegant indigenous handmade products are made.

What is Hunar Haat?

  • Hunar Haat is an exhibition of handicrafts and traditional products made by artisans from the Minority communities. 
  • It is organized by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  • Hunar Haat is organized under USTTADscheme (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development).
  • The artisans who participate in the event will get national and international markets for their indigenous handmade products through “Hunar Haat”.
  • It has proved to be Empowerment & Employment Exchange for master artisans and craftsmen
  • Government has decided to organise about 100 “Hunar Haat” in the next five years across the country to provide market and employment opportunities

(News from PIB)


World Standards Day: 14th October

Theme: Shared Vision for a Better World’ Standards for Sustainable Development Goals

  • Implementation of standards facilitate access to national and international markets
  • Standards play a critical role in ensuring the integration of diverse technologies and interoperability of innovations required for propelling smart cities of the future. 
  • In view of the pandemic, the path to move towards Sustainable Development Goals has become an absolute necessity, for which relevant, faster and better standards are essential.

Note:

  • The International Organization for Standards was created in 1947 but this day was first celebrated in 1970.
  • BIS is the National Standard Body of India established under the BIS Act 2016 for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods

PLI Scheme: Promoting Telecom and Networking Products Manufacturing in India

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

In News: India is set to receive an investment of about ₹3,300 crore from 31 domestic and multinational companies over a period of four years under the ambitious production-linked incentive or PLI scheme that is expected to employ as many as 40,000 individuals in the telecom sector.

  • To boost domestic manufacturing in the telecom and networking products by incentivising incremental investments
  • Will help in reducing India’s dependence on other countries for import of telecom and networking products with incentives and support to promote world class manufacturing in the country
  • Would boost research and development (R&D) activities locally with companies committed to spend 15% of their revenues for the development of new products.

Details

  • The support under the Scheme shall be provided for a period of five (5) years, i.e. from FY 2021-22 to FY 2025-26.
  • 31 companies comprising 16 MSMEs and 15 Non-MSMEs (8 Domestic and 7 Global companies), gets approval under the Scheme
  • Expected Incremental production of around ₹1.82 Lakh Crore

The scheme for the telecom sector includes 

  • Manufacturing of transmission equipment, 
  • Next generation (4G and 5G) radio access network and wireless equipment, 
  • Customer premise equipment (CPE), access devices, routers and switches

News Source: PIB


Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) for 1000 MWhourproject

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Energy

In News: Government has given go ahead for inviting the expression of interest for installation of 1000 MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) as a pilot project. 

  • A joint effort of both Ministry of New and renewable energy and Ministry of Power – to provide a road map for the installation of the energy storage system in the country.
  • Why: To support the ambitious goal of achieving 450 GW renewable energy target by 2030

India plans to use energy storage system under following business cases:

  • Renewable energy along with the energy storage system
  • Energy storage system as grid element to maximize the use of transmission system and strengthening grid stability and also to save investment in the augmentation of transmission infrastructure.
  • Storage as an asset for balancing services and flexible operation.  The system operator i.e. load dispatchers (RLDCs and SLDCs) may use storage system for frequency control and balancing services to manage the inherent uncertainty/variations in the load due to un-generation.
  • Storage for distribution system i.e. it may be placed at the load centre to manage its peak load and other obligations.
  • As a merchant capacity by the energy storage system developer and sell in the power market
  • Any other future business models as a combination of the above.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY

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

India-Sri Lanka: Colombo Port

Context: On September 30, 2021, the Gujarat-headquartered Adani Group signed a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) agreement with Sri Lankan company John Keells Holdings and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to jointly develop the Colombo West International Container Terminal (CWICT) at the strategically advantaged Colombo Port.

  • As per the 35 year-long BOT agreement inked by the three parties, the Adani Group will have majority, 51%, stakes, while John Keells would hold 34%, and the SLPA, 15%. 
  • The more than $700-million investment is said to be the largest foreign investment in the island nation’s port sector.
  • Colombo Port is located amidst one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.
  • Primarily a container port, the Colombo Port has handled over 5 million TEU of containerised cargo. It has five functional terminals.

What is the backstory?

  • Sri Lanka, led by different governments, has been keen to further develop its port and emerge a formidable regional hub, but roping in private foreign investor Adani Group directly was not Colombo’s first choice.
  • In May 2019, the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe government signed a tripartite agreement with the governments of India and Japan, to jointly develop the partially-functional East Container Terminal (ECT) at the same port.
  • For India, the deal meant a potential advantage, both commercially and strategically, especially next to the China-backed Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), where China holds 85% stakes in a BOT agreement spanning 35 years.
  • Those making a case for an Indian presence at the port argue that over 70% of the transshipment business at the Colombo Port is linked to India.

