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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 10th February 2022

  • IASbaba
  • February 10, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Nuclear fusion energy

Part of: Prelims and GS-III -Science and technology 

Context: A team at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility near Oxford in central England generated 59 megajoules of sustained energy during an experiment in December, more than doubling a 1997 record.

Key takeaways 

  • This is a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the Sun.
  • The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus.
  • Besides, the JET site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.
  • The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER.

About nuclear fusion

  • Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. 
  • The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as either the release or the absorption of energy
  • Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.
  • A kg of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kg of coal, oil or gas.
  • Working: Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, are heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma. 
    • This is held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.

Do you know?

  • ITER is a fusion research mega-project supported by seven members – China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. – based in the south of France, to further demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

News Source: TH


India bans drone import

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy; Science and technology 

Context: The Directorate General of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry notified the Indian Trade Classification (Harmonised System), 2022 which brought the prohibition of drones for import into effect. 

Key takeaways 

  • The move aims to promote made-in-India drones.
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation said that while exceptions were provided for R&D, defence and security, importing drones for these purposes will require “due clearances”.
  • However, import of drone components will not need any approvals.
  • Last year, the Ministry notified liberalised drone rules with the aim to encourage R&D and to make India a drone hub.
  • The government also approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and their components with an allocation of Rs. 120 crore for three financial years.

About Drones

  • It is a layman terminology for Unmanned Aircraft (UA).
  • Originally developed for the military and aerospace industries, drones have found their way into the mainstream because of the enhanced levels of safety and efficiency they bring.
  • A drone’s autonomy level can range from remotely piloted (a human controls its movements) to advanced autonomy, which means that it relies on a system of sensors and LIDAR detectors to calculate its movement.

Application of Drone Technology

  • Defence: Drone system can be used as a symmetric weapon against terrorist attacks.
  • Healthcare Delivery Purposes
  • Agriculture: Micronutrients can be spread with the help of drones
  • Monitoring: The drone technology in the SVAMITVA scheme  has helped about half a million village residents to get their property cards by mapping out the abadi areas.
  • Law Enforcement

News Source: TH


Quad

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations

Context: Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Quad (India, Australia, United States, Japan), is expected to discuss cooperation on vaccines, technology and regional security issues including related to China.

  • The Ministers will review ongoing Quad cooperation and build on the positive and constructive agenda announced by the Leaders at the two Summits in 2021.
  • The Quad Foreign Ministers meet is expected to lay the groundwork for the second Quad leaders summit likely to take place this summer.

QUAD

  • Full form: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue 
  • Countries: USA, Japan, Australia and India 
  • Aims: The main aim is to enable a regional security architecture for the maintenance of a rules- based order. 
  • It seeks to contain a ‘rising China’ and work against its predatory trade and economic policies.

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


Conserving Marine Resources

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Conservation

Government of India has undertaken several initiatives focusing on the conservation of coastal and marine resources through implementation of law and continuous monitoring. 

  • The Wild Life Protection Act of India (1972) provides legal protection to many marine animals. There are total of 31 major Marine Protected Areas in India covering coastal areas that have been notified under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • The National Committee on mangroves, wetlands and coral reefs constituted in 1993 advice the Government on relevant policies and programmes regarding marine species.
  • The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification (1991 and later versions) prohibit developmental activities and disposal of wastes in the fragile coastal ecosystems.
  • The Biological Diversity Act of India, 2002 and the Biological Diversity Rules 2004, and the guidelines thereof advise the Government on matters related to the protection and conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use and equitable sharing of its components, Intellectual Property Rights, etc.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY): for sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector in India. Two of the key objectives of the scheme are (a) harnessing of fisheries potential in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive and equitable manner and (b) Robust fisheries management and regulatory framework.
  • The Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), an attached office of Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is mandated with the management strategies development for marine living resources through ecosystem monitoring and modelling activities. 
  • Involvement of local communities is often seen as an integral part of preserving the marine resources. CMLRE is implementing a national R&D programme on Marine Living Resources (MLR) with an inbuilt component on Societal Services to support the fisher folks of Lakshadweep Islands. The societal services initiative intends to enhance the ornamental and baitfish stocks in the wild. Under the program, CMLRE has organised a series of hands on trainings on “Marine ornamental fish breeding and rearing at Lakshadweep Islands”.  
  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) scheme of Department of Fisheries, there are provisions for encouraging sustainable marine fisheries activities, development of fisheries management plans, development of Integrated Modern Coastal Fishing Villages, promotion of Sagar Mitra, installation of bio-toilets in fishing vessels, communication and tracking devices, livelihood support during fish ban period to fisher families etc. for conservation of fisheries resources.

