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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th December 2022

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  • December 14, 2022
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Geminids meteor shower

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science and Technology

In News: This year, the Geminids will peak around December 13-14, when, with a clear sky and away from bright city lights, you can watch scores of meteors streak across the sky.

  • This year however, the moon is bright, and so only 30-40 meteors per hour will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

What are meteor showers:

  • Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids
  • Meteors are usually fragments of comets.
  • As they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, they burn up, creating a spectacular “shower”.
  • When these objects come around the Sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them.
  • Every year Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky

About Geminids:

  • One of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers
  • With new moon and clear weather, the Geminids can produce approximately 100-150 meteors per hour for viewing.
  • The Geminids are unique because unlike most meteor showers, they originate not from a comet, but from an asteroid3200 Phaethon.
  • As the 3200 Phaethon moves close to the Sun while orbiting it, the rocks on its surface heat up and break off.
  • When the Earth passes through the trail of this debris, the Geminids are caused.
  • The name Geminids – from constellation Gemini, from whose location in the sky the meteor shower appears to originate.
  • It serves to aid viewers in determining which shower they are viewing on a given night.
  • The constellation is not the source of Geminids.
  • Geminids are visible throughout the night sky, not just in Gemini constellation

How to watch:

  • Chances of a successful viewing are higher from locations far away from the lights of cities.
  • Generally, pollution makes viewing meteor showers from India difficult.
  • But in areas where there is no light or air pollution, viewers do not need to use any special equipment to view the showers.
  • Make sure to give your eyes enough time to adjust to the darkness, which can take about 30 minutes.
  • Additionally, viewers should try to stay away from their phones, as looking at bright screens affects night vision.

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon:

  • Discovered on October 11, 1983.
  • Named after the Greek mythology character Phaethon, son of the Sun God Helios.
  • It takes 4 years to complete one round of the Sun.

Miscellaneous:

  • Gemini constellation is located northeast of the constellation Orion and between the Taurus and Cancer constellations.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) What is difference between asteroids and comets? (2011)

  1. Asteroids are small rocky plane­toids, while comets are formed of frozen gases held together by rocky and metallic material.
  2. Asteroids are found mostly between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, while comets are found mostly between Venus and mercury.
  3. Comets show a perceptible glowing tail, while asteroids do not.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

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

Base Editing

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science and Technology

In news: Described by scientists as “the most sophisticated cell engineering to date,” an experimental treatment would provide the teenager Alyssa, diagnosed with blood cancer, a new lease of life.

About T-Cell blood cancer:

  • T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL).
  • T-ALL affects the stem cells in the bone marrow that produce a particular kind of white blood cells (WBC) called T lymphocytes (T cells).
  • These cells provide a person immunity by killing cells carrying infections, activating other immune cells, and regulating the immune response.
  • At least 20% of these WBC are atypical– as they accumulate in the bone marrow, they crowd out “good” WBCs and hence weaken the immune system.
  • These unhealthy cells can also accumulate in other parts of the body like the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.
  • While found in both children and adults, T-ALL’s incidence decreases with age.

Its treatment:

  • Similar to any leukaemia– chemotherapy and stem cell/bone marrow transplant.
  • Chemotherapy – either kills the cancerous cells or stops them from further dividing.
  • It may also wreck immunity system along with it.
  • If chemotherapy fails, bone marrow transplant is done.
  • Patients receive an infusion of healthy bone marrow cells that will hopefully multiply and restore immunity.
  • Overall treatment for T-ALL is pretty effective– children have a survival rate of over 85 per cent after five years of receiving this treatment.

Treatment received by Alyssa:

  • Alyssa received a dose of healthy T-cells from a donor that would hopefully attack her cancerous cells without destroying each other.
  • Known as CAR-T therapy, this principle has been around for a while, but Alyssa’s case was different.
  • Traditionally, CAR-T therapy involves following steps:
  • First, an individual’s own T-cells are removed, which are then modified and reintroduced to the individual.
  • Adding a gene to T-cells that causes them to seek out and destroy cancerous cells.
  • The modified cells are known as CAR-T cells.
  • Problem with CAR-T therapy: Very often, when an individual is really sick, it is simply impossible to obtain enough healthy T-cells to create CAR-T cells.
  • While donors can provide healthy T-cells to an individual, these T-cells from a foreign body attack every single cell in that patient’s body, making the treatment counterproductive.
  • Thus, scientists have resorted to what is known as base editing– through this technique of genetic editing, they make it possible for one donor to supply T-cells to multiple recipients, without the traditional risks associated with it.
  • Thus, Alyssa received genetically modified cells that were programmed to specifically attack her cancer while leaving the rest of her body alone.

