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

  • IASbaba
  • April 18, 2022
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(Prelims Focus)


Loss of the ‘Moskva’ & Black Sea

Part of: GS-II: India and its neighbours 

Context: The sinking of the warship Moskva, the 600-foot, 12,500-tonne flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (whether due to a Ukrainian missile strike or, as Russia claims, a fire on board) — is not just a huge symbolic defeat for Russia as it was named after its capital Moscow, but also a serious damage to its dominance in the Black Sea.

  • The biggest Russian warship to be sunk in action since World War II.
  • On the other hand, it lifts Ukrainian hopes, demonstrating the defenders’ homegrown technological capacity, and exposing a weakness in the Russian navy’s anti-missile defences.

About the Black Sea

  • The Black Sea, also known as the Euxine Sea, is one of the major water bodies and a famous inland sea of the world.
  • It is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
  • The Black Sea is also connected to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch.
  • It is flanked by Turkey in the south, Crimea in the north, Georgia and Russia in the east and Romania and Bulgaria in the west.

Politics around Black Sea

  • A busy waterway, Greece controlled it in the 9th century BC and by 500 BC Greek communities took its control. It helped them increase their trade. 
  • In 1479, the Black Sea came under the control of the Ottoman Empire until it was taken over by the Russian Navy in 1783. 
  • The 1853-1856 Crimean War saw immense bloodshed to take control of this region. One of Russia’s main reasons for joining World War I was to take over control of the Black Sea.

Significance of Black Sea to Russia

  • Not only is the Black Sea an entry point for Russia into the Mediterranean and a buffer between NATO and itself, it also serves as an economic gateway for the country to major markets in southern Europe, as reported by the Deccan Herald.
  • Moscow sees the Black Sea as vital to its geo-economic strategy; helps in supplying Russia’s oil and gas to the west.
  • Russia depends on the Black Sea for both for military operations outside its immediate neighbourhood and for exports of Russia’s main commodity (hydrocarbons).
  • With the breaking away of the USSR, ideally NATO should have been dissolved. But this did not happen. In fact, despite multiple assurances by the US and NATO, it has expanded four times since 1991 and almost reached the doorstep of Russia.
  • The Kremlin sees the Mediterranean as a largely NATO-dominated region. So, by increasing its presence in the Black Sea, Russia hopes to spot opportunities to make political, economic, and military inroads with key regional states in the region.
  • A domination of the Black Sea and Sea would give Russia a major advantage in the Crimea-Odessa-Mariupol region now that Sevastopol is already under its command.

Pic source: Wikipedia


Bihar ranks third in new HIV infections

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

Context: Bihar ranks third in the country, after Maharashtra and UP, in new HIV infections every year, despite a 27% reduction in new infection rate from 2010. 

  • With 1.34 lakh infected, Bihar accounted for nearly 5.77% of India’s 23.19 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • With 0.17% PLHIV prevalence rate (the number of people testing positive for HIV/AIDS out of a population of 100), the state, however, fared better than the national average of 0.22%, as it strode towards the national goal to eliminate the public threat of the disease by 2030.

About HIV

  • AIDS is a pandemic disease caused by the infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which damages the human immune system.
  • It is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition.
  • By damaging immune system, HIV interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
  • The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
  • AIDS symptoms include weight loss, fever or night sweats, fatigue and recurrent infections.
  • No cure exists for AIDS.
  • Strict adherence to antiretroviral regimens (ARVs) can slow the disease’s progress and prevent secondary infections and complications.

Maharashtra to restrict loudspeaker use at religious sites

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

Context: The state government will now make it mandatory for religious sites to seek permission for using loudspeakers.

Loudspeakers and existing Rules

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, loudspeakers cannot be used in public places anywhere in the country unless permission has been taken from the local administration. However, permission regarding the same is taken in only 9 percent of the cases in India, and other times people use loudspeakers in public places without permission.

  • Under CPCB there should not be more than 75 Decibels during daytime and 70 Decibel during the night in an industrial area.
  • In residential areas, there should be 55 Decibels during the day and 45 Decibels during the night.
  • Whereas if an area is kept in the Silence Zone, then there cannot be more than 50 Decibels of noise during the day.