Note: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

  • An MPA is a marine protected area that provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. 
  • Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives.

News Source: PIB


Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas (SVAMITVA) Scheme

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

Aim: To provide the ‘Record of Rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited areas in villages with issuance of legal ownership rights (Property cards/Title deeds). 

  • The plan is to survey all rural properties using drones and prepare GIS based maps for each village.
  • Data related to property details will be owned by the State Revenue Department as it has the authority to mutate the Right of Records (RoRs) and update the maps. Hence, the State Revenue Department will be the owner/host of this data and others will have a right to view.
  • So far 29 States, including State of Uttar Pradesh, have signed MoU with SoI.

Implemented By: 

  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj
  • Survey of India (SoI)
  • State Revenue Department
  • State Panchayati Raj Department
  • National Informatics Centre

What is the benefit of issuing a SVAMITVA property card?

  • Access Credit & Benefits: It will enable rural households to use their property as a financial asset for taking loans and other financial benefits. 
  • Tax Collection: The database will help in determination of property tax, which would accrue to the Gram Panchayats directly in states where they are empowered to collect such taxes
  • Enhances Liquidity of assets: The cards will help increase liquidity of land parcels in the market and increase the financial credit availability to the village.
  • Developmental Planning: The scheme will also pave the way for creation of accurate land records for rural planning. All the property records and maps will be available at Gram Panchayat, which will help in taxation of villages, construction permits, elimination of encroachments, etc.

News Source: PIB


MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Longest Highway Tunnel above 10,000 feet: Atal Tunnel; runs under the ‘Rohtang Pass’, on the Manali – Leh Highway 
  2. India is the world’s third largest energy consuming country and electricity demand grows by 4.7% each year.
  3. Share of nuclear energy in the total electricity generation in the country has remained around 3 to 3.5% since 2014.
  4. Coal in India: A target of all India coal production of 1.2 Billion Tonne upto the year 2023-24 has been fixed. Demand of coal is higher than the current level of domestic supply of coal in the country. 
    • The gap between demand and domestic supply of coal cannot be bridged completely as there is insufficient availability and reserve of prime coking coal in the country. 
    • Further, coal imported by power plants designed on imported coal and high grade coal required for blending purposes is also imported in the country as this cannot be fully substituted by domestic coal as the country has limited reserve of high grade coal.
  5. Foreign Direct Investment inflows (FDI) has shown a continuous increase from US$ 45.15 billion in 2014-15 to US$ 81.97 billion in 2020-21. During the last five financial years, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows worth US$ 339.55 billion have been reported into India.
  6. National Highways falling in or passing through forest areas declared as Wildlife Sanctuary/National Park or its Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ): Instructions have been issued to implementing agencies to make all efforts to avoid any road alignment through National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries, even if it requires taking a longer route/bypass. 
    • However if it is absolutely unavoidable, land to be acquired is limited to a maximum right of way of 30m
    • All necessary clearances required under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Forest Conversion Act 1980 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986, are obtained before any work is undertaken in such areas.
    • Site-specific mitigation measures are being taken in consultation with Forest Authorities, incorporating one or more of several options as per site requirements like construction of culverts, underpass, overpass (ecoduct), viaduct, tunnel, guard wall, fencing, vegetative barrier, anti-light glare, sound barrier, etc.
    • Funds are also provided to the concerned Forest Authorities for taking measures as per their approved Wild Life Management Plan like creation of the waterholes, site specific plantation and landscaping, animal conservation units, rescue operation, anti-poaching unit, watch tower, monitoring, awareness, involvement of locals, construction of post guard, illumination and fencing around the boundary of Protected Area (PA) or its Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) etc., for conservation of wildlife habitat and reduction of human animal conflict.
  7. ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. 
    • States/UTs are primarily responsible to maintain law and order, inter-alia including strategy to prevent cyber-crimes, planning and setting up of task force, and capacity building/training of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of cyber-crimes. 
    • The Central Government supplements the initiatives of the State Governments through various advisories and schemes for the capacity building of their LEAs.
  8. Pradhan Mantri-YUVA (Pilot): By the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), to create an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurship development through entrepreneurship education and training across the country.
  9. SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise: 
    • Includes the sub-scheme – ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’ which covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging with focus extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development, economic linkages etc. with the support of State Governments/UTs/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and institutions and others.
    • Scheme provides for the use of the existing shelter homes for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of begging. In case of non-availability of existing shelter homes, new dedicated shelter homes to be set up for the Persons engaged in the act of begging by the implementing agencies.
    • By Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
  10. Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs and Startups by Women (WEE)
    • By the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Germany on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
    • Aims to pilot incubation and acceleration programmes for women micro entrepreneurs, enabling them to start new businesses and scale up existing enterprises in the States of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and 8 North Eastern States of the country.
    • Under the title of ‘Her&Now’, the project envisages a film and media campaign to tell the stories of successful women entrepreneurs and to foster a positive mindset change on gender roles and expand women entrepreneurship.
    • The project targets to support 315 aspiring women entrepreneurs, from the selected states, to turn their ideas into a business in the seven-month incubation programme.
  11. Anganwadi Services: One of the flagship programmes of the Government of India and represents one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood care and development
    • Beneficiaries: children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers
    • Package of six services: 
      1. Supplementary Nutrition (SNP)
      2. Pre-school Non-formal Education,
      3. Nutrition & Health Education,
      4. Immunization,
      5. Health Check-up, and
      6. Referral Services
    • Three of the six services, viz., Immunization, Health check-up and Referral Services are related to health and are provided through NRHM & Public Health Infrastructure.
  12. POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to reduce malnutrition from the country and achieve improvement in nutritional status of Children from 0-6 years, Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers in a time bound manner.
  13. Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme – Mission Vatsalya for rehabilitation of children in difficult circumstances including, orphan and destitute children. Financial assistance is provided to the State Governments/UT Governments for providing services which include institutional care, non-institutional care, support for capacity building, human resources, setting up and maintenance of various types of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) including children homes, observation homes, special homes, place of safety, open shelters etc.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

