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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 30th December 2021

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  • December 30, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II -Education 

Context According to Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA), Seven IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, are among the top 10 central institutions in promotion and support of innovation and entrepreneurship development.

Key takeaways 

  • The top rank has been bagged by the IIT, Madras followed by the IITs in Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur and Roorkee.
  • The IISc has bagged the sixth position in the ranking.

Atal Rankings of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 

  • Initiative by: Ministry of Education 
  • Implemented by: AICTE and Ministry’s Innovation Cell
  • Aim: To systematically rank higher education institutions and universities in India on indicators related to Innovation, Start-up and Entrepreneurship Development amongst students and faculty.
  • Parameters evaluated
    • Patent filed and granted 
    • Number of registered students and faculty start-ups
    • Gund generation by incubated start-ups
    • Specialised infrastructure created by institutions to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

Shakti Criminal Laws (Maharashtra Amendment) Act 

Part of: Prelims and GS-I Social issues

Context The Maharashtra Assembly passed the Shakti Criminal Laws (Maharashtra Amendment) Act unanimously. 

Key takeaways 

  • With the passage of the Bill, it became the second state in India after Andhra Pradesh to approve death penalty for heinous offences of rape and gangrape
  • The existing law on rape had provisions for death penalty only in cases of repeated offences.
  • The Act has also enhanced fines and punishment for offences of sexual violence against women and minors.
  • Under the POCSO Act too, punishment for penetrative sexual assault in heinous cases has been enhanced to death penalty.
  • The Act requires the trial in these cases to be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within 30 working days from the date of filing of the chargesheet.
  • It also requires for the investigation to be completed within a month of the FIR.
  • In cases of grievous hurt caused due to acid attacks under Section 326A, the punishment has been enhanced to a minimum of 15 years which can be extended to the remainder of the natural life of the perpetrator along with fine.
  • In cases of voluntarily throwing acid or attempting to throw it, punishment under section 326B has been enhanced to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of ten years.

New Development Bank

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations 

Context  India has welcomed Egypt as the fourth new member of BRICS New Development Bank that was established by the BRICS countries six years ago.

Key takeaways 

  • Bangladesh, UAE, and Uruguay joined in September 2021.
  • Membership expansion enables New Development Bank to position itself as a premier development institution for emerging economies.
  • The New Development Bank aims to mobilize resources for development projects in BRICS, emerging economies, and developing countries.
  • The bank is headquartered in Shanghai, China. 

Components of financial architecture of the BRICS:

  • New Development Bank: NDB’s key areas of operation are clean energy, transport infrastructure, irrigation, sustainable urban development and economic cooperation among the member countries.
  • Contingent Reserve Arrangement: It aims to provide short-term liquidity support to the members through currency swaps to help mitigate the BOP crisis situation and further strengthen financial stability.

Omicron has high immune escape potential: INSACOG

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG) said there is clear experimental and clinical data supporting the very high immune escape potential of Omicron.

Key takeaways 

  • Initial estimates show the severity of illness being lower than what was seen in previous outbreaks.
  • While Delta continues to be the most prevalent VOC [variant of concern] globally, the Omicron variant has completely displaced it in southern Africa and is on track to become the dominant variant in the U.K. and elsewhere.

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)

  • Coordinated by: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with MoH&FW, ICMR, and CSIR
  • The consortium ascertains the status of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country. 
  • INSACOG has a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee. 
  • It has 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 also assists 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.)

(News from PIB)


Year End Review: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change 

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Climate Change

A. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • The UN General Assembly in its 70th Session considered and adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated 169 targets for the next 15 years. The 17 SDGs came into force with effect from 1st January, 2016. 
  • Though not legally binding, the SDGs have become de facto international obligations and have potential to reorient domestic spending priorities of the countries during the decade ending 2030. 
  • The SDG 13, 15 and 12 have been mapped majorly to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. 

