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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 2nd February 2022

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  • February 2, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Fly Ash Management and Utilization Mission

Part of: Prelims and GS-III -Environment 

Context: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the constitution of a ‘Fly Ash Management and Utilization Mission’ in its recent order. 

About the mission

  • Its goal will be to coordinate and monitor issues relating to the handling and disposal of fly ash.
  • The Mission is to be jointly headed by the secretaries of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Union Ministry of Coal and Power and the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The secretary of MoEF&CC will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. 
  • The Mission may also monitor scientific management and utilization of fly ash by power projects outside Singrauli and Sonbhadra, in coordination with chief secretaries of concerned states.
  • The Mission also extends the responsibility of fly ash management to the chief secretaries of the states. 

What is Fly Ash?

  • Fly Ash is a byproduct from burning of coal in the thermal power generation.
  • It is called fly ash because it is transported from the combustion chamber by exhaust gases.
  • Composition: silicon dioxide (SiO2), aluminium oxide (Al2O3), ferric oxide (Fe2O3) and calcium oxide (CaO).
  • Uses: In concrete and cement products, road base, metal recovery, and mineral filler among others.
  • Harmful Effects:
    • Toxic air pollutants which can trigger heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and stroke.
    • When combined with water they cause leaching of heavy metals in ground water.
    • Affects the root development system of trees.

What is NGT?

  • It is a statutory body established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act. 
  • It is a specialised judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country. 
  • The chairperson of the NGT is a retired judge of the Supreme Court 
  • It shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 but shall be guided by principles of natural justice. 
  • Tribunal’s orders are binding and it has power to grant relief in the form of compensation and damages to affected persons.

News Source: Down to Earth


Bomb Cyclone

Part of: Prelims and GS-I Geography 

Context: Recently, ‘Bomb cyclone’ hit eastern US, which triggered transport chaos and power outages.

What is a Bomb Cyclone?

  • A bomb cyclone is a large, intense midaltitude storm that has low pressure at its center, weather fronts and an array of associated weather, from blizzards to severe thunderstorms to heavy precipitation.
  • Bomb cyclones put forecasters on high alert, because they can produce significant harmful impacts.

Reasons for the Formation:

  • This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis.
  • It occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours.

Difference between Bomb Cyclone and a Hurricane

  • Hurricanes tend to form in tropical areas and are powered by warm seas. For this reason, they’re most common in summer or early fall, when seawater is warmest.
  • Bomb cyclones generally occur during colder months.
  • Hurricanes form in tropical waters, while bomb cyclones form over the northwestern Atlantic, northwestern Pacific and sometimes in the Mediterranean Sea.

News Source: TH


National Commission for Women (NCW)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Issues related to women

Context: 30th Foundation Day of National Commission for Women (NCW) was recently observed.

  • In light of evolving needs of women in the country, it was emphasised that NCW’s scope must be broadened.

About National Commission for Women (NCW) 

  • Under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990, the NCW was set up as a statutory body in January 1992.
  • The commission consists of a chairperson, a member secretary and five other members. The chairperson of the NCW is nominated by the Central Government.
  • Its mission is to strive towards enabling women to achieve equality and equal participation in all spheres of life by securing her due rights and entitlements through suitable policy formulation, legislative measures, etc.
  • Its functions are to:
    • Review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women.
    • Recommend remedial legislative measures.
    • Facilitate redressal of grievances.
    • Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.

News Source: TH

FOR SUMMARY OF UNION BUDGET 2022: Click Here


(News from PIB)


Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North-East, PM-DevINE

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Indian economy

In News: A news scheme has been launched in the Union Budget 2022 – Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North-East, PM-DevINE.

  • Will be implemented through the North-Eastern Council
  • An initial allocation of Rs. 1,500 crore will be made for the new scheme. 

Objective: 

  • It will fund infrastructure, in the spirit of PM GatiShakti, and social development projects based on felt needs of the North-East. 
  • Enable livelihood activities for youth and women, filling the gaps in various sectors. 

PM GatiShakti

A Rs. 100 lakh-crore project for developing ‘holistic infrastructure’ – Will encompass the seven engines for multi-modal connectivity for the states with speedier implementation of development projects through technology to facilitate faster movement of people and goods through Rs 20,000 crore financed by the government to speed up this project

  • To reduce the logistics cost – a transformative approach, driven by roads, railways, ports, airports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure. All seven engines will pull the economy forward in unison
  • Unshackle bureaucratic entanglements and end inter-ministerial silos that delay infrastructure projects and drive up costs
  • Sets sectoral targets to be completed by 2024-25 in areas such as expanding national highways and increasing cargo capacity by the railway and shipping ministries

Significance: Currently, the logistics cost in India is about 13% of the GDP whereas in other developed countries it is to the extent of 8%. Government is committed to reduce the cost of logistics to ensure 

  • Competitiveness of our manufacturing sector, 
  • Better realisation of prices to farmers 
  • Availability of goods at cheaper prices to consumers

News Source: PIB


India’s maiden project of blending hydrogen

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Energy

In news: Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has commenced India’s first-of-its-kind project of mixing hydrogen into natural gas system at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. 

