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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 26th October 2021

  • IASbaba
  • October 26, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


CO2 emissions in 2020 above decadal average

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Conservation related issues; Climate change 

Context A report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the increase in CO2 from 2019 to 2020 was slightly lower than that observed from 2018 to 2019.

  • However, it is higher than the average annual growth rate over the past decade. 
  • Updated data shows that the pandemic disruption in 2020 didn’t significantly dent overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Findings

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) shows that from 1990 to 2020, radiative forcing (warming effect) by long-lived greenhouse gases (LLGHGs) increased by 47%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase.
  • Methane: The increase from 2019 to 2020 was higher than that observed from 2018 to 2019 and also higher than the average annual growth rate over the past decade.
  • Nitrous oxides: The increase was higher and also than the average annual growth rate over the past 10 years.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): It reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020 and is 149% of the pre-industrial level.
  • Roughly half of the CO2 emitted by human activities today remains in the atmosphere. The other half is taken up by oceans and land ecosystems. 

Concerns raised

  • WMO has flagged concern that the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as ‘sinks’ may become less effective in future, thus reducing their ability to absorb CO2 and act as a buffer against larger temperature increases.
  • It has also pointed out that At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Aviation industry

Context The United States’ aviation watchdog, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started its five-day audit of India’s safety regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Key takeaways 

  • Under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, the FAA determines whether another country’s oversight of its airlines that operate to the U.S. or have a codeshare agreement with a U.S. airline comply with safety standards laid down by the global aviation watchdog International Civil Aviation Organisation.

About Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

  • It is a statutory body of the Indian Central Government to regulate civil aviation in India. 
  • It was Formed under the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
  • Functions: It investigates aviation accidents and incidents, maintains all regulations related to aviation and is responsible for issuance of licenses.

Anti-diabetic medicines get price caps

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context Drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed the ceiling prices for 12 anti-diabetic generic medicines, including glimepiride tablets, glucose injection and intermediate acting insulin solution to make it possible for every Indian to afford medical treatment.

About The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)

  • It is a government regulatory agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India.
  • It was constituted in 1997 as an attached office of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), 
  • Ministry: Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers

What is diabetes? 

  • Diabetes is a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or glucose), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
  • Type I diabetes: It mostly affects children of age 14-16 years. This type occurs when the body fails to produce sufficient insulin. They must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes: While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. The population with 45 and above age group is the most affected with it.
    • This is the most common type of diabetes and it has strong links with obesity.
  • Diabetes affects the five major organs – Kidney, Heart, Blood vessels, Nervous System, and Eyes (retina).
  • Responsible factors: Unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful use of alcohol, overweight/obesity, tobacco use, etc.

International Snow Leopard Day

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Conservation related issues.

Context Oct 23 is recognised as International Snow Leopard Day.

The day came into being with the adoption of the Bishkek Declaration by 12 countries on the conservation of snow leopards.

About Snow Leopard

  • Habitat: Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia.
  • There are only between 3,920 and 6,390 snow leopards left in the wild.
  • Range extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Conservation Status: Snow leopards were considered endangered species until 2017 but the status was changed to vulnerable later in the year.
  • India is home to about 450-500 snow leopards which can be spotted in the upper Himalayan regions of the country.

Conservation efforts by India

  • India has been conserving snow leopards and their habitats through the Project Snow Leopard (PSL).
  • India has also been part of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme since 2013.
  • India has identified three large landscapes, namely, Hemis-Spiti across Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh; Nanda Devi – Gangotri in Uttarakhand; and Khangchendzonga – Tawang across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Snow Leopard is in the list of 22 critically endangered species for the recovery programme of the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change.
  • SECURE Himalaya: Funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF)-UNDP for conservation of high-altitude biodiversity.
    • This project is now operational in four snow leopard range states – J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
  • Community volunteer programme “HimalSanrakshak” to protect snow leopards.