Significant strides have been made in achieving 

  • SDG 13 (Urgent action to protect against Climate Change and its impact) – 24% reduction in emission intensity of GDP against 2005 levels has been achieved in 2016 itself. India has emphasized that Climate Finance from developed countries as promised in the Paris agreement is integral to achieve this goal. 
  • Country’s pledge on land degradation neutrality and intense afforestation are helping the country move towards SDG 15(Sustainable use of terrestrial Ecosystems and prevention of Biodiversity Loss). 
  • The commitment of the country in implementing the Extended Producer responsibility in plastics and ratification of Basel Convention to monitor hazardous substances is a remarkable step in moving towards SDG12 for ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns.
  • The 2030 Agenda also underscored that quality, reliable and disaggregated data will be needed for measurement of progress and to ensure that “No One is Left Behind”. 
  • MoEF&CC is strengthening its data systems for realistic monitoring of progress on the sustainable development goals.

B. Climate Change

  • Took part in the 26th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP-26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Glasgow, United Kingdom for green net zero program 
    • India’s non-fossil energy capacity to reach 500 GW by 2030
    • India will meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030.
    • India will reduce its total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now to 2030.
    • India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45 per cent by 2030, over 2005 levels.
    • By 2070, India will achieve the target of net zero emissions.
  • The transfer of climate finance and low-cost climate technologies have become more important for implementation of climate actions by the developing countries. The ambitions on climate finance by developed countries cannot remain the same as they were at the time of Paris Agreement in 2015 and the Indian Delegation mentioned through multilateral negotiations with major countries for adoption of greener norms in the global scenario.
  • The Glasgow Climate Conference adopted decisions, which inter-alia, include adoption of an overarching decision titled “Glasgow Climate Pact” that stresses the urgency of enhancing ambition and action in relation to mitigation, adaptation and finance in this critical decade to address the gaps in the implementation of the goals of the Paris Agreement. 
    • Noted that the goal of developed country Parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 has not yet been met. 
    • The COP 26 outcome also include completion of work related to rules, procedures, and guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement including that for cooperative approaches, mechanisms and non-market approaches referred to in Article 6, enhanced transparency framework, and common timeframes for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and it was discussed with Ministers and Representatives from United Kingdom, Scotland, South Korea, Australia, BASIC countries, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, France, Canada, Brazil, USA, UAE, Germany, Norway, Singapore, Jamaica, Sweden, and Japan. 
    • Meetings were held with the Ministers of Like Minded Developing Countries and also with representatives from United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and Green Climate Fund.

C. PARIVESH

  • In pursuant to the spirit of ‘Digital India’ and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance, a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System named PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single Window Hub) has been developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for complete online, expeditious and transparent system for environment, forest, wildlife and CRZ clearances in the country. 
  • The facility is operational for processing of applications for Environmental Clearances (ECs), Forest Clearances (FCs), Coastal Regulatory Zone Clearances (CRZ). 

D. Nagar Van Yojana

  • Aim: Developing 400 Nagar Vans and 200 Nagar Vatikas with the objective to significantly enhance the tree outside forests and green cover in cities leading to better environment, enhancement of biodiversity and ecological benefits to the urban and peri-urban areas apart from improving quality of life of city dwellers. 
  • School Nursery Yojana: To associate students in the process of raising plantations as part of their learning and by providing an environment for the students to understand and appreciate the significance of plants in maintaining and sustaining the natural ecosystem. 

E. Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)

  • The “National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority” (National Authority) came into existence in place of the Ad-hoc CAMPA; the day the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 and CAF Rules, 2018 came into force. 
  • The National Authority manages and utilises the “National Compensatory Afforestation Fund” (National Fund), which has been created under the public account of India. 
  • The other fund at the State/UT level is known as “State Compensatory Afforestation Fund” under the public accounts of respective States/UTs. 
  • CAF collected against approvals under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is distributed in the ratio of 90:10 between the concerned State Fund and National Fund and are made available to the National Authority and respective State Authorities through budgetary process. 

