(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Environment; conservation
Context The ecologically important Kazhuveli wetlands in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu, was recently notified as bird sanctuary.
- Kazhuveli wetlands is said to be the second largest brackish water lake in South India after Pulicat lake. It is a wetland of international importance
- Significance: The creation of the sanctuary will now ensure better protection of the wetlands.
- The area has adequate ecological significance for the purpose of protecting, propagating and developing wildlife and its environment.
- The place is home to a diverse species of flora and fauna.
- It is a feeding ground for long-distance migrants from the cold subarctic regions of Central Asia and Siberia including Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, White Stork and Ruff.
Part of: Prelims and GS-IIl – Internal security
Context After recent killings of Nagaland civilians by 21 Para Commando unit in Nagaland’s Mon district, its Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has called for scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)
What is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)?
- It is a Parliamentary act that grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces and the state and paramilitary forces in areas classified as “disturbed areas”.
- Objective: To maintain law and order in the disturbed areas
- Section (3) – If the governor of a state issues an official notification in The Gazette of India then the Central government has the authority to deploy armed forces for assisting the civilian authorities.
- Section (4) – Special powers to army officers in disturbed areas to shoot any individual who violates law or is suspected to violate law. The only condition is that the officer has to give a warning before opening fire.
- Security forces can arrest anybody even without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent.
- Once a person is taken into custody, he/she has to be handed over to the nearest police station as soon as possible.
- Prosecution of the officer on duty for alleged violation of human rights requires the prior permission of the Central Government.
Demand for Revocation of AFSPA in the past
- BP Jeevan Reddy committee examining it in relation to the Northeast in 2005, and the Veerappa Moily report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission of 2007, recommended that the Act be repealed.
States and union territories under AFSPA
- Throughout Assam and Nagaland.
- In Manipur with the exception only of the municipal area of Imphal.
- AFSPA has been withdrawn from Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya.
- Operational in some areas of Kashmir valley.
Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Environment
Context The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has so far disbursed Rs. 48,606 crore to 32 States.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund
- Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) is a Rs. 54,000-crore tranche collected for nearly a decade as environmental compensation from industry, which has razed forest land for its business plans.
- The CAF Act 2016 established an independent authority — the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority — to execute the fund.
- The rules governing the management of the fund were finalised in August 2020.
- The rules specify that the funds are to be used for catchment area treatment, wildlife management, forest fire prevention, soil and moisture conservation work in the forest.
- It cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, making buildings and buying office equipment for forest officers.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II- International Relations
Context India and Bangladesh recently marked Maitri Divas.
- It commemorates the day when India recognised Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971.
- The war to liberate Bangladesh began on December 3, 1971 .
- It ended with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender by Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi on December 16.
- Three days after the beginning of the war, the Indian Government recognised Bangladesh as an independent nation.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II- Policies and interventions
Context A Bill to replace an ordinance amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was introduced in the Lok Sabha
- The NDPS (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would replace an ordinance promulgated in September to correct an error in a 2014 amendment to the Act.
About The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
- It is also known as the NDPS Act.
- It prohibits any individual from engaging in any activity consisting of production, cultivation, sale, purchase, transport, storage, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
About psychotropics and Narcotics
- From a medical point of view, psychotropics designate chemical substances that act upon the mind, that is on the conscious or unconscious mental life of an individual.
- Narcotics include substances that cause stupor (unconscious), muscular relaxation and a reduction or elimination of sensitivity.
(News from PIB)
Mahaparinirvan Diwas: 66th Death Anniversary of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar
- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour.
- He was independent India’s first law and justice minister, the principal architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India.
Launch of ‘ShreshthaYojna’
- Will aid socio-economic upliftment and overall development of the Scheduled Castes students by providing quality residential education in reputed private schools.
- In the next 5 years, the Ministry has decided to extend support to 24800 meritorious Scheduled Caste students, involving Rs. 300 Crores approx. for providing them quality residential education from class 9th to 12th in reputed private residential schools in aspirational districts identified by the NITI Aayog, in educationally backward districts and districts having population of SC community at national average.
Read more: Click Here
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Government schemes and policies
In News: The Government has launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation 2.0 (AMRUT 2.0) scheme.
