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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th October 2021

  • IASbaba
  • October 18, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Heron-I unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) 

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and Security 

Context The Army Aviation has recently got control of Heron-I unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the eastern sector.

  • This brings all aviation assets under one roof which will augment its ability to keep an eye on Chinese activities across the border.
  • In the future battlefield, manned and unmanned aircraft teaming will reap huge dividends. 
  • The aviation Brigade at Missamari, Assam, operates the Cheetah and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv utility helicopters, Rudra weaponsied ALH and Heron-I UAVs.

What are the possible benefits of this move?

  • Optimised employment of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs)/UVAs 
  • Upgradation of flight safety management and practices
  • Boost to training infrastructure 
  • Better maintenance and serviceability by optimising the supply chain 
  • Smoothening of the command and control process during operations.

WHO group to consider emergency use listing of Covaxin

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – Health and GS-III – Sci and tech 

Context The World Health Organization’s technical advisory group will consider the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of Covaxin.

What is Emergency Use Listing (EUL)?

  • The WHO Emergency Use Listing Procedure (EUL) is a risk-based procedure for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics and in vitro diagnostics.
  • Aim: Expediting the availability of these products to people affected by a public health emergency. 
  • This also assists interested UN procurement agencies and Member States in determining the acceptability of specific products
  • The following criteria must be met:
    • The disease for which the product is intended is serious or immediately life threatening.
    • Existing products have not been successful in eradicating the disease or preventing outbreaks
    • The product is manufactured in compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
    • The applicant undertakes to complete the development of the product and apply for WHO prequalification once the product is licensed.

What is Covaxin?

  • Covaxin is India’s first indigenous, whole-virion, inactivated vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).
  • It has been formulated with ‘Algel-IMDG’, which contains chemically absorbed TLR7/8 as an adjuvant onto aluminium hydroxide gel to generate the requisite type of immune responses without damaging the body. 

China tests nuclear capable hypersonic missile

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations and GS-III – Defence and Security 

Context China’s military has carried out its first-ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”.

  • It circled the globe through low-orbit space before speeding towards its target,  demonstrating an advanced space capability 
  • Only the U.S, Russia and China were developing hypersonic glide vehicles that are launched on rockets and then orbit the earth at their own speed. 
    • They are difficult to track because unlike ballistic missiles, they “do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory”.
  • Challenge for USA: The weapon could, in theory, fly over the South Pole which would pose a big challenge for the U.S. military because its missiles defence systems are focused on the northern polar route

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? 


A novel target to treat prostate cancer identified 

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health and GS-III – Sci and tech 

Context Researchers at the IIT, Kanpur, have discovered that a particular gene (DLX1) has an important role to play in the growth and development of prostate cancer.

  • DLX1 plays an important role in the development of jaws, skeleton, and interneurons in the brain.
  • It is also expressed at higher levels in the prostate cancer cells

Key findings  

  • The team of researchers at the institute has now found that the DLX1 protein has a huge role in the growth and development of the tumour and the spread of the cancer to other organs in the body (metastasis).
  • Using small molecules as inhibitors, the researchers have shown in mice a new therapeutic strategy to treat people with DLX1-positive prostate cancer.

What is Prostate cancer?

  • Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate. 
  • The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that surrounds the urethra just below the bladder. 
  • Most prostate cancers are slow growing.
  • Factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer include older age, family history and race.
  • The DLX1 protein is found at elevated levels in prostate cancer patients, the reason why the DLX1 protein has been used as a urine-based biomarker. 

First movie shoot in space

Part of: Prelims 

Context Russian film crew returned to Earth after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting scenes for the first movie in orbit.

  • The filmmakers had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month, travelling to the ISS to film scenes for ‘The Challenge’ .
  • The Russian movie’s plot centres around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

(News from PIB)


e-Shram Portal

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II- Governance

In News: More than 4 crore unorganized workers have been registered at e-Shram Portal, India’s first national database on unorganized workers.

