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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th March 2022

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  • March 18, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


India extends $1 billion credit to Sri Lanka

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations

Context: India recently extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka to assist the island nation through its worst foreign exchange crisis and enable it to procure food, medicines and other essential items. 

  • An agreement to this effect was signed between the State Bank of India and the government of Sri Lanka.

Key takeaways 

  • In 2022, so far India has extended $1.4 billion support to Sri Lanka, through a $400-million RBI currency swap, postponement of a $0.5 billion loan and another half a billion as a line of credit for the country to sustain its essential fuel imports.

What is the situation in Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka is facing its worst financial crisis, and had declared an emergency in August 2021 in the face of a crippling foreign exchange crunch. 
  • The nation is still facing significant fuel and gas shortages, and high inflation in essential goods. 
  • The situation has triggered protests by the political Opposition and citizens’ groups in Sri Lanka.
  • The root cause of the crisis was the foreign exchange shortage due to a large $10 billion trade deficit. 
    • Sri Lanka is due to repay foreign debt totalling nearly $ 7 billion this year, amid a persisting shortage of dollars to import food, medicines and other essentials. 
    • It has already sought China’s help to restructure its loans that amount to 10% of its total foreign debt.

What is a credit facility?

  • A credit facility is a type of loan. 
  • It allows the borrowing party to take out money over an extended period of time rather than reapplying for a loan each time it needs money.

What is Line of Credit (LOC)?

  • A line of credit (LOC) is a preset borrowing limit that can be tapped into at any time. 
  • The borrower can take money out as needed until the limit is reached, and as money is repaid, it can be borrowed again in the case of an open line of credit.

News Source: TH


ExoMars mission suspended

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Space

Context:The European Space Agency (ESA) has suspended its €1bn (£844m) ExoMars mission, which is a joint project with Russia.

  • It was due to launch a robotic rover in September.
  • Member states of the ESA voted recently to cancel the launch because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

About the mission

  • The Mars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, was assembled in the UK for a planned launch onboard a Russian rocket.
    • Rosalind Franklin is the second stage of the joint European-Russian mission. 
    • The first part, a satellite called the Trace Gas Orbiter, was launched in 2016 and is studying the planet’s atmosphere. 
    • It was also supposed to act as a telecommunications relay for Rosalind Franklin when the rover arrived.
  • The next available launch window, based on the alignment of the Earth and Mars, will be 2024, but the technical and political issues may take longer than this to resolve.
  • The ESA has commissioned a feasibility study of how to get ExoMars off the ground without Roscosmos (Russian space agency) involvement. 
  • Working with NASA is one option and it had expressed a “strong willingness to support” the mission.

News Source: The Guardian


Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations

Context: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that The Ukraine crisis could knock more than a percentage point off global growth this year and add two-and-a-half percentage points to inflation.

  • It has called for targeted government spending increases in response.
  • Well-targeted increases in government spending by OECD countries of the order of 0.5% of GDP could reduce the war’s economic impact by about half without significantly adding to inflation.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation, founded to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
  • Most OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries.
  • Founded: 1961.
  • Headquarters: Paris, France.
  • Members: 38 countries
    • India is not a member, but a key economic partner.
  • Reports and Indices by OECD
    • Government at a Glance 2017 report.
    • International Migration Outlook.
    • OECD Better Life Index.

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


Mujib: Mujib – The Making of a Nation, India-Bangladesh co-produced biopic on ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Disaster Management Plan of Ministry of Panchayati Raj

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies

Context: The Disaster Management Plan of Ministry of Panchayati Raj has been released.

Aim: To develop disaster resilience at the grassroots level among the Panchayats and establish a framework to align the disaster management measures in rural areas to that of the National Disaster Management Authority’. 

  • The convergent and collective actions to envision, plan and implement community-based disaster management plans, would be a game changer for our country in managing disasters comprehensively.
  • People’s participation in preparedness for disaster management and mitigation activities at grassroots level is crucial. Active participation of the community is vital to carry out and sustain the activities relating to disaster management in rural areas. 
  • There is a need to formulate Panchayat-level and village-level Disaster Management Plans to mitigate the challenges in the event of disaster. 
  • Disaster management should be kept in mind while making a master plan for the holistic development of Panchayats in the country.
  • All stakeholders including PRIs, elected representatives and functionaries of Panchayats etc. would participate in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the plan.  

News Source: PIB


Release of India’s Arctic Policy

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies

Context: India’s Arctic policy titled ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’ lays down six pillars: 

  1. Strengthening India’s scientific research and cooperation
  2. Climate and environmental protection,
  3. Economic and human development
  4. Transportation and connectivity
  5. Governance and international cooperation
  6. National capacity building in the Arctic region. 