- AMRUT 2.0 is designed to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all statutory towns and coverage of sewerage/septage management in 500 AMRUT cities.
- Making the cities ‘water secure’ and thereby enhancing ease of living of citizens is major objective of the Mission.
- AMRUT 2.0 will promote circular economy of water through development of city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycle/reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation.
- It will help cities to identify scope for projects focusing on universal coverage of functional water tap connections, water source conservation, rejuvenation of water bodies and wells, recycle/reuse of treated used water, and rainwater harvesting.
- Mission also has a reform agenda on ease of living of citizens through reduction of non-revenue water, recycle of treated used water, rejuvenation of water bodies, augmenting double entry accounting system, urban planning, strengthening urban finance etc.
Other components of AMRUT 2.0 are:
- Pey Jal Survekshan to ascertain equitable distribution of water, reuse of wastewater, mapping of water bodies and promote healthy competition among the cities /towns.
- Technology Sub-Mission for water to leverage latest global technologies in the field of water.
- Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign to spread awareness among masses about conservation of water.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Government schemes and policies
In News: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India to strengthen the waste management sector in India under the overall ambit of Swachh Bharat Mission- Urban 2.0.
- With the vision of making cities ‘Garbage Free’, SBM-U 2.0 is focused on achieving 100% waste processing along with bio-remediation of legacy dumpsites, construction and demolition waste and plastic waste management.
- The collaboration between MoHUA and UNDP India is another step towards realizing the vision of ‘Clean Air, Clean Water, Clean Land’ in urban India through a circular economy approach based on the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) principle.
- Will cover interventions in the areas of capacity building, digital interventions, research and development, monitoring and evaluation, and social and behavior change communication.
- Through this MoU, UNDP India will also be facilitating setting up of 75 Smart Swachhata Kendras across the country, working with local partners and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
The model will also focus on integrating informal waste pickers – Safai Saathis – and linking them to various government welfare schemes.
- With digital technologies playing a critical role in driving Mission outcomes of SBM-U 2.0, the MoHUA- UNDP model will also make use of digital enablers such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to digitize the waste flow and streamline activities in the Swachhata Kendras.
News Source: PIB
SCIENCE & TECH/ GOVERNANCE
- GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Union government said that four airports in the country will soon have facial recognition technology (FRT)-based boarding system for passengers.
- In a written response to a question in Lok Sabha Union, Civil Aviation Minister said that the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is working on a biometric boarding system at the Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata, and Vijayawada airports.
- This biometric boarding system is part of the first phase of the Digi Yatra scheme’s implementation
What is the Digi Yatra scheme?
- Digi Yatra initiative aims to make air travel paperless and hassle-free in the country and proposes to simplify passenger-related processes at various checkpoints at the airport by using FRT-based biometric scanning.
- Once implemented, air travelers who choose to use the service won’t have to show their tickets, boarding passes, or physical identity cards at several points at the airport.
- This in turn would reduce queue waiting time and accelerate processing time.
How does the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) plan to implement it?
- The MoCA plans to build an identity management platform that will enable biometric-based scanning across all airports in India. The platform will include passengers’ digital identities, like Aadhaar, passport details or other identity cards.
- The ‘Common Digi Yatra ID’ platform will be used to enrol passengers, authenticate their data, and share consenting passengers’ profiles with other airport partners.
- The app-based interface will be built as a shared national infrastructure, which will provide APIs to airports.
- It will also allow other apps to be integrated with it, according to a 2018 MoCA policy paper on the scheme.
What’s the status of implementation?
- The scheme was planned to be made operational in early 2019, with pilot rollouts in Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports. Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport successfully tested the biometric-based self-boarding facility by mid-2019.
- The AAI planned to launch the scheme at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada by April 2019. But the roll-out was delayed, possibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The MoCA is now rescheduling its roll-out plans, and has proposed that the Digi Yatra system go live in March 2022, and then be scaled up in a phased manner for adoption across various airports in the country.
- The AAI has engaged NEC Corporation Pvt. Ltd. to implement FRT at the four airports.
What about passengers’ data privacy?