  • Highest number of registrations: Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh
  • Largest number of workers register from agriculture and construction sector
  • Registration at E-shram will facilitate unorganized workers to get the benefits of various social security and employment-based schemes 
  • 4.09 crore workers have registered on the portal. Of these around 50.02% beneficiaries are female and 49.98% are male.

e-Shram portal 

  • It is a portal through which the government aims to register 38 crore unorganised workers, such as construction labourers, migrant workforce, street vendors and domestic workers, among others. 
  • The workers will be issued an e-Shram card containing a 12-digit unique number, which, going ahead, will help in including them in social security schemes.

Significance of e-Shram portal – National Database on Unorganized Workers (NDUW)

  • Targeted identification of the unorganized workers was a much-needed step and the portal which will be the national database of our nation builders will help take welfare schemes to their doorstep, who are the builders of our Nation.
  • Targeted delivery and last mile delivery, has been a major focus of the schemes of government of India and the National Database of Unorganised workers (E-Shram portal) is another key step towards that.

News Source: PIB


Miscellaneous

  • World Food Day: 16th October
  • Prime Minister of Norway: H. E. Jonas Gahr Store
  • Mitra Shakti: Joint military exercise between the Indian Army and the Sri Lankan Army

(Mains Focus)


ENVIRONMENT/ INTERNATIONAL

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

Building Water Security

Context: PM Narendra Modi spoke of the need to focus on long-term water security at the recent launch of the Jal Jeevan Mission app.

Water Crisis in India

  • As per the Groundwater Resource Estimation Committee’s report (from 2015), 1,071 out of 6,607 blocks in the country are over-exploited; this is likely to have worsened over the years.
  • More than a third of the country’s population lives in water-stressed areas, and this number is expected to shoot up. 
  • Per capita water availability in the country had fallen to just under a third of 1950 levels by 2011, both because of rising population and increasing unsustainable use.
  • 82% of rural households in India do not have individual piped water supply and 163 million live without access to clean water close to their homes.

Reasons for Water Crisis in India

  • Agriculture: 
    • Agriculture accounts for 78% of all freshwater used annually in the country, with 64% of this chunk being from groundwater 
    • The rapid rise in tubewell-irrigation and the acreage under water-guzzling crops like sugarcane and paddy has left India under acute groundwater distress.
    • Over half of India’s cultivated land is under water-intensive crops. Fifty-four percent of India’s 141.4 million hectares of cultivable land is under water-intensive crops—rice, wheat, sugarcane, and cotton.
    • Poor Water efficiency: India uses at least twice the amount of water to grow one unit of food versus comparable countries
  • Growing Population:
    • By 2030, India’s water demand will exceed supply by two times, indicating severe water scarcity in the country. 
    • In fact, 820 million Indians living in 12 river basins have a per capita water availability close to or lower than 1,000 cubic metres—the official threshold for water scarcity. 
    • The average all-India per capita water availability is expected to be 1,341 cubic metres by 2025, and touch a low of 1,140 cubic metres by 2050, close to the official water scarcity threshold.
  • Slow Implementation of Schemes:
    • The Atal Bahujal Yojana (ABY) dashboard shows that the expenditure against the targets set under various heads, as also the release of funds, has been alarmingly low for the past as well as the present year.
  • Other factors include wastage of water due to lack of awareness, lack of water conservation methods in Industries, poor water recycling & inadequate usage of rainwater.

Way Forward

  • National Water Policy 2020 gives the “highest priority to groundwater governance and management” through a “Participatory Groundwater Management (PGWM)” approach. All stakeholders have to implement this policy in right spirit.
  • Government needs to stop encouraging (via MSP-led procurement, SAP/FRPs) cultivation of water-intensive crops; crop diversification is a crucial step towards this.
    • 2018 PM-AASHA (Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan) proposes up to 40% procurement of crops that are not as water-intensive (millets, nutricereals) 
  • Pricing of water, timely data on usage/availability/depletion, etc, also need policy attention.

Connecting the dots:

Can you answer this question?

Enlightened water policy needs infrastructure. But more than that, it requires institutions with local and village ownership. Analyse.


GOVERNANCE/ HUNGER

  • GS-2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger. 
  • GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Hunger: Analysis of GHI

Context: In the recently released Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranking, India ranked at 101st out of a total 116 countries (India’s 2020 rank was 94).

