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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 23rd February 2022

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  • February 23, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Lugansk and Donetsk territories to be recognised as independent

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations

Context: Russian President Vladimir Putin will recognise the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics, Donetsk and Lugansk territories.

Key takeaways 

  • Earlier, the rebel leaders of eastern Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk and Lugansk territories had appealed to Mr. Putin to recognise them as independent.
  • The conflict in the separatist regions began in 2014, when rebels loyal to Russia seized government buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, beginning a long trench war with Ukrainian forces. 
    • More than 13,000 people have died in fighting in the region since.
  • Implication: Russia’s recognition of the two regions could allow separatist leaders to request military help from Russia, further easing a path for a military offensive into Ukraine.
    • Ukraine would likely interpret that as Russian troops entering Ukrainian territory.
  • The decision also means that Minsk peace process will come to an end.
    • The Minsk 1 and II accords, reached in 2014 and 2015, had brought a ceasefire between the Russian-backed rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, and put forward a formula for resolving the conflict.

News Source: TH


Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations 

Context: Germany has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia after Russia announced that it will recognise the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics, Donetsk and Lugansk territories.

What is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?

  • In 2015, the Russian energy major Gazprom and five other European firms decided to build Nord Stream 2, valued at around $11 billion. 
  • The 1,200-km pipeline will run from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, and will carry 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
  • The under-construction pipeline will run along with the already completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany per year. 
  • Nord Stream 2 pipeline falls in the territory of EU members Germany and Denmark, and is about 98% complete

Source: The Economist

News Source: TH


Draft ‘India Data Accessibility and Use Policy ’

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Polity & Governance

Context: The IT ministry has come out with a draft policy that proposes a framework for government-to-government data sharing.

  • It also plans that all data for every government department or organisation shall be open and shareable by default, with riders.
  • The draft ‘India Data Accessibility and Use Policy’ circulated for public consultation will be applicable to all data and information created, generated and collected by the government directly or through ministries, departments and authorised agencies.
  • The policy aims to ‘radically transform’ India’s ability to harness public sector data. 

News Source: TH


Fundamental Duties

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Fundamental Duty

Context: The Supreme Court asked the Union and the State governments to respond to a petition to enforce the fundamental duties of citizens, including patriotism and unity of the nation, through “comprehensive, well-defined laws”.

Important Value addition

  • Background: The Fundamental Duties were incorporated in Part IV-A of the Constitution by the Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, during Emergency under Indira Gandhi’s government. 
  • The amendment came at a time when elections stood suspended and civil liberties curbed.
  • Today, there are 11 Fundamental Duties described under Article 51-A, of which 10 were introduced by the 42nd Amendment and the 11th was added by the 86th Amendment in 2002, during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.
  • Status: These are statutory duties, not enforceable by law, but a court may take them into account while adjudicating on a matter.
  • Objective: The idea behind their incorporation was to emphasise the obligation of the citizen in exchange for the Fundamental Rights that he or she enjoys.
  • The concept of Fundamental Duties is taken from the Constitution of Russia.
  • Some of the duties are?
    • To abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem
    • To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom
    • To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India — it is one of the preeminent national obligations of all the citizens of India.
    • To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so

News Source: TH


(PIB)


International Mother Language Day: 21st February

Extension of PM Cares for Children Scheme

Part of: Prelims

Under:  The Ministry of Women and Child Development

  • The objective of the scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of children who have lost their parent(s) to COVID pandemic, in a sustained manner, enable their wellbeing through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age.  
  • The scheme inter-alia provides support to these children through convergent approach, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakhs on attaining 23 years of age.
  • The scheme covers all children who have lost: 
  1. Both parents
  2. Or Surviving parent 
  3. or legal guardian/adoptive parents/single adoptive parent due to COVID 19 pandemic, starting from 11.03.2020 the date on which WHO has declared and characterized COVID-19 as pandemic till 28.02.2022. 

To be entitled to benefits under this scheme Child should not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Examining the Russia-China axis

Context: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China as well as the Ukraine crisis have turned the spotlight on Russia’s relations with China. 

  • Many in the west have blamed the Russia-China axis for emboldening Moscow’s recent moves and ensuring it will not be completely isolated in the face of western sanctions. 
  • At the same time, Beijing has found itself walking a tightrope in its response and has so far stopped short of endorsing Russia’s actions. 

What explains the current state of Russia-China relations?