In August 2016, the Bombay High Court ruled that the use of loudspeaker was not a fundamental right

  • The Bombay High Court observed that no religion or sect could claim that the right to use a loudspeaker or a public address system was a fundamental right conferred by Article 25 of the Constitution of India. 
  • It further ordered that if a place of religion fell in a Silence Zone, the rules of not allowing use of loudspeakers and other forms of sound producing systems in such a zone should be adhered to by such religious places.

Does it come under ‘essential religious practices’?

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”. However, this right isn’t absolute and is subject to public order, morality, health, and other fundamental rights.

  • While Article 25 itself does not read any other condition into the protection of this right, courts, over the years, have ruled that the right would protect only “essential religious practices” and not all religious practices. So, this test decides which religious practices are protected under the Constitution.
  • Courts have adopted varied approaches to the test over the years. In some cases, they relied on religious texts to determine essentiality, in others on the empirical behaviour of followers, and in a few, on whether the practice in question existed at the time the religion originated.
  • Court judgments on this test usually trace its origins to the debates of the Constituent Assembly, and attribute it to a speech given by Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
    • On 2 December 1948, Dr Ambedkar acknowledged that religious conceptions in India “cover every aspect of life, from birth to death”. However, he added, “There is nothing extraordinary in saying that we ought to strive hereafter to limit the definition of religion in such a manner that we shall not extend it beyond beliefs and such rituals as may be connected with ceremonials which are essentially religious.” 
    • He then asserted that “it is not necessary that the sort of laws, for instance, laws relating to tenancy or laws relating to succession, should be governed by religion.” Ambedkar’s use of the term “essentially religious” was cited by courts to introduce the essential religious practice test.

Current Status on the test: A nine-judge bench is set to re-evaluate the “essential religious practice test”, among other issues related to Constitutional morality, and the interplay between freedom of religion under the Constitution and other fundamental rights.


PLACES IN NEWS

Khajuraho

  • Nagara Style Temple Architecture: Vishwanatha temple & Lakshman Temple 
  • Kandariya Mahadeva Temple: Built by Chandela Rulers, King Ganda (Shiva in the form of linga is the chief deity); Under the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites
  • Lakshamana Temple: 
    • The temples at Khajuraho are all made of sandstone. 
    • They were patronised by the Chandella dynasty.
    • The Lakshamana temple represents the full-fledged, developed style of temple architecture during the time of the Chandellas. 
    • Its construction was completed by 954, the year as per the inscription found at the base of the temple, by Yashovarman, the seventh ruler of the Chandella dynasty.
    • The temple plan is of a panchayana type.
    • The temple is constructed on a heavy plinth. It consists of an ardhamandapa (porch), mandapa (porch), the maha mandapa (greater hall) and the garbhagriha with vimana.
    • Many erotic sculptures are carved on the plinth wall. Some erotic sculptures are carved on the actual wall of the temple. 
      • Khajuraho complex of temples is an excellent example of sculptures representing women in different roles. For example, on Kandariya Laxmana temple we can see a women with a purse in hand purchasing stuff from market showcases economic independence and her ability to make choice.
      • Erotic sculptures, where we can see women are supremely confident when it comes to exploring their sexuality. Practice of polyandry is evident on temple walls. (part of the Hindu tradition of treating kama as an essential and proper part of human life)
    • An image of Chaturmukha Vishnu is in the garbhagriha. 
    • There are four shrines in each corner of the temple. There are images of Vishnu in three shrines and Surya in one, which can be identified by the central image on the lintel of the shrine-doors.

PERSONALITY IN NEWS

Chandra Shekhar Azad

Chandrashekhar Azad was a great Indian freedom fighter. His fierce patriotism and courage inspired others of his generation to enter freedom struggle. He was the mentor of Bhagat Singh, another great freedom fighter, and along with Bhagat Singh he is considered as one of the greatest revolutionaries that India has produced.

