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Daily Current affairs 29 July 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

SL. NO.

TOPICS   

THE HINDU

PAGE NO.

1

Government must convince industry of RCEP Benefits

01

2

Cybercrime officials suspect Agent Smith targets Indians

07

3

Ban or Regulate – Cryptocurrencies (Editorial)

10

4

Governing India through fiscal math (Lead Article)

10

5

Its time for India and Pakistan to walk the talk (Article)

11

 

Title

1.  Government must convince industry of RCEP Benefits (The Hindu Page 1)

Syllabus

Prelims: Current events of International importance

Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations  

Theme

Concerns on signing FTA with RCEP members 

Highlights

 

What is the news?

  • Members of Indian industry have expressed concern over flooding of Indian market with Chinese goods and the lack of access for Indian services in the RCEP countries which include the 10-nation ASEAN grouping and its five FTA partners — India, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.  

  • Indian industry has also cautioned the government on the impact of signing of Free Trade Agreement as according to the industry it might lead to widening of trade deficits. 

  • To address the concerns of Indian industry, Union Commerce Minister met with representatives from various Export Promotion Councils in the engineering, auto, chemical, pharmaceutical, leather, agriculture, marine & food processing, dairy, copper, zinc, aluminium, textiles and gems sectors in separate meetings in Mumbai and Delhi ahead of the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Free Trade Agreement ministerial talks in Beijing on August 2 and 3.  

  • Australia’s leading diplomats from different countries involved in the negotiations for the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement are trying to convince India to commit to the deal by the end of the year. 

  • High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu has expressed that the government must ensure industry’s participation. 

  • RCEP has the potential to open multiple markets for Indian industries. The RCEP ministerial talks is slated to take place in Beijing on August 2-3.  

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Title

2. Cybercrime officials suspect Agent Smith targets Indians (The Hindu Page 07)

Syllabus 

Prelims: General Science  

Mains: GS Paper III – Science & Technology    

Theme

Malware Agent Smith 

Highlights

 

About Agent Smith malware

  • Agent Smith is a malicious virus which has been infecting Android phones across the world. The virus, which serves ads on the infected phones, spreads through third-party app stores like 9Apps and once it is on a phone, it hides itself by changing its name to a regular-looking app like Google Updater. 

  • Agent Smith disguise itself as a Google-related application, the malware exploits known Android vulnerabilities and automatically replaces installed apps with malicious versions without users' knowledge or interaction.     

  • Agent Smith currently uses its broad access to the devices' resources to show fraudulent ads for financial gain, but could easily be used for far more intrusive and harmful purposes such as banking credential theft and eavesdropping.

  • According to investigations conducted by several agencies so far, around 59% of those affected by Agent Smith are Indians. Other countries where significant infection was recorded include the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

Identifying Vulnerabilities 

  • Unlike most malware, the creators of Agent Smith seem to have made the effort to identify all the latest vulnerabilities in the Android operating system and designed it specifically to exploit them.     

  • One such vulnerability is called the Janus, which was discovered in 2017 by cybersecurity researchers. It allows hackers to modify an app without affecting its own signature, which makes the hack impossible to detect.        

  • Agent Smith relies heavily on the Janus vulnerability in replacing apps with their contaminated versions while leaving the hash value which is like a unique signature for any app.                    

 

Title

3. Ban or Regulate – Cryptocurrencies (Editorial) (The Hindu Page 10)

Syllabus 

Prelims: General Science  

Mains: GS Paper III – Science & Technology    

Theme

Cryptocurrencies  

Highlights

 

Context: An inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that was set up to assess the viability of virtual currencies has recommended that India should ban private cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

 

What are virtual currencies?

 

  • A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as (a) a medium of exchange, and/ or (b) a unit of account, and/or (c) a store of value, but, unlike fiat currency like the rupee, it is not legal tender and does not have the backing of a government.

  • A crypto currency is a subset of virtual currencies, and is decentralised, and protected by cryptography.

 

What is the IMC’s view on DLT and cryptocurrencies?

