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Daily Current affairs 04 February 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

Govt. relents, endosulfan agitation ends

The News

  • The Kerala government has agreed to include more victims of endosulfan effects in the list of people eligible for treatment under the Endosulfan Compensation Scheme.

 

Background

  • In 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the Kerala government to provide a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to all endosulfan victims in northern Kerala region including Kasargod and Palakkad Districts.
  • As a result, the Kerala government had prepared a list of plausible pesticide impairment victims who are eligible for the compensation under the Endosulfan Compensation Scheme.
  • However, the number of those victims eligible were later reduced leading to protests in the state.
  • Conceding to the demand of the protesters, the Kerala government has now agreed to add more victims to the list of beneficiaries under the scheme.

 

Endosulfan Pollution: A backgrounder

  • Endosulfan is an organochlorine compound present in several pesticides used on crops like cashew, cotton, tea, paddy, fruits.
  • Staring from 1978, endosulfan was aerially sprayed in the cashew plantations of Kasaragod district of Kerala as insecticide.
  • By 1990s, in more than 20 gram panchayats in Kasargod district, endosulfan had caused serious illnesses to animals and humans.
  • Following this, The Plantation Corporation of Kerala had stopped aerial spraying of endosulfan in 2001.
  • However, since the half-life of endosulfan ranges from 9 months to 6 years, babies born to the exposed population continued to be born with genetic disorders and physical deformities. 

 

Harmful effects

  • Endosulfan is a potent neurotoxin that has serious effects on animals and humans including
    • Children being born with congenital disabilities, hydrocephalus, diseases of the nervous system, epilepsy, cerebral palsy etc.
    • Reproductive morbidity, sexual maturity congenital anomalies and cancer in younger ages. 
    • Infertility in the women 30 years and older Mass deaths of bees, fishes, frogs, birds, foxes
    • Congenital deformities in domestic animals like cow

 

Steps to ban endosulfan in India

  • In 2002, the Kerala High Court banned the sale and use of endosulfan in Kerala.
  • The Supreme Court in 2011 passed an ad-interim order banning production, sale and use of endosulfan in the country till further orders. 
  • Accordingly, the Central Government issued instructions to all State Governments/Union Territory Administrations to implement the interim order of the Court in full, which are binding on all manufacturers.
  • India being a signatory to Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has banned export of endosulfan.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court directed the Kerala government to pay a compensation of Rs 5 Lakh to about 5,000 victims of Endosulfan pesticide pollution.

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Section : Science & Tech

 

‘Inkjet’ solar panels set to reshape green energy

The News

  • In what could be a breakthrough in solar panels manufacturing, a Polish scientist has developed inkjet processing method to coat a glass surface with photovoltaic solar cells.

 

Background

Importance of Solar Energy

  • According to World Energy Council, the global average solar radiation, per sq. metre and per year, can produce the same amount of energy as a barrel (about 159 lt) of oil, 200 kg of coal, or 140 m3 of natural gas.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency, in its 2016 report, noted that solar energy, despite exponential growth, constituted only 1% of all electricity used globally (with an installed capacity of 227 GW at the end of 2015).
  • Thud, solar energy has a big part to play in reducing future carbon emissions and ensuring a sustainable energy future.

 

Photovoltaic Technologies

  • Currently solar energy technologies include photovoltaic and thermal collectors.
  • Solar thermal collectors:
    • They collect heat by absorbing sunlight.
    • They can be used for domestic heating and hot water, but large solar collection plants can also be used for industrial heat purposes or for electricity generation.
  • Photovoltaic collectors:
    • Photovoltaic cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity without the use of any heat engine.
    • They are increasingly popular in building integration purposes as well as for small- and large-scale devices, from watches to satellites.

 

Types of Photovoltaic technologies

  • First generation wafer-based PVs
    • The first generation cells—also called conventional, traditional or water-based cells—are made of crystalline silicon.
    • It is the commercially predominant PV technology.
  • Second generation thin-film based PVs
    • These are thin film-based solar cells, that use amorphous silicon, Cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) coating to make the photovoltaic layer.
    • The advantage of thin-film cells is that they absorb light more efficiently than silicon. 
    • However, the cost of coating the photovoltaic layer is high.
  • Third generation Perovskite photovoltaic cell
    • The third generation of solar cells includes a number of thin-film technologies often described as emerging photovoltaics—most of them have not yet been commercially applied and are still in the research or development phase.
  • Perovskite solar cell is one of the types of emerging thin-film PV cells.
    • It has overcome the efficiency and performance limits of the earlier PV cells.

 

The main hurdles to harness solar power:

  • Efficiency of PV layer
  • Cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells

 

Perovskite photovoltaic cell

  • A perovskite solar cell is a type of solar cell which includes a perovskite structured compound.
  • Commonly perovskite compound is a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material that acts as an active light-harvesting layer. 
  • The advantages of perovskite solar cells are
    • High efficiency
    • Lower cost
    • Reduced processing costs
  • Though the perovskite solar cell has revolutionalised PV technologies, the process of coating was complicated and required ultra high temperatures.
  • Further, only materials which could withstand high temperatures like glass could be coated with perovskite cells.

