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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th October 2021

  • IASbaba
  • October 16, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


2021 Global TB report: WHO

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context According to the 2021 Global TB report released recently by the World Health Organization (WHO), for the first time in over a decade, Tuberculosis (TB) deaths have increased globally.

  • WHO modelling projections suggest that the number of people developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022.

Key findings of the report

  • Reduced notifications: India (41%) was among the top countries which contributed most to the global reduction in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020 which is not a good sign.
    • India, along with Indonesia (14%), the Philippines (12%), China (8%) and 12 other countries, accounted for 93% of the total global drop in notifications.
  • Increase in cases: The WHO estimated that some 4.1 million people currently suffer from TB but had not been diagnosed with it or had not officially reported to the national authorities. This figure is up from 2.9 million in 2019.
  • Reduced provision: There was also a reduction in the provision of TB preventive treatment. Some 2.8 million people accessed this in 2020, a 21% reduction since 2019.
  • Drug-resistant TB: The number of people treated for drug-resistant TB fell by 15%.
  • Increased deaths: In 2020, more people died of TB.
  • Reasons for increase in deaths: 
    • Reallocation of Human, financial and other resources from tackling TB to COVID-19, limiting the availability of essential services. 
    • People struggled to seek care during lockdowns.

What is Tuberculosis (TB)?

  • TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
  • Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • Symptoms: Cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
  • TB is a treatable and curable disease. 
  • Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful, first-line anti-TB drugs. It is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs.
  • Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR-TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs, often leaving patients without any further treatment options.

Initiatives by India

  • Eliminating TB by 2025: India is committed to eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global target of 2030.
  • National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme: To align with the ambitious goal, the programme has been renamed from the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) to National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP).

Arecanut

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – Health

Context A book titled Arecanut has said that arecoline hydrobromide, a major active principle of arecanut, is found to arrest the growth of cancer cells. 

  • The book has quoted this from a recent study at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, the U.S.

Key takeaways 

  • In a recent study at the Winship Cancer Institute, arecoline hydrobromide is found to arrest the growth of cancer cells.
  • It was reported that arecoline hydrobromide inhibited the activity of the enzyme ACAT1 (acetyl-C0A acetyltransferase) which leads to reduction of cancer cell proliferation and tumour growth in mice.
  • The antioxidant activity of arecanut might play an active role in repairing DNA damage in cancer cells.
  • According to the book, Arecanut in its pure form is not dangerous but has got a plethora of medicinal properties, including curing ulcers, wounds and even cancer.

What is Arecanut?

  • The arecanut palm is the source of common chewing nut, popularly known as betel nut or Supari. 
  • In India it is extensively used by large sections of people and is very much linked with religious practices. 
  • India is the largest producer of arecanut and largest consumer also.
  • Major states cultivating this crop are Karnataka (40%), Kerala (25%), Assam (20%), Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and West Bengal.

Do you know? 

  • Arecanut has been allegedly associated with ill-effects of human health. It is regarded as carcinogenic (one which causes cancer).

New Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) launched

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Defence and security

Context Indian Prime Minister recently launched seven new Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), incorporated after the dissolution of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

  • Under the initiative of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the goal is to make India a military power globally on its own strength and also develop a modern indigenous defence industry.

Key takeaways 

  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has converted all pending orders with the 41 factories of the OFB into deemed contracts worth over Rs. 65,000 crore for the new companies. 
  • The over 70,000 employees of the OFB (Group A, B & C) units have been transferred to the new DPSUs on terms of foreign service without any deputation allowance initially for a period of two years.
  • The new structure will help overcome various shortcomings in the existing system of OFB and encourage companies to become competitive and explore new opportunities in the market including exports.
  • The seven new companies are Munitions India Limited, Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited, Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited, Troop Comforts Limited, Yantra India Limited, India Optel Limited, and Gliders India Limited.

Commission for Air Quality Management report

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Pollution; Stubble burning

Context According to a report by the Commission for Air Quality Management, there is a 70% reduction so far in instances of stubble burning in Punjab and 18% in Haryana from last year.

