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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 6th December 2021

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  • December 6, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Chendamangalam Handloom

Part of: Prelims and GS-I- Culture

In News: A serious shortage of yarn and dyes and plummeting sales have pushed the popular Chendamangalam handloom weavers’ cooperative societies in Ernakulam district and around a thousand weavers into a serious financial crisis, which now threatens to end up in the closure of at least a few cooperatives. 

About

  • There are four main centres for weaving the traditional handlooms of Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam, Kuthampully, Kannur and Kasaragod. 
  • Like in other parts of Kerala, weavers in Chendamangalam were under official patronage of the feudal family of Paliam, who served as chief ministers for the Rajas of Cochin. 
  • In terms of the actual process, Chendamangalam textiles are woven on frame looms, and their texture is slightly heavier than similar fabrics from Balaramapuram.
  • Chendamangalam are similar to what one finds in Balaramapuram, but with less emphasis on kasavu patterns. Instead, the typical Chendamangalam mundu or settu mundu has coloured borders with a matching colour stripe, and only small amounts of kasavu for ornamentation.
  • In 2010, the Government of Kerala applied for Geographical Indication for Chendamangalam Dhoties, Sarees/Set Mundu. The Government of India recognized it as a Geographical indication officially since the year 2011

S-Gene Drop Out

Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Science & Tech

In News: The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been confirmed in India and in at least 30 other countries by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

What is the S-gene drop out?

  • Tests usually look for three target genes related to parts of the virus: S (spike), N2 (nucleocapsid or inner area) and E (envelope or outer shell).
  • The S-gene refers to the gene that codes for the spike protein, or the most distinctive part of the coronavirus.
  • The SARS-CoV-2, like many other coronaviruses, has key protein-regions that define its structure: The envelope protein (E), thenucleocapsid protein(N), the membrane protein (M) and the spike protein (S).
  • To accurately identify the virus, diagnostic tests are made that can identify characteristic genes that make these proteins.
  • While the variant can only be reliably confirmed with genome sequencing, the WHO has also recommended that certain commonly used COVID-19 detection tests, with ‘S-gene dropout’ capabilities, can be used to quickly screen for an Omicron infection.

Project Re-Hab

Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Environment

In News: Buoyed by the success of its innovative Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) in Karnataka, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has now replicated the project in Assam. 

  • Surrounded by dense forests, a large part of Assam is infested by elephants with 332 human deaths reported between 2014 and 2019 due to elephant attacks.

What is Project Re-Hab?

  • Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) 
  • Objective: To prevent elephant attacks in human habitations using honeybees.
  • It entails installing bee boxes along the periphery of the forest and the villages. 
  • Under Project RE-HAB, “Bee-fences” are created by setting up bee boxes in the passage ways of elephants to block their entrance to human territories.
  • The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug or pull causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further.
  • It is a cost-effective way of reducing human-wild conflicts without causing any harm to the animals. It is scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed by the honey bees.
  • It is believed that elephants’ fear of the bees will prevent them from transgressing into human landscape.  
  • Project Re-HAB is a sub-mission of the KVIC’s National Honey Mission.
  • Project RE-HAB was launched at 11 locations in Kodagu district of Karnataka on 15th March 2021. In just 6 months, this project has reduced elephant attacks by over 70%.

Culture Mapping of 80 Villages

Part of: Prelims and GS-II- Governance

In News: Culture mapping of 80 villages associated with noted personalities in history, in particular the freedom movement, unique crafts and festivals has been started as a pilot project by Union Culture Ministry.

Key Takeaways

  • From Sempore in Kashmir to Kanjirapally in Kerala, villages with a connection to the freedom movement as well as those with their own art practices have been selected for the project, being conducted by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
  • The project would lead to a “national register and interactive database of artists and art practices from the villages of India”. Each artist would be given a unique ID and an e-commerce platform set up.
  • The work under the mission involves coordinating the data collection through ground and field surveys conducted on the basis of detailed formats and questionnaires, mobile application, interactive web-portal and an over-the-top (OTT) platform to showcase ethnographic documentaries/ cultural events/ festival/ melas etc. of villages.