  • This year’s slide in the rank assumes significance especially in the context of COVID-19. 
  •  India is also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92 rank, Nepal at 76 and Bangladesh also at 76.

The government has questioned the methodology and claimed that the ranking does not represent the ground reality. 

This calls for careful scrutiny of the methodology, especially of the GHI’s components.

What are the components of GHI?

The GHI has four components. 

Components Applicability Weightage Data Sourced from
1. Undernourishment (Insufficient Calorie Intake) All age groups 33.3% Food and Agriculture Organization’s Suite of Food Security Indicators (2021)
2.  Wasting (low weight for height) Children under five years 16.6% WHO, UNICEF and World Bank, complemented with the latest data from the Demographic and Health Surveys.
3.  Stunting (low height for age) Children under five years 16.6% WHO, UNICEF and World Bank, complemented with the latest data from the Demographic and Health Surveys.
4.  Mortality Children under five years 33.3% UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. 
  • India’s wasting prevalence (17.3%) is one among the highest in the world. 
  • Child stunting in India declined from 54.2% in 1998–2002 to 34.7% in 2016-2020, 
  • Child wasting remains around 17% throughout the two decades of the 21st century.
  • Had the GHI been estimated using the latest data on calorie intake, usually provided by the National Sample Survey Office, things might have looked even worse given that the leaked report of 2019 indicated that consumption expenditure in India declined between 2011-12 and 2017-18 by 4% (rural India by 10%)

Issues with GHI

  • Conceptually, the GHI is largely children-oriented with a higher emphasis on undernutrition than on hunger and its hidden forms, including micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The first component — calorie insufficiency — is problematic for many reasons. 
  • The lower calorie intake, which does not necessarily mean deficiency, may also stem from reduced physical activity, better social infrastructure (road, transport and healthcare) and access to energy-saving appliances at home, among others.
  • For a vast and diverse country like India, using a uniform calorie norm to arrive at deficiency prevalence means failing to recognise regional factors.
  • For instance: Larger proportion of population in developed states like Kerala & Tamil Nadu may require less calorie due to high levels of mechanisation of economy. Hence, they can be wrongly counted as undernourished.

Relation between Stunting & Wasting

  • Stunting is a chronic, long-term measure of undernutrition, while wasting is an acute, short-term measure. 
  • Child wasting can result due to immediate lack of nutritional intake and sudden exposure to an infectious atmosphere. 
  • Quite possibly, several episodes of wasting without much time to recover can translate into stunting. 
  • A higher order of priority should be accorded to stunting as it is a stable indicator and does not oscillate with minor changes in circumstances, while wasting does.
  • If India can tackle wasting by effectively monitoring regions that are more vulnerable to socioeconomic and environmental crises, it can possibly improve wasting and stunting simultaneously.
  • There seems to be no short-cut way of improving stunting without addressing wasting. 

India’s better tackling of Child Mortality

  • Studies suggest that child undernutrition and mortality are usually closely related, as child undernutrition plays an important facilitating role in child mortality. 
  • India’s relatively better performance in child mortality merits a mention. 
  • India’s child mortality rate has been lower despite it having higher levels of stunting
  • This implies that though India was not able to ensure better nutritional security for all children under five years, it was able to save many lives due to the availability of and access to better health facilities. 

Conclusion

This ranking should prompt us to look at our policy focus and interventions and ensure that they can effectively address the concerns raised by the GHI, especially against pandemic-induced nutrition insecurity.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV – Perspective)


Oct 13: GatiShakti: Push for Multi-Modal Connectivity- https://youtu.be/wMqQ1k5zW-E 

TOPIC:

  • GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • GS 3: Infrastructure & Economy

GatiShakti: Push for Multi-Modal Connectivity

In news: ‘PM Gati Shakti Master Plan’ – a national master plan for multi-model connectivity and extension of holistic governance which will give impetus to 21st century India, has been launched.

  • A target of making India energy independent by 2047 has been set – by replace petroleum with other forms of energy 
  • National Hydrogen Mission has been announced noting the country spends Rs 12 trillion on energy imports every year.