Global Conservation efforts

  • In 2013, the Bishkek Declaration set a goal of protecting at least 20 snow leopard landscapes with viable snow leopard populations by 2020.
    • It led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP). 

Challenges to their conservation

  • Increased habitat loss and degradation
  • poaching 
  • conflict with communities.

Pulsating White Dwarf

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Sci and Tech 

Context A team of astronomers, using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have reported a unique phenomenon in a white dwarf about 1,400 light years from Earth. 

  • They saw the white dwarf lose its brightness in 30 minutes. 

About white dwarf

  • A white dwarf is what stars like the Sun become after they have exhausted their nuclear fuel. 
  • Near the end of its nuclear burning stage, this type of star expels most of its outer material, creating a planetary nebula. 
  • Only the hot core of the star remains. 
  • This core becomes a very hot white dwarf, with a temperature exceeding 100,000 Kelvin. 
  • The white dwarf cools down over the next billion years or so.
  • A pulsating white dwarf is a white dwarf star whose luminosity varies due to non-radial gravity wave pulsations within itself. 

It’s switch on and off mode

  • As per scientists,in this system the donor star in orbit around the white dwarf keeps feeding the accretion disk. 
    • An accretion disk is a structure formed by diffuse material in orbital motion around a massive central body. The central body is typically a star.
  • As the accretion disk material slowly sinks closer towards the white dwarf it generally becomes brighter(on mode). 
  • During the ‘on’ mode, the white dwarf feeds off the accretion disk as it normally would. 
  • Suddenly and abruptly the system turns ‘off’ and its brightness plummets.
  • When this happens the magnetic field is spinning so rapidly that a centrifugal barrier stops the fuel from the accretion disk constantly falling on to the white dwarf.
  • The new discovery will help the astronomers understand the physics behind accretion – how black holes and neutron stars feed material from their nearby stars. 

About Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  • TESS  is a space telescope for NASA’s Explorers program, designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method in an area 400 times larger than that covered by the Kepler mission.
  • It was launched in 2018 by Falcon rocket system.
  • Using the Hubble Space telescope and TESS, astronomers have identified several white dwarfs over the years.

Miscellaneous

Konkan Shakti 2021

  • Recently, India and the UK started Konkan Shakti 2021, the first-ever tri-services joint exercise. It started off the west coast of India.
  • Aim: To derive mutual benefits from each other’s experiences and also showcase the continuing cooperation between the two countries.
    • It is also aimed at training troops in the conduct of Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief Operations by coalition forces in an opposed environment.
  • Other Joint Exercises between India and UK:
    • Navy: Konkan
    • Air Force: Indradhanush
    • Military: Ajeya Warrior

(News from PIB)


NIPUN Bharat Mission

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Government schemes related to Health

In News: Government sets up National Steering Committee for implementation of the National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Bharat Mission

  • By: The Department of School Education and Literacy 
  • Aim: To achieve the goal of universal proficiency in foundational literacy and numeracy for every child by grade 3, as envisaged by National Education Policy 2020.

Responsibilities-

  • To oversee the progress of National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy and provide guidance on policy issues.
  • To arrive at the target to be achieved nationally in 2026-27.
  • To disseminate tools for measurement of yearly progress in the form of guidelines.
  • To prepare and approve a National Action Plan (based on the State’s Action Plans) with KRAs for every State/UT vis-à-vis factors attributable for the gaps (i.e., lack of Fund, Vacancies, Teachers, Demography, Local issues, Need of Training for teachers, Curriculum & pedagogy related).
  • To review programmatic and financial norms periodically to ensure they are synchronised with targets to be achieved.
  • To develop methodology of assessment to analyse the progress and provide feedback to States/UTs.

News Source: PIB


Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM)

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Energy

In News: India is the only large electricity market in the world to implement a Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM) exclusively for renewable energy. 