  • This, however, is a preliminary analysis as harvesting is still under way and the day-to-day variation in the number of fires is extremely high.

Key takeaways 

  • There are several initiatives taken to decrease stubble burning such as the increased use of happy seeder [harvesting equipment] and the use of bio-decomposers but this will take time for results to show. 
  • Over the years it has been observed that fire counts increase when there is too little time between the paddy being ready for harvesting and the right time to sow wheat. 
  • This year, excessive moisture in northern India due to an overhanging monsoon and a delay in the markets opening for trading, may further squeeze the time available for farmers to harvest and sow, further forcing them to set their fields alight (fire).

What is Stubble Burning?

  • Stubble burning is the act of setting fire to crop residue to remove them from the field to sow the next crop
  • It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing
  • It begins around October and peaks in November, coinciding with the withdrawal of southwest monsoon.
  • On December 10, 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned crop residue burning in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab

E-voting

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Polity

Context Former Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) have raised a range of concerns around the idea of online voting and remote voting, at a time the Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) is set to carry out an e-voting experiment and the Election Commission of India (EC), too, is exploring remote voting.

  • The Telangana SEC would be carrying out a smartphone app-based online voting experiment on October 20, the State Government had announced last week. 
  • The EC, on the other hand, had said last year that it was looking at the option of remote voting for those electors unable to reach the polling stations they are registered at.

What are the concerns?

  • Secrecy of ballots will be difficult to maintain.
  • If Electronic Voting Machine which is based on simplest technology is still a matter of legal disputes, it is quite possible that an app-based voting will not be foolproof.
  • It was not clear how verification of voter identification, maintaining a free voting environment and secrecy of ballots would be maintained.
  • It will face political hurdles.
  • Campaigning for outstation voters would also crop up.

Bhutan, China sign MoU to expedite boundary talks

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations 

Context In a step towards resolving their boundary disputes, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a three-step roadmap to help speed up talks, at a meeting of Foreign Ministers held via videoconference.

Key takeaways

  • The roadmap had been finalised during the 10th expert group meeting in Kunming in April 2021, and presented for approval to their Governments in Thimphu and Beijing respectively.
  • The roadmap “for Expediting the Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations”, is expected to kickstart the progress on the boundary talks process that has been delayed for five years, first due to the Doklam standoff in 2017 and then by the pandemic. 
  • The timing of the agreement is particularly significant for India, given the border talks on their 17-month old standoff at the Line of Actual Control appear to have hit an impasse (no progress) this week.
  • The [Bhutan-China] Memorandum of Understanding on the three-step roadmap will provide a fresh impetus to the boundary talks. 
  • It is expected that the implementation of this roadmap in a spirit of goodwill, understanding and accommodation will bring the boundary negotiations to a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides.

Miscellaneous

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

  • Mudumalai National Park is a national park in the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is located in the Nilgiri District and shares boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala. 
  • It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and was declared a tiger reserve in 2007. 
  • It harbours several endangered and vulnerable species including Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Indian elephant and gaur.

(News from PIB)


India-U.S.A. Economic & Financial Partnership Dialogue

Part of: Mains GS-II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

In News: The eighth ministerial meeting of the India-U.S.A. Economic and Financial Partnership Dialogue was held.

  • Discussions were held on a range of subjects, including the macroeconomic outlook and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, financial regulatory and technical collaboration, multilateral engagement, climate finance and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). 
  • Both sides affirmed their commitments to continue collaboration both at bilateral and multilateral fora to address mutual and global economic issues and strive towards amicable strategies and solutions.

News Source: PIB


Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-I: Personalities in Indian national movements

  • Born on 15 October 1931 at Rameswaram on Pamban Island, then in the Madras Presidency. He graduated from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1960.
  • Dr. Kalam was the project head of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3). This was India’s first experimental Satellite Launch Vehicle which put the satellite Rohini into orbit. 
  • As a director of DRDO, he steared the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), and five projects viz. Prithvi, Trishul, Akash,Nag and Agni were developed under him. 
  • APJ Abdul Kalam is known as the “Missile Man of India” for his contributions on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.

