IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Math model to predict COVID-19 vaccine efficacy
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Science and Technology
Context: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science and Queensland Brain Institute in Australia have developed a mathematical model that predicts how antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines confer protection against symptomatic infections.
- Several vaccines offer a high degree of protection, with some reducing the number of symptomatic infections by over 95% in clinical trials.
- The model developed by the team was able to predict the level of protection that would be available after vaccination based on the antibody ‘profile’ of the individual.
- The predictions were found to closely match efficacies reported in clinical trials for all the major approved vaccines.
- The researchers also observed that vaccine efficacy was linked to a readily measurable metric called antibody neutralisation titre.
- This opens up the possibility of using such models to test future vaccines for their efficacy before elaborate clinical trials are launched..
- This formalism is yet to be applied to the new variants, including Omicron.
Do you know?
- The reason predicting vaccine efficacies has been hard is that the processes involved are complex and operate at many interconnected levels.
- Vaccines trigger a number of different antibodies, each affecting virus growth in the body differently.
- This, in turn, affects the dynamics of the infection and the severity of the associated symptoms.
- Further, different individuals generate different collections of antibodies and in different amounts.
News Source: TH
Quami Waqf Boards Taraqqiati Scheme
Part of: Prelims and GS-II Policies and interventions
Context: The deadline for “Quami Waqf Boards Taraqqiati Scheme” has been revised from March 2022 to November 2023.
- Under the scheme, all Waqf properties are to be geotagged.
- It began in 2017.
- Ministry: Union Ministry of Minority Affairs
- The scheme was envisaged on the basis of recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
- The government wanted to map the immovable assets under the Waqf boards, to ensure its proper utilisation and monetisation.
- The exercise is also aimed at ensuring that these properties are not lost to encroachments and counter ownership claims.
- According to estimates, there are over six lakh Waqf properties, out of which, in the last five years, 2 lakh properties have been geotagged.
Important value additions
- A waqf (also known as wakf or hubous) is an inalienable charitable endowment under Islamic law.
- It typically involves donating a building, plot of land or other assets for Muslim religious or charitable purposes with no intention of reclaiming the assets.
- The state waqf boards were established by the state governments in view of the provisions of Section 9(1) of the Wakf Act, 1954.
- India also has a Central Waqf Council to advise the government “on matters concerning the working of boards and the due administration of waqfs.”
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations
Context: Operation Ganga is the initiative launched by the government of India to bring back Indians stranded in Ukraine.
Some other recent operations
- Operation All Out (2015): for flushing out militants from the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir.
- 2015 Indian counter-insurgency operation in Myanmar (2015) in Myanmar: Indian Army allegedly conducted hot pursuit of Naga terror outfit NSCN-Khaplang along the India-Myanmar border.
- Operation Calm Down (2016) in Jammu and Kashmir
- Operation Randori Behak (2020) in Jammu and Kashmir
- Operation Devi Shakti (2021) in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Afghanistan: To help fleeing Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan.
News Source: IE
(News from PIB)
SAHARA: A collaboration between the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) & Border Security Force, it is an initiative to provide psycho-social counseling & support to children of BSF jawans who made the supreme sacrifice.
Growth of Semiconductor ecosystem in India
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Infrastructure & Economy
- Semiconductor chips are integral parts of the power train, chassis, safety systems, advanced driver assistance systems, and other parts of automobiles.
- They are used more in passenger vehicles compared to commercial vehicles or two-wheelers
- The move to electric vehicles has led to increased demand of chips. For example, a Ford Focus typically uses roughly 300 chips, whereas one of Ford’s new electric vehicles can have up to 3,000 chips
- With supply of semiconductor chips slowing down, the production in the automobile sector is also adversely impacted.
Programme for Development of Semiconductors and Display Manufacturing Ecosystem
The Union Cabinet recently approved a comprehensive program for the development of a sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in the country.
- With an outlay of Rs.76,000 crore (10 billion US dollars), the scheme has incentives for every part of supply chain including electronic components, sub-assemblies, and finished goods.
- In total, the Government of India has committed support of Rs. 2,30,000 crore (USD 30 billion) to position India as a global hub for electronics manufacturing with semiconductors as the foundational building block.
- Usher in a new era in electronics manufacturing by providing a globally competitive incentive package to companies in semiconductors and display manufacturing as well as design.
- Pave the way for India’s technological leadership in these areas of strategic importance and economic self-reliance.
- Semiconductors and displays are the foundation of modern electronics driving the next phase of digital transformation under Industry 4.0.
- Semiconductors and display manufacturing is very complex and technology-intensive sector involving huge capital investments, high risk, long gestation and payback periods, and rapid changes in technology, which require significant and sustained investments.
- Give an impetus to semiconductor and display manufacturing by facilitating capital support and technological collaborations.