F. Wildlife

  • The project Dolphin and the project lion have been initiated and the associated environmental impact of this are also strengthen at the major sanctuary and forest areas for cleaner Environmental Protection of endangered species.
  • The Protected Area coverage in the country has been steadily increasing. The coverage of Protected Areas which was 4.90% of country’s geographical area in 2014 has now increased to 5.03%. This includes an increase in Protected Areas in the country from 740 with area of 1,61,081.62 sq.kms. in 2014 to present 981 with an area of 1,71,921 sq.kms.
  • Population of several species like Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Greater one Horned Rhinoceros, Asian elephants, etc. increased. Wildlife health is being addressed to aggressively monitor zoonotic diseases.
  • India has taken a leadership role in conservation of migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway 
  • The Ministry has released ‘Guidelines for sustainable ecotourism in forest and wildlife areas-2021 in October 2021. These guidelines emphasise on participation of local community in ecotourism activities.

G. Biodiversity Conservation

  • India enacted the Biological Diversity (BD) Act in 2002, and notified the Rules in 2004, through an extensive consultative process initiated in 1994. India was one of the first few countries to have enacted such a comprehensive legislation on biodiversity.
  • The Act is implemented through a three-tier institutional mechanism, at national, state and local levels: The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level set up by the Government of India, State Biodiversity Boards set up by the State Governments at the State level, and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) constituted by the elected bodies at the local level.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will hold its second part of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Kunming, China in 2022 in which delegates will come together to adopt a “Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework”. The vision for proposed framework is that “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people. 2021 is viewed as a decisive year on biodiversity action. India joined High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People which calls for protecting at least 30 percent of world’s land and ocean by 2030 where India has already reported about 27% of area as conserved under Aichi Target 11 to CBD.
  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is being introduced to simplify, streamline and reduce compliance burden in order to encourage conducive environment for collaborative research and investments, simplify patent application process, widen the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local communities and for further conservation of biological resources, without compromising the objectives of United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol and also national interests.’
  • National Biodiversity Authority: National Biodiversity Authority, a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change established to implement the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 has ensured that 28 State Biodiversity Boards, 8 Union Territory Biodiversity Councils and 2,76,156 Biodiversity Management Committees have been constituted in all local bodies to implement the provisions of the Act. 
    • The BD Act envisages its implementation through consultation with local communities living in forest and rural areas. 
    • India is a leading country in issuing Internationally Recognized Certificate of Compliance (IRCC) which recognizes stakeholders for legally accessing biological resources. 
    • 22 Biodiversity Heritage Sites have been notified by 12 State Governments and 159 plants and 175 animals have been notified as threatened species in 18 states and 2 Union Territories.
    • Seventeen institutions of national importance have been recognized as national Repositories for preserving voucher specimens of biodiversity

H. Wetland

  • The number of Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance) in India have increased to 47 covering an area of 10,90,230 hectares which include 21 new sites designated during 2019-2021. 
  • India has the largest number of Ramsar sites in South Asia.  
  • Health cards prepared for 500 wetlands under the four pronged approach for conservation of wetlands.

I. Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol to Protection of Ozone

The Ozone Cell of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the national ozone unit for implementation of the Montreal Protocol in India and phase out of substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol.

  • After successfully phasing out chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, halons, methyl bromide and methyl chloroform for controlled uses, India is now phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons as per the accelerated phase out schedule of the Montreal Protocol
    • The Government of India ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down Hydrofluorocarbons. 
    • Hydrofluorocarbons are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosols, foams and other products, which even though do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential ranging from 12 to 14,000. 
    • As per the Kigali Amendment, to the Montreal Protocol, India will complete its phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 85% of production and consumption of HFCs by 2047. 
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has developed and launched the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) during March 2019, to provide an integrated vision towards cooling across sectors encompassing inter alia reducing cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20-year time horizon. 
    • Space cooling in buildings being the most important and can significantly contribute to achieving the goals in the ICAP, has been prioritized for implementation of the recommendations given in the ICAP. 
    • Action points for implementation of the recommendations for Space Cooling in Buildings was finalized and launched on the World Ozone Day held on 16th September 2021.

