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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 28th October 2021

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  • October 28, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


SC sets up committee to examine Pegasus allegations

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Cybersecurity 

Context The SC has stressed that the power of the state to snoop in the name of national security into the “sacred private space” of individuals is not absolute.

  • Thus, it has appointed an expert technical committee overseen by former Supreme Court judge R.V. Raveendran to examine allegations that the Centre used Israeli software Pegasus to spy on citizens.
  • The court has also said that in a democratic country governed by the rule of law, indiscriminate spying cannot be allowed except with sufficient statutory safeguards.
    • The use of technology for surveillance by the state must be evidence-based.

What is Pegasus? 

  • It is a spyware tool developed by an Israeli firm, the NSO Group. 
  • Spyware spies on people through their phones. 
  • Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone. 
  • Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone. 

What can Pegasus do? 

  • Pegasus can “send back the target’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls from popular mobile messaging apps”. 
  • The target’s phone camera and microphone can be turned on to capture all activity in the phone’s vicinity, expanding the scope of the surveillance. 

AY4.2 ‘infrequent’ in India: INSACOG

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context The latest mutation of the coronavirus variant, AY4.2, which has been linked to a rise in cases in the United Kingdom, is “very infrequent” in India, according to a weekly report by the India SARS-CoV-2 Genome Consortium (INSACOG).

What is AY4.2?

  • AY.4.2 is a descendant of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first identified in India in October 2020.
  • The AY.4.2 sub-lineage contains 2 mutations in its spike protein — A222V and Y145H.
  • It is dubbed “Delta Plus” and now named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)).

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.).

India seeks vaccine loans from ADB, AIIB

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health; International Relations 

Context The Government of India has applied for loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to procure as many as 667 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Key takeaways 

  • The ADB is expected to lend $1.5 billion and the AIIB around $500 million.
  • The 667 million doses will have to be vaccines qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • AIIB will co-finance the vaccine procurement.
  • The vaccine purchase by the Government of India has been made under the ADB’s Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) initiative.

What is APVAX initiative?

  • It was Launched in December 2020.
  • It offers “rapid and equitable support to its developing member countries as they procure and deliver effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines”. 

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

  • It is a regional development bank. 
  • It was established on 19 December 1966. 
  • Headquarters: Mandaluyong, Philippines. 
  • It was established to promote social and economic development in Asia. 
  • Motto: ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia & the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
  • Five largest borrowing countries are China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. 

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) 

  • It is a multilateral development bank with headquarters in Beijing, China.
  • It is a development bank with a mission to improve the economic and social outcomes in Asia.
  • It has 103 approved members.
  • It focuses on investment in sustainable infrastructure and developmental projects.
  • Membership to the bank is open to all members of the Asian Development Bank or the World Bank.

African Union

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations 

Context The African Union has suspended Sudan until civilian rule in the country was restored, saying it rejected the military takeover in Sudan as an “unconstitutional” seizure of power.

  • Also, the World Bank has suspended aid to Sudan following the military coup.

About African Union

  • It is a continental union consisting of 55 countries of Africa. 
  • In 2017, the AU admitted Morocco as a member state.
  • The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya in 1999.
  • It was founded in 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • It was launched in 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
  • The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa

Mullaperiyar dam issue

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Separation of powers

Context The Supreme Court has directed the Supervisory Committee to take an immediate and firm decision on the maximum water level that can be maintained at Mullaperiyar dam, amid torrential rain in Kerala.

Background

  • The SC constituted a permanent Supervisory Committee in 2014 to oversee all the issues concerning Mullaperiyar dam. The dam is a source of friction between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

What’s the issue?

  • Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018, when the State was hit by floods. It is because the lives of 50 lakh people would be in danger if the water level in the dam is raised.
  • However, Tamil Nadu objected to this decision citing the Supreme Court judgments of 2006 and 2014, which fixed the maximum water level at 142 feet.

