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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 19th November 2021

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  • November 19, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Yamuna Pollution

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Pollution 

Context Delhi’s Chief Minister has announced a six-point action plan to completely clean the Yamuna by 2025.

  • Timelines are set for every small aspect of the project and they will be revisited every 15 to 30 days to ensure that it is completed on time.

Action plan

  • New sewage treatment plants (STP): Building new sewage treatment plants (STP), increasing capacity of existing STPs, and technology upgradation
  • In situ treatment of major drains. 
  • Diverting industrial waste: All industrial waste will be diverted to the common effluent treating plants. There will be a crackdown on industries for not sending its waste to the treatment plants.
  • Proper Sewer network: JJ clusters will be connected to the larger sewer network to completely stop stormwater drains from being polluted. Every household may also be connected to the sewer network.
  • Desilting: Complete desilting of entire sewer network 

About Yamuna

  • The Yamuna is a major tributary of river Ganges,
  • Origin: Yamunotri glacier near Bandarpoonch peaks, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. It meets the Ganges at the Sangam in Prayagraj, UP
  • Important Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa, Ken, Tons, Hindon.
  • Causes of Pollution in Yamuna
    • Industrial Pollution
    • Mixing of Drains
    • Effects of Rising Ammonia

First Global Innovation Summit

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Innovation; Sci and tech

Context The Indian Prime Minister recently inaugurated the first Global Innovation Summit of the pharmaceuticals sector.

  • India must think about increasing domestic manufacturing of key ingredients for vaccines and medicines

Key takeaways

  • Every aspect of healthcare has received global attention over the last two years.
  • During the pandemic, India exported lifesaving medicines and medical equipment to over 150 countries during the initial phase. 
  • India has also exported more than 65 million doses of Covid vaccines to nearly 100 countries this year.
  • Policy interventions are being made based on wide consultation with all stakeholders that will create An ecosystem to make India a leader in drug discovery and innovative medical devices.
  • The Prime Minister invited the stakeholders to Ideate in India, Innovate in India, Make in India and Make for the World.

The International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health

Context A report on smoking was recently released by “The International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking”, which makes specific recommendations to achieve the goal of ending smoking worldwide.

About the commission

  • The commission has members from the U.S., the U.K., South Africa, Indonesia and India.
  • It examines several important issues, including the trends in tobacco use, challenges to cessation efforts, the emergence of technological innovations, lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, etc.

Key findings 

  • All countries ban marketing and direct sales of tobacco products to children, but in low-to-middle income countries these prohibitions are not rigorously enforced.
  • Despite prohibitions in India, many schools have nearby vendors displaying tobacco products which are appealing to children and youth. An estimated 54% of the points of sale had no visible health warning.
  • India is among countries with the lowest quit rates for smoking. The quit rates for men are less than 20%.
  • China and India are home to more than 500 million tobacco users between the ages of 16 and 64.
  • Tobacco prevalence in India is three times higher among men than women. India also accounts for some of the highest rates of smokeless tobacco use and oral cancer in the world.

Recommendations

  • Adopting best practices to combat misinformation
  • Build a healthier information environment to reduce harm from tobacco.
  • Leveraging multi-national, multi-disciplinary and participatory foresight studies.
  • Advocating risk-proportionate regulations as a means of making it easier for smokers to switch quit

CEEW Centre for Energy Finance (CEEW-CEF)

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Climate change 

Context According to an analysis by climate and energy research firm, CEEW Centre for Energy Finance (CEEW-CEF), in order to meet its goals of net zero by 2070, India will need close to $10 trillion (Rs. 700 lakh crore).

  • CEEW is the Council for Energy, Environment and Water Research, a think tank in India.

Key estimates by the firm 

  • Around $8.4 trillion would be needed to scale up generation from renewable energy and bring together the necessary infrastructure. 
  • Another $1.5 trillion would have to be invested in the industrial sector for setting up green hydrogen production capacity.
    • Green hydrogen is made from renewable energy and can be used for many things, from heating to powering batteries as well as fuelling vehicles.
  • India would require investment support of $1.4 trillion from developed economies to bridge the gap.

Another study by the firm

  • The CEEW had computed earlier that India’s total installed solar power capacity would need to increase to 5,630 gigawatts by 2070. 
  • The usage of coal would need to peak by 2040 and drop by 99% between 2040 and 2060.
  • Crude oil consumption across sectors would need to peak by 2050 and fall substantially by 90% between 2050 and 2070. 
  • Green hydrogen could contribute 19% of the total energy needs of the industrial sector.