 

  • The IMC accepts that internationally, the application of DLT is being explored in the areas of trade finance, mortgage loan applications, digital identity management or KYC requirements, cross-border fund transfers and clearing and settlement systems.

  • To that extent, it recommends the Department of Economic Affairs (within the Finance Ministry) to take necessary measures to facilitate the use of DLT in the entire financial field after identifying its uses. 

  • The IMC also recommends that regulators — RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA, and IBBI — explore evolving appropriate regulations for development of DLT in their respective areas.

  • However, the IMC has recommended a ban on “private” cryptocurrencies. In other words, it is open to a cryptocurrency that the RBI may unveil. 

  • The RBI Act has the enabling provisions to permit the central government to approve a “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) as legal tender in India.

 

Why have private cryptocurrencies attracted a ban?

  • without a central regulating authority, they can have various negative consequences. 

  • The IMC’s first concern is that non-official virtual currencies can be used to defraud consumers, particularly unsophisticated consumers or investors. (Example - Ponzi schemes)

  • Moreover, such currencies often experience tremendous volatility in their value. 

  • For example, Bitcoin was selling at $20,000 per coin in December 2017 but in less than a year, it was trading at $3,800 per coin. 

  • In a country where lakhs of traders get involved in such currencies, this could have huge implications.

  • Second, scaling up such a currency system over a large population would require crippling levels of energy resources. Currencies such as Bitcoin require humongous processing power. This an environmental disaster.

  • Third, the IMC is worried that if private cryptocurrencies are allowed to function as legal tender, the RBI would lose control over the monetary policy and financial stability, as it would not be able to keep a tab on the money supply in the economy.

  • Fourth, the anonymity of private digital currencies make them vulnerable to money laundering and use in terrorist financing activities while making law enforcement difficult.

  • Fifth, there is no grievance redressal mechanism in such a system, as all transactions are irreversible. 

 

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Title

4. Governing India through fiscal math (Lead Article) (The Hindu Page 10)      

Syllabus 

Prelims: Economy

Mains: GS Paper III – Economy 

Theme

Path of fiscal consolidation 

Highlights

Basics to Understand:

Fiscal Deficit: It refers to the overall borrowings of the Government for the current financial year. The money borrowed by the Government can be used for both revenue expenditure as well as the capital expenditure.

Revenue Deficit: It refers to the deficit on the revenue account which is bridged through borrowings.

 

Note: If more amount of Fiscal deficit is used for financing revenue expenditure (maintenance related expenses), it would mean that the government is unable to generate sufficient amount of revenue to meet its operational expenses. 

Thus, if the share of revenue deficit in the fiscal deficit is higher, it would mean that the government has not able to adhere to fiscal discipline wherein the Government resorts to borrowing to meet its operational expenses.

 

Context:

  • The Government has committed to the path of Fiscal consolidation under the FRBM act. Under this act, the Government has targeted to reduce the FD to 3% of India’s GDP. 

  • This article argues that the Government’s sole focus on reducing Fiscal deficit is not sound economic management. Apart from FD, the revenue deficit must also be in picture.

 

Details

The fiscal deficit by alone may not provide a true and complete picture of the government finances. Both Fiscal Deficit and Revenue deficit are required to be lower for efficient management of public finances.

Presently, the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2018-19 is 3.4% while the revenue deficit is 2.2%. Thus, the revenue deficit accounts for around two-third of the fiscal deficit which shows that the some of the Government’s borrowings have been diverted towards meeting the operational expenses. 

This has mainly 3 implications:

  1. Increase in the public debt

  2. Higher borrowings to meet our operational expenses

  3. Intergenerational inequity: In order to repay the present borrowings, the government has to resort to imposition of higher taxes on the next generation.

Thus, reduction in the Fiscal deficit by the government may not provide a true picture since such a reduction may be brought about through the reduction in the capital expenditure, which is undesirable.

Further, the government has recently announced in the budget that it would borrow money through the issue of overseas sovereign bonds. This raises further concerns because the revenue deficit is major part of revenue deficit, thus we would resort to international borrowing to finance our current operational expenses.    

