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Daily Current affairs 11 February 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair


Boeing delivers first four Chinook helicopters for IAF

The News

  • In a boost to its strategic airlift capability, the Indian Air Force is all set to induct 4 advanced multi-role heavy-lift Chinook helicopters.



  • The heavy-lift capability role in Indian Air Force is currently being fulfilled by 4 Soviet-based Mi-26 choppers out of which only one is serviceable.
  • However, in order to fulfill the Indian Air Force’s operational heavy-lift capability, India needs 12-13 choppers.
  • In this backdrop, India signed a $1.1billion deal with the US in 2015 to acquire 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
  • In addition, 22 Apache attack helicopters were also a part of the deal to upgrade India’s attack capabilities.


About CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters

  • CH-47 Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter having a payload lifting capacity of 10 tonnes.
  • Chinook is a multi-role helicopter with vertical-lift platform, capable of air-lift services in both combat and humanitarian missions in difficult terrains.
  • Chinook helicopters are equipped with advanced cockpit, as well as advanced cargo-handling capabilities.


Combat Mission Operations

  • Chinooks will be used to airlift artillery, light armored vehicles, troops and supplies to difficult mountainous terrains.
  • With a 10 ton payload capacity, Chinooks will be significant in ferrying heavy machinery such as M777 Ultra Light Howitzer to high altitude areas.
  • The Border Road Organisation will use Chinook helicopters to carry road construction and engineering equipments to unchartered terrains.


Humanitarian Missions

  • Chinooks will be significant in carrying relief supplies to humanitarian and disaster relief operations and mass evacuation of refugees.


Indo-US Defense partnership

  • India and the US share enduring interests and values as the oldest and largest democracies.
  • India and US have a common interest in ensuring that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability and growing prosperity.
  • The US-India defence and security cooperation continues to undergo a rapid expansion as part of deepening strategic partnership, through the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative of 2012.
    • This initiative seeks to create opportunities for US-India co-production and co-development, foster science and technology cooperation, and remove bureaucratic barriers to trade.
  • Bilateral defence trade between India and the United States has risen from near zero to $15 billion since 2008.


Types of trade deals

  • Government to Government sales
    • Government-to-government foreign military sales from US to India in recent years include C-17 transport aircraft, 155 mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers, Harpoon missiles, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) support equipment.
  • Direct commercial sales
    • In addition to the foreign military sales, India has purchased defence articles since 2013 via the direct commercial sales process, including aircraft, gas turbine engines, and electronics etc.
  • In 2016, India was also awarded the status of a US major defence partner.
    • This allows India to receive license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies that are regulated by the Department of Commerce.
  • The two countries also agreed to an updated ten-year Defence Framework Agreement in 2015 to guide and expand their bilateral defence and strategic partnership until 2025.
  • The historic 2+2 Dialogue held in 2018 is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership between the United States and India.
  • Further, the upgradation of India to Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status (allowing high-technology product sales to India) by US in 2018 and signing of COMCOSA corroborates US’s recognition of India as a leading global power and net security provider in the region.

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Section : Defence & Security


Expedite implementation of Forest Rights Act

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Odisha State Food Commission has reiterated the State government to expedite implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, that would help ensure food and nutritional security to the vulnerable section of society.


About Forest Rights Act, 2006:

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) aims to redress the historical injustice that forest-dwellers have experienced, particularly the denial of their rights to forest land and resources.
  • Prior to this Act, most forest dwellers in the country were denied rights to their traditional forestlands since colonial times.
  • Objective:
    • It grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws;
    • It makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.
  • Key Features:
    • It recognises forest rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) who have been occupying the land before October 25, 1980.
    • An FDST nuclear family would be entitled to the land currently occupied, subject to a maximum of 2.5 hectares.
    • The land may be allocated in all forests including core areas of National Parks and Sanctuaries.
    • The Bill outlines 12 forest rights which include the right to live in the forest, to self cultivate, and to use minor forest produce. However, activities such as hunting and trapping are prohibited.
    • The Gram Sabha is empowered to initiate the process of determining the extent of forest rights that may be given to each eligible individual or family.


Lacking in implementation

  • The implementation of the Act started in 2008, but its benefits did not reach most tribals.
  • The ineffective rules formulated under the Act were blamed for the tardy implementation.