Some of the villages on the list

  • From Ladakh, the pilot project included Choglamsar and Wanla villages, known for wood carving.
  • Sempore or Pandrenthan in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir that is associated with 14th Century mystic Lal Ded or Lalleshwari.
  • Khatkar Kalan village in Punjab, which has a memorial of Bhagat Singh.
  • Reni village of Uttarakhand, where the Chipko movement started.
  • Kathputli Colony in Delhi, known for the “migrant kathputli artists”, are also on the list.
  • Two villages in Tamil Nadu — Ettayapuram (the birthplace of poet Subramania Bharathi) and Thiruchigadi (a village of “women potters”) — are also on the list.

Statutory Bail

Part of: Prelims and GS-II- Governance

In News: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has approached the Supreme Court against a Bombay High Court order granting bail to advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj. 

  • In its bail order, the court has asked the NIA Court to decide the conditions for her release on December 8. 
  • While she was given ‘default bail’, eight others were denied the benefit in the same case.
  • The case highlights the nuances involved in a court determining the circumstances in which statutory bail is granted or denied, even though it is generally considered “an indefeasible right”.

What is Statutory bail?

  • Default bail, also known as statutory bail, is a right to bail that accrues when the police fail to complete investigation within a specified period in respect of a person in judicial custody.
  • This is enshrined in Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure where it is not possible for the police to complete an investigation in 24 hours, the police produce the suspect in court and seek orders for either police or judicial custody.
  • This section concerns the total period up to which a person may be remanded in custody prior to filing of charge sheet.
  • For most offences, the police have 60 days to complete the investigation and file a final report before the court. However, where the offence attracts death sentence or life imprisonment, or a jail term of not less than 10 years, the period available is 90 days.
  • In other words, a magistrate cannot authorise a person’s judicial remand beyond the 60-or 90-day limit. At the end of this period, if the investigation is not complete, the court shall release the person “if he is prepared to and does furnish bail”.

(News from PIB)


Loktak Inland Water ways project

Part of: Prelims 

In News: Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and AYUSH inspected the Inland Waterways of India (IWAI) Jetty at the iconic Loktak Lake.

Loktak Lake

  • The only floating national park in the world
  • The largest fresh water lake in North east located at Moirang in Manipur.
  • One of the largest water bodies in Asia and its beauty, greenery, marine life, surrounded by blue mountains stand out.
  • Loktak Lake is famous for the phumdis floating over it. Phumdis are a series of floating islands of entangled vegetation formed by the accumulation of organic debris and biomass with soil, exclusive to the Loktak Lake in Manipur. Its thickness varies from few centimeter to two meters. The humus of phumdi is black in colour and very spongy with large number of pores. It floats with 4/5 part under water.
  • It has been designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990.
  • It is also listed under the Montreux Record in 1993, “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur”.

News Source: PIB


National Energy Efficiency Innovation Awards (NEEIA)

Part of: Prelims 

In News: To recognize “Innovative Energy Efficiency Technologies” and instill a sense of competition to motivate industries & sectors to develop innovative energy efficiency efforts in their units.

By: Bureau of Energy Efficiency, under the guidance of Ministry of Power – recognizes and encourages endeavors of industrial units, institutions and establishments in reducing energy consumption by felicitating them with National Energy Conservation Awards (NECA) on the occasion of National Energy Conservation Day, celebrated on 14th December every year.

Significance

  • The Energy Efficiency Innovation Award is the need of the hour to promote newer technologies, ideas, and pave way for the adoption of these innovations by larger groups.
  • The award shall encourage to apply new methods to achieve energy efficiency and to lay greater emphasis on research & development. 
  • Innovation has the potential to bring about substantial changes in a smaller span of time and to create a way for new employment opportunities.
  • As promotion of energy efficiency and Renewable energy are major pillars for low carbon energy transition, recognition of such efforts undertaken by various participants stimulate further action in accelerating the transition, outcomes of which eventually contribute towards meeting India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and broader climate goals.