 

Title

5. Its time for India and Pakistan to walk the talk (Article) (The Hindu Page  11)

Syllabus 

Prelims: Current events of International importance

Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations   

Theme

Simla Agreement - 1972

Highlights

Backdrop to Simla Agreement 

  • The Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 was much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs). 

  • It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. Under the Simla Agreement both countries undertook to abjure conflict and confrontation which had marred relations in the past, and to work towards the establishment of durable peace, friendship and cooperation. 

  • The Simla Agreement contains a set of guiding principles, mutually agreed to by India and Pakistan, which both sides would adhere to while managing relations with each other. These emphasize: respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; respect for each others unity, political independence; sovereign equality; and abjuring hostile propaganda. 

The following principles of the Agreement are, however, particularly noteworthy: 

  • A mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues through direct bilateral approaches.

  • To build the foundations of a cooperative relationship with special focus on people to people contacts.

  • To uphold the inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a most important CBM between India and Pakistan, and a key to durable peace.

India has faithfully observed the Simla Agreement in the conduct of its relations with Pakistan.

SIMLA AGREEMENT - Agreement on Bilateral Relations Between The Government of India and The Government of Pakistan

The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan are resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent, so that both countries may henceforth devote their resources and energies to the pressing talk of advancing the welfare of their peoples. 

In order to achieve this objective, the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan have agreed as follows:-

  • That the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries;

  • That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations;

  • That the pre-requisite for reconciliation, good neighbourliness and durable peace between them is a commitment by both the countries to peaceful co-existence, respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit;

  • That the basic issues and causes of conflict which have bedevilled the relations between the two countries for the last 25 years shall be resolved by peaceful means;

  • That they shall always respect each other’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence and sovereign equality;

  • That in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations they will refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of each other.

 
  • Both Governments will take all steps within their power to prevent hostile propaganda directed against each other. Both countries will encourage the dissemination of such information as would promote the development of friendly relations between them.

  • In order progressively to restore and normalize relations between the two countries step by step, it was agreed that;

  • Steps shall be taken to resume communications, postal, telegraphic, sea, land including border posts, and air links including overflights.
    Appropriate steps shall be taken to promote travel facilities for the nationals of the other country.

  • Trade and co-operation in economic and other agreed fields will be resumed as far as possible.
    Exchange in the fields of science and culture will be promoted.
    In this connection delegations from the two countires will meet from time to time to work out the necessary details.

  • In order to initiate the process of the establishment of durable peace, both the Governments agree that:

  • Indian and Pakistani forces shall be withdrawn to their side of the international border.
    In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this Line.

  • The withdrawals shall commence upon entry into force of this Agreement and shall be completed within a period of 30 days thereof.
    This Agreement will be subject to ratification by both countries in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures, and will come into force with effect from the date on which the Instruments of Ratification are exchanged.

  • Both Governments agree that their respective Heads will meet again at a mutually convenient time in the future and that, in the meanwhile, the representatives of the two sides will meet to discuss further the modalities and arrangements for the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations, including the questions of repatriation of prisoners of war and civilian internees, a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir and the resumption of diplomatic relations.    

GS Paper 1 and 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Women related issues.
  2. Schemes for the protection of vulnerable sections of the society.

 

In news- Nirbhaya fund

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About the fund, its objectives and its administration.

For Mains: Significance of the fund and issues related to its utilization.

 

Context: A total of 59 proposals/schemes have been received from various Ministries and State Governments and UT Administrations under Nirbhaya Fund during the last three years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 onwards.

  • Till date, 30 projects/ schemes have been appraised and recommended by the Empowered Committee of officers for funding under Nirbhaya Fund.

 

About Nirbhaya fund:

  • The Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund was announced in Union Budget 2013.
  • The corpus was to be utilised for upholding safety and dignity of women.
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development apart from several other concerned ministries were authorised to work out details of structure, scope and application of this fund.
  • The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry.

