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20210129 Current Affairs and Editorial
(FOR PRELIMS & MAINS OF UPSC CSE)

 

1.Climate Adaptation Summit 2021

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International relations & GS- III – Climate change

In news 

·         Indian Prime Minister addressed the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 recently.

·         Hosted by: Netherlands

Key takeaways 

·         The summit will have a significant focus on securing new investments to ensure that millions of smallholder farmers can adapt to the stresses of climate on food production.

·         During the summit, it was said that India is targeting 450 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity by 2030.

·         It is also promoting LED lights and saving 38 million tons of carbon-di-oxide emissions annually.

·         India is going to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

·         Clean cooking fuel is being provided to 80 million rural households.

·         64 million households are being connected to piped water supply.

2.Integrated Weapons System Design Centre

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Defence & Security

In news 

·         Indian Vice President recently inaugurated the Integrated Weapons System Design Centre at DRDO’s Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Missile complex in Hyderabad.

Key takeaways 

·         The Integrated Weapon System Design facility is said to enhance the capability in design and development of command & control systems for surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems.

·         Centre will give a thrust to the overall system design and evaluation methodology for state-of-the-art missile systems and will help in improving the performance of missiles.

·         The Vice President inaugurated a new missile technology exposition and seminar hall on the campus. 

·         The exposition will display missile technologies and weapon systems and the centre will be the backbone for outreach activities.

3.Ayu Samvad: Largest public awareness campaign program
Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II – Health

In news 

·         “AYU SAMVAD” (My Health My Responsibility) is one of the largest public awareness campaign program being organised on AYURVEDA and COVID 19 PANDEMIC.

Key takeaways 

·         Organized by: All India Institute of Ayurveda New Delhi, as envisioned & supported by Ministry of AYUSH.

·         More than 5 lac lectures will be organized across the nation by Ayurveda Physicians for citizens of India.

·         Main objective: To create awareness through Lecture series to make common people aware about the theme “Ayurveda for COVID 19 Pandemic”.

4.Fleet of electric buses flagged-off in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Infrastructure; Environment

In news 

·         The Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, flagged-off fleet of electric buses.

Key takeaways 

·         The introduction of electric buses will help cut down tail pipe emissions as well as provide comfortable public transport.

·         The project for 40 electric buses is being executed by NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited (NVVN Limited), a 100% subsidiary of NTPC Limited, a PSU under Ministry of Power, Government of India.

·         In addition to the above project, NVVN has emerged as successful bidder for providing turnkey solution for 90 electric buses in Bengaluru under the Smart City project. 

·         These buses will provide last mile connectivity to NAMMA Metro network.

·         NVVN is developing and providing complete range of zero emission mobility solutions for various vehicle segments.

5.USA restores relations with Palestine

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International relations

In news 

·         U.S. President’s administration announced it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees.

Key takeaways 

·         It is a reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians.

·         Palestine is recognized officially as the State of Palestine by the United Nations and other entities.

·         It is a de jure sovereign state in Western Asia claiming the West Bank (bordering Israel and Jordan) and Gaza Strip (bordering Israel and Egypt) with Jerusalem as the designated capital, although its administrative center is currently located in Ramallah.

·         The entirety of territory claimed by the State of Palestine has been occupied since 1948, first by Egypt and Jordan and then by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967.

6.Intergovernmental Negotiations Framework (IGN)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International relations 

In news 

·         India’s Permanent Representative to the UN said that It has been nearly 13 years since the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) started. 

·         The UN Security Council is finding itself unable to act effectively to address issues of international peace and security as it lacked inclusivity.

Important value additions 

·         The Intergovernmental Negotiations framework (IGN) is a group of nation-states working within the United Nations to further reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), 15-member top organ of the world body.

·         Composition: The IGN is composed of several different international organizations, namely: (1) The African Union; (2) The G4 nations (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany); (3) The Uniting for Consensus Group (UfC); (4) The L.69 Group of Developing Countries; (5) The Arab League; (6) The Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

·         Each group represents a different set of positions vis-a-vis reforming the United Nations Security Council.