Time to relook at the Privatisation Policy

Context: There is consensus among policymakers for privatisation of public sector undertakings (PSUs), especially in neo-liberal world order, for its ability to grow faster. 

What is the reality of Privatisation?

  • Performance of Privatised Firms not guranteed: The gap in growth (and service) between PSUs with autonomy and private firms is not significant.
    • For example: Studies have shown that the famed British privatisation initiative of British Airways, British Gas, and the Railways led to no systemic difference in performance
    • Evidence on performance after privatisation is even more mixed in developing countries. 
  • Performance may be due to other factors: Growth post-privatisation is often due to multiple factors (for example, better funding under a private promoter versus a starved government budget, a better business cycle). Sometimes, the difference in a PSU’s performance is simply government apathy.
  • Low Realisation of Revenues: Privatisation as a revenue source has also offered paltry return with actual receipts from disinvestment always significantly short of targets. For example, in FY11, ₹22,846 crore was raised against a target of ₹40,000 crore; by FY20, ₹50,304 crore was raised against a target of ₹1 lakh crore.
    • In total, between FY11 and FY21, about ₹5 lakh crore was raised (that is, about 33% of just FY22’s projected fiscal deficit of ₹15.06 lakh crore.)
  • Outright Privatisation has not been yielding results in India. Aside Air India, a recently held auction of about 21 oil and gas blocks had only three firms participating, of which two were PSUs; 18 blocks ended up with just a single bid.
  • Challenge of valuation – for example, about 65% of about 300 national highway projects have been recording significant toll collection growth (>15%, since they have been in operation); any valuations of such assets will need to ensure they capture potential growth in toll revenue.
  • Social consequences: PSUs have been significant generators of employment in the past, with multiplier effects – there were about 348 CPSUs in existence in 2018, with a total investment of ₹16.4 trillion and about 10.3 lakh employees in Central PSUs (in 2019). A push for privatisation is a push for mass layoffs, in a period of low job creation.
  • Concentration of public assets in select private hands: In India, about 70% of all profits generated in the corporate sector in FY20 were with just 20 firms (in comparison, the situation in FY93 was about 15%). Across sectors oligopoly is emerging. Such concentration, mixed with privatisation of public assets, is likely to lead to higher usage fees (already being seeing in telecom) and inflation, coupled with a loss of strategic control.

Are there any alternative models for Privatisation?

  1. Maruti Model
  • The government had a joint venture with the Suzuki Corporation, but ceded control, despite Suzuki having only 26% shareholding. Exits from Maruti were conducted in small tranches, ensuring a better valuation for the government
  • Empirical evidence highlights that stake sales are considered a preferred route (about 67% of all PSU sales in about 108 countries between 1977 and 2000 were conducted via this route), as it gives time to ensure price discovery, allowing improved performance to raise valuations over time, 
  1. Corporatisation of PSUs under Holding Company
  • In China, for the past few decades, growth has been led by corporatised PSUs, all of them held under a holding company (SASAC), which promotes better governance, appoints leadership and executes mergers and acquisitions.
  • In Singapore, the Ministry of Finance focuses on policymaking, while Temasek (the holding firm) is focused on corporatising and expanding its PSUs (for example, Singtel, PSA, Singapore Power, Singapore Airlines) towards a global scale. 
  • A PSU with greater autonomy, with the government retaining control via a holding firm, can also be subject to the right incentives.