Preparation of Stage-III of HPMP has been initiated, to the implemented from 2023-2030, after securing funding from the Multilateral Fund for preparation of project proposal.

J. National Clean Air Program

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is implementing National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) for reducing levels of air pollution in non-attainment cities (NACs) of the country since January 2019. 
  • NCAP is implemented in targeted 132 cities.
  • A Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) has been constituted by enactment of an Act by Parliament for better coordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

K. Avoiding Use of Single Use Plastics and Efficient and Effective Management of Plastic Waste.

  • To enhance the efficacy implementation of PWMR, the Ministry has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 which also prohibits identified single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, by 2022.
  • As per the notification, the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of 12 identified single-use plastic items including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st of July, 2022.
  • The thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from fifty microns to seventy-five microns with effect from 30th September, 2021, and to one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
  • The Ministry has organized “Awareness Campaign on Single Use Plastic – 2021”.
  • The States/UTs have been requested to constitute a Special Task Force under Chairpersonship of Chief Secretary/Administrator for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. 31 Task Forces have been formed.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the draft Regulations on the Extended Producer Responsibility for plastic packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, as amended from time to time on 6th October 2021 for public consultation.

L. Combating the Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought:

  • India committed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality and restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, which includes 21 million hectares of Bonn Challenge and additional commitment of 5 million hectares as voluntary commitment.
  • India presently holds the Presidency of UNCCD COP for 2 years till April 2022.
  • Prime Minister attended the High level Dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought of United Nations General Assembly, held on 14th June 2021 highlighting the initiatives taken by India on combating Land Degradation.

M. Integrated Coastal Zone Management

  • Blue Economy is one of the thrust areas of the Government for sustainable development of coastal resources. 
  • The development is in due consideration of Conservation & protection of coastal and marine resources, Pollution abatement measures, Management of coastal and Marine ecosystem, Livelihood enhancement with security of coastal community, Capacity building and will also comprehend Sustainable development goals.
  • 10 beaches in 7 States and One Union Territory, have been developed at par with international Standards and has been conferred with prestigious Blue Flag certification for its environmentally sound management and ecological sustainable infrastructures with adequate safety measures. This has resulted in better waste management, maintaining bathing water quality, self-sustaining solar energy-based infrastructure, containing marine littering, enhancing local level livelihood options and increased tourist based economy.

News Source: PIB


Year-End- Review-2021– Ministry of  Earth Sciences

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Space and Technology

  • The Deep Ocean Mission, India’s ambitious plan to explore and harness deep-oceanic resources and support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India was approved by the Cabinet. SAMUDRYAAN, Indian Manned Ocean Mission under Deep Ocean Mission was thus launched in November 2021.
    • The underwater mining system was deployed from ORV Sagar Nidhi and Seabed locomotion trials of the experimental undercarriage system of underwater mining system (Varaha-I and II) was successfully undertaken over a distance of 120m on water-saturated soft soil at 5270 m depth in the Central Indian Ocean (CIO).
    • Two gliders were deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the deep ocean physical and biogeochemical parameters with special emphasis to understand the temporal and spatial variability of the Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ). 
  • An Earth System Science Data Portal (ESSDP) of MoES was launched The ESSDP hosts about 1050 metadata records of data collected and maintained underdifferent programs implemented by MoES over the years and link them to the respective data centres. 
  • Accurate and timely prediction of tropical cyclones Tautkae, Yaas, Gulab and Shaheen combined with fieldwork by disaster management agencies, which helped save thousands of precious lives of countrymen.
    • Significant improvements in forecasting accuracy with respect to severe weather events including tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall, fog, heat wave, cold wave, thunder storm-20 to 40 percent improvement 
    • Three Doppler Weather Radars were commissioned at Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand and Kufri, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu. 
    • Atmospheric Research Testbed is an open field observatory spread over 100 acres of land (50 km northwest of Bhopal in Sehore District of Madhya Pradesh) for better understanding on the processes governing monsoon convection and land-atmosphere interactions over the core monsoon region using the state-of-the-art observational systems such as Radars, Wind Profilers, UAVs etc. This Atmospheric Research Testbed will be a unique facility in the Tropical region. A Dual-polarimetric C-band Doppler Weather Radar was commissioned in the above facility recently for detailed precipitation process studies in the core monsoon zone.
    • Under Lightning Location Network, 83 sensors across the country have been established. 
    • IITM has developed indigenous Decision Support System for advanced air quality management for Delhi NCR region. 