‘KAPILA’ (Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness) campaign

  • Under this campaign, students pursuing education in higher educational institutions will get information about the correct system of application process for patenting their invention and they will be aware of their rights.
  • October 15th to 23rd: Intellectual Property Literacy Week

K family of missiles

  • Codenamed after late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
  • The K family of missiles are primarily Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs).
  • These missiles are fired from submarines from India’s Arihant class nuclear powered platforms.
  • Indigenously developed by: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The development of these naval platform launched missiles began in the late 1990s as a step towards completing India’s nuclear triad — the capability of launching nuclear weapons from land, sea and air based assets.
  • These missiles are lighter, smaller and stealthier than their land-based counterparts.
  • The Agni series of missiles are land-based which are medium and intercontinental range nuclear capable ballistic missiles.

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” – Dr APJ Abdul Kalam


(Mains Focus)


ENVIRONMENT/ INTERNATIONAL

  • GS-2: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

COP26 Climate Conference

Context: The UK will host the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from October 31 to November 12. 

  • The event will see leaders from more than 190 countries, thousands of negotiators, researchers and citizens coming together to strengthen a global response to the threat of climate change.
  • The conference comes months after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its assessment report on Earth’s climate, highlighting heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall and sea-level rise in the coming decades.

What is COP26?

  • The Conference of Parties (COP) comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994. 
  • 2021 marks the 26th Conference of Parties (thus the name COP26) and will be held in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.
  • The UNFCCC was established to work towards “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”
  • It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included:
    • Formulating measures to mitigate climate change
    • Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change
    • Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change
  • India hosted the eighth COP from October 23 to November 1, 2002 in New Delhi. The conference laid out seven measures including, ‘strengthening of technology transfer… in all relevant sectors, including energy, transport…and the promotion of technological advances through research and development…and the strengthening of institutions for sustainable development.’
  • One of the most important conferences, COP21 took place in 2015, at Paris, France. Member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.’

What are COP26 goals?

According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will work towards four goals:

  1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  3. Mobilise finance: To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year.
  4. Work together to deliver: Another important task at the COP26 is to ‘finalise the Paris Rulebook’. Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

what India could do to reach its targets?

  • It is time for India to update its Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. (NDCs detail the various efforts taken by each country to reduce the national emissions)
  • Sector by sector plans are needed to bring about development. We need to decarbonise the electricity, transport sector and start looking at carbon per passenger mile.
  • Aggressively figure out how to transition our coal sector
  • India also needs to ramp up the legal and institutional framework of climate change

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV – Perspective)


Oct 9: TATA Air India! (Disinvestment of Air India) – https://youtu.be/wIxc8o6W478

TOPIC:

  • GS 3: Indian Economy

Disinvestment of Air India

In News: The government announced its decision to sell all its stake in Air India (AI) as well as AI’s stake in two other businesses — Air India Express Ltd (AIXL) and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd (AISATS). The Tatas will own 100% stake in AI, as also 100% in its international low-cost arm Air India Express and 50% in the ground handling joint venture, AI SATS.

Why was Air India sold?

The sale of Air India to a private player has been in the offing for a long time. AI was started by the Tata Group in 1932, but in 1947, as India gained Independence, the government bought 49% stake in AI. In 1953, the government bought the remaining stake, and AI was nationalised.

For the next few decades, the national carrier dominated Indian skies. 

  • However, with economic liberalisation and the growing presence of private players, this dominance came under serious threat. 
  • The government running an airline did not quite gel with the mantra of liberalisation.
  • By 2007, AI (which flew international flights) was merged with the domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, to reduce losses. the has never made a profit since 2007.
  • In fact, since 2009-10, the government (and indirectly the taxpayer) has spent over Rs 1.1 lakh crore to either directly make up the losses or raise loans to do so. 
  • As of August 2021, AI’s debt was Rs 61,562 crore. Moreover, every additional day that AI remains operational, the government suffers a loss of Rs 20 crore — or Rs 7,300 crore per year.
  • The first attempt to reduce the government’s stake — disinvestment — was made in 2001 under the then NDA government. But that attempt — to sell 40% stake — failed.