What is Gati Shakti Master Plan?

  • It is a Rs. 100 lakh-crore project for developing ‘holistic infrastructure’.
  • It will be a digital platform that connects 16 ministries — including Roads and Highways, Railways, Shipping, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, and Aviation — with a view to ensuring holistic planning and execution of infrastructure projects. It is aimed at easier interconnectivity between road, rail, air and waterways to reduce travel time and improve industrial productivity.
  • The push for infrastructure is in line with the government’s efforts to step up capital expenditure in infrastructure to promote economic growth.

What are the focus areas of the project?

  • Source of employment opportunities for the youth in future.
  • Will create a multiplier effect with every rupee invested, yielding much higher returns.
  • Raise the global profile of local manufacturers and help them compete with their counterparts worldwide. 
  • Increased possibilities of new future economic zones.
  • Increase both manufacturing and exports

Significance

  • Logistics Grid: With Gati Shakti, India will be able to build an integrated, harmonised transportation and logistics gridSuch a grid will help bring down logistics & supply cost of India.
  • Enhances Supply Chain Efficiency: It helps build new supply-side capacities & enhances supply chain efficiency that can set the wheels of growth in motion and move towards the ambitious mission of a $5-trillion economy
  • Coordinated Governance: To have all utility and infrastructure planning under an umbrella framework will ensures coordinated planning, cut down ministerial delays, and leads to faster decision making.
  • Attracts FDI: Having an umbrella framework under Gati Shakti provides clarity & stability to investors thereby attracting Foreign Direct investment into infrastructure sector.
  • Scope for New Economic Corridors: Increased investment by domestic & foreign investors for new infrastructure creations open the doors for new future economic zones
  • Improves Connectivity: It will ensure last-mile connectivity to economic zones in a definite timeframe. 
  • Increased Competitiveness of exports: Supply chain inefficiencies add to product costs, and thus, run the risk of making our exports uncompetitive vis-à-vis other international export players. Dedicated infrastructure development under Gati Shakti, therefore, improves India’s infrastructure capacity and global export competitiveness with regard to manufacturing in India. 
  • Data for Policy Making: The geographic information system (GIS)-enabled digital platform under Gati Shakti will provide useful data — including a region’s topography, satellite images, physical features, maps of existing facilities and so on — for ministries, thus, helping them save on funds and time for approvals.
  • Enhances India’s share in cargo business: India’s share in the international cargo business was worth ₹1,686 crore in 2019-20, which rose to ₹2,644 crore in 2020-21 (a 57% increase). Having a harmonised & integrated logistics hub will help increase this share.

Some concerns

  • The effectiveness of a platform in ensuring better coordination among ministries is debatable. Breaking down bureaucratic silos may prove to be harder than expected. 
  • Critical to the success of some of these infrastructure projects will be the participation of state governments. The Centre will need to devise political interventions and ways to coax and incentivise state government participation and cooperation.

Conclusion

By bringing together 16 ministries to help remove the hurdles in project implementation, the Gati Shakti digital platform could provide an effective mechanism for closely monitoring the public sector infrastructure projects. This technology-led integrated approach could help align all stakeholders, ease the problems with attaining clearances, and bring about greater coordinated action across government departments.

Can you answer the following question?

Will Gati Shakti prove to be the dawn of a new age in infrastructure development?


(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 Emergency Use Listing (EUL), recently seen in news, is associated with which of the following?

  1. Buffer stock of India 
  2. Foreign exchange reserves 
  3. Coal crisis
  4. Vaccines

Q.2 consider the following statements regarding Arecanut:

  1. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that surrounds the bladder just below the urethra. 
  2. Most prostate cancers are fast growing.
  3. It usually affects young males.

Which of the above is or are correct 

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. None of the above 

Q.3 Which of the following is not true with regard to Hypersonic missile? 

  1. Hypersonics can travel at velocities of at least three times the speed of sound.
  2. They can manoeuvre in mid-flight.
  3. They are known to reduce the opportunity to respond.
  4. Depending on the design, they can be capable of carrying nuclear warheads or conventional only.

ANSWERS FOR 16th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 D
3 D

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