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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 20th October 2021

  • IASbaba
  • October 20, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


INSACOG to track SARS-CoV-2 in sewage

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health

Context The decline in daily new infections across India has prompted INSACOG, the consortium of labs focused on sequencing coronavirus variants, to “prioritise” new surveillance approaches.

Key takeaways 

  • INSACOG will prioritise developing and expanding a SARS-CoV-2 sewage surveillance program.
  • The CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, which is also part of the INSACOG network, has since early 2020 been collecting sewage from large drains in cities to check for the presence of the virus.

Reason for sewage surveillance 

  • Because a large fraction of those afflicted by the virus are asymptomatic but are carriers of infection, their body fluids and stool often contain traces of the virus. 
  • Finding large proportions of it in public drains can often be a precursor to a fresh outbreak, with a rise in symptomatic infections.

What is Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)?

  • Coordinated by: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with MoH&FW, ICMR, and CSIR
  • The consortium will ascertain the status of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country. 
  • INSACOG will have a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee. 
  • It will have a Scientific Advisory Group for scientific and technical guidance.
  • Aim: To monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
  • This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future. 
  • The consortium will also establish a sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends (super-spreader events, high mortality/morbidity trend areas etc.).

Do you know?

  • Delta (B.1.617.2 and AY.x) continues to be the main VOC (Variant of Concern) in India. No new VOI (Variant of Interest) or VOC are noted in India.

Pig kidney transplant in human patient

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Sci and tech

Context For the first time, a pig kidney has been transplanted into a human without triggering immediate rejection by the recipient’s immune system.

  • This is a potentially major advance that could eventually help alleviate a dire shortage of human organs for transplant.

Key takeaways 

  • The procedure was done at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
  • It involved use of a pig whose genes had been altered so that its tissues no longer contained a molecule known to trigger almost immediate rejection.
    • The genetically altered pig, dubbed GalSafe, was used as the donor.
  • The recipient was a brain-dead patient with signs of kidney dysfunction whose family consented to the experiment before she was due to be taken off of life support.
  • Finding: The team theorized that removing out the pig gene for a carbohydrate that triggers rejection – a sugar molecule, or glycan, called alpha-gal – would prevent the problem.
  • Future possibility: The NYU kidney transplant experiment should pave the way for trials in patients with end-stage kidney failure, possibly in the next year or two,

Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations 

Context  Recently, the Union Minister for Environment Forest and Climate Change virtually participated in the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) Ministerial meeting titled ‘Preparations for COP 26 on Climate Change – Expectations and Challenges’.

  • This meeting has been hosted by Bolivia ahead of the 26th climate change conference to be held in Glasgow.
  • A ministerial statement was endorsed by the LMDC Ministers during the meeting, expressing their full support for the COP26 Presidency.

What is Like-Minded Developing Countries(LMDC) group?

  • LMDC comprises around 25 developing countries from Asia and other regions.
  • It organises themselves as a block of negotiators in international organizations such as the United Nations.
  • They represent more than 50% of the world’s population.
  • Member countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

What is the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26)?

  • The COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. 
  • It is scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, between 31 October and 12 November 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
  • 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.

Four Goals of COP26

  • Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
  • Mobilise finance.
  • Work together to deliver.

Anticipatory bail

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Separation of powers between various organs

Context The Supreme Court has held that a superior court can set aside an anticipatory bail order if there was enough material to suggest that factors like gravity of the offence and the role of the accused in the crime were not considered by the lower court.

What is The concept of anticipatory bail?

  • The provision of anticipatory bail under Section 438 was introduced when Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was amended in 1973.
  • As opposed to ordinary bail, which is granted to a person who is under arrest, in anticipatory bail, a person is directed to be released on bail even before arrest made.
  • Time limit: The Supreme Court (SC) in Sushila Aggarwal v. State of NCT of Delhi (2020) case ruled that no time limit can be set while granting anticipatory Bail and it can continue even until the end of the trial.
  • It is issued only by the Sessions Court and High Court.

What is the Need for such protection?