  • Last year, Russia’s Foreign Minister described relations as the “best in their entire history”
  • The last Xi-Putin meeting during Winter Olympics in China, produced an ambitious and sweeping joint statement, as well as a number of energy deals, that underlined the strategic, ideological, and commercial impulses driving the relationship.
  • On the strategic front, the statement said “new inter-State relations between Russia and China are superior to political and military alliances of the Cold War era.” It added that the relationship “has no limits” and “there are no forbidden areas of cooperation”.
  • The biggest factor behind their current closeness is their shared discomfort with the U.S. and its allies
    • The joint statement this month emphasised that point, with China supporting Russia in “opposing further enlargement of NATO and calling on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideological cold war approaches” 
    • Russia echoed China’s opposition to “the formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and the negative impact of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy.” 
  • China, for its part, said it was “sympathetic to and supports the proposals put forward by the Russian Federation to create long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe”
  • Russia returned the favour, saying it “reaffirms support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan.” In short, both have the other’s backs on key strategic issues.
  • This has also been reflected in growing military closeness. 
    • China in 2014 became the first foreign buyer of the S-400 missile defence system, which India has also purchased (although there have been reported delays in delivery for reasons unknown). 
    • Their joint exercises have also grown in scope. Chin views these exercises as the practical action to warn some countries outside the region and some neighbouring countries, like AUKUS and Quad, not to stir up trouble.
  • There is also the ideological binding glue in shared opposition to what both countries described as the west’s “attempts to impose their own democratic standards on other countries” and “interference” by the west on human rights issues”. 
  • Commercial ties have also been growing. 
    • Two-way trade last year was up 35% to $147 billion, driven largely by Chinese energy imports. 
    • Russia is China’s largest source of energy imports and second largest source of crude oil, with energy set to account for 35% of trade in 2022. 
    • China has been Russia’s biggest trading partner for 12 consecutive years and accounts for close to 20% of Russia’s total foreign trade (Russia, on the other hand, accounts for 2% of China’s trade). 
    • But Russia is, for China, a key market for project contracts besides energy supplies. Chinese companies signed construction project deals worth $5 billion last year — for the third straight year.

How has China responded to the Ukraine crisis?

  • Given these deep trade linkages, China does not want instability (or, for that matter, a spurt in energy prices). 
  • That was the message from Chinese Foreign Minister on February 19, when he told the security conference in Munich that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and safeguarded and that applies equally to Ukraine.” 
  • China also outlined its preferred resolution to the current crisis – diplomatic solution and a return to the Minsk agreement. 
    • Only two days later, that agreement was broken after President Putin ordered troops into two rebel-controlled areas (he called them “peacekeepers”) and decided to recognise the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk. That, in of itself, showed China’s limited influence. 
    • Mr. Putin did, however, wait for the Winter Olympics to conclude on February 20 out of possible deference to Chinese sensitivities before making his move.

How is China’s actions helping Russia?

  • China has repeatedly underlined that it is sympathetic to Russia’s concerns on NATO, which mirror its own opposition to America’s allies in the Indo-Pacific.
    • Chinese strategists have repeatedly called the Quad an “Asian NATO”, a label which its members reject.
  • On the possibility of Russia now coming under heavy sanctions, close cooperation between China and Russia on energy, trade, finance and science and technology is all the more important. 
  • A strong economic cooperation with China will back up Russia to deflect ruthless economic coercion from the U.S. 
  • Strategists in the west and in India have often questioned the robustness of the relationship as well as Russia’s possible unease at being the “junior partner” to China.

But are there any signs of a divide that can be exploited (as Nixon did five decades ago)? 

  • The evidence suggests no, and at least in the near-term, India should expect Sino-Russian closeness to continue, which poses its own challenges for India 
  • India has to navigate the three-way dynamic amid the worst period in relations with China in more than three decades, even as Russia remains a key defence partner. 

Connecting the dots:


SECURITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Federalism and Challenges
  • GS-3: Internal Security

Manipur Insurgency

Context: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing an election rally on February 14 in Imphal West, called upon insurgency groups operating in Manipur to shun violence and come to the negotiating table. 

  • He said that the menace of insurgency had been waning and the Centre is ready to hold dialogue with them to bring lasting peace to the region.