Sexual intent is key to POCSO Act: SC

Part of: Prelims and GS-I – Problems faced by children and women 

Context The Supreme Court quashed a Bombay High Court decision to acquit a man charged with assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) solely on the grounds that he groped the child over her clothes without “skin-to-skin” contact. 

  • The SC said that the act of touching a sexual part of the child’s body with sexual intent will not be undervalued.
  • The judge had argued that the High Court order would set a “very dangerous precedent” and cripple the intention of the POCSO Act to punish sexual offenders. 

Salient features of the POCSO Act

  • “Children” according to the Act are individuals aged below 18 years. The Act is gender-neutral.
  • Different forms of sexual abuse including but not limited to sexual harassment, pornography, penetrative & non-penetrative assault are defined in the Act.
  • The investigation process should be child-friendly and the case should be disposed of within one year from the date of reporting.
  • The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences and matters related to it.
  • Section 45: The power to make rules lies with the central government.
  • The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) monitor the Act’s implementation. Both are statutory bodies.
  • Section 42 A: In case of inconsistency with provisions of any other law, the POCSO Act shall override such provisions.

(News from PIB)


The Sydney Dialogue

Part of: International forums 

In News: PM delivered keynote address at the Sydney Dialogue on the theme of India’s technology evolution and revolution.

Five important transitions taking place in India-

  1. One, the world’s most extensive public information infrastructure being built in India. Over 1.3 billion Indians have a unique digital identity, six hundred thousand villages will soon be connected with broadband and the world’s most efficient payment infrastructure, the UPI.
  2. Two, use of digital technology for governance, inclusion, empowerment, connectivity, delivery of benefits and welfare. 
  3. Three, India has the world’s third largest and fastest growing Startup Eco-system. 
  4. Four, India’s industry and services sectors, even agriculture, are undergoing massive digital transformation. 
  5. Five, there is a large effort to prepare India for the future. We are investing in developing indigenous capabilities in telecom technology such as 5G and 6G. India is one of the leading nations in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially in human-centred and ethical use of artificial intelligence. We are developing strong capabilities in Cloud platforms and cloud computing

India’s democratic traditions are old; its modern institutions are strong. And, we have always believed in the world as one family. The international order should ensure cryptocurrencies do not end up in wrong hands. 

The Sydney Dialogue is an annual summit of cyber and critical technologies to discuss the fallout of the digital domain on the law and order situation in the world.

News Source: PIB


Guru Nanak Jayanti

Part of: GS Prelims 

  • Born in 1469 in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan
  • He advocated nirguna bhakti
  • He firmly repudiated practices of religions around him like sacrifices, ritual baths, idol worship, austerities, and scriptures of both Hindus and Muslims.
  • He took the god as formless which has now gender and proposed a simple way to connect to him by just remembering and repeating his name.
  • He set up rules for congregational worship (sangat) involving collective recitation.
  • He appointed Angad to succeed him as the Guru.
  • He never wished to establish new religion, but after his death his followers consolidated his practices and distinguished from both Hindus and Muslims by calling themselves ‘Sikhs’.
  • Fifth Guru Arjandev Ji compiled Guru Nanak, His successor, and other religious poets teaching in Adi Granth Sahib.

Values & teaching of Guru Nanak and present social challenges —

  • The time in which Guru Nanak lived and present time are not very different. Back then, caste system, idol worship, exploitation of poor and women, intolerance towards other religions, fraud godman, addiction of drugs and other problems were prevalent. Unfortunately, all of them are present today also.
  • Some basic teachings of Guru Nanak were —
    • Submission to the will of God (Waheguru)
    • One God
    • Goodwill for all
    • Speaking truth
    • Social Service
    • Overcoming 5 evils — Ego, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Lust
    • Adopting 5 virtues — Truth, Compassion, Contentment, Discipline and Contemplation
    • No discrimination
    • Stop following rituals/idol worship/superstitions
  • Guru Nanak opined that moral principles have great value not just in thinking but also in practical orientation in society. Therefore, social philosophy of Guru Nanak was primarily based on moral philosophy with support of religious outlook.
  • His teaching hold great value today in overcoming caste and religious discrimination, intolerance of other views, corruption, addiction of alcohol and drugs, clash of civilisations, terrorism and other social evils.
  • Problem with today’s generation is we have limited Guru Nanak and his teaching just to Guru Granth Sahib and have not adopted it, i.e., moral philosophy is lacking. Therefore, there is a strong need to revive the values and teachings of Guru Nanak.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Indian Constitution, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure.
  • GS-3: Government Budgeting.