News Source: PIB


Rice Fortification

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Food Processing

What is food fortification?

  • According to the WHO, fortification is the process of increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, such as vitamins or minerals, in a food item to improve its nutritional value and provide public health benefits at minimal cost.
  • It has minimal effects on taste and cooking properties while at the same time adding multiple nutrients to cure multiple deficiencies.
  • It also has minimal behaviour change, unlike supplements.
  • For example, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, and calcium may be added to fruit juices.
  • Rice is the fifth item to get the government’s fortification push after salt, edible oil, milk and wheat.

How to fortify rice?

  • According to the norms of the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India, 1 kg of fortified rice must contain iron (28mg-42.5mg), folic acid (75-125 mg) and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25mg).
  • Usual milled rice is low in micronutrient content because its nutrient-rich superficial layer is removed during rice milling and polishing operations. This makes the grain taste better and visually appealing but less nutritious.
  • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder containing iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc, which then sticks to the grains.

The Significance

  • Malnutrition especially child malnutrition is a major threat to the growth and development of children.
    • According to a National Family Health Survey report, India has the largest burden of iron-deficiency and anaemia worldwide.
    • About 59% of children and 50% of pregnant women are anaemic in India.
    • Child and maternal malnutrition accounts for 15% of India’s total disease burden.
    • The country reportedly loses around 1 per cent of GDP (Rs 1.35 lakh crore) every year due to iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ also continue to pose significant public health problems in Indian populations.
  • Therefore, the decision to fortify rice was taken to address the malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients especially among poor women and poor children.
  • Government distributes more than 300 lakh tonnes of rice to 81 crore people under schemes covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

Cooperative Sector Reforms

Context: ‘Cooperation has failed, but cooperation must succeed,’ wrote the All India Rural Credit Survey Committee in 1954. 

  • This verdict came five decades after the first cooperative legislation of 1904. The Governor of the Madras Presidency, Lord Wenlock, was the first to seriously attempt replicating European cooperatives in India.
  • Madras was ideal for this experimentation as it had similar institutions in its Nidhis.

European Cooperatives

  • Friedrich Raiffeisen, who along with compatriot Schulze-Delitzsch in Germany, and Luzzatti of Italy, pioneered cooperatives in Europe.
  • Raiffeisen based them on the principles of self-help, self-governance, and self-responsibility. 
  • Known for their trustworthiness and resilience against financial crises, most were known as Raiffeisenbanks, spreading to other parts of Europe and America.

India Cooperatives & challenges

  • Colonial Rulers while moving the Cooperative Societies Bill on October 23, 1903, had said that the Bill sought to create ‘small and simple credit societies for small and simple folk with simple needs and requiring small sums only’. 
  • It was emphasised that ‘co-operation must be built up from the bottom, and not from the top’.
  • However, what India had was not a movement, but a policy. It was ‘created by ‘resolutions of the Central Government’ unlike Europe.
  • The challenge was to loosen government grip on cooperation over the years. But, government control has only increased, violating a core cooperative principle of political neutrality. This reflects a collective failure of the political class.
  • After Independence, cooperative institutions became an instrument of planning and state action. 
  • Not surprisingly, the most successful Indian cooperatives such as the AMUL, ndian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) and Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO), are outside government control.
  • Globally, seven of the top 10 cooperatives by asset size are from the financial sector. The Indian financial sector is nowhere in the picture going by asset size.
  • When a cooperative bank scales up, maintaining its cooperativeness is a challenge. Cooperatives have also become avenues for regulatory arbitrage, circumventing lending and anti-money laundering regulations.
  • Cooperative banking suffered from the top-down quality. Recent initiatives such as an umbrella organisation for urban cooperatives and a new Ministry of Cooperation at the Centre threaten to further this approach in the absence of safeguards.