How did the Government sell it this time?

  • As long as the government kept a certain shareholding of AI, private players did not seem interested. That’s because the mere idea of government ownership, even if it was as little as 24%, made private firms wonder if they would have the operational freedom needed to turn around such a heavy loss-making airline. Unlike all the past attempts, this time the government put 100% of its stake on sale.
  • This time, the government let the bidders decide the amount of debt they wanted to pick up (earlier the Government expected the bidders to pick up a certain amount of the debt along with the airline)

Both of the above changed stances worked. 

Significance: Disinvestment of Air India

Positive: 

  • Underscores PM Modi’s commitment to reducing the government’s role in the economy; he can claim to have saved taxpayers from paying for daily losses of AI. 
  • A message from the Government to the markets and global investors that it has the political will to bite the reform bullet.
  • Given the historical difficulties in AI’s disinvestment, or any disinvestment at all (see table), this is a significant achievement.

Negative:

However, purely in terms of money, the deal does not result in as big a step towards achieving the government’s disinvestment target of the current year. 

  • Of the total AI debt of Rs 61,562 crore, the Tatas will take care of Rs 15,300 crore and will pay an additional Rs 2,700 crore in cash to the government. That leaves Rs 43,562 crore of debt.
  • The assets left with the government, such as buildings, etc., will likely generate Rs 14,718 crore. But that will still leave the government with a debt of Rs 28,844 crore to pay back.
  • So, it can be argued that if the government had run AI well, it could have made profits and paid off the debts — instead of selling the airline (that can make profits) and still be left with a lot of debt.

Challenges before TATA Group

From the Tatas’ perspective, apart from the emotional aspect of regaining control of an airline that they started, AI’s acquisition is a long-term bet. The Tatas are expected to invest far more than what they have paid the government if this bet is to work for them.

  • At the brand level: What will Air India stand for? Its greatest challenge will be to bring together the three airlines now under its control — – Air India, Air Asia and Vistara. There will be a need to oversee core synergies that include buying parts for aircraft common to its full-service carriers Vistara and Air India, engineering services, repairs and maintenance, and consolidation of busy slots during festive season. Plus, the matter of staff, pilots and ground officials, and ensuring there is enough communication going on between trade unions and the group.
  • Up and running again? The responsibility of managing and turning it around will be the sole responsibility of the conglomerate. If that is something that the group has taken into account, it may have an edge when it comes to dominating the sector. If not, finding answers may become a burden. The benefit of moving from a fragmented industry dominated by one player to a race where there is a second strong airline group could well inculcate discipline in pricing and contribute to a market that also grows and sustains.
  • COVID-19: The Tatas will be flying into an aviation market reeling from the coronavirus pandemic that has left India’s airlines bleeding cash. This will make restoring Air India’s fortunes even tougher.
  • The Logistics: One of the immediate challenges facing the new owners will be to find office space. The deal does not include the airline’s other assets and the buildings like the Air India building at Nariman Point and Airlines House in Delhi. As a result, one of the Tata Group’s first jobs will be to locate office accommodation for Air India’s roughly 12,000 employees. The Tata Group will also have to launch a global manhunt for top personnel who will need to pick up the reins very quickly. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Recent budgetary announcement regarding disinvestments and privatisation? Discuss.
  2. The disinvestment process is a proof of government realising its true role in democracy. What is this role and how does it affect the democratic functioning? Critically analyse.

(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 It is located in the Nilgiri District and shares boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and was declared a tiger reserve in 2007. Which of the following tiger reserve is being described above?

  1. Periyar Tiger Reserve
  2. Nagarhole Tiger Reserve
  3. Bhadra Tiger Reserve
  4. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

Q.2 consider the following statements regarding Arecanut:

  1. India is the largest producer of arecanut and largest consumer also.
  2. Major states cultivating this crop are Karnataka (40%), Kerala (25%), Assam (20%), Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
  3. In a recent study, arecoline hydrobromide is found to arrest the growth of cancer cells

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 Which of the following is a constitutional body?

  1. Election Commission
  2. Finance Commission
  3. National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 15th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 C
3 B

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