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

  • IASbaba
  • November 2, 2022
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(PRELIMS & MAINS Focus)


Coronal Holes

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science and Technology

Context: Recently, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the Sun “smiling.” Seen in ultraviolet light, these dark patches on the Sun are known as coronal holes and are regions where fast solar wind gushes out into space.

About Coronal holes:

  • These are regions on the sun’s surface from where fast solar wind gushes out into space.
  • Because they contain little solar material, they have lower temperatures and thus appear much darker than their surroundings.
  • Here, the magnetic field is open to interplanetary space, sending solar material out in a high-speed stream of solar wind.
  • Coronal holes can last between a few weeks to months.
  • They can last much longer during solar minimum – a period of time when activity on the Sun is substantially diminished
  • These coronal holes are important to understand the space environment around the earth.
  • While it is unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, without looping back down to the surface as they do elsewhere.

Geomagnetic Storm:

  • Geomagnetic storms relate to earth’s magnetosphere – the space around a planet that is influenced by its magnetic field.
  • When a high-speed solar stream arrives at the earth, in certain circumstances it can allow energetic solar wind particles to hit the atmosphere over the poles.
  • Such geomagnetic storms cause a major disturbance of the magnetosphere as there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding earth.
  • In cases of a strong solar wind reaching the earth, the resulting geomagnetic storm can cause changes in the ionosphere, part of the earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • Radio and GPS signals travel through this layer of the atmosphere, and so communications can get disrupted.


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Environment

Context: Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) has demanded a ban on using aceclofenac in cattle after a new study showed that the drug metabolises into diclofenac in water buffaloes — as it does in cows.

 

NSAIDS as a major threat to vultures in India:

  • The rampant use of the three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) threatens to undo the Centre’s two decades of work to arrest the dwindling vulture population in the wild.
  • The three drugs—aceclofenac, ketoprofen and nimesulide—were introduced as alternatives to diclofenac, that India banned in 2006 for animal use because it caused widespread vulture deaths.
  • The country’s vulture population crashed from over 40,000 in 2003 to 18,645 in 2015, as per the last vulture census conducted by intergovernmental body Bird Life International.
  • India’s vulture conservation action plan for 2020-25 recommends a ban on the veterinary use of the three drugs.
  • India is also a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species’ Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures, which recognises NSAIDS as a major threat to vultures in India.
  • The vulture action plan recommends meloxicam over diclofenac. Tolfenamic acid is the other safe option.

About Aceclofenac:

  • It is used for the relief of pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
  • IVRI and its collaborators conducted the study and found that aceclofenac was rapidly converted to diclofenac while injecting the same water buffaloes.
  • Such metabolisms pose a threat to vulture populations in the country.

Diclofenac :

  • Anti-inflammatory drug was banned for veterinary use by the Government of India in 2006.
  • It was found to be the main cause of a dramatic decline (99 per cent) of the vulture population across Asia.
  • The drug caused accidental poisoning in raptors after they fed on carcasses of cattle injected with it.
  • Aceclofenac in water buffaloes poses the same threat to vultures as it is a pro-drug of diclofenac.
  • Vulture Action Plan 2020-2025 also mentions the drug as toxic, asking the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) to ban its veterinary use — along with other drugs like nimesulide and ketoprofen.

MUST READ: Vulture Conservation in India

Source: DownToEarth

Previous Year Question

Q.1) “Triclosan” considered harmful when exposed to high levels for a long time, is most likely present in which of the following? (2021)

  1. Food preservatives
  2. Fruit ripening substances
  3. reused plastic containers
  4. Toiletries

Deinococcus Radiodurans/ Conan the Bacterium

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science and Technology

Context: Recently, researchers simulated the harsh ionising radiation on Mars in a new study where they found that ancient bacteria could potentially survive close to the surface of the planet much longer than previously thought.

  • A new study shatters that record, finding the hearty bacterium could survive 280 million years if buried. This means evidence of life could still be dormant and buried below Mars’ surface.

About Deinococcus Radiodurans:

  • Many of the terrestrial microorganisms proved that they might be able to survive on Mars, but one particular microbe called Deinococcus Radiodurans seemed particularly well-suited to living on the planet.
  • The researchers nicknamed the bacteria “Conan the bacterium” for its ability to survive massive amounts of radiation while frozen.
  • This means that scientists might even find bacteria and bacteria remains when the first samples from Mars come back to our planet.
  • To understand whether any life forms could survive the harsh climatic conditions on Mars, the research team exposed six different terrestrial bacteria and fungi under conditions similar to life on the red planet.
  • They did this by freezing the microbes and hitting them with gamma rays and protons.