  • An accused, besides being an accused, may also be the primary caregiver or sole breadwinner of the family. His arrest may leave his loved ones in a state of starvation and neglect.
  • In the 1980 Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia vs State of Punjab case, a five-judge Supreme Court bench led by then Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud ruled that 438 (1) is to be interpreted in the light of Article 21 of the Constitution (protection of life and personal liberty).

Miscellaneous

Dhole

  • A recent study has identified 114 priority talukas / tehsils where habitats can be consolidated to enhance population connectivity for the dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus).

  • Dhole is an apex social carnivore in the tropical forests of South and South East Asia.
  • India perhaps supports the largest number of dholes, with key populations found in three landscapes — Western Ghats, Central India and Northeast India.
  • IUCN – Endangered 
  • Dholes play an important role as apex predators in forest ecosystems.Besides the tiger, the dhole is the only large carnivore in India that is under IUCN’s ‘endangered’ category.
  • CITES – Appendix II.
  • Schedule II of wildlife act.
  • Factors contributing to this decline: habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic dogs.
  • In 2014, the Indian government sanctioned its first dhole conservation breeding centre at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) in Visakhapatnam.


(News from PIB)


Abhidhamma Day

Part of: Prelims and Mains-I: Ancient History

In News: Abhidhamma Day is being celebrated on 20th October 2021. The day marks the end of three month rainy retreat – Varshavaas or Vassa- for the Buddhist Monks and Nuns during which time they stay at one place in vihara and monastery and pray.

  • Exposition of Holy Buddha Relic being brought from Waskaduwa Sri Subuddhi Rajvihara Temple, Sri Lanka will take place at Kushinagar, UP.
  • These relics are accepted as real relics (Bone fragments, ashes, pieces of Jewels of the Buddha).
  • Paintings of Ajanta Frescos, Buddhist Sutra Calligraphy, Buddhist artefacts excavated from Vadnagar and other sites in Gujarat will also be exhibited.
  • The ancient city of Kushinagar, in the state of Uttar Pradesh is the final resting place of Gautama Buddha, where he attained Mahaparinirvana after his death. It is among the most important pilgrim spots for the Buddhists since the ancient times.
  • The period after three month long Varshavas, observed as retreat by monks and nuns by staying in vihara during rainy season, is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to Sangha. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks and nuns.

News Source: PIB


India’s Bio-Economic Hub

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II- Governance

Context: The Eastern Himalayan Region is one of the mega-biodiversity rich zones and is among the 34 biodiversity Hotspots of the world. There is a need to put these invaluable genetic resources to use for the economic growth of the region in particular and to the nation in general, through biotechnological interventions. 

The Department of Biotechnology has played a pivotal role to build capacity in the North Eastern region for carrying out biotechnology research to address issues specific to the region and implement programmes for the societal upliftment of the local communities as the North Eastern region is a genetic treasure house of plant, animal and microbial resources.  

  • Phyto-pharmaceutical Mission of North Eastern Region aims to promote the documentation, scientific validation and evaluation of traditional healthcare practices – assumes special significance in the context of the vast plant resources and diverse traditional healthcare practices of the North-East. 
  • The transformational approaches in developing products, processes and technologies with local bio-resources will help in development of traditional knowledge-based therapeutic agents leading to the socio-economic development of the region as well as benefits to traditional health care practitioners. 
  • DBT has designed a programme to improve the production and productivity in Khasi Mandarin, an important fruit crop by producing quality planting material through shoot-tip grafting technology (target of producing four lakhs certifiable disease-free quality plants of Khasi Mandarin and Sweet Orange and build capacity of at least 1,000 farmers in the region)
  • DBT has established a Biotech-KISAN Hub at Horticultural Research Station, Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Kahikuchi, for large scale production of quality planting material of Malbhog banana, which is in high demand in the state of Assam. 

India’s Bio-Economy is on its way to achieve 150-billion-dollar target from the current 70 billion-dollar by 2025 and will contribute effectively to the vision of a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2024-25.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
  • GS-3: Economy & Challenges

Rising Fuel Prices

Context: The price of crude oil is nearing its highest level since 2018, as the price of Brent Crude breached the $85 per barrel mark by Oct 15th ($42.5 per barrel a year ago). This is happening as the price of natural gas and coal are also hitting record highs, intensifying the energy shortage.