Measures to be adopted

  1. Powers of Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) need to be scaled back
  • A British Indian innovation, it failed to stick to its original role of a facilitator: a friend, philosopher, and guide to cooperative societies. 
  • In almost all States, the RCS has become an instrument of inspection and domination, one which imposes uniform by-laws, and amends them when individual societies do not fall in line.
  • The RCS was empowered to grant exemptions considering local conditions. But, the position continued even after the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms placed cooperation under the provinces in 1919. The RCS continued to hold sway after Independence. 
  • Some States even provide for across-the-board takeover of cooperative boards. 
  • There is a need to transfer work from the RCS to cooperative federations — as in Singapore.
  1. Get rid of Rural-Urban dichotomy
  • The rural-urban dichotomy in the regulatory treatment of cooperatives is specious and outdated. 
  • It perpetuates age-old divisions based on the nature of operations and population size. 
  • Such differences are immaterial when regulation is to be based on the cooperative nature of organisations.
  1. Streamline Regulation
  • The regulation and the supervision of cooperative banks should move to a new body from the RBI for urban banks and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for rural banks. 
  • The arguments for combining supervisory powers with the RBI do not hold good for cooperative institutions. 
  • Moreover, new regulatory body will ensure a fresh look at the regulation of these institutions to which stringent regulations like that of the Basel Committee are not designed to apply. 
  • As for NABARD, the burden of inspecting rural cooperatives (and regional rural banks) is a distraction from its core mandate, apart from being a drain on resources.
  • In India, adopting a multi-agency approach, especially after bank nationalisation, has affected the efficiency of both commercial and cooperative banks

Connecting the dots:


HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger. 
  • GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

The need to reopen anganwadis

In News: Being closed since the April 2020-lockdown, anganwadis are slowly reopening. 

What is the significance of anganwadis?

  • As part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), anganwadis play a crucial role in supporting households, particularly from low-income families, by providing childcare, health and nutrition, education, supplementary nutrition, immunisation, health check-up and referral services. 
  • The largest in the world, ICDS covers about 88 million children aged 0-6 years in India. 
  • Their closure significantly impacted service delivery and weakened an important social safety net.
  • Even as anganwadis resumed services, the closure has impacted their ability to serve as childcare centres.

What are the challenges faced by Anganwadis?

  • Despite being the primary information-source on nutrition, anganwadi workers can lack key knowledge.
  • Surveys conducted in 2018-19 found that among mothers listed with anganwadi workers, knowledge about key health behaviour such as complementary feeding and handwashing was low, at 54% and 49%. 
  • Anganwadi workers often do not have the support or training to provide early childhood care and education (ECCE)
  • Administrative responsibilities take up significant time, and core services like pre-school education are deprioritised. 
    • A typical worker spends an estimated 10% of their time — 28 minutes per day — on pre-school education, compared to the recommended daily 120 minutes. 
  • Anganwadis often lack adequate infrastructure. NITI Aayog found that only 59% of anganwadis had adequate seating for children and workers, and more than half were unhygienic.
  • These issues worsen in an urban context, with the utilisation of early childcare services at anganwadis at only 28%, compared to 42% for rural areas, according to NFHS-4 data. 

Way Ahead

  • As anganwadis reopen, we must prioritise interventions with a demonstrated history of success, and evaluate new ones. 
  • Studies in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh (and globally) have found that home visits, where volunteers work with children and caregivers, significantly improved cognition, language, motor development and nutritional intake while also reducing stunting.
  • Many States will have to improve career incentives and remuneration for anganwadi workers. One way to ensure they have more time is to hire additional workers at anganwadis.
  • Policymakers have tried linking anganwadis and primary schools to strengthen convergence, as well as expanding the duration of daycare at anganwadis. 
  • Reaching out to women during pregnancy can increase the likelihood that their children use ICDS services

Conclusion

  • As the world’s largest provider of early childhood services, anganwadis perform a crucial role in contributing to life outcomes of children across India. To improve these outcomes, we need to invest more significantly in anganwadis, and roll out proven innovative interventions.