  • Will operate in an integrated way with the conventional day-ahead market. The Exchanges will offer the market participants to submit bids together for both conventional and renewable energy through the separate bidding windows. 
  • The clearance will take place in a sequential manner – renewable energy bids will be cleared first in accordance with the must run status of the renewables, followed by conventional segment. 
  • This mechanism will allow renewable energy sellers to subsequently bid in the conventional segment should their bids remain uncleared in the green market. There will be separate price discoveries for the both the conventional and renewables.

The introduction of GDAM is expected to create a domino effect that will lead to a gradual shift from PPA based contract to market-based models which will build and deepen the markets to the next level, paving the way for India to meet its ambitious target of 450 GW green capacity by 2030.

  • Will deepen the green market and will provide competitive price signals, besides offering an opportunity to the market participants to trade in green energy, in the most transparent, flexible, competitive, and efficient manner.
  • The market-based competitive prices will provide another option to renewable generators to sell power as well as accelerate the renewable capacity addition towards the Government’s vision of building India as a sustainable and efficient energy economy.
  • Reduction of curtailment of green power, unlocking untapped renewable energy potential, ensuring instant payment to RE generators ie on the day of delivery itself.
  • Enable Energy Transition: Energy transition is happening across the world and India is also committed to energy transition from fossil fuel to non-fossil fuel. Accordingly, the dynamics of the power market is changing. The buyer’s behavior is shifting from long term contracts to short term contracts and also towards the power market.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

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

Fisherman Crisis: India- Sri Lanka

Context: A fisherman from Tamil Nadu reportedly died after falling into the sea when his boat collided with a Sri Lankan naval vessel. Two other fishermen on the boat were detained by Sri Lankan naval personnel on the charge of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

  • Tamil Nadu fishermen’s associations have accused the Sri Lankan Navy of brutally attacking the fisherman which led to his drowning & death, while Sri Lanka has denied the allegations. 

What is the reason for conflict between Indian Fishermen & Sri Lankan Navy?

  • Indian boats have been fishing in the troubled waters for centuries and had a free run of the Bay of Bengal, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar until 1974 and 1976 when treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
  • Indian Fishermen often risk their lives and cross the IMBL for better fish catch, but the Sri Lankan Navy is on alert, and have either arrested or destroyed fishing nets and vessels of those who have crossed the line.

Unresolved Conflict

  • The problem has existed for more than a decade now, from the time Sri Lanka’s 30 year-long civil war ended in 2009.
  • That was when the Sri Lankan northern Tamil fishermen, who were displaced and barred access to the sea, began returning to their old homes & started to engage in fishing for their livelihood. 
  • This has spurred a competition between Indian & Sri Lankan fishermen for marine resources with Sri Lankan Navy safeguarding their waters & marine resources.
  • In Tamil Nadu, daily wage fishermen’s income depends on the catch they bring back. Using the bottom trawling fishing method, they drag large fishing nets along the seabed, scooping out a huge quantity of prawns, small fishes and virtually everything else at one go. 
  • Constant bottom trawling along the coast of Tamil Nadu over the years has meant that the fishermen are drawn to the relatively resource-rich Sri Lankan waters. Indian fishermen therefore take their mechanised trawlers further away from Indian waters often crossing IMBL & illegally entering into Sri Lankan waters.
  • The relentless trawling by Indian vessels has caused huge losses to northern Sri Lankan fishermen. Their catch has fallen drastically and they count vanishing varieties of fish.
  • The Sri Lankan state’s response to the problem has been largely a military and legal one, tasking its Navy with patrolling the seas and arresting “encroachers”, banning trawling (as it is ecologically destructive), and levying stiff fines on foreign (Indian) vessels engaged in illegal fishing in its territorial waters. 
  • At the heart of the conflict is a tale of competing livelihoods in a narrow stretch of the sea, amid a looming environmental threat, and a glaring asymmetry of power — be it in numbers, equipment, or political backing — between two Tamil-speaking fishing communities. 

Has there been an attempt at arriving at a solution?