Why are fuel prices rising?

  • Economic Recovery: Global crude oil prices are rising on the back of a sharp increase in global demand as the world economy recovers from the pandemic. 
  • Supply not increasing commensurately: In its latest round of meetings, the OPEC+ group of oil producing countries reaffirmed that they would increase total crude oil supply by only 400,000 barrels per day in November despite a sharp increase in prices. 
    • OPEC+ had agreed to sharp cuts in supply in 2020 in response to Covid-19 global travel restrictions in 2020 but the organisation has been slow to boost production as demand has recovered.
  • Rise in Prices of other energy resources:
    • Supply side issues in the US including disruptions caused by hurricane Ida and lower than expected natural gas supplies from Russia amid increasing demand in Europe have raised the prices of natural gas.
    • International coal prices have also reached all-time highs as China faces a coal shortage that has led to factories across China facing power outages. 
    • A faster than expected recovery in global demand has pushed the price of Indonesian coal up from about $60 per tonne in March to about $200 per tonne in October.
    • Naturally, when prices of these energy resources increase, it will have impact on prices of crude oil as well.

What is the impact on India?

  • High crude oil prices have contributed to the regular increase in prices of petrol and diesel across the country in 2021. 
    • The price of petrol in Delhi is Rs 105.84 per litre in Oct 15th, while the price of diesel is at Rs 94.6 per litre.
  • High fuel prices will feed into increased cost of goods & services causing inflation in the economy.
  • The demand for diesel in India was expected to go up in the next few months with the upcoming festive season set to accelerate the economic recovery and push up diesel consumption. Diesel accounts for about 38% of petroleum product consumption in India and is a key fuel used in industry and agriculture. 
  • Rising Fuel prices can dampen the festive consumption (travel & increased cost of goods) & hurt economic recovery prospects.
  • The increase in gas prices has put upward pressure on the price of both Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) used as a transport fuel and Piped Natural Gas (PNG) used as a cooking fuel. 
  • High international prices of coal have added to a coal shortage at India’s thermal power plants

Way Forward

India and other oil importing nations have called on OPEC+ to boost oil supply faster, arguing that elevated crude oil prices could undermine the recovery of the global economy.

Connecting the dots:


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. 
  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

The Other Quad

Context: Recently, the Foreign Ministers of India, the U.S., Israel and the UAE virtual met to discuss on exploring areas of cooperation.

Significance of the new quadrilateral meeting (India, Israel, UAE & USA)

  • It is a strong manifestation of the changes in West Asian geopolitics. 
  • If Israel and the UAE did not even have formal diplomatic relations a year ago, their growing economic and strategic cooperation since Abraham Accords is opening up opportunities for other powers, including India.
  • The four-nation meeting also points to India’s strategic desire to adopt a regional foreign policy strategy towards West Asia, moving beyond its bilateralist approach.
  • Over the years, India has built vibrant bilateral ties with all the countries in the grouping. So India adopting regional approach is natural evolution of this vibrancy given that there is moderation of Israel’s policy towards Arab states.
    • Israel is one of India’s top defence suppliers. 
    • The UAE is vital for India’s energy security and hosts millions of Indian workers.
    • India has deepened its relationship with US as was seen by signing foundational defence agreements and being part of another QUAD grouping.
  • While it is too early to speak of the strategic significance of such a grouping, there are areas where it can deepen its engagement — trade, energy ties, fighting climate change and enhancing maritime security.