·         In 2016, an “oral decision” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly which approved of a declaration known as the “elements of convergence” which outlined the status of the consensus reached by the members of the IGN at that time.

Miscellaneous

7.MARUT

·         Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai re-dedicated its artefacts of Rail Locomotives that have been restored during the lockdown period, for the visitors. 

·         India’s own first indigenously designed and developed fighter aircraft Marut will now be available for public viewing.

8.AMPHEX – 21
·         A large-scale tri-service joint amphibious exercise AMPHEX – 21 was conducted in Andaman & Nicobar group of islands from 21 – 25 Jan 2021.

·         The exercise involved participation of Naval ships, amphibious troops of the Army and different types of aircraft from the Air force.

·         Aim: Validating India’s capabilities to safeguard the territorial integrity of it’s island territories. 

·         It also sought to enhance operational synergy and joint warfighting capabilities amongst the three Services.

·         The exercise involved multi-faceted maritime operations by synergised employment of amphibious assault ships, surveillance platforms, execution of maritime air strikes and complex manoeuvres at sea.

·         Ex KAVACH for defence of Andaman & Nicobar Islands formed a part of AMPHEX – 21.

·         A joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance exercise under the aegis of HQ Integrated Defence Staff was also run concurrently to achieve Maritime Domain Awareness by employment of a multitude of sensors.

(Mains Focus)
SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE
Topic:

·         GS-1: Women’s issues and Social Empowerment.

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

Women with disabilities
Context: Many women in general and those with disabilities in particular have to face poverty, poor health conditions, little or no income, lower education levels and isolation. 

With resources being scarce, women usually get the short end of the stick, more so if they suffer from some form of disability. 

Issues faced during Pandemic times

·         Access to essential items: Those with locomotor disabilities were not able to visit stores to access food and the virus acted as an impediment to getting delivery of essential services. 

·         Access to Arogya Setu App: Many with sight disabilities were not able to access the Aarogya Setu app as it does not factor in their requirements. 

·         Access to Digital Payments: Many payment apps are not accessible to the visually challenged and many online courses too are not tailored to their needs.

·         Access to Digital Work Platforms: While work from home could be to the advantage of women with disabilities, there are several challenges in being able to access video calls and voice calls and, of course, there is lack of connectivity in many areas. 

·         Access to Support: Social distancing and fear of the virus has led to many of them losing whatever little physical support they had in the form of attendants. The pandemic has also curtailed the possibilities of many disabled women being able to get physical and psychological support. 

·         Vulnerable to Abuse: Trapped at home, they are also vulnerable to abuse and face barriers in being able to register a complaint with the police or bring this to the notice of a civil society organisation.

Way Ahead

·         Create a database of those with disabilities, especially of female gender. This will help understand their medical needs and tweak schemes accordingly

·         Leveraging grassroots system: Government could use its robust grassroots systems with its health workers to create awareness in families about the need to not compromise on health and education for women with disabilities.

·         Inclusive Skill training: Skill development, one of the flagship programmes of the government, should include courses and training specifically for women who are disabled in consultation with them. 

·         Political Participation: Some of these women should be inducted into local decision-making bodies so that they can participate in processes, which build their skills.

·         Disability friendly Grievance Redressal System: Set up a functioning telephone network, accessible to women with disabilities so that they can convey their needs to a relevant person in the local governance system.

Conclusion

·         Women with disabilities have been on the margins for far too long. 

·         The pandemic has been particularly cruel to them but also offers an opportunity to enable them to become more independent and productive if the government makes a concerted effort.

ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE
Topic:

·         GS-3: Government Budgeting

·         GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 

Budgeting in a time of crisis
Context: World over economies are facing crisis in the wake of COVID-19 Pandemic that disrupted the normal functioning of life.

How US is trying to deal with economic crisis?

Today the U.S. is facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Like Roosevelt, President Joe Biden is launching the American Rescue Plan to revive the economy. 