 

Issues with Nirbhaya Fund:

The government has been accused of keeping Nirbhaya Fund unutilised. With rise in cases of sexual harassment and crimes against women there is a crying need for implementation of such funds.

 

Way ahead:

Government should improve coordination between the ministries for speedier implementation of projects under the schemes of this nature. Delay caused by lengthy inert-ministerial coordination must not be allowed to compromise women’s safety. The Government and legislators must act proactively on delivering equality and security to women.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

National Creche Scheme 

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the scheme.

 

Context: National Crèche Scheme is being implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through States/UTs with effect from 01.01.2017.

 

About National Creche Scheme:

The Scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

It is a centrally sponsored scheme.

It aims at providing a safe place for mothers to leave their children while they are at work, and thus, is a measure for empowering women as it enables them to take up employment.

Coverage: It is an intervention towards protection and development of children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years.

 

Features:

  1. Provides for day care facilities to the children of working mothers.
  2. Provides supplementary nutrition, health care inputs like immunization, polio drops, basic health monitoring, sleeping facilities, early stimulation (for children below 3 years), pre-school education for children aged between 3-6 yrs.

 

Significance:

  1. This scheme facility enables the parents to leave their children while they are at work and where the children are provided with a stimulating environment for their holistic development.
  2. This scheme ensures to improve the health and nutrition status of the children.
  3. It promotes physical, social, cognitive and emotional/holistic development of the children.
  4. It also educates and empowers parents/caretakers for the better childcare.
  5. The scheme is being structurally revised with the enhanced financial norms, stringent monitoring and sharing pattern between the Government of India and the implementing agencies and NGOs.

 

Eligibility Criteria:

The State Government, Voluntary Institutions, Mahila Mandals with the know report of service in the field of child welfare department and registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or registered as a Public Trust at least for the period for last 2 years are eligible for applying for the financial assistance from the fund.

 

Fund sharing:

The fund sharing pattern under National Creche Scheme amongst Centre, States/UTs & Non Governmental Organisations/Voluntary Organisations for all recurring components of the scheme is in the ratio of 60:30:10 for States, 80:10:10 for North Eastern States and Himalayan States and 90:0:10 for UTs.

 

Why the Centre must invest more in the National Creche Scheme?

The physical and cognitive development of a child begins in the womb, and 90% of it happens before she is three. It is in this time period that good nutrition is critical.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

 

Silk Samagra

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features of the scheme and overview of silk industry in India.

Context: Tamil Nadu, which has been ranked among the leading silk producing States in the country, will receive about Rs 6.22 crore under the Silk Samagra — an Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry (ISDSI).

 

About Silk Samagra:

  1. It is initiated by the Central Silk Board.
  2. The scheme comprises four major components viz. (i) Research & Development, Training, Transfer of Technology and Information Technology Initiatives, (ii) Seed Organizations, (iii) Coordination and Market Development and (iv) Quality Certification Systems (QCS) / Export Brand Promotion and Technology Up-gradation.
  3. The main objective of the scheme is to maintain Breeders stock, Breed improvement through R&D Projects, Development of mechanized practices, Technology translation through Sericulture Information Linkages and Knowledge System (SILKS) Portal, Mobile Application for Stakeholders and for seed quality monitoring etc.
  4. The main aim of “Silk Samagra” Scheme is to empower downtrodden, poor & backward tribal families through various activities of sericulture in the country including women.

 

Sericulture in India:

  • Sericulture is an agro-based cottage industry having huge employment and income generating potential in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • It is estimated that sericulture industry provides employment to approximately 91.20 lakh persons (including 3.40 lakh persons in the State of Tamil Nadu) in rural and semi-urban areas in the country as of March-2019.
  • Of these, a sizeable number of workers belong to the economically weaker sections of society, including women. This is mainly due to implementation of Government schemes and efforts made by State/ Central Government.