The Data Assimilation (DA) system at National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), has been updated to assimilate more new satellite observations. A High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) system was also implemented to support nowcasting activities of IMD.

  • The High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model has been developed to generate forecasts for next 12 hours. 
  • A Virtual Centre on Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML)/ Deep Learning (DL) is established at IITM Pune in order to expand the domain through multidisciplinary programs in the field of Earth System Sciences.
  • During the year, several advisories (88 nos.) on possible coral bleaching were provided comprising of the locations of Hot Spots (HS) and Degree of Heating Weeks (DHWs) estimated using SST anomalies derived from satellite data on a bi-weekly basis.
  • A water quality buoy has been deployed by National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) in the coastal water off Puducherry at 10m depth (~1.5 km from the coast). This is an automated water quality buoy fitted with sensors to monitor the variations in the water quality and productivity of the coastal waters. 
  • Under the Resource Exploration and Inventorization System (REIS) programme taxonomic studies of samples collected on-board FORV Sagar Sampada within the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) yielded six new species of decapod crustaceansone new species of polycheate and two species of deeps eels.
  • The Joint OMNI-RAMA Indian Ocean Data Portal developed by INCOIS jointly with NIOT and PMEL-NOAA will showcase the large inventory of meteorological and oceanographic data sets with direct access for data display and delivery.
  • The existing National Seismological Network has now been strengthened to 150 stations with the addition of 35 new seismic observatories to improve the operational capability to detect any earthquake of M:3.0 or above in most parts of the country
    • The seismic microzonation work has been started and various Geophysical & Geotechnical surveys are in progress.
    • Under the Scientific Deep Drilling project in the Koyna Intraplate Seismic Zone, Maharashtra, the evidence of deep-water percolation in the Koyna Seismogenic Zone has been established with several damage zones being delineated between 2 and 3 km in the Koyna pilot borehole based on the physical and mechanical properties of the rock formations. 
  • Under the national network project, Submarine Ground Water Discharge (SGD), National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) has estimated SGD flux from three coastal catchments of southwest coastal zone of India through aquifer modelling technique. There are nine critical zones with a total shore length of 106.5 km, out of 640km surveyed, in the SW coastal zone having SGD signatures
  • The 40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (40-ISEA) and 41st Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica launched from National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa in 2021.
    • The 41st expedition has two major programs. The first program encompasses geological exploration of the Amery ice shelf at Bharati station. This will help explore the link between India and Antarctica in the past. 
    • The second program involves reconnaissance surveys and preparatory work for drilling of 500 meters of ice core near Maitri in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey and the Norwegian Polar Institute. It will help in improving the understanding of Antarctic climate, westerly winds, sea-ice and greenhouse gases from a single climate archive for past 10,000 years.
  • The International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography (ITCOocean) established at INCOIS, Hyderabad a UNESCO Category 2 Centre, had trainees from 95 countriestill date. The online training mode due to the pandemic has enabled increased participation from Indian Ocean Rim countries in the training programmes. 
  • The Implementation Agreement on “Technical Cooperation in Development of the Research moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and prediction (RAMA) and the Ocean Moored buoy Network in the northern Indian ocean (OMNI) for Improving Weather and Monsoon Forecasts” was signed 
  • India and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) towards promoting scientific and technical cooperation in marine science and ecology 
  • The innovative technologies developed by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) on “Recombinant Ectoine Deep Sea Bacteria for Skin Care And Cosmetic Application” And Biosurfactant From Marine Bacteria For Environmental Cleanup And Waste Management 
  • The seventh edition of the India International Science Festival (IISF 2021) organized by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology and Vijnana Bharati along with Government of Goa was held in Goa during 10-13, December 2021. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), MoES was the nodal agency for organizing the IISF 2021. The theme of IISF 2021 was ‘Celebrating Creativity in Science’. 