- Government has reiterated that data shared by the passenger is to be used for the purpose defined and would not be shared with any other external stakeholders.
- Passengers’ biometric information will be collected via an app, and deleted 24 hours after flight departure.
- Also, the security of the Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) system will be tested independently.Government also stated that the FRT deployed will comply with the country’s data privacy and protection practices.
- But India’s recently adopted Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), 2019, falls short of the standards set by the Justice Srikrishna Committee.
- The Bill fails to build a legal structure on the landmark Justice S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India judgment on the right of privacy.
- It diverges from the Committee’s 2018 draft, which proposed a judicial oversight in selecting members of the Data Protection Authority.
What are the concerns in using biometric scan at the airport?
- The use of iris scans, fingerprints and facial recognition to identify travellers has been operational in some international airports in the past few years. They use algorithmic systems to get a face grab of passengers at the first security checkpoint.
- A camera scans the passenger’s face, and takes measurements of their facial features to build a biometric profile of them.
- And then, when the same person boards the flight, another camera takes a picture of their face and runs an algorithm to check whether the two images match with the boarding pass.
- Without a clear idea of where the biometric data will be stored, and who else will have access to it, some passengers prefer to keep their personal data private.
- A growing body of research shows that biometric scanning technologies coupled with AI have an inherent bias. A report by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology noted that facial recognition technology found Black, Brown and Asian individuals to be 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white male faces.
- Studies have also found that machine learning algorithms discriminate based on classes like race and gender.
Connecting the dots
- National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS)
- The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
SECURITY/ SCIENCE & TECH/ INTERNATIONAL
- GS-3: Science & Technology; Security
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
In News: China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August 2021 that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught U.S. intelligence by surprise.
- However, China has denied that it was nuclear capable.
What are hypersonic weapons?
- They are manoeuvrable weapons that can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound.
- Ballistic missiles, though much faster, follow a fixed trajectory and travel outside the atmosphere to re-enter only near impact.
- On the contrary, hypersonic weapons travel within the atmosphere and can manoeuvre midway.
- The above capabilities combined with their high speeds makes their detection and interception extremely difficult.
- This means that radars and air defences cannot detect them till they are very close and little time to react.
- There are two classes of hypersonic weapons:
- Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV): These are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target
- Hypersonic cruise missiles (HCM): These are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or scramjets, after acquiring their target.
- Hypersonic missiles are a new class of threat because they are capable both of manoeuvring and of flying faster than 5,000 kms per hour, which would enable such missiles to penetrate most missile defences and to further compress the timelines for response by a nation under attack.
What is the status of Chinese and Russian programmes and where does the U.S. stand?
- In early October 2021, Russia announced that it had successfully test launched a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from Barents Sea which hit a target 350 kms away.
- Talking of the test in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the tests were almost complete and the Russian Navy would start receiving them in 2022.
- While the S. has active hypersonic development programmes but it was lagging behind China and Russia because most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead.
- As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.
- The U.S. is now looking to accelerate its own programmes, though it is unlikely to field an operational system before 2023.
- The Pentagon’s budget request for hypersonic research for financial year 2022 is $3.8 billion, up from the $3.2 billion it requested a year earlier. The Missile Defence Agency additionally requested $247.9 million for hypersonic defence.
What is the status of development by other countries?
- Number of other countries – including Australia, India, France, Germany, and Japan—are also developing hypersonic weapons technology.
- India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 13.
- Reportedly, India is also developing an indigenous, dual-capable hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) program and successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet in June 2019 and September 2020.
- In a scramjet engine, air goes inside the engine at supersonic speed and comes out at hypersonic speeds.
- DRDO had said after the test in 2020, many critical technologies such as aerodynamic configuration for hypersonic manoeuvres, use of scramjet propulsion for ignition and sustained combustion at hypersonic flow, thermo-structural characterization of high temperature materials, separation mechanism at hypersonic velocities have been validated.
Is Hypersonic a game changer in arms race?
- Debunking some of the claims surrounding hypersonic weapons, Physicists David Wright and Cameron Tracy argued that hypersonic weapons “may have advantages in certain scenarios, but by no means do they constitute a revolution.”