Source: Indian Express


UP’s Bioenergy Policy 2022

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Environment

In news: Uttar Pradesh recently launched its Bioenergy Policy 2022 to boost bio-economy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

About the policy:

  • The policy highlights four bioenergy constituents: Compressed biogas (CBG), ethanol, biodiesel and bio-coal, a carbon-neutral fuel from biomass waste.
  • It sets a highly ambitious target to generate 1,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of CBG, 4,000 tonnes per day of bio-coal and 2,000 kilolitre per day of bioethanol and biodiesel by 2026-27.
  • Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy Development Agency (UPNEDA) is the nodal agency for implementing this scheme across the state.
  • The scheme provides a subsidy of Rs 75 lakh per tonne of CBG, Rs 75,000 per tonne of bio-coal and Rs 3 lakh per kilolitre of biodiesel, with a cap of Rs 20 crores.
  • Units can use this subsidy for plant and machinery, infrastructure, construction, power supply, and transmission system-related works, excluding administrative building and land costs.
  • Each tehsil in the state is to have at least one bioenergy plant, which means a minimum of 350 bioenergy units across UP.
  • A 10 TPD capacity CBG plant generally requires 10 acres of land for installation and 25 acres for feedstock storage. A 100 TPD capacity bio-coal plant needs two acres of land and a 100 kilolitre per day biodiesel plant needs 1.5 acres of land.
  • The scheme was established to boost agricultural mechanization in the nation and increase inclusivity.

Key takeaways:

  • Electricity tariffs and tax exemptions:
  • 100 per cent electricity charge waiver for ten years
  • Stamp duty and sale deed registration fees waiver
  • no development charges
  • Land on non-transferable lease @Re 1 per acre for a maximum of 30 years
  • A 5 km approach road connecting it with the main highway will be constructed, if an investor infuses Rs 50 crores or more in a bioenergy plant.
  • Incentives on equipment
  • Subsidy under the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) scheme.
  • 30 per cent subsidy (max Rs 20 lakh) on purchasing equipment
  • North-eastern states, the subsidy is 100 per cent, going up to a maximum of Rs 1.25 lakh per user.
  • UPNEDA’s Bioenergy Online portal for single window clearance
  • for easy application and improved transparency.
  • directly file and monitor the progress of their applications.
  • build pressure on the district officials to clear bioenergy project-related regulatory clearances in a time-bound manner
  • Coordination among state departments
  • to help potential investors
  • facilitate necessary approvals from the district magistrate’s office.
  • collaborate with other state departments to receive relevant data for sanctioning future realistic projects
  • better marketing of products
  • A district-level committee will ensure that bioenergy plants remain economically viable and every investor gets a level playing field
  • Manage feedstock supply chain and ensure right costing and convince farmers of a unanimous price of the feedstock with a long-term contract and ensure that the payments are transferred within 15 days.

Challenges:

  • Firstly, a continuous and long-term feedstock supply below a fixed price is needed to ensure the right functioning and healthy economic factors for the bioenergy plant.
  • Secondly, oil marketing companies shall refrain from procuring the CBG on a best endeavours’ basis as it leads to financial instability for the manufacturer when his product is left unsold
  • Lastly, despite having the same fuel characteristics, there is a large disparity in the CBG and CNG procuring prices that needs to be addressed.

Source: Down to Earth

Previous Year Question

Q.1) According to India’s National Policy on Biofuels, which of the following can be used as raw materials for the production of biofuels? (2020)

  1. Cassava
  2. Damaged wheat grains
  3. Groundnut seeds
  4. Horse gram
  5. Rotten potatoes
  6. Sugar beet

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1, 2, 5 and 6 only
  2. 1, 3, 4 and 6 only
  3. 2, 3, 4 and 5 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

PARAKH assessment

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Current Affairs

In news: Three global educational non-profits — Educational Testing Services (ETS), American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) —have expressed interest in helping to set up India’s first national school-level examination and assessment regulator.