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY/ AGRICULTURE

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources

RCEP & Victory for the dairy sector

Context: The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and Australia is expected to face rough weather with the Government committing to open the dairy sector which is being opposed by the farmers’ organisations. 

  • The Bharatiya Kisan Union said it was against Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations because of dairy commitments and will oppose the India-Australia CECA because of the same factors. 
  • India’s withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a major victory for the farmer’s organisations, trade unions, associations of small and medium industrial producers and civil society groups, which had organised widespread agitations against the free trade agreement. The Indian government has bowed to their demands and refused to join RCEP.

Why joining the RCEP would have proven suicidal for India’s dairy sector?

  1. Fear of Tariffs
  • The key fear of the dairy sector was that tariff clauses for agriculture in the RCEP are much more severe compared to the existing World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. 
  • While the WTO allows a country to fix tariffs up to a certain maximum, or bound tariff, for a given commodity line, the RCEP binds countries to reduce that level to zero within the next 15 years. 
  • Currently, India’s average bound tariff for dairy products is about 63.8% while its average applied tariff is 34.8%.
  1. A self-sufficient sector
  • India’s dairy sector provides livelihood to about 70 million households. 
  • A key feature of India’s dairy sector is the predominance of small producers. In 2017, if the average herd size in a dairy farm was 191 in the U.S., 355 in Oceania, 148 in the U.K. and 160 in Denmark, it was just 2 in India
  • Yet, due to Operation Flood after the 1960s, India’s contribution to world milk production rose from 5% in 1970 to 20% in 2018. Today, India is largely self-sufficient in milk production. It does not import or export milk in any significant quantity.
  • If we consider global milk trade, developed countries account for 79% of the total world export of milk. Major players are the U.S., the EU, Australia and New Zealand. 
    • A country like New Zealand exports 93% of its milk production. 
  • On the other hand, developing countries account for 80% of the world’s total milk imports. 
    • Though India is self-sufficient in milk production, China imports about 30% of its milk requirement.
  • Thus, some of the major players in the global milk trade are in the RCEP region. About 51% of the global trade of milk, 45% of the global trade of skimmed milk powder (SMP), 38% of the global trade of butter oil, 35% of the global trade of cheese and 31% of the global trade of butter takes place in the RCEP region. 
  • This is why Australia and New Zealand, deprived of the lucrative markets in the U.S. after the demise of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), have had a deep interest in the RCEP agreement.
  1. Growth of MNCs
  • Over the last 25 years, Indian policy has consciously encouraged the growth of private milk companies. Milk cooperatives, which played a major role during Operation Flood, are no more seen as engines of growth. 
  • Policy has also favoured the entry of multinational dairy corporations into the Indian dairy sector, through joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions.
  • Multinational milk firms have opened shop in India in the hope that the Indian dairy sector would soon be opened up. 
    • For instance, the Swiss firm Nestlé was the largest private purchaser of milk in India in 2019. The French milk firm Lactalis entered India in 2014 and has taken over Tirumala Milk Products in Hyderabad, Anik Industries in Indore, and Prabhat Dairy. 
    • Another French firm, Danone, has invested ₹182 crore in the yoghurt brand Epigamia. New Zealand’s Fonterra Dairy has a 50:50 joint venture with Kishore Biyani’s Future Consumer products.
  • In other words, multinational dairy firms had been building a strong presence in India even prior to the RCEP talks. At present, these firms are forced to buy milk from Indian farmers. 
  • The reason is that the applied tariff for dairy products in India is about 35%. The bound tariff would have fallen to zero if the RCEP had come into effect. It would have then been far more profitable for firms to import milk from New Zealand or Australia rather than buy it from Indian farmers. The sale price of milk received by Indian farmers would have fallen sharply.
  • The export price of SMP from New Zealand is about ₹150 per kg. The domestic price of SMP in India is about ₹300 per kg. 
  • An average dairy farmer in India receives ₹30 per litre of milk. According to estimations made by Amul, if free imports of SMP from New Zealand are permitted, the average price for milk received by an Indian dairy farmer would fall to ₹19 per L. 
  1. False arguments