Conclusion

The time has come to take a relook at privatisation. Simply pursuing this path, while utilising such proceeds for loan write-offs or populist giveaways in the election cycle will not do. A hunt for immediate revenue should not overshadow the long-term interest of the ordinary Indian.

Connecting the dots:


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Fundamental Freedoms & Restrictions
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

New Central Media Accreditation Guidelines

Context: The Government has issued a slew of rules for the media under a new policy on accreditation for journalists. 

  • The Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022 have outlined the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation if a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s 
    • Security
    • sovereignty and integrity
    • friendly relations with foreign states
    • Public order 
    • or is charged with a serious cognisable offence.
  •  Most of the provisions are drawn from Article 19(2) of the Constitution which prescribes the restrictions to free speech. 

How is this different from the past? 

  • The previous policy, issued in 2013, had stated, under general terms of accreditation, that accreditation “shall be withdrawn as soon as the conditions on which it was given cease to exist. Accreditation is also liable to be withdrawn/suspended if it is found to have been misused”.
  • With the new policy and laying down the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation, they serve more as censorship rules rather than guidelines
  • Previous guidelines were more general in nature and did mention that accreditation would be withdrawn if found to be misused. 
  • In the new guidelines, there are 10 provisions under which accreditation to a journalist can be withdrawn. 

How are they proposed to be implemented? 

  • As per the guidelines, the Government of India shall constitute a committee called the Central Media Accreditation Committee chaired by the Principal DG, Press Information Bureau (PIB), and comprising up to 25 members nominated by the Government to interpret the guidelines for withdrawal of accreditation. 

Why are these guidelines a matter of concern? 

  • In 2020, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India 142nd among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020. 
  • Though freedom of the press is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the ambit of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution has been generally interpreted as having laid down the template for a free press in the country.
  • These new guidelines, point out experts, carry the threat of coming in the way of the functioning of a free media. 
  • A common tool used by powerful people trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out is filing of defamation cases against journalists and media platforms. Now, defamation has been made one of the provisions that can lead to cancellation of accreditation.
  • Besides, they carry the risk of delegitimising reports, especially of an investigative nature. 
  • Any report critical of the Government could now be seen as prejudicial to the interests of the country and it will be left to the interpretation and discretion of the Central Media Accreditation Committee to read the guidelines and decide what is defamatory while denying accreditation to a journalist. 

How do journalists get accredited? 

  • A journalist with a minimum of five years as a full-time working journalist can apply for accreditation to the PIB, a process that is completed after a mandatory security check from the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  • Any journalist working with a newspaper which has a daily circulation of 10,000; news agencies with at least 100 subscribers and digital news platforms with 10 lakh unique visitors can apply. 

How does Accreditation help?

  • Accreditation helps in access to government offices and to special events and functions organised by the Government of India. Some Ministries like Home and Defence and Finance allow access only to accredited journalists. 
  • In accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”.
  • Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.

Have there been attempts in the past to regulate the media? 

  • The most infamous move to control the press before the advent of private news channels was by former PM Rajiv Gandhi when he proposed the Defamation Bill in 1988. Under pressure from a unified media and several sections of the public, the Bill was withdrawn. 
  • Several attempts have been made by successive governments to keep the media in check by proposing guidelines more in the nature of censorship. 
  • As recently as 2018, the PIB, which functions under the I&B Ministry, had proposed a Fake News Guidelines under which accreditation could be cancelled if the journalist was seen as peddling content that was fake. 
  • This was seen as a move by the Government to counter other independent media outlets who had called out the Government and the political leadership for putting out fake content. The order was withdrawn under pressure. 
  • More recently the Government proposed a series of rules under the IT Act to check digital news content. 
  • State Governments like Kerala and Rajasthan had come out with their own versions of proposed rules which were withdrawn under pressure and criticism. 

Connecting the dots:


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding LiDAR

  1. It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges & variable distances.
  2. This technology is used in Surveying, archaeology, geography.

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 Consider the following

  1. Defence
  2. Healthcare Delivery Purposes
  3. Agriculture
  4. Monitoring

Which of the above is or are applications of drone technology correct? 

  1. 1 and 2 only 
  2. 2, 3 and 4 only 
  3. 1 only
  4. All of the above

Q.3 Which of the following country is not a part of Quad? 

  1. Australia
  2. USA
  3. India
  4. China

ANSWERS FOR 9th Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 D

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