Addressing Fiscal Worries of States

Context: Centre will release over ₹95,000 crores in one stroke to States this month after Union Finance Minister met with Chief Ministers and State Finance Ministers to discuss the state of the economy and to sustain the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Implication of such an announcement

  • The Government set aside the spate of recent confrontations with States over 
    • Revenue
    • GST compensation concerns
    • Fear by States about ‘encroachment’ on their powers, 
  • The measure shows that government has taken steps to initiate an economy-focused dialogue independent of Budget consultations and GST Council machinations.
  • Its ready acceptance of States’ request to expedite the sharing of taxable revenues is a token of faith to reinforce federalism.
  • While most States have positive cash balances, access now to double the funds than usual will help them ramp up capital expenditure. 
  • The cash flow could also help several States catch up on their capex targets, on which hinges an additional borrowing limit of 0.5% of their Gross State Domestic Product. 
  • The Finance Ministry’s clarification that the excise duty cuts on petrol and diesel shall not dent the tax pool shared with States has also soothed frayed nerves.
  • The meeting with CMs yielded several ideas and policy proposals, including a simple demand that the Centre share leads about prospective investors and come out with a clear policy on green clearances.

Challenges Ahead

  • While the Finance Ministry believes that investments are on the verge of a take-off, public investments need to increase for several more quarters before the private sector can be expected to spur the economy’s growth. 
  • The Centre and States need to combine forces to make it an easier and swifter journey to reduce the red tape for potential investors.
    • Commerce and Industry has said that just 10 States have joined the single window clearance system for investors, and four more may join next month.
  • Investment facilitation was a key agenda item, so it would have been apt to include the Industry Minister in the deliberations to nudge States into joining the single window system. 

Way Forward

  • We need to sustain this free-wheeling economic dialogue with States because the economy still needs collective hand-holding, 
  • Also, this economic dialogue needs a broad-basing of the framework to include key economic ministries, and occasionally, the Prime Minister too.
  • Closing this somewhat informal channel for dialogue with the States, outside the framework of NITI Aayog and the National Development Council, would be a wasted opportunity with embedded economic costs. 

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

Tight oil (Shale Oil)

Context: Cairn Oil & Gas has announced that it is partnering US-based Halliburton to start shale exploration in the Lower Barmer Hill formation, Western Rajasthan. 

  • The company is also looking to increase the recoverable reserves at its offshore assets by 10 times via enhanced use of technology, in partnership with Halliburton.

What is shale oil? How does it differ from conventional crude oil?

  • The key difference between shale oil, also called ‘tight oil’, and conventional crude is that is found in smaller batches, and deeper than conventional crude deposits. 
  • Its extraction requires creation of fractures in oil and gas rich shale to release hydrocarbons through a process called hydraulic fracking.
  • Russia and the US are among the largest shale oil producers in the world, with a surge in shale oil production in the US having played a key role in turning the country from an importer of crude to a net exporter in 2019. 
  • A number of US shale exploration firms, including Halliburton, have faced litigation from citizens living in areas adjacent to shale production sites who have claimed that hydraulic fracking has contributed to groundwater contamination.

What are the prospects of shale oil exploration in India?

  • Currently, there is no large-scale commercial production of shale oil and gas in India. 
  • State-owned ONGC had, in 2013, started exploration and, by the end of FY21, assessed shale oil and gas potential in 25 nomination blocks, but has reduced investments over the past few years after only getting limited success in shale exploration efforts. 
  • While ONGC’s assessment found prospects of shale oil at the Cambay basin in Gujarat and the Krishna Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh, the company concluded that “ the quantity of oil flow observed in these basins” did not indicate “commerciality” and that the general characteristics of Indian shales are quite different from North American ones.
  • Shale oil and gas exploration faces several challenges other than environmental concerns around massive water requirements for fracking and potential for ground water contamination.

Connecting the dots:


(ORF: India Matters)


Nov 18: ‘Lighting up homes in villages’: Will BharatNet live up to its promise? – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/lighting-up-homes-in-villages-will-bharatnet-live-up-to-its-promise/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Internet connectivity; Infrastructure

Context: BharatNet is government’s flagship rural broadband connectivity project that would eventually lead to ‘1.5 billion Indians being connected to the Internet over the next two years’.