There was a global shortage of semiconductor chips that had started making its effect felt in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector in India.
- Rise in Covid-19 cases in supplying countries, especially those in Asia, led to disruption of production (shutdown of factories) thereby causing the current shortage.
- An atrocious winter storm in Texas shut down semiconductor factories, and a fire at a plant in Japan caused similar delays.
- Also, relatively low margins of Substrate manufacturing have led to its underinvestment and added to the pain of a global chip shortage
- Substrates connect chips to the circuit boards that hold them in personal computers and other devices.
- Made up of thin copper wire sandwiched in resin, substrates help transmit user instructions to a computer’s chips and relay the answers.
- They are necessary because the ultrathin wiring that comes out of chips can’t tolerate a direct soldered connection to a circuit board
- Substrate Manufacturing is therefore seen as a backwater of the global chip supply chain.
- Supplies of substrates is very tight and small disruption in this underinvested sector is causing big worries to chip manufacturers
- The chief executives of Intel and IBM have both said recently that the chip shortage could last two years.
It is clear today that we have a runway of opportunities in the ESDM (Electronics System Design and Manufacturing) space, in the embedded design space, and of course, the semiconductor space. Our ambitions specifically to the semiconductor space are very clear. It involves big investment in fabs, which is natural – given the geopolitics, but also in the ecosystem around innovation, design and systems.
News Source: PIB
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India and UNSC Vote over Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Context: India has abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that deplores Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, with New Delhi saying dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes.
What is the resolution about?
- The UN Security Council voted on the draft resolution 8979 presented by the US and Albania, and co-sponsored by several other nations.
- The resolution deplores Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and decides that
- Russia shall immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine
- Russia shall refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any UN member state.
- Russia immediately withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
- Russia immediately reverse the decision related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
- The Council’s resolution reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
- India abstained on the vote on draft resolution.
- Russia — which chaired the meeting of the UNSC since it holds the presidency for the month of February — vetoed the resolution
- China shifted from its support for Russia in the previous vote to abstention after the U.S. and Albania, the two “penholders” of the resolution, agreed to drop the reference to Chapter VII (the authorisation of the use of force against Russian troops).
- Despite the remaining 11 members of UNSC, including US, UK, France, voting in favour of the resolution, it did not pass since Russia vetoed it.
- Russia has vetoed UNSC resolutions earlier that were critical of its decision to send troops into Georgia (2008), and Crimea (2014),
Why did India abstain?
- There are four potential options India can/could choose from:
- Condemn Russian aggression- this will pit India against Russia
- support Russian aggression – this will pit it against the U.S. and its allies
- stay silent on Russian aggression – this will be read as pro-Russia
- express displeasure (short of condemning) and call for diplomacy – — which it has taken — is the least harmful.
- Also, India wants to maintain a balance between the Western bloc led by the US, and Russia, since it has strategic relationship with both.
- Apart from the India-Russia defence and strategic partnership, Russia is India’s most trusted P-5 ally when it comes to blocking intrusive resolutions on Kashmir.
- Russia may or may not be able to moderate Chinese antagonism towards India, but an India-Russia strategic partnership may be able to temper India’s growing isolation in a rather friendless region.
- New Delhi needs Moscow’s assistance to manage its continental difficulties through defence supplies, helping it return to central Asia, working together at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or exploring opportunities for collaboration in Afghanistan.
- On the other hand, India’s relationship with US is at its best with forming informal grouping like QUAD that is having a strategic interest in containing China. Therefore, New Delhi could not actively support Russia.
- On moral grounds also, the invasion is considered as against international law & violation of Sovereignty & territorial integrity of Ukraine.
- India’s problem is China, and it needs both the U.S./the West and Russia to deal with the “China problem”.
- An aggressive Russia is a problem for the U.S. and the West, not for India. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion is Russia’s problem, not India’s.
- By abstaining, India retained the option of reaching out to relevant sides in an effort to bridge the gap and find a middle ground with an aim to foster dialogue and diplomacy
- India said that it is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.
- India reiterated its appeal for cessation of violence and advocated diplomacy, urging the parties concerned to return to the negotiating table.
- It flagged its core concern about Indian nationals in Ukraine who are stuck, most of whom are students.
- India touched upon “territorial integrity and sovereignty” which was the contemporary global order built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.
How does the war on Ukraine have major implications for India’s strategic calculus?
- For one, Russian action in Ukraine will no doubt embolden China and its territorial ambitions.
- Second, the new sanctions regime may have implications for India’s defence cooperation with Moscow.
- Third, the longer the standoff lasts, the closer China and Russia could become, which certainly does not help India.
- Finally, the more severe the U.S.-Russia rivalry becomes, the less focus there would be on the Indo-Pacific and China, which is where India’s interests lie.