What happened to the 2019 agreement?

  • In a cabinet decision on February 1, 2021, Sri Lanka unilaterally removed India and Japan out of the agreement, instead opting to develop the ECT with its own investment, citing persisting protests by port workers unions, nationalist groups and Buddhist monks vehemently opposing any foreign role in a strategic national asset.
  • Sri Lankan government’s move took New Delhi by shock, as there was no prior indication of Colombo backtracking on the deal. 
  • The cancellation of the ECT deal caused considerable diplomatic strain between all three countries

How did the WCT deal come to be?

  • Shortly thereafter, early in March 2021, a cabinet decision was taken to develop the West Container Terminal (WCT) at the Colombo Port along with India and Japan. 
  • India had “nominated” Adani Ports and the deal was pitched as a “compromise”.
  • Recently, Adani Group signed an agreement with John Keells and SLPA to commence development work. 
  • Japan is yet to decide on its involvement in the WCT project, according to diplomatic sources. 
  • Whether it was the former ECT deal or the current WCT agreement, it remains unclear how the Adani Group became the chosen investor from India. 
  • Until now, there is no indication of a competitive bidding process or of the selection process. or the rationale used to select the investor. 
  • Colombo has repeatedly referred to the Adani Group as a “nominee” of the Indian government, although India sought to deny it had nominated anyone for the project.

Is there opposition?

  • While some political commentators and social media users have questioned the deal, the opposition to the WCT is not comparable to that against the ECT. 
  • Curiously so, because Adani Group now holds majority stakes with its local partner John Keells, while SLPA holds just 15% in the WCT project, unlike in the ECT deal when SLPA had 51% controlling stakes.

Analysis of the development

  • Colombo’s number 1 customer is the Indian shippers and the carriers who give connectivity to the region and the world via Colombo. A partner from India is, therefore, a welcome development to Sri Lanka to build new relationships in the maritime and logistics sector with India
  • The presence of multiple global players in Sri Lankan ports would also help balance different geopolitical actors and ease current tensions.
  • However, there has been questions on whether Sri Lankan government followed due process in selecting the contractor — whether it is Chinese, American or Indian. There are allegations on the “deviations” from a competitive bidding process, lack of transparency and lack of sound data-driven decision-making, 

Connecting the dots:

News Source: The Hindu


GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Governance & Public Administration

Reforming Indian Bureaucracy

Context: India’s civil services have some of the best and brightest as also some of the worst, just like in any collection of people. 

However, the bureaucracy that took India through the last 75 years can’t be the one to take it through the next 75 — we need a proactive, imaginative, technology-savvy, enabling bureaucracy. Some of the changes required are:

  1. Doing away with outdated rules
  • Bureaucracy, unlike the private sector, is a creature of the Constitution and is bound by multiple rules, laws, and procedures which has its origin in Colonial rule.
  • Thus there is a need to do away with or repeal some of the outdated rules & laws
  1. Increasing the staff strength
  • As per estimates compiled by the Institute of Conflict Management, the government of India (GOI) has about 364 government servants for every 1,00,000 residents, with 45 per cent in the railways alone. 
  • About 60 per cent and 30 per cent are in Groups C and D, respectively, leaving a skeletal skilled staff of just about 7 per cent to man critical positions
  • That political masters must get bureaucrats out of those sectors which are best handled by private players. Additionally, government has fill up its vacancies quickly.
  • There is a need to automate every major touchpoint between the government, citizens, and businesses so as to reduce the requirement of manned bureaucracy.
  • Lateral entry needs to expand to up to 15 per cent of Joint/Additional and Secretary-level positions in GOI.
  1. Incentivising officers’ willingness to take decisions
  • Excessive scrutiny by Judiciary, enforcement agencies & media has made bureaucracy obsessed with accountability to processes and not to results. This mind set has eventually turned them into inactive bureaucracy.
    • For example, the progress of last-mile connectivity and electronics for BharatNet, the recapitalisation and reform of failing banks, the distribution and transmission sectors and the privatisation of space are moving, although slowly. 
  • In order to increase the officers’ willingness to take decisions, there is a need to legally prevent enforcement agencies from taking punitive action, like arrest for purely economic decisions without any direct evidence of kickbacks. 
  • Instead, a committee of experts with commercial experience constituted by the government should suggest whether it’s corruption or just a decision gone wrong.
  1. Improve Human Resource Management
  • Changes in recruitment procedures, like the interview group spending considerable time with the candidates and not deciding based on a half-hour interview, along with psychometric tests, will improve the incoming pool of civil servants. 
  • Most importantly, after 15 years of service, all officers must undergo a thorough evaluation to enable them to move further.
  • One has to realign incentives institutionally, to promote those who are honest and send home those who steal/are non-performers 

Conclusion

India cannot hope to get to a $5-trillion economy without a modern, progressive, results-oriented bureaucracy.