  • This project is to establish the techno-commercial feasibility of blending hydrogen in the CGD network
  • Marks the stepping stone of India’s journey towards a hydrogen-based and carbon-neutral future.
  • This grey hydrogen would subsequently be replaced by green hydrogen. 
  • Help in creation of a robust standard and regulatory framework in India to cover the aspects of injecting hydrogen into natural gas

This is in line with the growth of a gas-based economy in India and with India’s vision of a greener and cleaner environment. As our country is moving forward with ambitious goal of achieving a carbon-neutral and self-reliant future, this project is a significant step in that direction.

Note:

Zero-emission hydrogen is gaining momentum around the world and depending on the source, the hydrogen can be classified into green, blue and grey. 

Green hydrogen

  • The hydrogen that is obtained by splitting water by electrolysis using electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind. 
  • The process helps in the production of only oxygen and hydrogen. 
  • The hydrogen is used and oxygen is vented into the atmosphere with no negative impact. 
  • Read more here

Blue hydrogen

  • Produced from natural gas with a process of steam methane reforming, where natural gas is mixed with very hot steam and a catalyst. 
  • A chemical reaction occurs creating hydrogen and carbon monoxide. 
  • Water is added to that mixture, turning the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. 
  • If the carbon dioxide emissions are then captured and stored underground, the process is considered carbon-neutral, and the resulting hydrogen is called blue hydrogen. 

Grey hydrogen

  • Made from natural gas reforming like blue hydrogen, but without any efforts to capture carbon dioxide by-products.

What is Hydrogen Blending?

  • Hydrogen energy is a viable solution for reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuels and decarbonizing a number of energy sectors. 
  • One of the measure to phase hydrogen into the energy sector is though natural gas/hydrogen (NG/H2) blending. 
  • As the name would suggest, NG/H2 blending integrates concentrations of hydrogen into existing natural gas pipelines in order to reduce the carbon intensity of the methane. 
  • This blending carries the hydrogen and natural gas mix to the intended location.
  • The blending of natural gas and hydrogen is currently in its early stages of development.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY

  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

FTA India and UK

Context: Recently, India and Britain launched trade talks in Delhi, with an aim to finalise a free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible. 

  • The proposed pact with Britain could help double bilateral trade by 2030.

What is an FTA? 

  • An FTA is an agreement between two countries wherein it allows free flow of goods and services to and from both sides, removing all tariff barriers to boost trade with one another.

Recent development between UK and Australia

  • With autonomy brought to UK after Brexit, U.K. signed an FTA with Australia in December 2021, eliminating almost 99% of tariff on both sides, allowing free flow of goods between the two countries. 
  • This will save nearly $10 billion for Australia in its exports of agricultural products to Britain and the U.K. will save several hundred million dollars in automobile, liquor and cosmetics exports. 
  • The pact further helps Britain access the Pacific Rim, an 11-nation trade conglomerate including Australia called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

What does it mean for India? 

  • Likewise, Brexit also paved the way for Britain to freely and comprehensively negotiate a new free mega trade deal with India.
  • The £1 billion investment and commercial trade deal India signed with Britain in May, 2021 creating 6,500 jobs in the U.K. was a kick-starter to this, opening a new chapter in commerce between them.
  • The free trade deal between India and the U.K. will bring in enormous changes not only in trade, but enhanced cooperation in agriculture, education and health sectors.
  • India’s traditional stakes are high in Britain as British Indian companies cumulatively turned over more than £85 billion in 2021 even amid the pandemic. 
  • Also, India’s trade would see a quantum jump when the free trade pact is signed, from £23.3 billion when they inked an Enhanced Trade Deal last year to £50 billion post-FTA. 
  • The British inward investment into the subcontinent was nearly £21 billion in the last two decades making Britain as the largest western investor in India, and this will also see a substantial increase.
  • With India set to becoming the world’s third largest economy by 2050, India not only becomes the U.K.’s most preferred partner, its 1.5 million diaspora in UK would get a shot in the arm when the FTA is signed. 

What is India seeking from the U.K.? 

  • While the talks are centred around removing all trade bottlenecks, and green trade, India is also seeking cooperation from Britain to reduce its carbon footprint by 45% while steadfastly promoting green energy. 
  • With trade between India and the U.K. set to soar, there are substantial activities simultaneously taking place in other sectors, especially agriculture and education. 
    • The second Green Revolution, aimed at increasing food production in India to 400 million tonnes in the next 15 years, is led by plant ecology scientist from Cambridge University.
  • The TIGR2ESS, would strengthen alliance between Indian and British experts in social policy and science, hydrology and crop science based on the thesis of making modern agricultural practices reflect the needs of society acceptable to India today. 
  • Both countries are also working for more cooperation in education, and possibly, India would allow more U.K. universities to open their branches in the subcontinent after the FTA. 