Challenges Ahead

  • The U.S. is clearly seeking to lessen its footprint here as part of its pivot to East Asia to tackle China’s rise, which is redrawing West Asia’s traditional equations. India should be careful not to get sucked into the many conflicts of West Asia 
  • While the Abraham Accords made it easier for India to find common ground with the Israelis and UAE, the contradiction between this Israel and Iran remains as intense as ever. India should be mindful of this.
  • With US withdrawing from Afghanistan, India will have to work closely with countries such as Iran to deal with the challenges emanating from a reduced American presence in the region.
  • So the challenge before New Delhi is to retain a healthy relationship with Iran even as it seeks to build a stronger regional partnership with the U.S.-Israel-UAE bloc.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV – Perspective)


Oct 15: Role of Women in Armed Forces – https://youtu.be/R0Te6oN7blY 

TOPIC:

  • GS 2: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions (Judicial Overreach Vs Judicial activism)
  • GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Role of Women in Armed Forces

In news:  India has taken a number of steps to strengthen the role of women within the security setup in general and the armed forces in particular. 

Government has taken evolutionary path to ensure equal participation of women in Armed Forces.

  • Indian Army, Air Force and Navy began inducting women as short-service commission (SSC) officers in 1992. This was the first time when women were allowed to join the military outside the medical stream. 
  • One of the turning points for women in the military came in 2015 when Indian Air Force decided to induct them into the fighter stream. 
  • In 2020, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the central government to grant permanent commission (PC) to women officers in the Army’s non-combat support units on par with their male counterparts. 
  • In March 2021, the Indian Navy deployed four women officers on warships after a gap of 23 years. 
  • Two months later in May 2021 Indian Army got its first batch of 83 women soldiers, in the Corps of Military Police. 
  • From 2022 women will also be able to join the premier tri-service training institute, the National Defence Academy.

Challenges in bringing women officers at par with their male colleagues

  • Though women officers are now allowed as pilot of fighter jets and leader of battleships but women officers in Army are not inducted in army’s infantry and armoured divisions, due to fear of getting caught by enemy and torture. In Israel, too, women are mostly deployed in the military police and perimeter security rather than in actual combat.
  • It is claimed that male troops, who are predominantly drawn from rural backgrounds, may be unwilling to “accept” a woman commander.
  • Concerns are raised over physiology, motherhood and physical attributes of women officers.
  • The differences in conditions of service for women officers and their men counterparts is perceived in favour as well as, against them. The women officers have concessions in physical standards during recruitment, in battle physical efficiency tests.
  • Women officer appointments need extra considerations to hygiene, sensitivities and privacy issues while accommodating them. In Siachen, there are posts with only four soldiers. They sleep and share the same cramped post.
  • Male officer’s tenures in difficult field stations have increased, in adjusting women officers for spouse postings, child care leave.

The Way Forward

  • Certain concessions given to women officers can be withdrawn, and they can be put through the field and rough appointments with troops, to be at par with male counterparts and be accepted as ‘Leaders’ and not ‘Appointed Officers’.
  • The selection for command assignments has to merit-based irrespective of gender.
  • The selection for the command should be done through officer’s confidential reports and closed promotion board, common for both genders, and the names and gender of the profile should be hidden from selection board

More importantly, a behavioral change is the need of the hour.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Are we witnessing a major shift in the way women’s participation in the armed forces is perceived? Critically examine.

For every frontier touched or broken by women that frontier should be sustained with more and more women. 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 Which of the following is not a part of Like Minded Developing Countries?

  1. India
  2. Indonesia
  3. Iran
  4. Saudi Arabia

Q.2 consider the following statements regarding Dhole:

  1. Key populations found in India in Western Ghats, Central India and Northeast India.
  2. Its IUCN status is Endangered. 
  3. In 2014, the Indian government sanctioned its first dhole conservation breeding centre at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) in Mumbai.

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

  1. The provision of anticipatory bail under Section 438 was introduced when Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was amended in 1973.
  2. As opposed to ordinary bail, in anticipatory bail, a person is directed to be released on bail even before arrest is made.
  3. The Supreme Court (SC) in Sushila Aggarwal v. State of NCT of Delhi (2020) case ruled that a certain time limit has to be set while granting anticipatory Bail.
  4. It is issued only by the Sessions Court and High Court.

ANSWERS FOR 19th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 A
3 C

Must Read

On Communalism:

Indian Express

On EU, India and the Indo-Pacific:

Indian Express

On India’s Foreign policy:

Indian Express

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