 

Key facts:

  1. India is the 2nd largest producer of silk in the world after China.
  2. It is largest consumer of silk in the world.
  3. It is the only country in the world that produces all 5 varieties of silk on a commercial scale– Mulberry, Oak Tasar & Tropical Tasar, Muga and Eri.
  4. Holds the global monopoly for production of the famed golden ‘Muga’ silk.

 

Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana:

 

The Government launched the Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana (AHVY) in the year 2001-2002.

The scheme was launched with a view to mobilize the artisans into Self Help Groups and training the groups on various aspects of forming and running the community business enterprises for self sustainability of artisans.

The objective of this scheme is to:

  1. Mobilise and generate awareness of typical handicraft arts for their overall development and progress.
  2. Provide training to artisans and expose them to greater market to sell their handicraft products.
  3. Provide proper education and market knowledge to artisans so that they learn the market techniques to get better results.

 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Conservation related issues.

 

International Tiger Day: 29 July

 

What to study?

For Prelims: International Tiger Day- significance and theme, Tiger population- state- wise, country- wise and other key facts, Important tiger reserves, M- Stripes.

For Mains: Dwindling tiger population- causes, concerns and conservation efforts- both national and international.

 

ContextGlobal Tiger Day, often called International Tiger Day, is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, held annually on 29 July.

It was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit.

The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.

 

4th cycle of all India Tiger Estimation:

On the eve Global Tiger Day, a census report of tigers in India-‘The Tiger Estimation Report 2018’- has been released.

Key findings:

  1. 2967 tigers are present in India.
    Highest number of tigers have found in Madhya Pradesh (526), after that Karnataka has 524 and Uttarakhand is accommodating 442 tigers.
  2. In five years, the number of protected areas increased from 692 to over 860, community reserves from 43 to over 100.
  3. While the 2014 census pegged the total number of striped big cats in the country at 2,226, the 2010 census put the figure at 1,706 and the 2006 version at 1,411, indicating that tiger numbers have been on the up.
  4. While Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014.
  5. Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in their tiger numbers while tiger numbers in Odisha remained constant. All other states witnessed a positive trend.

 

Tiger protection in India- Concerns and challenges:

  • India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world. Depletion of forests is responsible for reduction of tiger habitats.
  • Reduced food base:As forestlands fall to development projects, habitable land for animals that make for the tiger’s food base are also reduced.
  • Poaching: Another issue that has hindered tiger conservation in India and globally is poaching, which will persist as long as there is an illegal market for tiger body parts.
  • Climate change:Rising sea level as a result of climate change is on the verge of wiping out Sundarbans, one of the last remaining habitats of the Bengal tigers.

 

Conservation efforts:

  1. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards.
  2. At the Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, leaders of 13 tiger range countries resolved to do more for the tiger and embarked on efforts to double its number in the wild, with a popular slogan ‘T X 2’
  3. The Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) program of the World Bank, using its presence and convening ability, brought global partners together to strengthen the tiger agenda.
  4. Over the years, the initiative has institutionalised itself as a separate entity in the form of the Global Tiger Initiative Council (GTIC), with its two arms –the Global Tiger Forum and the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program.
  5. The Project Tiger, launched way back in 1973, has grown to more than 50 reserves amounting to almost 2.2% of the country’s geographical area.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Mains Question: The centrality of tiger agenda is an ecological necessity for the sustainability of our environment. In this context, examine the steps taken by India to conserve tigers?


GS paper 1 and 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  2. Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
  3. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Article 35A and related issues

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of Article 35A.

For Mains: Controversies and issues associated, is it discriminatory in nature? do we need to scrap Article 35A? other alternatives.

 

Context: The Union Home Ministry’s order of rushing 10,000 additional paramilitary personnel to Kashmir followed by a police missive on riot control equipment have amplified apprehensions on the ground about the removal of the Article 35A and Article 370.

 

What is Article 35A?

Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.

The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

 

How did it come about?

  1. Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then PresidentRajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.
  2. The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  3. The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  4. So, Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special considerationthe Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Critical side of Article 35A:

How Article 35A is against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”?