Latest recommendation of the Supervisory Committee

  • The Supervisory Committee recommended in the Supreme Court that there is no need to change the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam.
    • Tamil Nadu states that its water level is at 137feet.
  • However, Kerala did not agree with its opinion citing that its eventual release would risk floods and endanger the lives of lakhs of people in Kerala.

What does Tamil Nadu say?

  • Tamil Nadu claims that although it has undertaken measures to strengthen the dam, the Kerala government has blocked any attempt to raise the reservoir water level – resulting in losses for Madurai farmers.

What are Kerala’s arguments?

  • Kerala, however, highlights fears of devastation by residents living downstream in the earthquake-prone district of Idukki.
  • Scientists have argued that if there is an earthquake in the region measuring above six on the Richter scale, the lives of over three million people will come under grave danger.

Mullaperiyar Dam

  • It is a masonry gravity dam built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
  • Although the dam is located in Kerala, it is operated by Tamil Nadu following an 1886 lease indenture for 999 years (the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement) that was signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India for the Periyar Irrigation works.
  • It was Constructed between 1887 and 1895.
  • It redirected the river to flow towards the Bay of Bengal, instead of the Arabian Sea and provide water to the arid rain region of Madurai in Madras Presidency.

Miscellaneous

Har Ghar Dastak” (Knock Every Door) campaign

  • The Health Ministry has launched the “Har Ghar Dastak” (Knock Every Door) campaign.

  • It is scheduled to start soon in districts with low vaccination rates to enthuse and motivate people towards getting their jab.
  • There were more than 10.34 crore people in the country who had missed the second dose of COVID-19 that they were due to take.

(News from PIB)


Krishi UDAN 2.0 Launched

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Global groupings

Context: Krishi UDAN 2.0 lays out the vision of

  • Improving value realization through better integration and optimization of Agri-harvesting and air transportation
  • Contributing to Agri-value chain sustainability and      resilience under different and dynamic conditions. 

Development of E-KUSHAL (Krishi Udaan for Sustainable Holistic Agri-Logistics): Proposed to develop a platform which will facilitate in information dissemination to all the stakeholders that will also assist in coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the scheme. Proposed convergence of E-Kushal with National Agriculture Market (e-NAM).

The model, A2A – Agriculture to Aviation: The convergence between the two sectors is possible because of 3 primary reasons – 

  • Evolutionary possible use of biofuel for aircraft in future, 
  • Use of drones in agriculture sector
  • Greater integration and value realisation of agricultural products through schemes like Krishi UDAN

News Source: PIB


Agni-5

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

In News: Agni-5, surface to surface ballistic missile has been launched successfully.

  • Capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 kilometres with very high degree of accuracy
  • Uses a three-stage solid fuelled engine
  • Successful launch in line with India’s policy to have ‘credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’

News Source: PIB


Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2021

Theme of IPRD 2021: ‘Evolution in Maritime Strategy during the 21st Century: Imperatives, Challenges and Way Ahead’

  • India is fully determined to protect its maritime interests, while it supports the maintenance of rule-based maritime systems, as mandated under UN Convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS), 1982.
  • Emphasized on the need for an efficient, cooperative and collaborative harnessing of the region’s maritime potential for sustaining a steady path to prosperity.
  • While the seas offer abundant opportunities for sustenance and growth of the mankind, they pose challenges such as terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and climate change. There is a need to find convergence of interests and commonality of purpose on maritime issues.

About Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2021

  • First conducted in 2018, the IPRD is the apex international annual conference of the Indian Navy and is the principal manifestation of the Navy’s engagement at the strategic-level. 
  • The National Maritime Foundation is the Navy’s knowledge partner and chief organiser of each edition of this annual event. 
  • The aim of each successive edition is to review both opportunities and challenges that arise within the Indo-Pacific.