Two arguments were raised in favour of India signing the RCEP. 

  • First, it was argued that India would soon become a milk-deficient country and be forced to import milk. Hence, it would be better if India enters the RCEP today rather than later. 
    • Forecasts from Niti Aayog show that this argument is wrong. In 2033, India’s milk production would rise to 330 MMT while its milk demand would be 292 MMT. Thus, India is likely to be a milk-surplus country by 2033.
  • Second, it was argued that the quantity of milk imports from New Zealand to India are unlikely to exceed 5% of their total exports. As a result, its impact on Indian prices would be insignificant. This too is a false argument. 
    • As data put together by Amul show, 5% of New Zealand’s exports in this sector is enough to flood India’s domestic market. It is enough to account for 30% of the Indian market for milk powders, 40% of the Indian market for cheese, and 21% of the Indian market for butter oil. These numbers are significant, and enough to ensure that Indian dairy prices plummet. 
  • If there are 70 million households dependent on dairy in India, the corresponding number is just 10,000 in New Zealand and 6,300 in Australia. Reasoned analysis shows the socio-economic costs of India becoming a party to the RCEP agreement. 

How come milk price from New Zealand and Australia is so low?

  • The unit cost of milk production is relatively low in countries like New Zealand because of extensive grazing lands (which reduce feed costs), mechanised operations and the advantages of economies of large-scale production, and the high productivity of milch animals (about 30 L/day). 
  • In addition, New Zealand government policy has consciously helped its major company, Fonterra, to become the dairy giant that it is. 
  • Fonterra, which controls 90% of the New Zealand milk market and one-third of world trade in milk, is feared even by large American and European dairy firms. 
  • A key demand of American dairy firms during the TPP negotiations was that New Zealand should break up and end the monopoly of Fonterra.

Conclusion

India’s farmer’s organisations did well to keep the government on a short leash this time. On its side, the government would do well to be guarded against the temptations of joining such free trade agreements in the future. It should also begin work on correcting the imbalances of existing free trade agreements.

Connecting the dots:


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Federalism & its challenges

The dispute over Belagavi

Context: The border town of Belagavi has been a part of Karnataka since boundaries were demarcated on linguistic lines under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. But the inter-State border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra erupts every now and then. 

  • In the most recent instance, trouble began after some Kannada activists blackened the face of a leader of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) – a Marathi outfit formed to demand Belagavi’s inclusion into Maharashtra — during ‘Maha Melava’ rally. 
  • The rally coincided with the first day of the Legislature session of Karnataka in Belagavi on December 13, 2021. 
  • In turn, some Marathi outfits burnt the Kannada flag in Kolhapur in Maharashtra. This was widely condemned by Kannada organisations and state government Karnataka. 
  • To settle scores, some Kannada activists poured ink on a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in Bengaluru. MES activists then vandalised a statue of Sangolli Rayanna, a 19th century icon of Karnataka who fought the British, at Belagavi

What are the claims of both states? 