  1. It treats non-permanent residents of J&K as ‘second-class’ citizens.
  2. Non-permanent residents of J&K are not eligible for employment under the State government and are also debarred from contesting elections.
  3. Meritorious students are denied scholarshipsand they cannot even seek redress in any court of law.
  4. Further, the issues of refugees who migrated to J&K during Partition are still not treated as ‘State subjects’ under the J&K Constitution.
  5. It was inserted unconstitutionally, bypassing Article 368 which empowers only Parliament to amend the Constitution.
  6. The laws enacted in pursuance of Article 35A are ultra vires of the fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution, especially, and not limited to, Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (protection of life).

 

What needs to be done?

This matter requires the active participation of all stakeholders. It is necessary to give confidence to the residents of J&K that any alteration in status quo will not take away their rights but will boost J&K’s prosperity as it will open doors for more investment, resulting in new opportunities. Article 35A, which was incorporated about six decades ago, now requires a relook, especially given that J&K is now a well-established democratic State.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Effects of El Niño and Antarctic Oscillation On Air Pollution

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Causes and effects of El Niño and Antarctic Oscillation on pollution levels.

 

Context: Team of researchers affiliated with various institutions in China and the U.S. has discovered that data from El Niño and Antarctic Oscillation events can be used to foretell air pollution levels in northern India.

 

Background:

In recent years, northern India has experienced poor air quality, significantly in the winter months, to the extent that the nation has some of the worst air quality in the world—surpassing even China. Researchers have additionally found that in some years, pollution ranges appear worse than regular because of weather conditions.

 

Key findings:

  1. El Niño occasions tend to end in lowered wind speeds within the area, which prevented airborne pollutants from moving out of densely populated areas.
  2. Antarctic Oscillation occasions create stronger winds in some components of northern India and weaken them in others, resulting in uneven impacts on pollution levels.

 

Significance:

  1. The model they have developed shows 75% accuracy in predicting pollution levels, and the prediction can be done even a season in advance. 
  2. India has been emerging as one of the world’s most polluted countries, with particulate matter PM 2.5 levels spiking more than 999 microgram per cubic metre in parts of Delhi last year.
  3. Studying a combination of El Nino, Antarctic Oscillation and the anomalies in sea surface temperature during autumn (September-November), can help forecast the pollution conditions in winter (December-February).
  4. The statistical model developed by the team can also help the government in adjusting policies and strategies for pollution control before winter comes, the paper published in Science Advances adds.

 

What is Antarctic Oscillation?

  • The Antarctic oscillation (AAO) is a low-frequency mode of atmospheric variability of the southern hemisphere.
  • It is also known as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM).
  • It is defined as a belt of westerly winds or low pressure surrounding Antarctica which moves north or south as its mode of variability.
  • In its positive phase, the westerly wind belt that drives the Antarctic Circumpolar Current intensifies and contracts towards Antarctica, while its negative phase involves this belt moving towards the Equator.
  • Effects: Winds associated with the Southern Annular Mode cause oceanic upwelling of warm circumpolar deep water along the Antarctic continental shelf, which has been linked to ice shelf basal melt, representing a possible wind-driven mechanism that could destabilize large portions of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

‘Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)’

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Polymetallic nodules, features of Deep Sea Mission, ISA.

For Mains: Significance and relevance of such missions, usefulness for India’s energy security.

 

Context: Ministry Of Earth Sciences Plans Rs 8000 Crore ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ To Boost India’s Sea Exploration Capabilities. The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO about 35 years ago.

 

Features of the Mission:

The focus of the mission will be on deep-sea mining, ocean climate change advisory services, underwater vehicles and underwater robotics related technologies.

Two key projects planned in the ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ report include a desalination plant powered by tidal energy and a submersible vehicle that can explore depths of at least 6,000 metres.

 

Significance of the Mission:

The ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ plan will enable India to develop capabilities to exploit resources in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).

India has been allotted 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploration of poly-metallic nodules. CIOB reserves contain deposits of metals like iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

 

Potential:

It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years. It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.

 

What are PMN?

Polymetallic nodules (also known as manganese nodules) are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor of world oceans in deep sea.