 

‘Inkjet’ solar panels: Why is it a breakthrough?

  • A Polish scientist has developed an inkjet technology that is capable of producing solar panels under lower temperatures.
  • Thus, the perovskite photovoltaic cells can be easily mass-produced.
  • Further, the perovskite photovoltaic layer can be coated to almost any material ranging from surface of laptop to car, drone, spacecraft or building etc.
  • As a result, the perovskite solar cells developed with inkjet technology at low temperature have the potential to address the world energy problems.

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Section : Science & Tech

 

India cautions US, eyes China as 'partner' on Afghanistan

The News

  • The Indian government has cautioned the US on unilateral and hasty attempt in resolving Afghanistan crisis and it is also looking for a dialogue with China on the issue.

 

Background

  • Last month, the US Special Envoy to Kabul declared that a six-day round of direct talks between the US and Taliban in Doha has led to a “framework” for a peace agreement.
  • The preliminary framework is based on the following discussions:
    • In the first round Taliban has agreed on committing to not allow terrorists to use Afghan territory to carry out attacks on the US and its allies.
    • An agreement by the US to pull out troops from Afghanistan.
    • As part of the deal, direct talks between Taliban and Afghan Government and a ceasefire has also been insisted by the US but no agreement has been reached, the Taliban delegation has asked for some time to deciding on it.
  • After the announcement, Afghanistan President cautioned US against concluding any deal in hurry without including the Afghanistan government with consequences, which could be repetition of past mistakes.
  • Indian Army chief General had also suggested that India needs to join the “bandwagon” of countries engaging the Taliban.

 

Highlights of the news

  • India expressed its concern over statements from Afghanistan that US has kept even the Afghan government in the dark about its recent talks for a Taliban “peace deal”.
  • This is seen as a hasty and irresponsible attempt by US to declare victory and get out of Afghanistan, almost half of which is now controlled by the Taliban.
  • On this issue, the Indian government has cautioned US and conveyed that:
    • Any deal with Taliban must safeguard the existing political and constitutional structure in Afghanistan.
    • India is against installation of any interim government in the country in the upcoming elections.
    • Indian cautioned that it is active on the issue and any action or articulation of its position in haste can be counter-productive.
  • Moreover, as China is also worried about instability in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal, India is trying to have talks on current developments with China.
  • This is on the backdrop that both the countries have favoured to work together in Afghanistan since the 2018 Wuhan Modi-Xi summit.

 

Reasons for India’s concerns

  • Infrastructure assistance: India has already realized a large chunk of its $3 billion development assistance commitment in Afghanistan, which may suffer if Taliban controls it.
  • Security and economic concerns: Afghanistan shares a boundary with India (PoK) and that region has serious security and economic interests in the country.
  • Economic assets: Afghanistan is the only country with significant Indian economic assets on the ground, which may face danger.

 

Impact of this Peace talk on India

  • India has over the past 17 years helped and supported the Government from the behind without having its boots on the grounds.
  • Afghanistan has been one of the biggest receivers of aid from India. India had worked in the areas of humanitarian assistance, infrastructure development, civilian reconstruction efforts and community development projects which have generated enough goodwill for India among the Afghans. It is for this reason India’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan is called ‘Goodwill Diplomacy ‘.
  • Most of the developments that India has rendered have been mostly in and around Kabul, thereby concentrating only on the requirements of the Government.
  • India has worked in Afghanistan with two primary objectives:
    1. Helping Afghanistan to be self reliant and countering Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. With this approach, India never wanted the Taliban to have a part in the Government.
    2. Reduce Pakistan’s ability to run terror groups in Afghanistan against India with the influence of Islam.
  • India preferred to have its relations only with Kabul and did not adopt a holistic development approach for the entire country.
  • This is likely to have an impact with India’s intended interest towards Afghanistan, when the Taliban gets to have a say in the Government.
  • India has to be prepared to accept that it’s investments- economically, politically and socially are likely to yield limited outcome.
  • With the Taliban gaining legitimacy by controlling over 60 % of the landmass of Afghanistan, India will have no better approach than to engage with the Taliban.

 

 

 

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Section : International Relation

 

A ‘pink revolution’ quietly takes shape in Maharashtra

The News

  • The Maharashtra government’s policy support is creating an ecosystem for shaping Pink Revolution.