Implementing India’s Arctic policy will involve multiple stakeholders, including academia, the research community, business, and industry. 

  • India has a significant stake in the Arctic. It is one of thirteen nations holding Observer status in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic. 
  • India’s engagement with the Arctic region has been consistent and multidimensional. The country maintains that all human activity should be sustainable, responsible, transparent, and based on respect for international laws.

India’s Arctic policy aims to promote the following agenda—

  1. Strengthening national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region. Institutional and human resource capacities will be strengthened within Government and academic, research and business institutions.
  2. Inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
  3. Enhancing understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic on India’s climate, economic, and energy security.
  4. Contributing better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.
  5. Studying linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas.
  6. Deepen cooperation between India and countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
  7. Increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws, and geopolitics of the region.

Nodal institution: The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

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

One Rank One Pension Case

Context: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled there was “no constitutional infirmity” in the way the government had introduced ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP) among ex-service personnel. 

  • The scheme, notified by the Defence Ministry on November 7, 2015, was challenged by Indian Ex-Service Movement, an association of retired defence personnel.

What is One Rank One Pension?

  • OROP means that any two military personnel retiring at the same rank, with the same years of service, must get an equal pension. 
    • Koshyari Committee in 2011 defined OROP as a uniform pension to be paid to armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement
  • While this might appear almost obvious, there are reasons why this was not the case earlier.
  • Military personnel across the three services fall under two categories, the officers and the other ranks, as they’re called. 
  • The other ranks, which are soldiers, usually retire at age 35. They retire early country needs a young military.
  • Unlike government employees who retire close to 60, soldiers can thus miss out on the benefits from subsequent pay commissions. And since pensions are based on the last drawn salary, pensions too are impacted adversely.
  • Therefore, it was argued that early retirement should not become an adverse element for what a soldier earns as pension, compared with those who retire later.

When did the demand for OROP started?

  • From 1950 to 1973, there was a concept known as the Standard Rate of Pension, which was similar to OROP.
  • In 1974, when the 3rd Pay Commission came into force, certain changes were effected which was further modified in 4th Pay Commission.
  • What ultimately happened was that the benefits of the successive pay commissions were not passed to servicemen who had retired earlier. 
  • Pensions differed for those who had retired at the same rank, with the same years of service, but years apart.
  • Ex-servicemen demanded OROP to correct the discrepancy. Over the decades, several committees looked into it.
  • The Brig K P Singh Deo committee in 1983 recommended a system similar to Standard Rate of Pension, as did the Parliamentary Committees on Defence.

What are the financial implication of OROP?

  • Meeting the demand was argued to be financially unsustainable because soldiers retire early and remain eligible for pension for much longer than other employees. 
  • This would enlarge Defence Ministry’s pension budget (more than one-fifth of the total defence budget) which will further impact the Ministry’s capital expenditure.
  • The total defence pensioners are 32.9 lakh, but that includes 6.14 lakh defence civilian pensioners.
  • The actual expenditure of the Defence Ministry on pensions was Rs 1.18 lakh crore in 2019-2020, Rs 1.28 lakh crore in 2020-2021
  • When the late Manohar Parrikar was Defence Minister, it was estimated that a one-time payout of Rs 83,000 crore would be needed to clear all past issues.
  • However, every time a new pay commission came, it would lead to substantial payouts to bring parity.

What was the concern even after government implementing OROP from 2015?

  • Petitioners submitted in Supreme Court that the government had altered the initial definition of OROP and, instead of an automatic revision of the rates of pension, the revision would now take place at periodic intervals. 
  • According to the petitioners, this was arbitrary and unconstitutional under Articles 14 and 21.

What was the court’s ruling?

  • The court did not agree with the argument that the government’s 2015 policy contradicted the original decision to implement OROP.
  • The court also said that while the Koshyari Committee report furnishes the historical background of the demand, and its own view on it, it “cannot be construed as embodying a statement of governmental policy”.
  • After evaluating the government’s policy, it found “no constitutional infirmity in the OROP principle as defined by the government communication dated 7 November 2015”.

Connecting the dots:

  • Central Armed Police Services
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat

INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: International Events and important international institutions

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Role of ICJ

Context: The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has led to one of the most severe humanitarian crises in Europe since World War II. 