Composition: Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium, of which nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.

  

Sources: the hindu.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

 

Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: IBGs- features, composition, need for and significance.

 

Context: Army’s first Integrated Battle Groups to be structured by end of next month.

 

What are IBGs?

  1. IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations, which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.
  2. Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.
  3. They need to be light so they will be low on logistics and they will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hrs based on the location.
  4. An IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from an IBG operating in the mountains.
  5. The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive. While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes, defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected. The composition of the IBGs would also depend on this.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

Securitypedia:

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has launched Securitypedia, an online encyclopaedia as a one stop repository of information on security related practices across the globe.

It contains extensive information on technical learning, CISF manuals, case studies, technical compendium, etc.

 

 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

What is zero budget natural farming?

Context: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman thrust zero budget farming into the spotlight in the first Budget speech of the 17th Lok Sabha earlier this month, calling for a “back to the basics” approach.

Steps such as this can help in doubling our farmers’ income in time for our 75th year of Independence. Several States, including Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, have been aggressively driving a shift towards this model.

 

What is it and how did it come about?

Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices. 

It was originally promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation.

 

Need and significance:

Rising cost of these external inputs was a leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers, while the impact of chemicals on the environment and on long-term fertility was devastating. Without the need to spend money on these inputs — or take loans to buy them — the cost of production could be reduced and farming made into a “zero budget” exercise, breaking the debt cycle for many small farmers.

 

Features of ZBNF:

  1. Instead of commercially produced chemical inputs, the ZBNF promotes the application of jeevamrutha— a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and aged desi cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil — on farmland. This is a fermented microbial culture that adds nutrients to the soil, and acts as a catalytic agent to promote the activity of microorganisms and earthworms in the soil.
  2. A similar mixture, called bijamrita, is used to treat seeds, while concoctions using neem leaves and pulp, tobacco and green chillis are prepared for insect and pest management. 

 

Benefits of ZBNF:

The ZBNF method promotes soil aeration, minimal watering, intercropping, bunds and topsoil mulching and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing.

 

Why does it matter?

  1. According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, almost 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and more than half of all farmers are in debt.
  2. In States such as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, levels of indebtedness are around 90%, where each household bears an average debt of ₹1 lakh.
  3. In order to achieve the Central government’s promise to double farmers income by 2022, one aspect being considered is natural farming methods such as the ZBNF which reduce farmers’ dependence on loans to purchase inputs they cannot afford. Meanwhile, inter-cropping allows for increased returns.
  4. The Economic Survey has also highlighted the ecological advantages.

 

Is it effective?

  1. A limited 2017 study in Andhra Pradesh claimed a sharp decline in input costs and improvement in yields. However, reports also suggest that many farmers, have reverted to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years, in turn raising doubts about the method’s efficacy in increasing farmers’ incomes.
  2. ZBNF critics note that India needed the Green Revolution in order to become self-sufficient and ensure food security.
  3. They warn against a wholesale move away from that model without sufficient proof that yields will not be affected.
  4. Sikkim, which has seen some decline in yields following a conversion to organic farming, is used as a cautionary tale regarding the pitfalls of abandoning chemical fertilizers.

 

Is the budgetary support enough?

  1. Despite the ZBNF buzz caused by the Budget speech, the Finance Minister did not actually announce any new funding to promote it.
  2. Last year, the Centre revised the norms for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana– Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR), a flagship Green Revolution scheme with an allocation of ₹3,745 crore this year, and the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, which has an allocation of ₹325 crore and is meant to promote organic farming and soil health.
  3. Under the revised guidelines, both Centrally-sponsored schemes now allow States to use their funds to promote the ZBNF, vedic farming, natural farming, cow farming and a host of other traditional methods.

 

What lies ahead?

NITI Aayog has been among the foremost promoters ZBNF. However, its experts have also warned that multi-location studies are needed to scientifically validate the long-term impact and viability of the model before it can be scaled up and promoted country-wide.

If found to be successful, an enabling institutional mechanism could be set up to promote the technology.

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