  • India and Sri Lanka have held many rounds of bilateral talks in the last decade between government officials as well as fisher leaders. 
  • The outcomes have mostly ranged from deadlocks, with Tamil Nadu refusing to give up bottom trawling, with India seeking a “humanitarian response” from Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan authorities adopting legal & military means to solve the problem.
  • The Indian government’s attempt to divert fishermen to deep sea fishing has not taken off as was envisaged.

Way Ahead

  • As the first step, Tamil Nadu must consider a moratorium on bottom trawling in the Palk Strait. 
  • Such a move must be accompanied by both India & Sri Lanka substantially supporting their respective fishing communities to cope with the suspension of trawling on the Tamil Nadu side and the devastating impact of the pandemic on both sides. The time must be used for evolving a lasting solution. 

Connecting the dots:


SCIENCE & TECH/ ECONOMY

  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 
  • GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges.

Crypto Asset Regulation

Context: Countries are in various stages of banning, un-banning, re-banning and regulating crypto assets. 

Will Crypto assets make finance more inclusive and decentralized?

  • India already has the world’s largest financial inclusion programme in Jan Dhan. In the past seven years, 430 million bank accounts have been created for the under-banked. A majority, 55%, of them are women. 
  • There are 45,000 chit funds (and many more unregistered ones). These chit funds are the world’s largest decentralized finance applications. Crypto can’t match that scale. 

So, financial inclusion is not the main reason to embrace crypto assets in India. But there are three compelling India-specific reasons to embrace crypto assets.

  1. Establish India as an integral part of the new financial ecosystem: 
  • Large global financial institutions and investors are adding crypto assets to their portfolios. 
  • Domestic crypto markets in India and the global opportunities are synergistic. 
  • Finance firms, banks, fintech and crypto startups can tap into the huge growth of the industry. 
  • Software technology parks (STPs) and special economic zones (SEZs) enabled the IT services boom. Creative ‘crypto export zone’ schemes can create world-class financial services firms and unicorns.
  1. Capitalize on new technology and services opportunities:
  • Banking, financial services and insurance customers form the biggest chunk of India’s IT services. 
  • Blockchain application development, its scalability, security and analytics are their next growth opportunities. To cater to this demand, there is a need for a large talent pool with expertise in the crypto tech stacks.
  1. Gain optionality on financial innovation: 
  • There is a burst of technology innovation and business models around blockchains. There are several interesting applications, but new killer apps will emerge. 
  • The impact of new technologies is overestimated in the short term, but underestimated in the long term.

However, there are three key regulatory concerns about crypto assets.

  1. Investor protections: 
  • Crypto assets are seen as high-risk, speculative assets. Investor education, guidelines against misselling and other safeguards are needed.
  • Crypto assets are now better understood as digital assets, instead of as digital currencies. 
  • Regulating them like commodities and clarifying their tax treatment is a win-win. 
  • The government’s tax revenues go up. It can also increase the number of tax filers (only 64 million in FY20) and the number of taxpayers (14 million).
  1. Sidestepping current regulations:
  • Some crypto assets may allow individuals to bypass securities issuance laws. That’s a potential risk to capital markets. Crypto assets may be used to avoid capital controls. That’s a potential risk to macroeconomic stability. 
  • If crypto holders have to declare their holdings above a particular level in their tax forms, such concerns can be mitigated
  1. Illicit transfers: 
  • Anonymous transfers of crypto assets may weaken anti-money laundering laws or combating the financing of terrorism rules. That’s a potential national security issue. 
  • Robust know-your-customer (KYC) norms are the solution here. 
  • Also, a blockchain may bring more transparency for financial transfers as all its transactions can be examined. 
  • India is a part of the G20 Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the crypto industry players should adhere to FATF’s recommendations.

Conclusion

In summary, a smart regulatory approach considers both the potential upside and downside. It fosters financial innovation, safeguards investors and unshackles the Indian crypto ecosystem.