Key Issues and Analysis

  • There are no reliable estimates of the likely number of eligible families although the Bill proposes to vest forest land rights to FDSTs. Therefore, it is not known whether there could be significant risk to existing forest cover.
  • Communities who depend on the forest for survival and livelihood reasons, but are not forest dwellers or Scheduled Tribes, are excluded from the purview of the Bill.
  • The Bill specifies October 25, 1980 as the cut-off date to determine eligibility. However, it does not clarify the kind of evidence that would be required by FDSTs to prove their occupancy.


Steps being taken by Ministry of Tribal Affairs to monitor and encourage for speedy implementation of FRA:

  • Regular Monitoring of the progress in the distribution of title deeds, across all States, details of which is also published on the website of the Ministry every month.
  • Seeking justification from low performing states and asking them to undertake suo moto review of rejected claims to ensure that no wrongful rejections are made.
  • Funds are provided to undertake crucial pre-requisite works such as public awareness building, support for evidence collection, mapping and demarcation, land measurements, use of space technology (in support of evidences), other administrative expenses, etc, to encourage speedier implementation of the Act.
  • Translation of Act, Rules and clarifications into local languages through the Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs), awareness camps, Regional Consultations/Workshops etc have been taken up for effective implementation of FRA.
  • Forest Rights portal has been developed to give complete information about the Forest Right Act and Rules and facilitates the filing of claims under the Act.

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Section : Environment & Ecology


Get paper from plastic pulp, the Khadi way

The News

  • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has come up with a viable solution to the problem of plastic disposal.
  • KVIC has launched a project called REPLAN to make carry bags made out of plastic waste and paper pulp.


Background on plastic pollution in India

  • According to the recent CPCB data, India generates more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, of which 40% remains uncollected and ends up as waste.
    • This uncollected causing choking of drainage and river systems, littering of the marine ecosystem, soil and water pollution, ingestion by stray animals, and open air burning leading to adverse impact on human health and environment.
  • About 67% of the plastic waste generated in India is High Density Polyethylene (HDP) (Tupperware, shampoo bottles etc.) and Low Density Polyethylene (LDP) (plastic bags for computer components, juice cartons, plastic wraps etc.).
  • India is doing well in recycling common plastic waste from PET plastic waste (from drinking water and soft drink bottles, plastic jars, plastic sheets etc).
  • However, HDP/LDP plastic waste recycling is extremely low in India.
  • One reasons of low level of recycling is that about 40% of HDP/LDP plastic waste in India goes uncollected.
  • In this backdrop, KVIC launched the REPLAN project in 2018.


REPLAN (Reducing Plastic in Nature)

  • REPLAN is a project of KVIC that aims to use plastic waste in a semi-permanent manner in order to reduce the availability of plastic in nature.
  • Under the REPLAN project, plastic is collected, chopped into fine pieces and mixed with cotton fibre rags in the ratio 80:20 (80-cotton rags pulp & 20-plastic waste) which undergoes multiple stages of treatment to produce a pulp that is turned into paper, or the "the plastic paper".
  • Because of its strength and durability, this "plastic paper" to make useful products like paper bags, notebooks and other household items.
  • At present, the plastic paper is being produced at Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, a KVIC unit in Jaipur. More units are planned for localised production of the paper.



  • REPLAN project can go a long way in reducing plastic waste in India by increasing collection of HDP/LDP plastic waste.
  • Thus, it can potentially increase the rate of recycling in India.
  • Further, the carry bags made out of REPLAN were found to be more durable, and cheaper.

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Section : Environment & Ecology


Use data-based solutions to improve learning levels Editorial 11th Feb’19 HindustanTimes

Foundational learning crisis in India:

  •  India has been, for a while, facing a huge learning crisis - the gap between schooling and learning is widening.
  • The ASER 2018 has again identified fundamental shortcomings in the learning profiles of the majority of elementary school students in India.
    • Note: Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.

Repeatedly highlighted in ASER reports:

  • ASER has repeatedly brought into light the worrying trend of the absence of foundational learning skills like:
    • Basic ability to read with meaning
      •  According to ASER 2018, only 27.2% of the children in Class 3 could read a simple Class 2-level text.
    • Do simple mathematics
      • ASER 2018 found that only 28.1% could do basic subtraction.