As a revolutionary

  • ‘Azad’: In December 1921, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, Chandra Shekhar, then a 15-year-old student, joined. As a result, he was arrested. On being presented before a magistrate, he gave his name as “Azad” (The Free), his father’s name as “Swatantrata” (Independence) and his residence as “Jail”. From that day he came to be known as Chandra Shekhar Azad among the people.
  • Became famous for: Involved in the Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy of India’s train in 1926, and at last the shooting of J. P. Saunders at Lahore in 1928 to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai. The Colt pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad is displayed at the Prayagraj Museum
  • What inspired him: The Jallianwala Bagh tragedy which took place in 1919 was when he decided to join the Non-Cooperation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920.
  • Formed: He was the chief strategist of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
  • He inspired: Bhagat Singh; Chandrashekhar Azad was attracted towards more aggressive and revolutionary ideals. He committed himself to complete independence by any means. Azad and his compatriots would target British officials known for their oppressive actions against ordinary people and freedom fighters.

A terror for British police: He was on their hit list and the British police badly wanted to capture him dead or alive. 

  • On February 27, 1931 Azad met two of his comrades at the Alfred Park Allahabad. He was betrayed by an informer who had informed the British police. 
  • The police surrounded the park and ordered Azad to surrender. 
  • Azad fought alone valiantly and killed three policemen. 
  • But finding himself surrounded and seeing no route for escape, he shot himself. Thus he kept his pledge of not being caught alive.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

India and Wheat Exports

Context: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent western sanctions on Russia have affected wheat exports from the Black Sea region and impacted food security in several countries, especially in Africa and West Asia.

  • The disruption to global wheat supplies in turn has opened opportunities for India’s grain exporters given the domestic surplus availability of the cereal.
  • Egypt, one of the largest importers of wheat, had agreed to source the cereal from India.

What is the status of India’s wheat exports? 

  • Globally, Russia is the market leader for wheat exports (almost 15% share) and Ukraine is also a major producer. Exports from these two countries have been hit by the war and sanctions. 
  • India expects to produce 112 million tonnes of wheat in the current season. 
  • The government requires 24-26 million tonnes a year for its food security programmes. With surplus wheat production, opportunities have opened up for exports. 
  • Wheat exports in the 2021-2022 financial year were estimated at 7.85 million tonnes, a quadrupling from 2.1 million tonnes in the previous year. 
  • More countries are turning to India because of the competitive price, acceptable quality, availability of surplus wheat and geopolitical reasons. 
  • While the existing importers are buying more, new markets have emerged for Indian wheat. Exports this fiscal are expected to be almost 10 million tonnes worth $3 billion. 

Which new markets are expected to buy from India? 

  • The different grades of wheat produced in India are of the milling quality. 
  • So, apart from Egypt and Jordan, countries in East Africa are also likely to source the foodgrain from India. 
  • India has sent out dossiers to over 20 countries and talks are on at different levels with all these countries. 
  • The aim is to reach early resolution on the Pest Risk Analysis by each of these countries so that exports can take off. 
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Ministry of Agriculture are also sending delegations to several countries to resolve market issues, if any. 

What is being done to facilitate the exports? 

  • The Commerce Ministry has put in place an internal mechanism to facilitate it and get the paperwork ready for the related sanitary and phytosanitary applications to help facilitate shipments. 
  • Wheat is going in full vessel loads and needs to be transported to the ports from the growing areas. The railways is providing rakes on priority to move the wheat. 
  • Therefore, railways, ports, and testing laboratories are all geared up to meet the requirements. 

What norms are buyer countries using to approve Indian wheat? 

  • Countries that have not previously imported wheat from India insist on the completion of the Pest Risk Analysis to provide market access. 
  • There are also other different standards that the buyers share with their sellers here. 
  • While, at present, Indian suppliers are able to meet these criteria, Indian authorities are working closely to step in and negotiate resolution if any “unreasonable” standards are stipulated. 

What is the future outlook? 

  • The government is optimistic about the long-term export opportunities not only for wheat, but for all cereals including millets and super foods. 
  • Trade sources say if Indian wheat prices remain competitive and geopolitical and weather conditions stay favourable, the scope is good for wheat exports. 
  • India has won the confidence of markets such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. 
  • It needs to establish itself in the new markets too and the government should facilitate it. 