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth: News)


Dec 3: Omicron: What we know so far – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/omicron-what-we-know-so-far-80525 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: Government schemes and policies.

Omicron: What we know so far

Context: The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classification of ‘Omicron’ as a variant of concern (VOC) of the novel coronavirus at the onset of the pandemic’s third year has given rise to more uncertainties even as normalcy seemed about to return. 

  • South Africa — where Omicron was first isolated November 24, 2021 — has already declared its fourth wave: County after county have been recording a dangerous spike in cases. 
  • The new variant has been detected in at least 30 countries, with India reporting its first two cases December 2.
  • Since the detection of Omicron, South Africa’s daily caseload has gone up to 11,500 December 3 (from 200 mid-November). The Gauteng province, where the infection was first found, reported a 360 per cent rise in cases between November 21 and 28. Hospitalisation increased 300 per cent and deaths by 17.65 per cent in four weeks.

The Omicron variant

  • Has 50 mutations overall, 32 alone on the spike protein — the protruding knobs on the outside of the virus that help it stick to cells and gain entry. This is the protein that all three vaccines currently available in the United States use to induce protective antibodies. 
  • Delta, in comparison, has nine mutations. 
  • The larger number of mutations in Omicron may increase its transmissibility and its ability to dodge immunity.
  • The latest VOC has overtaken Delta to become the most dominant in the country. More than 70 per cent of all virus genomes sequenced in November were of the new variant, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 
  • Omicron is infecting those earlier infected by other variants, NICD South Africa has said. The behaviour and characteristics of the variant are yet to be clinically studied, but preliminary reports revealed an ability to evade immunity developed either through natural infection or vaccination

The Current Issue

  • Vaccines are still believed to be protecting against severe infections or death caused by COVID-19. Studies are being conducted to understand if Omicron can evade immunity. However, work on variant-specific vaccines by leading manufacturers (including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc) is underway.
  • Debates on waning immunity have gained momentum over the past week. Several studies, yet to be peer-reviewed, have claimed that antibodies decline after about five months of the second dose, thus causing breakthrough infections. Immunologists, however, have repeatedly cautioned against overreacting to such concerns. 

Testing Immunity

  • Immunity is currently tested through antibody tests — a metric not all accurate as the body has other reserves to fight off an infection (eg, the memory B and memory T cells). 
  • This part of our immune system is responsible for mustering a response against severe disease or death. 
  • A memory B cell produces antibodies, while a memory T cell destroys infected cells once activated. The latter remains dormant within the body for long.
  • The rate at which our memory B and memory T cells decline, with regard to COVID-19 vaccines, is yet unknown. Their lifespan change based on the virus. For instance, a vaccine for measles give lifelong protection, while regular immunisation is needed for protection against the influenza virus every season. 

Barring its potential to evade immunity, the Omicron variant raises concerns because of how infectious it may be. The R value — defined as how many people an infected person can spread the virus to — for the Delta variant is between 6 and 7. The current R value for Omicron is 2, but it was 1 in September when the Delta variant was dominant.

Conclusion

With the Omicron variant on the prowl, there is a need to increase vaccination rates.


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1) Consider the following statements about Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC)

  1. It is a statutory body formed in April 1957 by the Government of India, under the Act of Parliament, ‘Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956’.  
  2. It is an apex organisation under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. 

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

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

Q.2) Consider the following statements about Food Fortification

  1. It has minimal effects on taste and cooking properties while at the same time adding multiple nutrients to cure multiple deficiencies.
  2. Rice is the fifth item to get the government’s fortification push after salt, edible oil, milk and wheat.

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

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

Q.3) Chendamangalam Handloom is associated with which of the following state of India?

  1. Tamil Nadu
  2. Kerala
  3. Andhra Pradesh
  4. Karnataka

ANSWERS FOR 06th DEC 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 C
3 B

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