Connecting the dots:

News Source: Indian Express


(Sansad TV – Perspective)


Oct 14: Plastic Waste Management – https://youtu.be/vjiZVGaAmHQ 

ENVIRONMENT

  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Plastic Waste Management

In 5 minutes, around the time it takes to read this piece, around 5 million plastic bottles will be bought around the world, many of those in India.

If not recycled, plastic can take a thousand years to decompose.

  • According to a report on Plastic Waste Management released by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the global average of plastic per capita consumption is 28 kg and India has a per capita plastic consumption of 11 kg
  • The CPCB Report of 2019-20 states that 3.4 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India annually. 

Managing plastic waste is increasingly becoming a global environmental and economic challenge.

  • Plastic waste is a risk to public health as it enters our food chain, creates congestion problems in drains, causing flooding, ends up in river beds and oceans, depleting ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and makes solid waste management more expensive as landfills and open incineration do not provide an acceptable solution for disposal.
  • The production process for plastic produces greenhouse gas, thus contributing to climate change.
  • At landfills, it disintegrates into small fragments and leaches carcinogenic metals into groundwater. Plastic is highly inflammable — a reason why landfills are frequently ablaze, releasing toxic gases into the environment. It floats on the sea surface and ends up clogging airways of marine animals.

Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.

  • These rules prohibit identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
  • The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
  • In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from 50 microns to 75 microns and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
    • Currently the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country.
  • The plastic packaging waste shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the Producer, importer and Brand owner.
  • For effective implementation of EPR, the Guidelines for the same being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act.
  • States/UTs have been requested to constitute a Special Task Force for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of the rules. A National Level Taskforce has also been constituted for coordination efforts.

The Way Forward

As individuals: We can reduce our plastic pollution and be more environmentally conscious by avoiding single-use plastics (e.g. straws, cups, cutlery, etc.) and packaging materials (e.g. polybags). Instead we can use jute bags, glass bottles or jars, steel or ceramic cutleries and utensils, and paper-made tetra packs.

The private sector needs to invest more in producing alternatives and biodegradable plastics and in phasing out the production of plastic. More research and technology investment and development is required to make alternatives to plastic that are economically viable and affordable.

The government should play a leading role by

  • Enacting strong policies and regulations that will encourage a more sustainable model for the design and production of plastics – Local bodies mandated under rules to ensure segregation, collection and transfer of waste to registered recyclers have spectacularly failed to fulfil their responsibilities. The State Level Monitoring Committees provided for under the rules have not been made accountable. The waste management framework is dysfunctional
  • Technical and financial incentives from the government are instrumental for the transformation of the existing production system to a more sustainable one.
  • Urban local bodies: Urban local bodies across states should adopt the material recovery facility (MRF) model & implement it as a public-private partnership model for sustainable management of urban plastic waste. Urban local bodies are mandated under the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, to manage municipal solid waste and plastic waste at the city level. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Essay: There is no Plan B because we do not have a Planet B.
  2. What are the sustainable strategies to address the problem of plastic including e-waste? 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 Hunar Haat is organised under Which of the following Ministries?

  1. Ministry of education 
  2. Ministry of Skill development 
  3. Ministry of Minority Affairs
  4. Ministry of External Affairs

Q.2 consider the following statements regarding One Health Consortium?

  1. It is launched under the Ministry of Health and Family welfare
  2. It is one of the biggest one health programs launched by the Government of India in post-COVID times.
  3. This programme envisages carrying out surveillance of important bacterial, viral and parasitic infections of zoonotic as well as transboundary pathogens in India.

Which of the above is or are correct 

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

Q.3 India’s campaign of Samman, Samvad and Sahyog is associated with which of the following?

  1. Non performing Assets
  2. Human rights
  3. Settlement of disputed tax 
  4. Special economic zone

ANSWERS FOR 14th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 B
3 B

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