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Inflation in Rural India

Context: The retail inflation rate surged to 6.95% in March 2022— its highest level in nearly one and a half years, with six successive months of accelerating prices for consumers. 

  • Official data pegs rural inflation in March at 7.66%, with several States reporting even higher inflation, including West Bengal (8.85%), Uttar Pradesh and Assam (8.19%) as well as Madhya Pradesh (7.89%). 
  • With incremental fuel price hikes only kicking in during the latter half of March, the full impact of higher global oil prices being passed on to consumers will only begin reflecting in April. 
  • Economists expect inflation to go past 7% and stay around that level till as far as September. 

How have urban and rural inflation trends differed over the past year? 

  • Urban inflation has usually tended to be higher than rural inflation by an average of about 0.8 percentage points through most of 2021.
  • In December 2021, urban inflation was 5.9%, while rural inflation was 5.4%. In contrast, March 2022 marked the third consecutive month that the pace of price rise in the rural areas outstripped urban India, and the gap has been widening rapidly. 
  • From a minor 0.2 percentage points higher inflation rate over urban India in January, rural inflation hit a nine-month high of 6.38% in February even as urban inflation declined to 5.75%. 
  • In March, the gap between the two has surpassed 1.5% with urban inflation at 6.12% and rural areas clocking 7.66%. 

What are the key drivers of higher inflation in the hinterland? 

  • While food inflation was the key driver for the headline inflation rate jump in March, with the overall consumer food price index racing to 7.68% from 5.85% in February, the spike was far more pronounced in rural India where food inflation hit 8.04%. 
  • Food inflation in urban India was a full percentage point lower. 
  • Higher inflation in food, which has a higher weight in the Consumer Price Index, along with inflation in fuel and light and clothing, were the key factors driving up rural prices. 
  • Consider the inflation rates for some items faced by rural consumers vis-à-vis their urban peers — 
    • oils and fats (20.75% v. 15.15%)
    • Clothing (9.9% v. 7.74%)
    • Footwear (12.2% v. 9.9%)
    • Fuel and light (8.3% v. 6.3%)
    • Personal care and effects (9.3% v. 7.7%) 
    • Last but not the least, a persistently higher inflation in education costs of about 1 to 1.5 percentage points. 
  • Interestingly, while vegetable prices declined in the urban areas between February and March 2022, they inched up sharply in rural India. Vegetable price trends have been most intriguing — rural inflation was 1.4% in January, 3.7% in February and a whopping 10.6% in March. 
  • The pent-up demand appears to be higher in rural India, so clothing is seeing higher inflation as demand picks up. 
  • Moreover, fuel prices are higher in rural areas due to connectivity issues, while prices of traditional fuel like firewood have also risen in tandem. 
  • Part of this trend could also be explained by the shift of labour between urban and rural areas in the last two years, which has also injected volatility into demand dynamics. 

What next? 

  • While high inflation affects the poor the most in general, the fact that price rise in food, the largest component of their consumption basket, is driving the current surge, is particularly burdensome.
  • The bottom 20% of the population in urban as well as rural India is facing the worst effects
  • While food price risks have risen due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, higher prices for farm sector inputs could further feed into food inflation.
  • The cost of production is likely to increase by around 8-10%, therefore, the Minimum Support Price should at least be higher by around 12%-15%
  • With a normal monsoon anticipated this year, the inflation trajectory in months to come would determine if rural consumer demand rebounds or is constricted to focus on essential goods and services. 

Connecting the dots:


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1) Consider the following statements and identify the correct answer:

  1. It happens to be the largest water body with a meromictic basin.
  2. There is a significant absence of oxygen in the water.

Select the correct code:

  1. Mediterranean Sea
  2. Baltic Sea
  3. Black Sea
  4. Caspian Sea

Q.2) Consider the following statements

  1. Article 25 says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion.
  2. Article 26 says that all denominations can manage their own affairs in matters of religion.

Select the correct code:

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

Q.3) Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) was formed by

  1. Chandrasekhar Azad
  2. Bhagat Singh
  3. Batukeshwar Dutt

Select the correct code:

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

ANSWERS FOR 18TH APRIL 2022 – TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 C
3 D

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