In 2014, the Narendra Modi government inherited the National Optical Fibre Network initiative that had been launched in 2011, rebranded it as ‘BharatNet’, and introduced several changes to its structure and operations. It was then given a new impetus by making it a pillar of the Digital India programme.

About BharatNet

  • The goal is to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to the 250,000-plus village panchayats spread across India’s 6,600 blocks and 640 districts. 
  • It is to act as a middle-mile network from blocks to panchayats allowing Internet service providers (ISPs), local cable operators, and other agencies to use its bandwidth and incremental fibre. 
  • In doing so, it will facilitate access to e-governance, telemedicine, e-education, and other digital services at the primary level of village administration. 
  • Since 2017, the project has also sought to provide last-mile connectivity by setting up Wi-Fi hotspots in villages.

The current scenario

Bharatnet has the potential to transform rural India. Unfortunately, almost since inception, its progress has been marred by operational setbacks, poor execution, incessant delays, and the lack of a coherent strategy for engaging with stakeholders.

A. Quality of service

  • Of the 250,000 village panchayats that were to have functional broadband by 2020, roughly 70 percent has optical fibre cable (OFC) connection installed, but only around 65 percent are actually connected to the OFC. 
  • The quality of service at panchayats has come in for severe criticism. 
  • The project’s own attempts to offer last-mile connectivity via Wi-Fi have faltered—only a fraction of the expected number of hotspots has been installed, and the majority of them do not work. 
  • Panchayats across India have long complained of frequent line faults, excessive downtime, and the near-customary lack of response to service requests. 

B. Stakeholder engagement

  • Until very recently BharatNet had made no serious attempt to collaborate with the private sector. 
  • Historically, it has demonstrated a clear bias towards the selection of central public sector undertakings to manage its implementation. 
  • When in June 2021— BharatNet chose to ‘course correct’ and started the process of entering into a PPP with private stakeholders, the private sector has responded with cautious interest. Companies know they are being called in to fix the failures and stasis of nearly a decade.
  • It is not the private sector alone that has been neglected. Even state governments and BharatNet’s own state-level administrators have been left exasperated by the experience of coordinating with the project’s central command. 

C. Shifting deadlines 

  • BharatNet’s timelines for implementation have been in a perpetual flux. Experts concur that progress on the optical fibre network project between 2011 and 2014 was unsatisfactory.
  • The Modi government declared that within the next 1,000 days every village in India would be connected by OFC.
  • Eight states—including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana—have felt compelled to create special purpose vehicles to implement the project themselves, giving rise to breakaway ‘state-led models’ of execution.

The Way Forward 

In his book “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age” (2019), Microsoft President Brad Smith describes rural broadband as ‘the electricity of the 21st century’. As Smith goes on to say, broadband is ‘fundamental to the way people work, live, and learn. The future of medicine is telemedicine. The future of education is online education. And the future of farming is precision farming. […] And that requires broadband’.

To achieve this – 

  • Quality of service must be improved radically for end users at panchayats and villages. This is likely to involve an overhaul of the existing workflow for operations and maintenance, and the institution of a stringent system of oversight and accountability for suppliers. Moreover, a mechanism for regular feedback from local communities about service quality must be put in place. 
  • BharatNet must incentivise the private sector in every way possible to ensure PPPs come into effect, and private players assume the onerous task of expanding, operating, maintaining, and utilising the OFC network. 
  • It is imperative that BharatNet engage systematically with state governments and perceive them as equal partners. That would make it not just the largest initiative of its kind on the planet, but also a global model for tech infrastructure development within a federal system.

An enormous amount of work lies ahead for BharatNet. But if an urgent, concerted effort is made to steer the project back on course, it could yet become the game changer for rural connectivity that it was always meant to be. Supported by strong political will, multi-stakeholder cooperation at every level, and immediate steps to weed out the accumulated inefficiencies of earlier years, BharatNet could live up to its promise of enabling a digital India.

Can you answer the following question:

  1. Essay: The electricity of the 21st century

(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 tributary of the river Yamuna?

  1. Chambal
  2. Sindh
  3. Betwa
  4. Beda

Q.2 Which of the following is incorrect?

  1. Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen.
  2. Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen.
  3. Hydrogen generated entirely from renewable power sources is called green hydrogen
  4. None of the above

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) :

  1. The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences.
  2. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) monitor the Act’s implementation. 

Select the correct answer from the following codes:

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

ANSWERS FOR 18th Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 B
3 D

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