What is base editing?

 

  • Bases are the language of life.
  • Just as letters in the alphabet spell out words that carry meaning, the billions of bases in our DNA spell out the instruction manual for our body.
  • Scientists can zoom into a precise part of the genetic code to alter the molecular structure of just one base, effectively changing its genetic instructions.
  • A team at the Great Ormond Street Hospital managed to use base-editing to create a new type of T-cell from a healthy donor that would not attack other cells in Alyssa’s body, not kill each other, survive chemotherapy and finally, hunt down all other T-cells in Alyssa’s body (healthy and cancerous).

Source: Indian express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) What is Cas9 protein that is often mentioned in news? (2017)

  1. A molecular scissors used in targeted gene editing
  2. A biosensor used in the accurate detection of pathogens in patients
  3. A gene that makes plants pest-resistant
  4. An herbicidal substance synthesized in genetically modified crops

Fusion energy

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science & Technology

In News: Scientists in the United States have, for the first time, achieved a net gain in energy from a nuclear fusion reaction, seen as a big step forward in the decades-old endeavour to master a technology that is considered the most dependable source of energy in future.

  • Fusion is a different, but more powerful, way of harnessing the immense energy trapped in the nucleus of an atom.
  • This is the process that makes the Sun and all other stars shine and radiate energy.
  • Attempts to master the fusion process have been going on at least since the 1950s, but it is incredibly difficult and is still at an experimental stage.
  • The nuclear energy currently in use across the world comes from the fission process, in which the nucleus of a heavier element is split into those of lighter elements in a controlled manner.
  • In fusion, nuclei of two lighter elements are made to fuse together to form the nucleus of a heavier atom.
  • A large amount of energy is released in both these processes, but substantially more in fusion than fission.
  • For example, the fusion of two nuclei of a heavier isotope of hydrogen, called tritium, produces at least four times as much energy as the fission of a uranium atom which is the normal process of generating electricity in a nuclear reactor.
  • Besides greater energy yield, fusion is also a carbon-free source of energy, and has negligible radiation risks.
  • But fusion reactions happen only at very high temperatures, 10 times the temperature that exists at the core of the Sun, and creating such an extreme environment in a laboratory requires huge amounts of energy.
  • So far, the energy released in such experimental fusion reactions have been lower than what is consumed to create the enabling high temperatures.
  • At best, some of these reactions have produced ‘near break-even’ energies. That is why the latest experiment conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is being considered a big deal.

Source: Indianexpress.com


Wildlife Protection

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Syllabus

  • Mains – GS 3 Environment conservation

Context:

  • The expeditious passage of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 (WPA) needs comment.
  • While the aspects of protecting species from the wildlife trade, in line with international standards, have received thoughtful scrutiny by civil society, the impact of the criminal legal framework adopted by the WPA is less known.
  • Pitting wildlife species against communities as human-animal conflict has eluded the true cost of criminalisation under the WPA.

The Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972

                                           

  • It is the primary legislation protecting the country’s unique flora and fauna.
  • It has safeguarded numerous species of wild animals and plants by prohibiting all forms of hunting and, more importantly, creating inviolate areas where wildlife conservation may be carried out.