New Delhi must now consider whether its aspirations to be a “leading power” can be achieved without having a clear position on a conflict that threatens global security,
Connecting the dots:
- International Court of Justice
- US invasion of Afghanistan and withdrawal in 2021.
- GS-2: Federalism and Challenges
- GS-3: Internal Security
Kuki Insurgency in Manipur
Context: Just before the first of the two phases of the Assembly Elections went underway in Manipur on February 28, all insurgent groups associated with the Kuki tribes in Manipur said they will vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
- This came days after Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah said at his rally that his party will end the Kuki insurgency problem in five years, if it is voted to power for the second time.
- The president of the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), P.S. Haokip, cited talks with the BJP leadership, which he said has promised the speedy settlement of Kuki political aspirations.
Who are the Kukis?
- The Kukis are an ethnic group including multiple tribes originally inhabiting the North-Eastern states of India such as Manipur, Mizoram and Assam; parts of Burma (now Myanmar), and Sylhet district and Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
- While Kuki is not a term coined by the ethnic group itself, the tribes associated with it came to be generically called Kuki under colonial rule.
- In Manipur, the various Kuki tribes, living mainly in the hills, currently make up 30% of the total 28.5 lakh population of the State.
- The rest of the population of Manipur is made up mainly of two other ethnic groups — the Meiteis or non-tribal, Vaishnavite Hindus who live in the valley region of Manipur, and the Naga tribes, historically at loggerheads with the Kukis, also living in the hilly areas of the State.
- 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.
- Of the 60 seats in the Manipur Assembly, 40 are held by Meiteis and the rest 20 seats are held by Kukis and Nagas.
What led to the Kuki insurgencies in Manipur?
- Manipur, formerly a princely state including parts of Burma, made the accession into India after Independence (made a full-fledged State only in 1972).
- The resentment over the “forceful” inclusion into India and delay in granting statehood led to the rise of various insurgent movements.
- Post-independence insurgent movements in Manipur, carried out by valley-based groups or Meiteis, can be traced back to around the 1960s, when various groups demanded self-determination and separate statehood for Manipur, inspired by left ideology.
- The roots of Kuki militancy lie in conflicts of ethnic identity.
- First was the demand for self-determination solely for groups belonging to their ethnic fabric, meaning the dream to form a Kukiland which includes Kuki inhabited regions of Myanmar, Manipur, Assam and Mizoram.
- The second reason for insurgency lies in the inter-community conflicts between the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur.
- The Kuki-Naga conflict was started over securing identity and land as some Kuki inhabited areas coincided with Naga inhabited areas.
- Wanting to dominate trade and cultural activities in those areas the two communities often engaged in violent standoffs.
- Naga groups demand for “Nagalim” (Greater Nagaland) is perceived as a “threat” to Manipur’s “territorial integrity”.
- The Kuki problem was intensified after Manipur was declared a ‘disturbed area’ in 1980, under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to the military and has led to excesses.
- While some militant Kuki outfits demanded Kukiland, including parts which are not in India, some demanded Kukiland within India.
- At present, the demand has come to the formulation of an independent district—Kukiland Territorial Council within the purview of the Indian constitution, modelling the Bodoland Territorial Council, which was formed under the sixth schedule of the Constitution.
Where do the Kukis stand today?
- The Kuki insurgent groups have been under Suspension of Operation (SoO) since 2005 when they signed an agreement for the same with the Indian Army.
- Later, in 2008, the groups entered a tripartite agreement with the State government of Manipur and the Union government, to temporarily suspend their operations and give political dialogue a chance.
- The temporary SoO agreements were made in order to start a political dialogue about giving some form of self-determination to the Kukis, but that has not happened, both under the UPA or NDA governments.
- The SoO has been extended by the Government almost every year since 2008, with Kuki outfits threatening to breach the agreement by taking up arms again and boycotting the Government.
- In 2012, the groups held a nearly eight-month long blockade of highways around their area, costing the Government a couple of crores in losses each day.
- Kukis are dissatisfied with the pace of the peace dialogue and also feel ignored, as the Government has been holding Naga Peace Talks with the main Naga insurgent outfit NSCN (IM), which demands the formation of Greater Nagaland, including parts of Manipur having Kuki inhabited regions.
- It has to be seen how the BJP plans to resolve the insurgency and settle Kuki political aspirations as the more than 50% Meitei population of the State, a significant voter base, has always been against Kuki and Naga demands for self-determination, as they fear it would undermine Manipur’s territorial integrity.