  • Russia has sought to justify its “special military operation” as a response to the alleged act of genocide of the Russian speaking people in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk (eastern part of kraine). 
  • Ukraine on February 26 approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), requesting it to hold that no acts of genocide (defined under Genocide Convention, 1948) as claimed by Russia have been committed by Ukraine and also requested the court to direct Russia to “immediately suspend military operations” in Ukraine. 
  • The ICJ on March 16, rendered its order directing the Russian federation inter alia to immediately suspend all military operations in Ukraine. 

Where does the ICJ’s jurisdiction lie? 

  • Article 36(1) of the Statute of the ICJ provides that the ICJ shall have jurisdiction in all matters relating to the UN Charter, or other treaties or conventions in force. 
  • The Genocide Convention 1948 under Article IX provides that disputes between states relating to the Convention shall be submitted to the ICJ at the request of any of the parties to the dispute. Russia and Ukraine are both parties to the Genocide Convention. 
  • The ICJ held that there exists a prima facie dispute between Ukraine and Russia over the question of whether the acts of genocide have been committed in Ukraine, and accordingly it has the jurisdiction. 

What do the ICJ’s powers to indicate provisional measures entail? 

  • The Statute of the International Court of Justice, under Article 41 empowers the ICJ to indicate provisional measures in any case before it in order to preserve the rights of the parties involved. 
  • When the ICJ indicates such provisional measures, the parties to the dispute and the UN Security Council have to be notified. 
  • Until 2001, there was uncertainty as to whether the provisional measures indicated by the ICJ were binding. 
  • However, in the LaGrand (2001) case between Germany and the U.S. relating to the denial of consular access to a German national in the U.S., the ICJ made it clear that provisional measures are binding in character and create international legal obligations. 
  • Further, provisional measures may be indicated by the ICJ either on the request of a state party or on its own motion
  • The ICJ has also held in the Tehran Hostages Case (1980) that the non-appearance of one of the parties concerned cannot itself be an obstacle to indication of provisional measures. 
    • In the present case, the Russian chose not appear in the oral proceedings before the court. Notwithstanding, the ICJ proceeded to decide the case. 

Under what conditions can the ICJ’s powers be exercised? 

  • The power to indicate provisional measures is subject to certain conditions. 
  • In Gambia v. Myanmar (2020) case dealing with genocide of Rohingyas, ICJ held that it may exercise the power to indicate provisional measures only if it is satisfied that rights which are being asserted by the requesting party is “at least plausible”. 
  • The ICJ in the present case held that Ukraine indeed has a plausible “right of not being subjected to military operations by the Russia.” 
  • The ICJ expressed doubt regarding the use of unilateral military force against another state for preventing and punishing genocide, as a means under the Genocide Convention 1948. 
  • It highlighted that the Genocide Convention provides for other means such as resort to other UN organs, and for peaceful dispute settlement by ICJ.
  • It is important to note here that the ICJ at the stage of provisional measures does not engage in a definitive analysis of whether rights which are claimed by the applicant actually exist. That analysis is for the merits phase. 

What lies ahead? 

  • The provisional measures indicated by the ICJ are binding, and non-compliance certainly entails the breach of an international legal obligation
  • However, the ICJ does not have the means or mechanism to secure the enforcement of the judgment itself. 
  • Indeed, the UN Charter under Article 94(2) provides that if any state fails to perform obligations pursuant to an ICJ decision, the UN Security Council (UNSC) may take measures necessary to give effect to the judgment. 
  • However, the possibility in the present case is bleak given that Russia has veto power in the UNSC. 
  • Additionally, if there is an impasse in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is empowered under Article 14 of the UN Charter to recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation.
  • In Nicaragua v U.S. (1984) when the U.S. refused to comply with the ICJ decision, and the Security Council was deadlocked, the UNGA adopted several resolutions deploring the behaviour of the U.S.
  • Further, the Uniting for Peace Resolution adopted in 1950 by the UNGA in the context of the Korean War, authorises the UNGA to consider any matter which may threaten international peace and security, and to make appropriate recommendations including the use of armed force. 
  • Russia’s non-participation in the oral proceedings has already reflected its disrespect for international law and international institutions. If Russia does not comply with the provisional measures of the ICJ, the reputational harm to its regime will only be increased. 
  • Moreover, non-compliance with provisional measures will legitimise and justify counter-measures against Russia. 
  • Interestingly enough, Russia has been kicked out of the Council of Europe with immediate effect on the same day as ICJ’s provisional measures were indicated. 