  • The organisations approached the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), for selecting consulting services to set up the proposed regulator PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), which is envisaged as an instrument for “establishing comparative measures and equivalence” among school examination boards and promoting collaboration among them.

About:

  • ETS is internationally recognised for conducting TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which are gateways to higher education in top institutes worldwide.
  • AIR and ACER are leading names in research on behavioural and social science domains and learning assessment studies.
  • ACER, which is based in Australia, has an Indian wing. It is primarily known for conducting a set of benchmark tests for learning assessment in English, Mathematics and Science for classes III-X.
  • AIR carried a study in the US on racial disparities and economic mobility among others in 1960s.
  • While the NCERT is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Education, PARAKH will be a constituent body of the council. The consulting firm will initially be selected on a three-year-contract, which will be renewed each year based on its performance, states the RFP.
  • NCERT will develop and validate standards of assessment for all school stages and curricular areas of school education, based on NEP 2020.
  • It will provide technical guidelines and inputs for boards to design, develop, and implement state-wide systems for measuring student learning aligned with state and national curricular standards

Significance of PARAKH:

  • Function as a standard-setting body for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country.
  • Address the issue of disparities in scores of students affiliated to different boards.
  • Conduct future rounds of National Achievement Surveys (NAS) on learning  outcomes and review all aspects of the design and conduct of the NAS exercises and identify areas for improvement.
  • Incorporate international evidence to strengthen assessment systems in India to meet Covid-19 and other pandemic situations.
  • Manage India’s participation in international assessments like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), or Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

Source: Indian Express


Invasive Species

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Environment

In News: An invasive species, Senna spectabilis, an exotic tree, has taken over between 800 and 1,200 hectares of the buffer zones of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) especially the Singara and Masinagudi forest ranges, as well as in Kargudi range in the core area of the reserve.

About:

  • Introduced as an ornamental species and for use as firewood from South and Central America or for paper-making, the species has become highly invasive in the Sigur plateau in both the core and buffer zones of the MTR.
  • It has bright yellow flowers and has a negative effect on local biodiversity, crowding out native species and limiting food availability for wildlife.
  • Forest Department is formulating a 10-year-plan to systematically remove Lantana camara, the other major weed that poses a threat to biodiversity in both the core and buffer zones of the Tiger Reserve.
  • 5 major invasive species of Nilgiris are:
  • Senna spectabilis
  • Lantana camara
  • wattle
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pine
  • Eucalyptus and Pine, though exotic, do not spread as quickly as the other species and are considered easier to manage
  • Funds raised from the removal of the species will be used in eco-restoration to help bring back native species.

Invasive species:

  • Invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.
  • They regenerate at an alarming speed and threaten to edge out the indigenous flora
  • Concerns:
  • The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous species of trees and grass, and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores, during summer.
  • Moreover, wildlife would not feed on the leaves of the tree as it was not palatable for them
  • Some of the invasive plants have a toxic impact on the landscape after remaining underwater.
  • Some weeds have herbal properties, but their toxicity outweighs their utility. For instance, wild boars love to gorge on the succulent rootlets of the Leea macrophylla or ‘kukura thengia’ that is fast clogging the patrolling paths and grasslands.

Examples of Invasive Animal species:

  • Indian Bullfrog – Andaman and Nicobar

  • Papaya Mealy Bug – Assam

  • Amazon sailfin catfish – West Bengal

  • Cannibal Snail / Rosy wolf snail – Indian Ocean

  • African apple snail – Andaman and Nicobar

Examples of Invasive species:

  • Ipomoea (Ipomoea carnea)
  • Mimosa (Mimosa himalaica)
  • Parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorus) is believed to have come to India as contaminants in a consignment of wheat imported from the U.S. in the 1950s
  • Lantana (Lantana camara) was brought by the British as ornamental plants from South America two centuries ago.
  • Bombax ceiba (locally called Semul)
  • Largestroemia speciosa (locally called ejhar)
  • Cestrum diurnum or day-blooming jasmine of West Indies origin; otherwise a source of vitamin D3. Once the modalities are finalised, this weed can be turned into a commercial crop for the people in the vicinity of Kaziranga. Pharmaceutical companies need tonnes of dry leaves of this plant periodically
  • Cane is a commercial plant that is threatening to be an invasive plant in Kaziranga.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR):

  • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is located in the Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu state at the tri-junction of three states, viz, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • It is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (1st Biosphere Reserve in India) along with
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) in the West
  • Bandipur National Park (Karnataka) in the North
  • Mukurthi National Park
  • Silent Valley in the South.
  • Flora:
  • The Reserve has tall grasses, commonly referred to as ‘Elephant Grass’.
  • Bamboo of the giant variety, valuable timber species like Teak, Rosewood, etc.
  • There are several species of endemic flora.
  • Fauna: Flagship Species: Tiger and Asian Elephant.