Connecting the dots:
- Peace Process of Naga Accord Stuck
- Concept of Asymmetrical Federalism
(Sansad TV: Perspective)
Feb 26: Balakot Airstrike – https://youtu.be/qYiVhbsN_bw
- GS-2: India and its neighbour relations
- GS-3: Defence and Security issues
Context: February 26th marks the third anniversary of the Balakot airstrike which was conducted by Indian Air Force targeting the terrorist camps operating in Balakot town in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Forty CPRF Jawans lost their lives in the attack when an ED-laden SUV rammed into their convoy. The terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. The Balakot airstrikes were seen as a direct response to the Pulwama bombing.
- On February 26, 2019, in the wee hours, India carried out airstrikes 12 days after a convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel was attacked by a suicide bomber – plotted by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama district of Jammu.
- On 14 February last year, 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in the attack. In retaliation, Indian Air Force destroyed the biggest terror training camp of JeM at Balakot on February 26, 2019.
- A dozen IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets crossed the India-Pakistan border to attack terror camp.
- According to media reports, the terrorist camps at Balakot have undergone a revamp ahead of the first anniversary of the IAF bombings.
- The IAF’s mission to bomb the terrorist hideout in Balakot, Pakistan, was given the codename ‘Operation Bandar’. It was a rare operation in which the IAF crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and dropped bombs on targets in Pakistani territory. Balakot is a small town located in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
- On February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force’s Mirage-2000 fighter jets took off from airbases across India. The Indian Air Force jets crossed the LoC in J&K and bombed Jaish terror camps in Balakot with precision-guided missiles.
- Pakistan retaliated a day after. The Pakistan Air Force attempted an airstrike on Indian soil. The Indian Air Force launched its fighter jets in response, leading to a rare dogfight between the Indian and Pakistani jets. In the skirmish, an IAF MiG-21 Bison fighter jet shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the conflict. Indian Mig-21, which was being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was also shot down and he was captured by the Pakistani forces. After much deliberation, Wing Commander Abhinandan was released two days later from Pakistan’s hold. This development calmed the tensions between the two nations after two weeks of heightened conflict.
Reflections and Message to the World
Balakot reflected India’s approach against the employment of terrorism as a low-cost option against India.
- Indicated that terrorists, terrorist infrastructure and terrorist training facilities in areas beyond LoC and International Border when employed against India, will no longer be safe haven
- Terrorism will not remain a low-cost option that can proliferate under veiled threats and bogeys that have repeatedly been voiced by irresponsible and ill-informed leaders from across the border
- Balakot will continue to reiterate India’s intent to employ the most appropriate resources for the intended impact, with an element of unpredictability and innovation as an integral part of the endeavour. It is this factor that must remain uppermost in our minds.
India has joined the list of countries along with the United States and Israel who can strike in enemy territory and avenge the death of its soldiers. It sent out a signal to adversaries that India’s response to provocation will no longer be ‘soft’ and only diplomatic. All options were on the table.
The Way Ahead
- Requests placed before the government by the NSG needs to be met. NSG should be made into a complete commando force be it training, modern weapons, facilities of family members among others. The idea is to keep NSG at least two steps ahead of other forces in the world.
- Indian Army has to forge ahead with restructuring the army to allow for faster ground mobilisation and greater flexibility in limited land-based military operations.
- Work on the naval power as well: In the short-term, India is likely to position its naval forces aggressively during a confrontation with Pakistan, as it reportedly did during this crisis and in previous crises. In the long-term, it may explore a naval blockade or land-attack options, though India’s ability to execute decisive missions in its adversary’s territorial waters will be limited and potentially escalatory given Pakistan’s naval nuclear ambitions. Thus, Indian pressure in the Arabian Sea will remain the optimal choice for now.
- There is a need to continue the restrained approach it has adopted after the operation, and avoid the triumphalism that clouded the ‘surgical strikes’ of September 2016.
In the long term, building strong counter-terror defences, partnering with its own citizens to gather intelligence, and creating deterrents will be key.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Balakot airstrikes compelled Pakistan to change its rulebook. Comment.
- India’s longstanding doctrine of restraint has ended, opening up space for more risky Indian retaliation moves against terror attacks like Pulwama. Discuss.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding waifs:
1) It typically involves donating a building, plot of land or other assets for Muslim religious or charitable purposes with no intention of reclaiming the assets.
2) India also has a Central Waqf Council to advise the government “on matters concerning the working of boards and the due administration of waqfs.”
Which of the above is or are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Which of the following is Covid-19 vaccine indigenously developed by India?
d) None of the above
Q.3 Operation Ganga is associated with which of the following?
a) To help fleeing Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan.
b) For flushing out militants from specially Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir
c) Hot pursuit of Naga terror outfit NSCN-Khaplang along the India-Myanmar border by the Indian Army.
d) To rescue Indians from Ukraine
ANSWERS FOR 2nd March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On warning of the IPCC report:
On grassroots secularism:
On economic recovery:
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