Connecting the dots:


(ORF: Expert Speak)


March 14: Empower women to achieve just energy transition –  https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/empower-women-to-achieve-just-energy-transition/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Energy, Climate Change

Empower women to achieve just energy transition

Context: The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned of dangerous consequences of climate change ahead. Accelerating progress of economies towards net-zero emissions is, therefore, not an option but an imperative. In its urgent recommendations, the report emphasised that a key area, where governments should take the lead, is supporting the skills and knowledge required to create zero-carbon societies.  However, without a plan to address the gender inequalities in opportunities that this transition would create, economies would not achieve a ‘just’ and equitable path to a net-zero future.

India’s commitments

India has committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2070. This is projected to create over 50 million new jobs. 

  • A major enabler of this goal is the shift to renewable energy (RE) from conventional fossil fuel-based energy. India has set an ambitious target of achieving 500 GW of RE capacity by 2030, of which more than 100 GW of installed RE capacity has already been achieved. 
  • Yet, women account for an estimated 11 percent of the workforce in RE sector in India, which is significantly less than the global average of 32 percent. 
  • India’s renewable energy sector would potentially employ around one million people by 2030, with emerging opportunities in new infrastructure, low-carbon manufacturing, etc. 
  • Women are likely to miss this employment opportunity if their requisite skills, capital, and networks are not built today.

The question that needs to be addressed: How can the energy transition ensure more opportunities for women to enable a just, sustainable, and inclusive transition? What are the entry points that the government and private sector could support for the inclusion of more women in associated sectors?

  1. Acknowledging, identifying, and assessing the causes of gender-bias and inequality in the sector is the stepping stone towards mainstreaming gender in clean energy targets.
    • This raw information, data, and research is a pre-requisite for devising plans to address the inherent challenges associated with women inclusion in green energy sector jobs. 
    • Gender-specific challenges in energy transition emanates from socio-cultural biases that restricts women’s expression, ability to onboard to new opportunities, and freedom.
    • There is a need for government departments and other nodal agencies to collaborate and generate a comprehensive data and research evidence on the impact of the rapid energy transitions on women employment as well as the transformational role women can play in clean energy projects. This will allow the designing of effective and targeted development schemes and programmes that could address the problem.
  2. Skilling of women, particularly in the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) fields is extremely crucial. 
    • This is important given the fact that most of the renewable energy jobs are high skilled in nature which requires expertise in STEM fields. 
    • The National Science Foundation estimates that in the next decade, 80 percent of the jobs created will require STEM. Currently, women in India occupy just 14 percent of STEM jobs. Unless adequate trainings, certifications, and skill programmes are implemented focused on training, retaining, and incentivising women in STEM field, women workers will most likely be deployed for menial, temporary jobs such as helpers and support staff. 
    • This will require handholding support apart from creating an education system that provides opportunities to willing women to choose careers in STEM fields.
    • An education regime encouraging women in STEM will help in creating a sizeable number of women leaders, managers, engineers, and technical workforce in green jobs associated with renewable energy solutions.
  3. The cultivation of a culture by the RE companies that fosters gender-responsive working. 
    • Adopting effective strategies that promotes gender equity such as hiring policies that ensure inclusivity in the entire value chain as well as leadership roles will go a long way in welcoming structural reforms. 
    • Undertaking gender-related opportunities and risks assessment by the companies that can highlight the socio-economic and environmental factors that can influence an RE project such as availability of a gender to participate in project activities, women’s mobility, expected changes in their workload, etc. would lead to strategic efforts by the companies to address the gaps. 
    • Gender equality as an investor-driven strategy can also enable renewable energy companies to fare well in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

Conclusion

These strategies will yield beneficial results if corresponding behavioral shifts and socio-cultural shifts accompany them. These relate to shattering the cultural norms that hinder women from participating in social, political, and economic discourses that are shaping up around clean energy transition. Whilst this is a long-term and slow process, such shifts are essential for realising the dream of a ‘just’ clean energy transition and an inclusive society.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. India needs to structurally tackle the gender inequalities in job opportunities available in the renewable energy sector for the country to achieve a net-zero future. Discuss. 

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements :

  1. A credit facility allows the borrowing party to take out money over an extended period of time rather than reapplying for a loan each time it needs money.
  2. Under Line of Credit (LOC), the borrower can take money out as needed until the limit is reached, and as money is repaid, it can be borrowed again in the case of an open line of credit.

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 International Migration Outlook report is released by which of the following organisation?

  1. IMF
  2. WHO
  3. OECD
  4. WEF 

Q.3 Consider the following statements:

  1. The Mars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, was assembled in the UK for a planned launch onboard a Russian rocket.
  2. Rosalind Franklin is the second stage of the joint European-Russian mission. 

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

ANSWERS FOR 18th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 C
3 C

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