His $1.9 trillion plan proposes 

·         $1,400 per-person payments

·         Increased unemployment benefits

·         Assistance to local governments

·         Support for accelerated vaccine rollout

·         Investments to get children back in school

·         Minimum wage of $15 an hour.

What are Paul Krugman principles to deal with economic crisis?

·         Noble Laureate Paul Krugman has offered advice against too much of caution in dealing with the economic mess. He has laid down the rules for budget-making. 

·         Enhanced Government Spending: The first rule is to not doubt the power of the government to help. Government spending can be hugely beneficial. The Affordable Care Act, for instance, led to a decline in the number of Americans without health insurance, and gave people a sense of security. 

·         Relaxation of Deficits: The second is to not be obsessed with debt. Economists agree that debt is far less a problem than conventional wisdom asserts. Interest rates are low by historical standards. The burden of servicing debt is low. 

·         Inflation Concerns are overstated: The third rule is to not worry about inflation. Countries can run a ‘hot economy’ with low unemployment and large budget deficits, without runaway inflation. 

·         Consensus on is difficult: The fourth is to not count on bipartisan support. There will be certain opposition with respect to government economy revival plans that can be for narrow purposes. Nevertheless, government should go ahead with providing stimulus to the economy.

The Indian context – What measures can be adopted in upcoming Budget?

·         Challenges w.r.t Fiscal Deficit: India’s GDP is estimated at ₹200 lakh crore. The government was quick to announce a package of ₹20 lakh crore. Fiscal deficit could overshoot the target set by the FRBM Act. Spending more is going to be difficult.

·         Prioritising Health Spending: India has only five beds for 10,000 Indians and ranks 155th on bed availability in the Human Development Report of 2020. Experts opine that the government should increase healthcare spending from 1.5% of the GDP to 2.5%.

·         Increase Spending on Infrastructure as it has multiplier effects: The National Infrastructure Pipeline aims to invest ₹111 lakh crore by 2025 in over 6,800 projects. The proposal to set up a Development Finance Institution is still on the anvil. The Chinese government has entered into building social housing projects.

·         Urban employment guarantee scheme on lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This will be far better than direct cash transfers. [ Proposal for DUET: Click here ]

·         Changes in Taxation: Despite historic lows in fuel prices, the government chose to increase fuel prices to record levels. GST has been a big source of revenue. There is a strong case for reducing GST tariff. Cess or surcharge can be levied on the super-rich. The average tariff must come down to 10% from its current level of 14% by 2024, as suggested by Professor Arvind Panagariya.

·         Trade Liberalisation and Privatisation: With several key reforms – new labour codes, new farm laws, single nationwide GST, Insolvency Code, low Corporate Profit Tax – addition of privatisation and trade liberalisation would nearly guarantee a double digit growth.

Conclusion

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, unemployment, both rural and urban, is surging, and health and infrastructure budgets are getting stretched. Hence government has to come up with Budget which provides stimulus to the economy.

Editorial: Troubled waters: On Palk Bay fishing conflict

 Context:

The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu, one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives.

While fishermen in Tamil Nadu say the four were killed in an attack by the Sri Lankan Navy, the latter maintains that they died when their trawler collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid being apprehended.

 India conveys ‘strong protest’ to Sri Lanka over death of Indian fishermen in Palk Strait:

1.   India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions by Indian fishermen.

2.   It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap.

3.   India sought the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody.

4.   Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb the illegal fishing, which adversely affects the livelihood of its war-affected fishermen.

5.   When the two sides decided to create a joint working group some years ago, they had agreed that there would be no violence or loss of life in the handling of the fishermen and that a hotline would be established between the respective Coast Guards.

6.   It is unfortunate that the hotline is yet to be operationalised, and deaths continue to occur.

 

Source of conflict between India and Sri Lanka:

1.   Ever since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, fishermen of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority north have been trying to start fishing.

2.   For decades, they had been denied access to the sea by the armed forces and the LTTE. They began rebuilding their lives with very limited resources and huge loans.