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Virtual digital assets and Digital Currency

Context: Finance Minister, in her Budget 2022 speech, announced a 30 per cent tax on income from virtual digital assets.

  • She further clarified that no deduction in respect of any expenditure or allowance shall be allowed while computing such income except the cost of acquisition. 
  • Additionally, she also proposed a TDS on payment made in relation to the transfer of virtual digital assets at 1 per cent above a monetary threshold.
  • In short, the finance minister has proposed a flat 30 per cent tax on digital asset gains regardless of any long-term or short-term holding by the investor.
  • Additionally, if a virtual digital asset investor incurs losses during the transaction, it can’t be set off against any other income. 
  • The gifting of virtual digital assets has also been proposed to be taxed in the hands of the recipient.

What are virtual digital assets and how are they different from digital currency?

  • Reserve Bank will be issuing a digital currency, a currency is a currency only when it is issued by the central bank even if it is a crypto. 
  • But anything which is outside of that loosely all of us refer it to be cryptocurrency but they are not currencies.
  • Union Government clarified that what the RBI issues in the next fiscal will be the digital currency and everything else apart from that are digital assets being created by individuals and the government will be taxing the profit which are made during transactions of such assets at 30 per cent.
  • Further, a market is emerging where payment for the transfer of a virtual digital asset can be made through another such asset. Accordingly, a new scheme to provide for taxation of such virtual digital assets has been proposed in the Bill.

What are the Benefits of Central Bank Digital Currency?

  • Alternative to physical cash
  • Instantaneous process: Transacting with CBDC would be an instantaneous process. The need for inter-bank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another. 
  • Reduces cost of currency management: India’s fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC. Large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC. Also, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.
  • Need of the hour: If the private currencies gain recognition, national currencies with limited convertibility are likely to come under some kind of threat. CBDCs thus become the need of the hour.
  • Volatility: CBDCs, being the legal tender by Central Bank, will not witness any volatility as in the case of cryptocurrencies. 
  • Easy tracking of currency: With the introduction of CBDC in a nation, its central bank would be able to keep a track of the exact location of every unit of the currency. 
  • Curbing Crime: Criminal activities can be easily spotted and ended such as terror funding, money laundering, and so forth
  • Scope in Trade:  Foreign trade transactions could be speeded up between countries adopting a CBDC.

How does the government define virtual digital assets?

  • In the explanatory memorandum of the Finance Bill, the government stated, “To define the term “virtual digital asset”, a new clause (47A) is proposed to be inserted to section 2 of the Act. 
  • As per the proposed new clause, a virtual digital asset is proposed to mean any information or code or number or token (not being Indian currency or any foreign currency), generated through cryptographic means or otherwise, providing a digital representation of value which is exchanged with or without consideration, with the promise or representation of having inherent value, or functions as a store of value or a unit of account and includes its use in any financial transaction or investment, but not limited to, investment schemes and can be transferred, stored or traded electronically. 
  • Non fungible token and; any other token of similar nature are included in the definition.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Jan 31: Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and the Durand line: Why is it important? – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/afghanistan-pakistan-relations-and-the-durand-line/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: India and its neighbourhood
  • GS-3: External Security threats to India

Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and the Durand line: Why is it important?

Context: The bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has always been under duress. A major point of contention between the two neighbours is the status of a colonial legacy—the Durand line, cutting through the Pashtun-dominated tribal areas. 

  • In an already precarious environment, with the ascendancy of the Taliban, the tempo of tensions flared up in the last few weeks of 2021. According to reports, the Pakistani forces encroached 15 kilometres inside Afghani territory in the Chahar Burjak district to erect fences, a second such attempt after their efforts to do the same near the Nangahar province were thwarted by the Taliban.
  • In Afghanistan, irrespective of the people in power, the Line is considered a ‘historic mistake’, a vestige of British colonialism that the Afghanis don’t accept. After usurping the US-sponsored government in August 2021, the Taliban reiterated their position, asserting that the fencing has separated families, as well as restating that they won’t accept any fresh attempts to fence the ‘alleged’ border. 
  • Pakistan, on the other hand, considers it the legally binding international border and regards the fencing as a fait accompli as 90 percent of it is completed, with no option left for Afghanistan but to accept its reality.