News Source: PIB


ADB, India sign $100 million loan

In News: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $100 million loan to promote agribusiness network to boost farm incomes and reduce food losses in the State of Maharashtra – Maharashtra Agribusiness Network (MAGNET) Project

  • Holistic support to on-farm improvement in productivity, 
  • Up-gradation of post-harvest facilities
  • Establishing efficient marketing structures to benefit horticulture producers
  • Maharashtra produces 11% and 6% of India’s fruit and vegetable production, respectively, and accounts for about 8% of the country’s floriculture exports, most smallholder farmers lack capital to scale up and do not have direct access to emerging high-value markets.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


AGRICULTURE / GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Procurement Reforms

Context: Food Corporation of India (FCI) website shows that in October FCI was holding 86 million tonnes of grains (including unmilled paddy) against a buffer requirement (October 1) of 30 million tonnes. 

  • Last year’s procurement led to FCI holding a record quantity of grains in June-July thus year.
  • During pandemic year, government raised the offtake of foodgrains from 65 million tonnes annually to 93 million tonnes (increased provision under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana) 

What are the issues with FCI procurement?

  • Against a 65 million tonne annual requirement of foodgrains for distribution under the National Food Security Act, such massive procurement, is not only wasteful (given the lack of storage capacity) but also risks making India’s procurement for food security seem market-distortionary.
  • Even though the FCI has been conducting open market auctions for part of its excess holdings, this is hardly enough to take care of the problem of excess.
  • Export is obviously no route to liquidate the excess stock since WTO norms against market-distortion would kick in.
  • Paddy/rice seems the main culprit—especially procurement from Punjab—with severe economic and environmental consequences.

Short of giving the grains away, there seems to be little that can be done—unless, of course, a policy correction is made.

What policy correction is required?

  • The government can keep procuring to keep a handful of farmers in two/three states happy and perhaps donate surpluses to food programmes locally and overseas. 
  • Or Government can dilute the MSP’s appeal and move to end open procurement.
  • A “micro-analysis of state-wise requirements and buffer norms” being done by the FCI should be expedited
  • Another way to minimise the pain would be to limit open-ended procurement, say, by capping procurement as per size of individual land-holding.
  • Government can also move to a pure cost-support regime but this will need significant political will, given rich and influential farmers’ addiction to price-support.
  • Centre and Punjab must work together to incentivise the state’s farmers to switch from paddy to maize and even fruit and vegetables.

Conclusion

Without the above mentioned reforms, FCI’s burden will only grow.

Connecting the dots:


HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, 
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission

Context: COVID-19 exposed several weaknesses in India’s underfunded health system. 

What are the major issues with India’ s Health System?

  • Rural primary care is underfunded and has shortages of staff, equipment, drugs and infrastructure in many parts of the country. 
  • Urban primary healthcare has still not emerged as an active programme in many States. 
  • District and medical college hospitals suffer shortages of specialist doctors and support staff.
  • The private sector ranges from advanced tertiary care hospitals in big cities to informal and often unqualified care providers in villages. 
  • During the pandemic, Private sector could not effectively provide affordable care or deliver vaccines in large parts of India. 
  • There is a disconnect between the various levels of care within the public system, and the private system operated in a separate universe. 
  • Most government-funded healthcare insurance programmes did not cover outpatient care.

Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (ABHIM)

  • It will support infrastructure development of 17,788 rural health and wellness centres (HWCs) in seven high-focus States and three north-eastern States. 
  • In addition, 11,044 urban HWCs will be established in close collaboration with Urban Local Bodies.
  • To provide a continuum of care at different levels, HWCs will be linked with the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, for all entitled beneficiaries. The hub-and-spoke model of block, district, regional and national public health laboratories will enable effective microbial surveillance. 
  • Simultaneously, the network of centres will build a trained public health workforce that can perform routine public health functions while responding to a public health emergency.
  • Support for 3,382 block public health units (BPHUs) in 11 high-focus States 
  • It will provide for establishment of integrated district public health laboratories in all 730 districts that will strengthen capacity for information technology-enabled disease surveillance. 
  • To enhance the capabilities for microbial surveillance, a National Platform for One Health will be established. 
  • Four Regional National Institutes of Virology will be established. Laboratory capacity under the National Centre for Disease Control, ICMR and national research institutions will be strengthened.
  • Critical care hospital blocks, with 50-100 beds, will be established in 602 districts, to enable care for those with serious infectious diseases without disrupting other services.
  • For enhancing the level of disaster response readiness, 15 health emergency operation centres and two container-based mobile hospitals will be created.
  • Private sector participation in service delivery may be invited by States, as per need and availability.
  • The government will spend Rs 64,180 crore on the scheme from the financial year 2021-22 to 2025-26.
  • It can enable data-driven decentralised decision-making and people-partnered primary care at the block level while strengthening national connectivity for delivering universal healthcare.