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth – News and Views)


Oct 25: CoP 26: Greening of polar ice should be top agenda; here’s why – 

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/climate-change/cop-26-greening-of-polar-ice-should-top-agenda-here-s-why-79839 

  • GS-II – Global Groupings
  • GS-III – Climate Change

Greening of Polar ice

In News: The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, between 31 October and 12 November 2021, under the co-presidency of the United Kingdom and Italy.

Greening of polar ice 

Climate change affects the polar ice caps that are the thermostats of the planet with their high albedo. Albedo of a surface is the fraction of sunlight it reflects back. Greening will convert the ‘net reflective’ ice caps to ‘net absorptive’, tampering with the global energy balance and accelerate polar ice melting.

For the past several decades, the Arctic has been warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world and undergoing tremendous transformation. Arctic Sea ice reduced by around 39 per cent in the last 38 years. Over the same period, ice in Antarctica also reduced by 6.2 per cent.

Researchers have observed extensive greening around Alaska and Canada, which were snow-covered lands. 

  • This is occurring because Arctic summers are getting warmer every decade and this can be clearly explained by the positive feedback loop. 
  • Sea ice has a bright surface — about 80 per cent of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected into space. The sea ice melts and exposes the deep, dark ocean water because of rising temperatures.
  • Now, instead of reflecting 80 per cent of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90 per cent of the solar radiation. The seawater heats up and Arctic temperatures rise further, amplifying the rate of warming. 
  • The region, as a result, turns greener with the habitable climate provided by warmer air and soil temperatures. Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic have led to longer growing seasons and shifting soils for the plants. 
  • Scientists have observed the grassy tundra transitioning to scrublands and shrubs becoming larger and denser. The Arctic faced several other adverse impacts in its zone because of climate-induced greening.

What about Antarctica?

The Antarctic is also equally greening because of the irreversible melting of sea ice, which is green in colour. 

  • In 2016, it was discovered that marine ice has 500 times more iron than the ice above it. This iron comes from the rocks under the Antarctic ice sheet which, when glaciers pass over them, are ground into a fine powder. 
  • The ice-bound iron oxidizes in contact with seawater.
  • The resulting iron oxide particles take on a green hue as light scatters through them. The green ice only becomes visible when an iceberg capsizes and flips over from excessive melting and is disjointed from the main body.

Conclusion

Rapidly melting permafrost in the poles is also releasing trapped greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere. Thawing of permafrost is releasing ancient methane in places like Siberia, which can turn the coldest place on earth into a temperate zone.

The IPCC report says that the world must also deliver rapid and drastic reductions in methane emissions, in addition to slashing carbon dioxide emissions, to mitigate the climate crisis. 

  • Rather than looking at profitable goals, we should try to focus on the shift to sustainable standards of development in the economies. In this period, instead of rushing into business as usual, the primary investments that are to be made by these world leaders ought to be climate-conscious to determine a low-carbon future.
  • The effects of climate change (greening of the poles) are transboundary in nature. Thus, the only solution could be integrated international negotiations and frameworks. These are required to set standards for nations and businesses to achieve global average temperature standards at the earliest, before the warming crosses the tipping point.

The reasons discussed above are why the greening of poles cannot be dismissed or ignored, and should be at the top of the agenda for the upcoming CoP26.

Can you answer the following question?

  • Climate change risks give rise to several geopolitical problems. 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.
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 Konkan Shakti, the first tri service exercise is conducted between India and which of the following nation?

  1. USA
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Japan
  4. Russia

Q.2 White dwarf, recently seen in news, is associated with which of the following? 

  1. New variant of COVID-19 
  2. Stars that lose their fuel
  3. New dwarf planet of our Solar system
  4. New fish species found in Meghalaya 

Q.3 Which one of the following is not a critically endangered species of India? 

  1. White-bellied heron 
  2. Great Indian bustard
  3. Baer’s pochard 
  4. None of the above

ANSWERS FOR 25th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 None of the above. 
2 A
3 D

Must Read

On flood disasters:

Tribune India

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Deccan Herald

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Firstpost

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