WPA (Amendment):

  • It further invests in the conception of protected areas and species by bringing in newer species to be protected, augmenting the penal repercussions.
  • Rationalising schedules: From 6 to 4 – removing schedule for vermin (V) and a new schedule for CITES listed species.
  • Obligations under CITES: Central government to designate a: (I) Management Authority, which grants export or import permits for trade of specimens, and (iii) Scientific Authority, which gives advice on aspects related to impact on the survival of the specimens being traded.
  • Invasive alien species: to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of the same.
  • Better Management of Protected Areas: It provides for certain permitted activities like grazing or movement of livestock and Bonafede use of drinking and household water by local communities.
  • Protection of Forest Lands: It is so critical because it equally inculcates the protection of rights of the people who have been residing there since ages.
  • Section 43 of the act amended which permitted the use of elephants for ‘religious or any other purposes’

Challenges to the Act:

  • Social Injustice: A study by the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (the CPA Project examined arrest records of the police and Forest Department in Madhya Pradesh and found that persons from oppressed caste communities such as Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities form the majority of accused persons in wildlife-related crimes.
  • Use of muscle: The Forest Department was found to use the threat of criminalisation to force cooperation, apart from devising a system of using community members as informants and drawing on their loyalty by employing them on a daily wage basis.
  • Pendency’s in cases: Cases that were filed under the WPA did not pertain solely to the comparatively serious offence of hunting; collecting wood, honey, and even mushrooms formed the bulk of prosecution in PAs.
  • Over 95% of the cases filed by the Forest Department are still pending
  • Misplaced regulations: Hunting offences against lesser protected species formed over 17.47% of the animals ‘hunted’ between 2016-20.
  • Animals hunted the highest, only one in top five belonged to Schedule I (peacock).
  • Surprisingly, fish (only certain species relegated to Schedule I) formed over 8% of the cases filed.
  • A whopping 133 cases pertaining to fishing (incorrectly classified as Schedule V species) were filed in the last decade in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Forest Rights Act subservient to the WPA – due to natural overlap of recognising forest rights in intended-as-inviolate PAs, thereby impeding its implementation.
  • Collective Forest Rights not recognised in buffer zones over usage of forest resources, fishing, and protecting forest resources.
  • Criminalisation of Fishing – which forms an important part of subsistence for tribal communities
  • Due to their occurrence in Pas, they become punishable by three to seven years.
  • In a case from 2016 documented by the CPA Project, the catch weighed less than 500 grams, yet the accused were charged with causing damage to a wildlife habitat under a host of WPA provisions.
  • Fear mongering is a crucial way in which the department mediates governance in protected areas, and its officials are rarely checked for their power.
  • Criminal cases filed by the department are rarely compounded since they are meant to create a ‘deterrent effect’ by instilling fear in communities.
  • Unchecked discretionary policing allowed by the WPA and other forest legislations have stunted the emancipatory potential of the FRA.

Way forward:

  • The need for criminal laws to assist wildlife conservation has remained unchallenged since its conception.
  • From regulated hunting to complete prohibition and the creation of ‘Protected Areas (PA)’ where conservation can be undertaken without the interference of local forest-dwelling communities, State and Forest Department control over forests and the cattiest underpinnings of conservation would not have been possible without criminal law.

Source: The Hindu


Rural Manufacturing

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Syllabus

  • Mains – GS 2 Indian Economy

Context:

  • There is growing evidence to suggest that the most conspicuous trend in the manufacturing sector in India has been a shift of manufacturing activity and employment from bigger cities to smaller towns and rural areas.
  • This has often been interpreted as a mixed bag, as it could transform the rural economy, but presents a set of constraints, which could hamper higher growth.
  • However, the compulsions of global competition often extend beyond the considerations of low-wage production and depend on the virtues of ‘conducive ecosystems’ for firms to grow.

Current rural scenario:

  • Urban-rural manufacturing shift:
  • Work Bank report (Ghani, Ejaz et al (2012) “Is India’s Manufacturing Sector Moving Away from Cities? Policy Research Working Paper, World Bank”).
  • Manufacturing is moving towards rural areas, while informal sector is moving from rural to urban locations.
  • Significant contributor to manufacturing Output:
  • Annual Survey of Industries for 2019-20 – 42% of factories are in rural areas, 62% of fixed capital is in the rural side.
  • Rural factories contributed to exactly half of the total manufacturing sector.
  • Employment:
  • In terms of employment, it accounted for 44%, but had only a 41% share in the total wages of the sector.
  • Production cost differentials – Wages, property, and land costs are all lower than in most metropolitan areas.
  • Cheap labour: Big firms deliberately shift production from cities to take advantage of the availability of less skilled, less unionised and less costly rural labour.
  • Factory floorspace supply constraints – When locations get more urbanised and congested, the greater these space constraints are.
  • Capital restructuring – there is a tendency for growing capital accumulation and centralisation by large multi-plant corporations.