 

About Pink Revolution and its background

  • Pink Revolution in India refers to the growth of meat production in India.
  • It includes the technological revolution in the meat and poultry processing sector.
  • 40% of the world’s total meat consumption comprises of pork and it is widely eaten in the world.
  • India ranks fifth in the world in meat production with an annual production of around 6.5 million tonnes and bovine meat contributes about 40% of this.
  • The contribution of pork is only 3.5% compared with 9.36% from goat meat and more than 36% from poultry.
  • In Maharashtra, currently pig farming is highly unorganised with 80% of the animals being reared by small farmers with very low-input/output ratio.
  • Recently, Maharashtra had taken many initiatives in animal husbandry and piggery development to boost pig farming.

 

Highlights of the news

  • As the Maharashtra government is taking initiatives in piggery development, a ‘pink revolution’ is taking shape in the state.
  • The initiatives are aimed at breeding imported pigs.
  • The ‘pink revolution’ targets to produce five lakh high quality pigs over a period of 5-6 years.
  • It also plans to offer ‘farm to market’ solution, for this Mumbai-based company supported by the Maharashtra government’s policy is creating an ecosystem for supply of high quality pork in the following ways:
    • Building a fully-equipped international-standard piggery that would support animal husbandry, food and medical industry.
    • Partnering with farmers by supplying them pigs imported from Canada, which would be bred under hygienic conditions for production of high quality meat.
    • Launching an education campaign for breeding in clean environment.
    • Initiating a franchisee chain of signature shops/eateries to promote healthy pork products.
    • Creating public awareness about the pork meat and its benefits

 

Significance of pink revolution

  • Source of protein: The objective of the Maharashtra government is to provide access to affordable meat to its population to address the problem of protein deficiency.
  • Livelihood: By partnering with the farmers to provide them imported pigs for animal husbandry, it is also aimed at providing livelihood to farmers.
  • Quality of pork: Many consumers avoid pork consumption because local pigs are mostly bred under unhygienic conditions but with the breeding of imported pigs in hygienic conditions, it is aimed tosupply of high quality pork.
  • Value chain: The fully equipped international-standard piggery would create a comprehensive value chain for pork production.
  • Medical and Research industry: The breeds would also supply high quality animals for medical and research industry (organ transplant and insulin).
  • Education campaign: It is expected that in five years, over 1,000 Maharashtra farmers, in a cooperative format will learn about commercial animal farming with international best practices.
  • Maximum output: Maharashtra’s policy supports international imported pig breeding for maximizing output.
  • Public awareness: The Company is planning to use public education channels to spread awareness about the pork meat and its benefits.
  • Contribution in national growth: The pink revolution is expected to increase contribution of pork incountry’s total meat production.

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Section : Economics

 

Prelims Program: Regional Connectivity Scheme “UDAN” 

About UDAN Scheme 

  • UDAN is an innovative scheme to develop the regional aviation market. It is a market-based mechanism in which airlines bid for seat subsidies. 
  • This first-of-its-kind scheme globally has created economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns. 
  • Implementing Ministry: Ministry of Civil Aviation
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation took a major step today towards making flying a reality for the small town common man. 
  • The objective of the scheme was “Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik”. 
  • The scheme ensures affordability, connectivity, growth and development. 
  • It provides a win-win situation for all stakeholders – citizens get the benefit of affordability, connectivity and more jobs.
    • The Centre is able to expand the regional air connectivity and market.
    • The state governments reap the benefit of development of remote areas, enhance trade and commerce and more tourism expansion. Airport operators see their business expanding.
  • The scheme UDAN envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports. The scheme would be in operation for a period of 10 years. 
  • This would be achieved through:
  1. A financial stimulus in the form of concessions from Central and State governments and airport operators and 
  2. A Viability Gap Funding to the interested airlines to kick-off operations from such airports so that the passenger fares are kept affordable. 

 

Features

The following are the key features of the scheme:

  • UDAN is an innovative scheme to develop the regional aviation market.
  • It is a market-based mechanism in which airlines bid for seat subsidies.
  • The scheme is a component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released in 2016.
  • Under this scheme, half of the seats on the plane will be capped at ₹2,500 per hour’s flight.
  • As per the scheme, the Centre will subsidise the losses incurred by airlines flying out of dormant airports to help airlines charge ₹2,500 for an hour’s flight to passengers.
  • Under the scheme, an operator is entitled to receive viability gap funding if a fixed number of seats on the flight are sold at a fare of up to ₹2,500.
  • Among the commitments of the States are:
  1. To make sufficient land available
  2. Ensure adequate security
  3. Provide essential services at concessional rates for the airports or air strips
  • The Centre would like the States to provide minimum land, free of cost, for development of the RCS airports. The States will have to bear 20% towards VGF. The share will be 10% for North Eastern States and Union Territories.
  • Government will provide subsidy to airlines for first three years of operations when they will have exclusive flying rights on the selected routes.

 

 

Merits

  • This first-of-its-kind scheme globally will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns.
  • This scheme will stimulate growth in the regional aviation market and will connect underserved and unserved airports that really didn’t have flight services.

 

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Section : Miscellaneous

 

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