Rise of insurgency in Manipur

  • Insurgence rooted in Independence: The emergence of insurgency in Manipur dates back to 1964 with the formation of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), which still remains one of the formidable militant outfits.
  • Allegation of Forced Merger: The rise of separatist insurgency in Manipur mainly attributed to perceived discontent over alleged “forced” merger of Manipur with the Union of India and the subsequent delay in granting it full-fledged statehood. 
    • While the erstwhile Kingdom of Manipur was merged with India on October 15, 1949, it became a state only in 1972.
  • Rise of Valley based outfits: The later years saw a slew of militant outfits being formed, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), among others. These valley-based outfits have been demanding an independent Manipur.
  • Threat to Manipur Territorial due to Nagalim demand: The Naga movement in neighbouring Nagaland spilled over into Manipur’s hill districts with the NSCN-IM controlling most of it while pressing for Nagalim” (Greater Nagaland), which is perceived in the valley as a “threat” to Manipur’s “territorial integrity”.
  • Nagas Vs Kukis: While the hills account for nine-tenths of Manipur’s geographical area, they are sparsely populated, with most of the state’s population concentrated in the valley. The Meitei community forms a majority in Imphal valley, while the surrounding hill districts are inhabited by Nagas and Kukis.
    • In the early 1990s, the ethnic clashes between Nagas and Kukis led to the formation of several Kuki insurgent groups, which have now scaled down their demand from a separate Kuki state to a Territorial Council.
  • Imposition of AFSPA: In 1980, the Centre declared the entire Manipur as a “disturbed area” and imposed the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to suppress the insurgency movement, which remains in force till date.

Ceasefire agreement

  • The NSCN-IM entered a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India (GoI) in 1997, even as peace talks between them have still been continuing.
  • Similarly, the Kuki outfits under two umbrella groups, the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and United People’s Front (UPF), also signed the tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) pacts with the GoI and Manipur on August 22, 2008. 
  • Of the total 25 armed Kuki groups operating in the state, 17 are under the KNO and 8 under the United Peoples’ Front (UPF). 
  • However, major valley-based militant outfits (Meitei groups) such as the UNLF, PLA, KYKL etc. are yet to come to the negotiating table. 
  • Many of their smaller outfits have however entered the SoO agreement with the state government, which has launched rehabilitation programmes for such groups.

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth: Water)


Feb 22: How technology can help save India’s groundwater – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/how-technology-can-help-save-india-s-groundwater-81645 

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Environment; Science & Technology

How technology can help save India’s groundwater

Context: Groundwater has been a priceless resource for humanity for centuries. Today, technology, with local governance, offers the last chance of saving groundwater even as the world stands at a critical crossroads.

Water Crisis in India

  • As per the Groundwater Resource Estimation Committee’s report (from 2015), 1,071 out of 6,607 blocks in the country are over-exploited; this is likely to have worsened over the years.
  • More than a third of the country’s population lives in water-stressed areas, and this number is expected to shoot up. 
  • Per capita water availability in the country had fallen to just under a third of 1950 levels by 2011, both because of rising population and increasing unsustainable use.
  • 82% of rural households in India do not have individual piped water supply and 163 million live without access to clean water close to their homes.

Groundwater in India

India is the world’s largest user of groundwater. The country’s economy is tagged to groundwater development in many ways and its inadequacy will jeopardise progress. 

  • Tube wells, bore wells, springs and open-dug wells remain the primary source of groundwater production and abuse in India. Currently, there is a complete mismatch between available resources and the volumes of water withdrawn.
  • Figures show that the extraction of groundwater in India, now a full-fledged industry in its own right, has shown an increase.
    • Drilling rigs and pumps registered an annual growth of 10-12 per cent. 
    • An additional 10 million wells were energised with submersible pumps in the last two decades. 
    • Centrifugal pumps in domestic, institutional, commercial and entertainment sectors remain unaccounted for.
  • Some learnings:
    • Groundwater extraction has to be decoupled from wealth-generation if the excessive demand for groundwater has to be moderated.
    • Groundwater use need not be made ‘evil’. However, failing to distinguish ‘need’ from ‘greed’ is criminal.

Causes for groundwater contamination

  • Industries- Manufacturing and other chemical industries require water for processing and cleaning purposes. This used water is recycled back to water sources without proper treatment. Also industrial waste is dumped in certain areas, the seepage of which results in groundwater contamination.
  • Agriculture- the fertilizers, pesticide and other chemicals used in growing plants contaminate groundwater. 
  • Residential areas- These generate pollutants (microorganisms and organic compounds) for groundwater contamination
  • Mining- Mine drain discharge, oilfield spillage, sludge and process water also contaminate groundwater.
  • Coastal areas- Saltwater intrusion increases the salinity of groundwater in nearby areas.
  • Excessive extraction- It increases the concentration of minerals in the extracted areas, thus making it contaminated.