Therefore, the scheme aims at establishing

  • comprehensive surveillance of infectious diseases.
  • comprehensive diagnostics and treatment facilities. 
  • comprehensive pandemic research

Way Ahead

  • There is a need to train and deploy a larger and better skilled health workforce. Upgraded district hospitals offer the best opportunity for creating new training centres. 
  • Public health expertise will be needed for programme design, delivery, implementation and monitoring in many sectors that impact health. 
  • Many independently functioning programmes will have to work with a common purpose and this requires a need for a change of bureaucratic mindsets and a cultural shift in Centre-State relations.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad: Perspective)


Oct 26: Climate Change & Public Perception- https://youtu.be/sI4wU0ECjCE 

TOPIC:

  • GS-III: Climate Change

Climate Change & Public Perception

Context: From severe heat waves to extreme rainfall—the threats of climate change are becoming more palpable and attracting the attention of policymakers from around the world. While the increased public focus is a necessary first step, successfully mitigating the risk of climate change will also depend on the support and appropriate collective action from local communities.

In News: The year 2021 marks a crucial juncture for charting the future of climate action.

In the run-up to the G20 Summit and COP26 the UNDP and the University of Oxford have publishing the G20 Peoples’ Climate Vote. 

G20 Peoples’ Climate Vote

The G20 Peoples’ Climate Vote polled over 689,000 people across 18 of the G20 countries from October 2020 until June 2021 focussed on various aspects of the issue of climate change including Climate Finance Policy, Cutting emissions and climate adaptation policy.

In the survey, respondents were asked if climate change was a global emergency and whether they supported eighteen key climate policies across six action areas: economy, energy, transport, food & farms, nature and protecting people.  

According to this report, 

  • On average 70 per cent of young people in G20 countries believe that we are in a global climate emergency. 65 percent of adults believe the same.
  • In eight of the ten survey countries with the highest emissions from the power sector, majorities backed more renewable energy. 
  • In four out of the five countries with the highest emissions from land-use change and enough data on policy preferences, there was majority support for conserving forests and land. 
  • Nine out of ten of the countries with the most urbanized populations backed more use of clean electric cars and buses, or bicycles.  

Policies had wide-ranging support, with the most popular being conserving forests and land (54% public support), more solar, wind and renewable power (53%), adopting climate-friendly farming techniques (52%) and investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%).

The results of the survey clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe, across nationalities, age, gender and education level. But more than that, the poll reveals how people want their policymakers to tackle the crisis. From climate-friendly farming to protecting nature and investing in a green recovery from COVID-19, the survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.

Note: The Group of 20 made up of 19 countries and the European Union, account for over 80% of global GDP, 60% of the world’s population, and more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Significance of public perception on the issue of climate change
  2. How will the public perception impact the decision making process on actions which need to be taken to tackle this challenge.

 (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 Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) initiative is an initiative of?

  1. Asian Development Bank 
  2. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank 
  3. World Health Organization 
  4. NITI Aayog 

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Mullaperiyar Dam:

  1. It is a masonry gravity dam built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
  2. The dam is located in Tamil Nadu
  3. It is operated by Kerala

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 l3

Q.3 What is Pegasus? 

  1. Spyware
  2. Constellation 
  3. Missile
  4. Both (b) and (c)

ANSWERS FOR 27th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 C
3 C

Must Read

On Universal Health Coverage:

Firstpost 

On Pegasus Judgement:

Indian Express

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