  • In 1957, unhappy with the demarcation of boundaries, Maharashtra demanded realignment of its border with Karnataka. 
  • It invoked Section 21 (2) (b) of the Act, and submitted a petition to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi-speaking areas included in Karnataka. 
  • Maharashtra claimed 814 villages, and three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani, all part of Mumbai Presidency before independence. 
  • A petition by Maharashtra in the Supreme Court, staking a claim over Belagavi, is currently pending. 
  • Karnataka has consistently argued that inclusion of Belagavi as part of its territory is beyond dispute. It has cited the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the Act and the later Mahajan Commission Report to substantiate its position.
  • Karnataka has argued for inclusion of areas in Kolhapur, Sholapur and Sangli districts (falling under Maharashtra) as its territory. 
  • Karnataka started holding the winter session of the Legislature in Belagavi from 2006. It built a massive Secretariat building in the district headquarters, on the lines of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, to reassert its claim.
  • In 1960, a four-member committee was formed by both States. The committee could not arrive at a consensus and respective representatives submitted reports to their government. In the subsequent decades, chief ministers of both States have met several times to find an amicable solution but to no avail. 

What were the terms of the Mahajan Commission? 

  • In 1966, at Maharashtra’s insistence, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established a one-man commission, the Mahajan Commission (Mehr Chand Mahajan, third Chief Justice of India) a few months before the 1967 general elections and its report was released after the elections. 
  • It recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. 
  • Maharashtra rejected the report, while Karnataka welcomed it. Karnataka argued that either the Mahajan Commission Report should be accepted fully or status quo maintained. 
  • In the following decades, Belagavi has significantly changed on demographic and economic fronts. 
    • The middle-class core areas and surroundings of the city are predominantly Kannada-speaking people. 
    • But in and around Belagavi a good number of people speak both Marathi and Kannada. Intercommunity marriages between the two linguistic groups exist. 

What has been the politics around the dispute? 

  • In the immediate decades of formation of States, no national party, particularly the Congress which has a social base in both States, was willing to take the risk and address the dispute. This helped MES sustain its fight with a single agenda to seek Belagavi’s inclusion in Maharashtra. 
  • MES-supported candidates, who have been winning one or more seats in the district since the 1957 Karnataka Assembly elections, were defeated in the 2018 Assembly elections. 
  • As another election draws close in 2023, MES is keen to revive its political fortunes. 
  • One factor for renewal of the conflict came from then Chief Minister in 1986 when he made the Kannada language test mandatory for anyone joining the State Government service. 
  • The stoppage of the concession given to linguistic minorities strained relations between two linguistic groups. Later, CM had to assure Marathi leaders that Kannada would not be made compulsory in primary education in the border areas. 
  • The dispute strongly resonates in the cultural arena too. For instance, two sahitya sammelanas – the 73rd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelana (ABMSS) and the 70th Akil Bharatiya Kannada Sahitya Sammeala – were held in Belagavi in 2000 and 2003, respectively. 
    • Both events prepared the ground for the re-opening of an otherwise muted issue. 
    • Well known scholar Y.D. Phadke, president of the 73rd ABMSS, reminded the audience of the unfinished agenda of incorporating Belagavi into Maharashtra while noted Kannada writer and journalist Patil Puttappa who presided over the 70th Kannada literary meet said the town will remain part of Karnataka. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Inter-State Council 
  • River Water disputes

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG):

  1. It is coordinated by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with MoH&FW, ICMR, and CSIR
  2. The aim is To monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

Q.2 New Development Bank is Component of financial architecture of Which of the following?

  1. BRICS
  2. ASEAN
  3. BIMSTEC
  4. None of the above

Q.3 Atal Rankings of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) is an initiative of which of the following?

  1. NITI Aayog
  2. Ministry of Education
  3. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)
  4. University Grants Commission (UGC)

ANSWERS FOR 30th Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 A
3 B

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