Significance of shift:

  • Helped maintain the importance of manufacturing as a source of livelihood diversification in rural India.
  • This trend helped to make up for the loss of employment in some traditional rural industries.
  • In the aftermath of trade liberalisation, import competition intensified for many Indian manufacturers, forcing them to look for cheaper methods and locations of production.
  • One way to cut costs was to move some operations from cities to smaller towns, where labour costs are cheaper.
  • an economic base for the transition out of agriculture.

Challenges:

  • Higher cost of capital for firms operating on the rural side, despite benefits of lower costs via lower rents
  • The rural segment accounted for only 35% of the total rent paid, while it had 60% of the total interest payments.
  • The benefits reaped from one source seem to be offset by the increased costs on the other front.
  • Skills shortage in rural areas
  • Manufacturing needs higher skilled workers to compete in the highly technological global ‘new economy’.
  • Manufacturers who depend only on low-wage workers simply cannot sustain their competitive edge
  • Manufacturers who need higher skilled labour find that rural areas cannot supply it in adequate quantities.

Suggestions:

  • Institutional arrangements:
  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises encompasses many such organisations – KVIC, National Small Industries Corporation Limited (NSIC), Coir Board, Council for Advancement of, NABARD, SIDBI
  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC): SFURTI – Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries, PMEGP – Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme
  • National Small Industries Corporation Limited: Export credit insurance Rural Industrialization, Raw Material assistance, Providing Infomediary Services, etc.
  • Integrated infrastructural development:
  • Nayak Committee (1992) recommendations – raising project outlay from Rs.30 lakh to Rs.50 lakh in the single window scheme, timely supply of credit, etc.
  • Government programs:
  • Cluster Development Programme: For holistic development of selected MSEs clusters through value chain and supply chain management on cooperative basis.
  • Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship (ASPIRE) – implementing incubation and commercialisation of Business Ideas Programme through technical/research institutes
  • Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme (CLCSS) –
    Technology upgradation of small-scale industries, including khadi, village and coir industrial units, by providing 15 percent upfront capital subsidy (limited to a maximum of Rs 15 lakh).
  • Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) – implemented by KVIC, a total of 5.45 lakh micro enterprises have been assisted with a margin money subsidy of Rs 12,074.04 crore, providing employment opportunities to an estimated 45.22 lakh persons since 2019.
  • Provision of more education and skilling for rural workers.
  • To establish rural areas’ comparative advantage of low wages, higher reliability and productivity
  • hasten the process of the movement out of agriculture to higher-earning livelihoods.
  • Augmentation of Sources of Demand and Supply Opportunities for Large-Scale Industries – utilization of traditional methods and materials in small-scale industries will make provision of enhancement opportunities for rural individuals.

Way forward:

  • Need for clear solutions to the problems of rural manufacturing so that rural economy can jump-start a revival.
  • Given the size of the Indian economy and the need for balanced regional development, the dispersal of manufacturing activities is a welcome sign.

Source: The Hindu


Carbon Trading

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Syllabus

  • Mains – GS 3 Environment

In News:  Parliament passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill-2022 that enables the Union government to set up a carbon credit trading scheme and specify the minimum amount of non-fossil sources to be used by designated energy consumers.

Context:

  • India had taken the lead when it came to energy transition.
  • As per India’s commitments under the UNFCCC as given by the PM at COP-26 last year, the goal is to cut emission intensity by 45% and achieve 50% of the installed capacity of electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources.

Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill-2022

  • The Bill amends the Energy Conservation Act-2001.
  • The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) would be the regulator and that the carbon price would be determined by the market.
  • The Bill covers large buildings — those with connected load of 100 kilowatt and above — for compliance with energy conservation and sustainability codes.
  • States had been empowered to lower the threshold to include a wider section of buildings.
  • The Bill did not make a provision for those under the 100KW threshold who want to voluntarily submit to the energy conservation mechanism.