3.   They are confronting the challenge of bottom-trawlers, originating from Tamil Nadu and trespassing into their waters.

4.   Sri Lankan fishermen want an immediate end to incursions by Indian trawlers, and those from Tamil Nadu insist on a three-year phase-out period.

 The Palk Bay

Historically, the shallow waters of the Palk Bay and geographical contiguity between India and Sri Lanka facilitated the movement of ideas, goods, and men.

1.   The Palk Bay, a narrow strip of water separating the state of Tamil Nadu in India from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

2.   The bay, which is 137 km in length and varies from 64 to 137 kilometres in width, is divided by the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

3.   Bordering it are five Indian districts and three Sri Lankan districts.

Fuelling the dispute over Katchatheevu is the overuse of mechanized trawlers in the Palk Bay, the damaging environmental and economic effects of trawling.

To increase productivity and boost exports, the government of India embarked on a radical transformation of fishing techniques. The result was the introduction of trawlers.

 Continental shelf and resources: Article 297 Constitution of India:

Things of value within territorial waters or continental shelf and resources of the exclusive economic zone to vest in the Union.

(1) All lands, minerals and other things of value underlying the ocean within the territorial waters, or the continental shelf, or the exclusive economic zone, of India shall vest in the Union and be held for the purposes of the Union.

(2) All other resources of the exclusive economic zone of India shall also vest in the Union and be held for the purposes of the Union.

(3) The limits of the territorial waters, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone, and other maritime zones, of India shall be such as may be specified, from time to time, by or under any law made by Parliament.

 About Bottom trawling:

1.   Bottom trawling is an industrial fishing method where a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor.

2.   When the weighted nets and trawl doors are dragged along the seafloor, everything in their path is disturbed or destroyed, including seagrasses, coral reefs or rock gardens where fish hide from predators.

3.   Bottom trawls are used in catching marine life that live on the seafloor, such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder.

4.   The damage from bottom trawling is not limited to habitat destruction. As the net drags along the seafloor, all creatures in its path—fish, animals, marine mammals, plants, and turtles—are scooped up along the way.

5.   The fishing vessel keeps the targeted commercial species and discards the remaining, unwanted fish and animals—virtually all of it dead or dying.

6.   Once coral and sponge communities are destroyed, commercial fish and other species dependent on them for spawning, shelter, nurseries, protection, and food, may also disappear.

7.   In addition, overfished species such as rockfish and crab may need corals and other seafloor structures to provide appropriate habitat for recovery.

 Impact of Deep-Sea Trawling on Environment:

1.   The gears of Deep-Sea Trawling create huge on the life of marine plants and animals as well as the seafloor by disrupting the sediment column structure, overturning boulders, re-suspending sediments and imprinting deep scars on muddy bottoms.

2.   As we know that it is a method of Industrial fishing. Hence, profit motives drives more fishing or we can say overfishing that causes comprehensive ecological changes in the fish community.

3.   During deep sea trawling, fishes are not only the catch, but also other undesirable catches. The undesirable’s catches are thrown back to the sea, which reduces the marine ecosystem as well as increases the environmental pollution.

4.   The National Academy of Sciences states that the Deep Sea Trawling not only decreases the complexity, productivity, and biodiversity of benthic habitats but also damage the corals and sponges.

 

Conclusion:

Joint Working Group needs to escalate this matter for a long term sustainable solution.
Spreading awareness among the fishermen regarding the consequences of bottom trawling. Transition from bottom trawling to deep sea fishing to be done. Skilling in this regard in necessary.
Replacement of trawlers with deep sea fishing boats needs to done fast. The replacement cost should be shared by both the government with a bare minimum amount to be paid by fishermen. Monitoring of fishing activities needs to done.

The humanitarian approach that has been expected to be the cornerstone of the approach to this conflict has not always been discernible.

A comprehensive solution, one that would severely curtail unauthorised fishing and help in an orderly sharing of and sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides, is long overdue.

 

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