Important to get foundational learning skills right:

  • Foundational learning skills are the most essential because those who don’t acquire these skills in early years are unable to catch up and get left behind. Many of them eventually drop out of the system altogether.
  • Being able to read (with meaning) by age of 8 is critical:
    • International research and pedagogical experts have pointed out that to ensure that every child is able to read with meaning by the age of eight is one of the most critical education challenges of our times.

Some governments recognized this:

  • There has been some progress towards recognising this problem.
  • A few Indian state governments have initiated reform efforts focused on achieving foundational learning skills for children by Class 3.
  • However, recognising and prioritising the problem is necessary but is only the first step.

Much work remains to be done:

  • This needs to be followed this up with coherent efforts to find solutions that keep the classroom at the centre.
  • There is also a need for strong alignment between the various entities responsible for the reform and delivery of education.


Learning levels vary widely across states:

  • The Indian school education landscape is an extremely diverse one.
  • Often, children in the same classroom have grown up with different home languages and have disparate learning levels.
  • ASER 2018 indicated a high variation between states.
    • Example: Almost 50% of children in Class 3 can read Class 2 level text in Himachal Pradesh, while in Uttar Pradesh, only 25% of Class 3 children are at Class 2 level.

Need customised solutions for different states:

  • In such a scenario, no one-size-fits-all solution will ensure universal foundational learning.
  • Any potentially successful programme will have to be modified to local context and capacity.

Data based solutions:

  • This is where the education system can better leverage data and evidence.
  • Robust data can help states identify the gaps that need to be addressed and customise the solutions accordingly.
  • Reliable, comprehensive and comparable information on the solutions can play a critical role in ensuring that their implementation is effective and sustainable.


Rigorous monitoring and evaluation of new solutions:

  • States must not only implement the customized solution but also establish constant and rigorous evaluation of its effectiveness.
  • The assessment could include:
    • The programme methodology's appropriateness for a student’s age and learning processes
    • If the programme is being implemented as intended
    • The extent to which support systems, such as curriculum, teacher training, monitoring and onsite support, effective in improving classroom practices
    • The major unintended outcomes of the programme
    • The factors which facilitated or inhibited the intended implementation of the programme

It helps in assessing the effectiveness of the solutions:

  • Such an evaluation would look at both the process or design of the programme, as well as its impact on the overall goal of improving learning outcomes.
  • This can help assess where the challenges lie, like why certain schools, districts or even states are falling behind.
  • This can help in designing corrective actions so that objectives can be achieved.


A learning centre to aid states in monitoring and evaluation:

  • States are often not set up to design and implement rigorous monitoring and evaluation processes around their programmes.
  • To rectify this, an early learning centre could be established at a reputable academic institution that has the expertise, capacity and funding and then states can partner with this centre. 
  • This centre can leverage data to assess, document and spread programmes with proven efficacy across states.
  • It can also share best practices around these programmes as well as around monitoring and evaluation processes to generate learnings for the overall education ecosystem.



  • ASER data has highlighted the pressing problem of poor foundational learning in India.
  • We now need to move to the next step and focus on using data and evidence to inform and implement the solutions that can help achieve the goal of foundational learning and set up our children for future success.



GS Paper II: Social Issues

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Section : Editorial Analysis


Prelims Program: Map- Middle East

Middle East

  • The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa).
  • Arabian peninsula is the largest in the world. In the eastern parts there is salt desert, western parts there is sandy desert.


Note: Egypt is often considered a part of the Middle East, as the Sinai is geologically a part of Asia. Sometimes Azerbaijan is considered a part of the Middle East, as a border region between Europe and Asia.

  • Largest Country: Saudi Arabia
  • Smallest Country: Bahrain
  • Largest Ethnic groups: Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris
  • Climate: The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate.
  • Fertile Cresent: Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia
  • Crude Oil: Most of the countries bordering Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil. More than ½ of World's oil reserve and 40% of worlds natural gas reserve is found in this region.
  • Major rivers:

  • Lifeline of Egypt: River Nile
  • Lifelines of Iraq: River Tigris and Euphrates
  • Boundary between Israel and Jordan: Jordan river
  • Strait of Hormuz: Between Iran and UAE connects Persian gulf with Gulf of Oman and then Arabian sea.

  • Gulf of Aqaba: It connects Red Sea with Israel
  • Gulf of Suez : It connects Red sea with Mediterranean sea.


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Section : Miscellaneous