How technology can help save India’s groundwater?

Integration of technology, ecology and livelihood is critical to the overall sustainability of groundwater. Technology can help in ‘decision-making’ on economic and social priorities related to groundwater use. Technology-guided decision-making would help distinguish groundwater abuse and promote efficient use.

Automated decision-making is one aspect that needs to be adopted as an integral part of groundwater extraction. We need to enable technologies to simulate appropriate human responses.

  • Smart pumps should form part of automation at the basic well level. Sensors and decision-making tools must be integrated with the pump design to make them intelligent. 
  • Analysis of millions of wells’ data in real-time needs to be supported by big-data analytics, cloud computing and real-time modelling with forecasting tools.  
  • Technology to automate water extraction systems should be adopted at the earliest and be completely automated five years after notification.
    • All existing tube well owners should be required to upgrade to the new technology. All new wells should integrate automation during construction.
    • Industries, farms, residential complexes, commercial establishments with multiple wells with bulk extraction should implement automation within six months of notification.
    • Individual households, small farms, schools, public institutions need to be incentivised to adopt automation and conform to water extraction norms.
    • The cost of automation to the well owners should not pinch the pocket, ideally matching the basic smartphone price.

Automation advantages

  • Adopting artificial intelligence (AI) will help make decisions and visualise emerging scenarios for pro-active governance. For instance, smart sensors in different appliances and Internet of Things (the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data) shall enable visibility of data of consequence.
  • Data from millions of nodes (wells) can be analysed simultaneously in a decentralised fashion. Owners can be notified and decisions implemented simultaneously across India.
  • Data from all nodes shall aggregate at the cloud servers for advanced regional analysis.
  • Groundwater use through automation, be it for agriculture, industry, commerce, sports, entertainment and domestic use, will be forced to adhere to water footprint norms on daily and annual consumption.
  • Zettabytes of data traffic flow shall enable daily audit of water balance at the well, watershed, aquifer and river basin scale.   
  • Big data analytics, combined with AI, shall transform governance into a practice of national behaviour for protecting the common property resource under threat.

Technology-guided decision-making would help distinguish groundwater abuse and promote efficient use. Additionally, this would ensure the safekeeping of groundwater within aquifers for posterity.

The Way Forward

  • Make it mandatory for all energised pumping wells to integrate sensors and decision-making tools to help curb wastage and contamination.  
  • Privately financed wells, pumps, conveyance pipes, storage reservoirs, drips, sprinklers as well as treatment plants installed by millions of ordinary citizens and institutions have already built an efficient decentralised supply chain.
  • Attaching additional technology to the existing investment is the first step in reducing wastage, improving efficiency and self-governance.
  • Appropriate policy interventions in regulating further constructions and ensuring retention of 50 per cent of the resource within the aquifers can only help in its sustenance.

Groundwater remains the only natural resource that offers free access to all. For the poor, this has ensured economic growth, combined with social mobility. Groundwater cannot be allowed to fail. 

NOTE: Groundwater Mapping

  • Latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping ground water sources in arid regions and thus help utilize ground water for drinking to supplement “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” scheme.
  • The entire work will be completed by 2025 with more than 1.5 lakh square kilometers of area with an estimated cost of Rs. 141 Crores. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Examine the problem of groundwater contamination in India’s agrarian states. What are the possible ways to address this challenge? Discuss.
  2. Nitrate pollution of groundwater is an issue of serious concern in many parts of India. What causes nitrogen pollution of groundwater? What are its associated health hazards. Also discuss the remedial measures to address this problem.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

`Q.1 Consider the following statements:

  1. More than a third of the country’s population lives in water-stressed areas, and this number is expected to shoot up. 
  2. 82% of rural households in India do not have individual piped water supply and 163 million live without access to clean water close to their homes.

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 Which of the following countries are associated with Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

  1. France and Germany
  2. Germany and Russia
  3. USA, UK and Germany
  4. UK and Germany 

Q.3 Fundamental duties are incorporated in Which of the following part?

  1. Part IV
  2. Part III
  3. Part IVA
  4. Part II

ANSWERS FOR 23rd Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 B
3 C

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