What is carbon trading:

  • Carbon trading is the process of buying and selling permits and credits that allow the permit holder to emit carbon dioxide.
  • It is a market-based system aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, particularly carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels.
  • An emissions trading scheme (cap-and-trade system) sets a regulatory ceiling or ‘cap’ on greenhouse gas emissions being regulated under the scheme.
  • The right to emit a tonne of CO2 is often referred to as a carbon ‘credit’ or carbon ‘allowance’.
  • There are broadly two types of carbon markets: compliance and voluntary.
  • Examples – European Union’s Emissions Trading System(ETS)
  • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), adopted under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
  • Emission-reduction projects in developing countries have generated carbon credits used by industrialized countries to meet part of their emission reduction targets.

Significance:

  • Help achieve current and future climate ambitions by tapping existing markets.
  • Bring about development co-benefits: improve air quality and health outcomes and ensure energy security.
  • g. trading in sulphur dioxide permits helping to limit acid rain in the US.
  • Carbon trading is much easier to implement than expensive direct regulations, and unpopular carbon taxes.
  • If regional cap and trade schemes can be joined up globally, with a strong carbon price, it could be a relatively pain-free and speedy method to help the worlds decarbonise.
  • Boost competitive advantage of businesses by reducing risk of stranded assets.
  • Open low carbon opportunities for MSMEs through
  • Technology transfer
  • Spur clean innovation
  • Provide liquidity to Indian credits
  • Unlock climate finance

Challenges:

  • Creating a market in something with no intrinsic value such as carbon dioxide is difficult.
  • Need to promote scarcity – and you have to strictly limit the right to emit so that it can be traded.
  • In the world’s biggest carbon trading scheme, the EU ETS, political interference has created gluts of permits.
  • On account of corruption, carbon credits have often been given away for free, which has led to a collapse in the price and no effective reductions in emissions.
  • Another problem is that offset permits, gained from paying for pollution reductions in poorer countries, are allowed to be traded as well.
  • The importance of these permits in reducing carbon emissions is questionable and the effectiveness of the overall cap and trade scheme is also reduced.
  • Greenwashing – in which companies falsely market their green credentials, for example, misrepresentations of climate-neutral products or services
  • Double-counting of GHG emission reductions

Suggestions:

  • Carbon taxes – Taxes on energy content or production are in place in many European countries.
  • Taxes exist in India, Japan and South Korea and they have been imposed then repealed in Australia.
  • Direct regulations – Governments have tried to regulate their way to lower emissions.
  • This approach is being tried in the US, where President Obama has imposed a Clean Power Plan on energy producers, designed to reduce emissions from this sector by 32% by 2030.

Way forward:

  • As per latest IPCC report, developing countries will need up to US$6 trillion by 2030 to finance not even half of their climate action goals (as listed in their Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs).
  • Carbon finance will be key for the implementation of the NDCs, and the Paris Agreement enables the use of such market mechanisms through Article 6.
  • 83 percent of NDCs state the intent to make use of international market mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

MUST READ Greenwashing

Source : Indian Express


Baba’s Explainer – India’s Cooperative Sector

India’s Cooperative Sector

Syllabus

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

Context: The Bill to amend the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act, 2002, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Winter Session on 07 December 2022.

  • Opposition parliamentarians alleged that the Bill’s provisions encroached upon the rights of State governments, demanding that it be referred to a Standing Committee for scrutiny.

Read Complete Details on India’s Cooperative Sector


Practice MCQs

Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) With respect to T lymphocytes (T cells), consider the following statements:

  1. T-Cell blood cancer incidence increases with age.
  2. They are found in the stem cells of bone marrow.

Which of the statements are correct:

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

Q.2) Recently seen in news, “The 3200 Phaethon” is

  1. A meteor shower
  2. An asteroid
  3. A natural satellite
  4. A new galaxy

Q.3) Which of the following organization is/are constituted under Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972

  1. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
  2. Central Zoo Authority
  3. National Board for Wildlife

Choose the correct code:

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

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

ANSWERS FOR ’ 14th December 2022 – Daily Practice MCQs’ will be updated along with tomorrow’s Daily Current Affairs.st


ANSWERS FOR 13th December – Daily Practice MCQs

Answers- Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) – d

Q.2) – c

Q.3) – a

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