Circumstances which led to the signing of the Durand agreement and paved the way for the promulgation of the Durand Line

  • After the fall of the Durrani dynasty in the 18th century, the Pashtun empire disintegrated and the British eventually extended their control to the region. But the hinterlands were always a tough area to govern. 
  • When the two Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-42 and 1878-80) failed to expand British influence and tame the belligerent tribal groups, a policy reassessment was undertaken. 
  • Fearing Russian advancement towards Central Asia, and a possible attack from the Pashtun tribes on their settled populations, a multi-layered defence mechanism—a tripartite frontier—was postulated with three concentric frontiers: 
    • The first at the foothills of the Sulaiman hills, till where the British had formal control;
    • The second where the vassal states under the ‘influence’ of British were located; and 
    • The final buffer which was Afghanistan itself

Durand Commission

  • The Foreign Secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand was despatched to sign an agreement with the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman
  • Inked on 12 November 1893, the Durand line demarcated the Pashtun-inhabited region, creating a cleavage amongst the people who shared the same culture and ethnicity and didn’t identify with either of the two parties
    • The agreement, apart from ensuring protection in case of a Russian assault, gave Britain access to major trade and access routes
    • Complemented its strategy of divide and rule to curb the burgeoning Pashtun nationalism
    • Both sides agreed to limit their area of influence and refrain from interfering into the territories of the other. 
    • In exchange for the 40,000 square miles of area which Afghanistan lost; the British increased their grant to 60,000 pounds a year and assured protection in any eventuality.
    • Boundary commissions were formed, with the final boundary delineated in 1897.
    • Protests soon erupted, with tribes resisting the line, a resistance continuing till the present. At a Loya Jirga (tribal assembly) in 1949, Afghanistan unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. This position has remained unchanged, irrespective of who is at the helm in the country.
  • Formed during the term of Lord Lansdowne

For the Pashtuns, their ethnic identities surpassed any state-imposed identity

  • Having lived together since the beginning, they regarded the line as nothing more than an ‘artificial division’. 
  • Many Pashtuns still hold on to their tribal ways of living, exhorting ‘Pashtunwali’ more than the state-sponsored ideology that is forced on them. 
  • Even before independence, the Pashtun Khudai Khidmatgar movement (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – Frontier Gandhi) in the North-western Frontier Agency, opposed Partition, and when Parition became a reality, they pushed for an independent ‘Pashtunistan’, refusing to integrate with Pakistan.
  • Having retained all major policies of the British after independence, Pakistan, however, continued to rule the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) through the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FAR), aggrandising power to inflict collective punishment on whole tribes for crimes committed by an individual. 
  • It was only after the province merged with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in 2018 in an effort to bring it into the mainstream of the Pakistani state that the FAR was replaced by customary laws.

Source: Indian Express

(Il)legality of the agreement

The validity of the agreement, has been questioned on the basis of certain provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) (VCLT). 

  • Afghanistan had evoked Article 51 and 52 of the VCLT to argue that 
    • As the agreement was signed under pressure by the Amir and cannot be considered legal
    • Its unilateral withdrawal from all agreements signed with the British Indian authorities in 1949
    • Its objection to Pakistan’s status as the successor state 
  • Pakistan defends its claim based on four subsequent agreements signed in 1905, 1919, 1921, and 1930.
  • Declassified British Foreign office files point otherwise. 
    • The architects of the line didn’t wish to establish an international border. For them, its utility was in that specific time and space. This was pointed out by Durand himself who worried that envisioning the agreement as a ‘partition’ wouldn’t bode well for British interests in the region. 
    • If this claim stands ground, then it also weakens Pakistan’s reliance on the four subsequent agreements as mentioned above as all of them reiterate the original treaty.

The way forward 

  • The problem of the Durand Line can only be settled as part of a larger political reconciliation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such reconciliation would involve skirting the question of sovereignty, promoting transborder economic connectivity and cooperation, meeting the aspirations of the Pashtuns on both sides of the Line, and ending support to cross-border terrorism.
  • With Afghanistan on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the Taliban struggling to establish order in the absence of international support and recognition, Pakistan’s support is still very crucial. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. The historical Durand line continues to be a thorn on the side as both Pakistan and Afghanistan are unable to come to a mutually beneficial conclusion. Discuss.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding National Commission for Women (NCW) :

  1. It is a constitutional body
  2. The chairperson of the NCW is nominated by the Central Government.

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 difference between Bomb Cyclone and a Hurricane

  1. Hurricanes occur during summer or early fall, when seawater is warmest. Bomb cyclones generally occur during colder months.
  2. Hurricanes tend to form in mid-altitude areas while bomb cyclone occurs in tropical areas

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.3 Which of the following is not correct regarding National Green Tribunal (NGT) 

  1. It is a statutory body established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act. 
  2. It is equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country. 
  3. The chairperson of the NGT is a retired judge of the Supreme Court 
  4. Tribunal’s orders are non-binding 

ANSWERS FOR 3rd Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 A
3 D

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