Other Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu

  • Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR)
  • Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR)
  • Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR)

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which of the following are in Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve? (2019)

  1. Neyyar, ldl Peppara and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve
  2. Mudumalai, Sathyamangalam and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Silent Valley National Park
  3. Kaundinya, Gundla Brahmeswaram and Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Mukurthi National Park
  4. Kawal and Sri Venkateswara Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

Purchasing Manager’s Index

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Economy

In News: India’s manufacturing industry remained robust and expanded at a faster pace indicating a strong improvement in the health of the sector.

  • The seasonally adjusted S&P Global India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 55.3 in October from 55.1 in September
  • Predictions of better sales and marketing efforts were among the reasons cited for upbeat projections.

About:

  • Business volumes rose and led to the hiring of extra workers
  • Manufacturing employment rose
  • Factory orders increased.
  • Rise in input purchasing
  • Capacities were again expanded to accommodate for improving sales.
  • Consumer goods was the best-performing category.
  • The overall rate of cost inflation was the second-weakest for two years.
  • A modest increase in input lead times.

About PMI:

  • PMI or a Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity — both in the manufacturing and services sectors.
  • It is a survey-based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before.
  • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.
  • The index is compiled by S&P Global from responses to questionnaires sent to purchasing managers in a panel of around 400 manufacturers.
  • The PMI is derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample, running into hundreds of firms, are asked whether key indicators such as output, new orders, business expectations and employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them
  • A figure above 50 denotes expansion in business activity. Anything below 50 denotes contraction.
  • Higher the difference from this mid-point greater the expansion or contraction. The rate of expansion can also be judged by comparing the PMI with that of the previous month data. If the figure is higher than the previous month’s then the economy is expanding at a faster rate. If it is lower than the previous month then it is growing at a lower rate.
  • The PMI is usually released at the start of the month, much before most of the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth becomes available. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity and of industrial output
  • Central banks of many countries also use the index to help make decisions on interest rates.
  • The PMI also gives an indication of corporate earnings and is closely watched by investors as well as the bond markets.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q1.)  In India, in the overall Index of Industrial Production, the Indices of Eight Core Industries have a combined weight of 37.90%. Which of the following are among those Eight Core Industries? (2012)

  1. Cement
  2. Fertilizers
  3. Natural Gas
  4. Refinery products
  5. Textiles

Select the correct answer using the codes given below

  1. 1 and 5 only
  2. 2, 3 and 4 only
  3. 1, 2, 3 and 4 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Q.2) In the ‘Index of Eight Core Industries’, which one of the following is given the highest weight? (2015)

  1. Coal production
  2. Electricity generation
  3. Fertilizer production
  4. Steel production

Q.3) India’s ranking in the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ is sometimes seen in the news. Which of the following has declared that ranking? (2016)

  1. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  2. World Economic Forum
  3. World Bank
  4. World Trade Organization (WTO)

Technology in the aid of Farming Community

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Syllabus

  •  Mains – GS 3 (Economy) and Science and Technology

Context: The Prime Minister highlighted that the initiatives like Kisan Rail, DBT transfers, Soil Health Cards, e-NAM, and neem coating of urea, have integrated and scaled-up technology in agriculture during the PM Kisan Samman Sammelan which was held recently.

  • He also highlighted drones are another such revolutionary technology to add to farmers’ prosperity and dignity.

  • As per the latest report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), drones have the potential to be the harbinger of the “technology-led transformation” of Indian agriculture.
  • In India’s $600 billion agriculture sector, they are currently used for pesticide and nutrient application, mapping water spread area, sampling water, mapping macrophyte infestation, etc.

About Drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle:

  • An unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without any human pilot, crew or passengers on board.
  • UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system, which includes a ground-based controller and a system of communications with the UAV additionally.
  • Drones have been divided into five categories based on their weight (existing rules)-
    • Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams
    • Micro: From 250 grams to 2 kg
    • Small: From 2 kg to 25 kg,
    • Medium: From 25 kg to 150 kg,
    • Large: Greater than 150 kg.

Revolutionising Indian agriculture with aid of Drones:

  • Precision agriculture:
    • As per WEF, drone usage could reduce the cost of application by 20 percent and also mitigate health hazards of manual work, thereby promoting precision agriculture.
    • Drones enable data collection and resource-efficient nutrient application.
    • This data facilitates crop production forecast and evidence-based planning.
    • With drones, government initiatives like Per Drop More Crop will improve, and water use inefficiency in irrigation will decline.
    • Agri-research will become “highly customized and localised” with drones.
  • Streamlining of schemes:
    • Drones’ data integrated with GIS and Google Earth satellite images will eventually streamline schemes like PMFBY by aiding crop-cutting experiments, crop-loss estimation, insurance determination, and dispute resolution.
  • Better cropping patterns:
    • The government can announce relief packages for farmers in time, leading to better sowing, irrigation, and harvesting cycles.
  • Capturing backward and forward linkages:
    • With objective and standardized data on crop quality, food processing industries will procure from farmers at better prices.
  • Agri-exports will also increase with technology-supporting compliance with global standards.

Challenges before Indian Farming community:

  • Eighty five percent of the Indian farmers are small and marginal landholders and the drones cost between ₹1 lakh and ₹10 lakh.
    • The drone acquisition will increase the cost of cultivation by 45 percent despite productivity gains.
  • To address this, FPOs and custom hiring centres should be encouraged to buy and loan them to the farmers for a nominal fee.
  • The government provides subsidies in the range of 40-60 percent for the cost of drones.
  • As per an ICAR report, India faces challenges due to weather dependency of drones, improper internet connectivity across farms, unskilled end user, and potential for misuse.

Government of India Initiatives to promote drone technology:

  • The Indian arm of the Swiss-based firm launched a drone yatra to cover 10,000 km across 13 States from Mancher near Pune in Maharashtra.
  • A few firms such as Unnati, an Agri-tech start-up platform, have launched drone services. The firm plans to spray 20,000 acres of land by the end of 2022 and increase drones’ spray capacity by 4 times next year.
  • The Indian Government is popularizing the use of drones by offering various financial assistance to purchase drones for demonstrations.
  • Drone purchases by Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) are given 40 percent assistance.
  • The Centre is providing ₹6,000 per hectare as a contingency fund to farmers to hire drones from CHCs.
  • The central government notified the Drone Rules 2021 with the following features:
    • Abolish the need for various approvals, including certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, acceptance of existing drones, operator permits, authorisation of R&D organisation and student remote pilot license.
    • It shall be developed as a user-friendly single-window system. There will be minimal human interface and most permissions will be self-generated.
    • The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km.
    • The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly upto 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
    • No pilot license would be needed for micro drones for non-commercial use, nano drones and for R&D organisations.
    • There would be no restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
    • The Ministry will also facilitate the development of drone corridors for cargo deliveries and a drone promotion council will be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.
    • The draft rule also provides for safety features such as real-time tracking beacon, and geo-fencing, which are expected to be notified in the future and a six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
    • Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will also cover drone taxis.

Way Forward:

  • The need is to scale up drone use in the agriculture sector from the present 10,000 aerial vehicles.
  • Civil military engagement should be promoted to realise gains from the cross-industry application of drones.
  • Consultations may be held with experienced strategic partners like Israel where AI-enabled drones are used for mapping plots, assessing crop damage, and even plucking only ripe apples.
  • A dedicated research fund and a ‘sandbox’ or ‘green microcosm’ should be provided to the private players.

Thus, use of drones in agriculture will revolutionise farm operations and empower our farmers, especially the smallholders with information and applications that will help them enhance their yields and income in the long run and help the Indian agriculture sector make a huge leap.

Source:                  The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Consider the following activities :

  1. Spraying pesticides on a crop field
  2. Inspecting the craters of active volcanoes
  3. Collecting breath samples from spouting whales for DNA analysis

At the present level of technology, which of the above activities can be successfully carried out by using drones ? (2020)

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Fake News on social media

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Syllabus

  • Mains – GS 2 (Governance)

Context: Recently, Election Management Bodies (EMBs) expressed their expectation from social media sites to proactively flag fake news.

  • For propagating fake news, the Indian government has recently shut down some YouTube news channels and other social media accounts.
  • This is the first time action has been taken against Indian YouTube-based news providers since the notification of the new Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021.
  • This reflects the extent of the fake news menace and the threat it poses to the Indian democracy.

What is fake news?

  • Fake news is a kind of yellow journalism that comprises intentional misinformation or hoaxes distributed through conventional print, broadcasting news media, or Internet-based social media.
  • Fake news is intentionally written in order to gain financially or politically through sensationalist, exaggerated, or false headlines for capturing the attention of the people.

Causes of the spread of fake news:

  • Internet: Everyone with an internet connection and a social media presence is now a content generator. Free internet service has provided access to everyone to post whatever they want and hence created a trend of fake news spreading like wildfire.
  • Not checking authenticity: Everyone is in a hurry to like/share/comment instead of checking the authenticity of the news.
  • Lack of regulator: in social media platforms like we have in print or television media.
  • Emotions: are trumping reasons when it comes to sharing news. For example, the idea of nation-building is trumping the truth when it comes to sharing stories that have nationalistic messages like India’s progress, Hindu power, and revival of lost Hindu glory without any attempt at fact-checking.

Consequences of fake news:

Political:

  • Targeting a specific organization or person with an intent to either glorify or bring malice to it.
  • Political parties try to get political benefits by polarizing the voter’s mind.
  • For example, a news channel was established just to support the accused in Jessica Lal’s Murder Case.
  • Another example is the extensive use of social media in influencing public opinion in the last US Presidential election.

Economic:

  • Hoaxes of GPS chips in the Rs 2,000 note after the demonetization initiative of the government through both media and WhatsApp messages led to widespread confusion among holders of the new note.
  • Fake news has also been used to deceive illiterate people financially. Example- Chit fund schemes introduced the concept of online fraud through spam emails.

Society:

  • It affects the spirit of common brotherhood and increases intolerance in the country.
  • Example: Spreading fake photos to bring about communal clashes in the country/region.
  • 2012 mass exodus of North-Eastern people from Bangalore on false online threats.

Security:

  • Media companies tend to get easy viewership by means of promoting sensational news.
  • For example: branding foreign prisoners as spies or terrorists without valid proof.
  • Another example is the fake news circulation in the Kashmir valley showing shocking attacks on the Army and inhumane repression of civilians.

Nation’s reputation:

  • The portrayal of India as an unsafe place for women by international media has created a false image of the nation.

Personal reputation:

  • Fake news results in harassment and threatening of innocent people and damages their reputations.
  • It can also result in deaths. For example, rumours about child lifters and cattle thieves led to mob attacks and deaths across India.

Faith in media:

  • Fake news reduced people’s belief in social, print, and electronic media = affecting the benefits of these media.

Challenges with preventing fake news on social media?

  • User-generated content: It is unreasonable to put the blame on the social media platforms for the fake news menace.
    • Because the platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. are not generating the content, but by the users themselves cannot hold all of them responsible.
    • So rather than forcing a solution on technology providers alone, the centre needs to address the consumer end as well and adopt a collaborative way to tackle the menace of fake news.
  • Privacy rights: Security requirements should also consider the rights of millions of genuine users as traceability would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and weaken consumer privacy and cybersecurity.
  • Need for high encryption: Data leaks at Facebook and Uber in the recent past have shown that the encryption has to be so high.
  • The welfare of Indians: It could actually affect the welfare of Indian digital users.
    • For instance, WhatsApp is crucial for rural people to cheaply connect with their family members far away and also send pictures of their products to clients all over India.
  • Jurisdiction issues: As WhatsApp users converse outside Indian boundaries, the storage of foreign users’ data could come with its own jurisdiction issues.

Tackling fake news on social media:

  • Digital Literacy: An effective approach to deal with fake news is to improve digital literacy i.e., the ability to identify real news from fake news. Government, media, and technology should work together to improve the overall digital literacy in India.
  • Policy: The government needs to come up with an effective policy framework to control fake news on social media platforms.
  • Ombudsman: should be created to deal with the credibility of news sources and also ensure facts are reported.
  • An Independent agency: should be established to verify the data being circulated on social and other media.
  • Innovative approaches:
    • With the utilization of metadata (data about data) and human content moderation, WhatsApp could prevent fake news, and misinformation and even punish bad actors, without breaking end-to-end encryption.
    • When a message is reported and identified as fake, it should be permanently tagged if someone tries to circulate it months later, it should only be transmitted with a statutory warning.
  • Police machinery: The state police machinery should be strengthened to catch anyone responsible for spreading fake messages.
  • Hefty fines: Similar to Germany, India should also impose hefty fines on social media companies if they constantly fail to remove illegal content from their platforms.
  • Internal mechanisms: Print and Electronic media should have an internal ombudsman to verify incidents, facts, and figures.
  • Role of NGOs: and other civil society organisations in spreading awareness about the ill effects of fake news.
  • Legal remedies to tackle fake news:
    • Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF)
    • The Press Council of India
    • IPC Sections 153A and 295
    • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC)
    • Defamation Suit
    • The Information Technology (IT) Act
    • Contempt of Court laws
    • The Constitution of India

Way Forward:

  • Policy-makers: Although the policy-makers’ steps and regulations are in the right direction; the existing loopholes need to be filled.
  • All the stakeholders– lawmakers, online intermediaries, and citizens have a collective responsibility to curb fake news.
    • Lawmakers: While lawmakers can keep amending the laws, the citizens’ duty lies to gain awareness about media literacy.
    • Online intermediaries: On the other hand, tech platforms need to ensure the use of a sophisticated algorithm to present the public with correct, accurate, and truthful information.
  • Citizens: The responsibility lies equally among the general public to educate with the necessary information to critically analyze information and then make deductive conclusions.

Source:   The Hindu


Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

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Syllabus

  • Mains – GS 1 Education, GS2 Governance

Context:

  • ECCE is enshrined in the Indian Constitution (article 21-A) to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to 14 years of age.
  • Yet, its implementation remains tentative for many reasons, primary of which is the absence of a clear government guideline regarding which Ministry is tasked with policymaking and implementation.

Evolution:

  • In 1986, the government announced a National Policy of Education (NPE), which viewed ECCE as an important input.
  • In 2002, the government passed the 86th Constitutional Amendment, comprising two insertions:  Article 21-A which made the Right to Education (RTE) of a child between six to 14 years, a fundamental right; and Article 51A(k) that assigned the “fundamental duty” of educating a child to their parent or guardian.
  • Additionally, the old Article 45 was substituted by a new one through the same Constitutional amendment which introduced the concept of ECCE and provided for a directive to the State to bring into effect the mandate of providing ECCE to children up to 6 years of age.
  • It is mandated under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009.
  • In 2020 the Ministry of Education (MoE) released the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which rekindles the aspirations for ECCE.

RTE Act 2009:

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (or the RTE Act) was enacted in 2009 and its primary objective is a verbatim reiteration of the aim of Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • It imposed an enforceable duty or legislative mandate upon the respective Central and State governments to provide ECCE under section 11, as provided for under non-enforceable Article 45 of the Constitution.
  • The Preamble of the RTE Bill refers to Article 45 as one of the components of the RTE Act.
  • In turn, this created a corresponding enforceable right of the citizens to demand ECCE in the law, as a matter of statutory right.

Governing Ministry issues:

  • RTE Act provide for rulemaking powers of the Union government as well as the appropriate Ministry for the implementation of the law.
  • The Ministries can administer and act only on the subject matters specifically allocated to them.
  • The matter of “elementary education” has been allocated to the MoE through the Department of School Education and Literacy.
  • However, there is no mention in the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 about the MoE being tasked to provide ECCE.
  • It clearly shows that ECCE is not an allocated business of the MoE.
  • Indeed, ECCE is a subject matter that relates to the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the deployment of Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) that implements it.

Concerns:

  • Multitude of services related to early childhood care (i.e., health, nutrition, and immunisation, among others), the component of education has often been given low priority across the country
  • Duplicity: Neither the MoWCD nor the MoE has a clear demarcation of each other’s subject matters and have passed the responsibility of ECCE to the other.
  • ECCE in India has long suffered from scarce funding—in 2020-21, the public expenditure on early childhood care and education was a mere 0.1 percent of GDP.
  • ICDS is poorly governed and implemented such as deficiency in the number of AWCs and in the infrastructure and skilled workforce of the centres that are striving to remain operational.
  • There is no fund allocation to MoWCD specifically for ECCE that requires to be reviewed by CAG.
  • Non-recognition of MoWCD’s role for ECCE under the RTE Act, no budgetary allocation
  • Budgetary allocation for the RTE Act is taken from the Samagra Siksha Scheme –

which is an umbrella program for school education extending from pre-school to grade 12 that focuses on school effectiveness, access, and learning outcomes.

  • According to MoWCD, ICDS has four pillars: early childhood care education and development; care and nutrition counselling; health services; community mobilisation awareness, advocacy and information; and education and communication.
  • The Ministry’s own data shows that there has been no significant spending on the first component, i.e. ECCE.
  • Failure of the government to implement the letter and spirit of Section 11 of the RTE in relation to ECCE (the Bombay High Court, in Dr. Jagannath S/o Shamrao Patil v. Union of India & Ors)

Suggestions:

  • NEP 2020 outlines the following strategies:
  • strengthening and expansion of AWCs
  • co-location of AWCs in primary schools
  • co-location of pre-primary grades in existing primary schools
  • increased standalone pre-primary schools
  • Recognise which Ministry has been allocated to provide for ECCE
  • the responsibilities of pre-school education or ECE can be undertaken by the MoE but the overall charge of ECCE should be retained with the MoWCD.
  • An important distinction also needs to be clarified between legislation and policy. NEP 2020 is a policy document and mostly directional or aspirational in nature. In order to operationalise the spirit of the policy, legislative changes are needed to both the RTE Act as well as the business conduct rules.
  • Recognise and popularise the concept of ECCE being a vital part of the RTE Act including budgetary allocation specifically for ECCE, repeal of overlapping and diverging schemes including SSS as well as ICDS.
  • It will create justiciability: i.e., the right of an aggrieved person to approach Court(s) while holding concerned ministry accountable for its inactions, ineffective implementation, and non-compliances in providing ECCE.

Way forward:

  • The National Education Policy 2020 has come at the right time and provides a beacon of hope that adequate attention will henceforth be paid to ECCE.
  • However, NEP remains essentially an aspirational policy, and not an enforceable legislation.
  • For substantive changes to happen in the domain of ECCE, the country’s lawmakers need to step up and, first, revisit Section 11 of the RTE Act considering the increased advocacy for ECCE.
  • It is also crucial to understand that while ECCE adopts a more holistic approach to the overall development of younger children, the mandate and expertise of delivering education lies with the MoE and not MoWCD.
  • This would need to be adequately translated into practice, not just through laws but also through adequate financing and standardised policies.

Source: Orf Online


Baba’s Explainer – Russia’s suspension of grain deal

Russia's suspension of grain deal

Syllabus

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

Context: Russia has suspended its part of the deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain from its Black Sea ports safely amid a monthslong war, and it appears that the remaining partners are now left to take their chances.

  • Russia halted its role in the Black Sea deal for an “indefinite term” because it said it could not “guarantee safety of civilian ships” travelling under the pact after an attack on its Black Sea fleet.
  • Ukraine said a dozen ships had sailed despite initially reporting that more than 200 vessels, many loaded and ready to travel, were stuck after Russia’s recent announcement.

Read Complete Details on Russia’s suspension of grain deal


Daily Practice MCQs

Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) The ‘Purchasing Manager’s Index’ is sometimes seen in the news. Which of the following prepares the same?

  1. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
  2. Office of Economic Advisor
  3. S&P Global India
  4. The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER)

Q.2) With reference to Uttar Pradesh’s Bioenergy Policy 2022 , consider the following statements:

  1. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the nodal agency for implementing this scheme.
  2. It, among other things will also provide leased land at Rs. 1 per acre
  3. It aims to boost agricultural mechanization.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2, and 3

Q.3) With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Papaya Mealy Bug, Rosy wolf , Bombax ceiba are

  1. Native plant species
  2. Invasive animal species
  3. Native animal species
  4. Invasive plant species

Comment the answers to the above questions in the comment section below!!

ANSWERS FOR ’2nd November 2022 – Daily Practice MCQs’ will be updated along with tomorrow’s Daily Current Affairs.st


ANSWERS FOR 1st November – Daily Practice MCQs

Answers- Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) – c

Q.2) – b

Q.3) – a

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