- According to these Physicists, many of the claims about hypersonic weapons are exaggerated or simply false.
- And yet the widespread perception that hypersonic weapons are a game-changer has increased tensions among the U.S., Russia and China, driving a new arms race and escalating the chances of conflict.
Given the rising tensions between the U.S., China and Russia as also the worsening geopolitical situation worldwide, the focus for hypersonic weapons is only set to accelerate more countries to invest significant resources in their design and development.
Connecting the dots
- Integrated Guided Missile program of India
- Scramjet Engine
- Cryogenic Engine by ISRO
(Sansad TV: Perspective)
Dec 6- India-Russia Annual Summit 2021: Key Takeaways – https://youtu.be/NSj3-xOoUQg
- GS-2: India and Russia
India-Russia Annual Summit 2021: Key Takeaways
Context: India and Russia share a longstanding and time-tested partnership and further development of this relationship has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy. Since the signing of “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000 bilateral ties have acquired a qualitatively new character with enhanced levels of cooperation in almost all areas including political, security, defence, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture.
The Annual Summit
The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia.
- 21st Annual Summit between the two leaders took place on 6th December during President Putin’s visit to India.
- Both leaders reviewed various aspects of bilateral relations and discussed ways to further strengthen the all-encompassing partnership
- Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries also held the first ever 2+2 dialogue between both countries and discussed several issues of common concern.
- Putin mentioned: Intends to discuss with Prime Minister Narendra Modi new “large-scale” initiatives on further developing “specially privileged” Russian-Indian relations. This partnership brings real mutual benefit to both states. Bilateral trade shows good dynamics; ties are actively developing in the energy sector, innovation, space, and the production of coronavirus vaccines and medicines. We continue to cooperate jointly on global agenda… our positions are quite similar…in the fight against terrorism, also fighting drug trafficking and organized crime
- India and Russia signed 28 MoUs across a wide range of sectors including trade, energy, culture and education.
- Signed an agreement for the procurement of 6,01,427 assault rifles AK-203 through Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt Ltd, under the military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31.
- Signed protocols on amending a deal signed in 2019 on the cooperation in the manufacturing of the Kalashnikov rifles in India
- Signed an agreement to extend military technology cooperation for the next decade, from 2021 to 2031.
Where India and Russia have greater freedom is in the economic domain, but their failure to boost the commercial relationship has been stark.
- During the last 20 summits with Putin, the two sides have repeatedly affirmed the importance of enhancing trade and investment ties; but progress has been hard to come by.
- Despite political tensions, India’s China trade continues to grow, while Delhi’s commercial ties with Moscow are stagnant despite good political relations.
- The problem clearly can’t be fixed at the level of governments. The Russian business elites gravitate to Europe and China. The Indian corporations are focused on America and China.
The success of Monday’s summit lies not in squeezing more out of bilateral defence ties, but in laying a clear path for expansive economic cooperation, and generating a better understanding of each other’s imperatives on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
Can you answer the following questions?
- China is likely to continue as a sore spot in the India-Russia relationship. Critically examine.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in the comment section)
Q.1 Which of the following are the largest brackish water bodies of India?
a) Chilika Lake
b) Kutch Salt Marsh
c) Pulicat Lake
d) Kerala Backwaters
Q.2 Which of the following is not true regarding AFSPA?
a) Section (3) of AFSPA specifies that If the governor of a state issues an official notification in The Gazette of India then the Central government has the authority to deploy armed forces for assisting the civilian authorities.
b) Section (4) of the Act gives Special powers to army officers in disturbed areas to shoot any individual who violates the law or is suspected to violate law.
c) Security forces can arrest anybody even without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent.
d) Prosecution of the officer on duty for alleged violation of human rights requires the prior permission of the Governor of that particular state.
Q.3 Consider the following statements
1) The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority is an independent authority established under Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act 2016.
2) The rules governing the management of the fund specify that the funds can be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances as well.
Select the correct answer from the following codes:
a) Only 1
b) Only 2
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
ANSWERS FOR 7th Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Indi-Russia ties:
On Myanmar’s suppression of Democracy by Military:
On Summit for Democracy: