18th June, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Water Crisis’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: A Niti Aayog report has warned that Bengaluru will run out of groundwater by 2020, even as it placed Karnataka among the top five states on its composite water management index.
Other observations made in the report
- Most states have achieved less than 50% of total score in augmentation of groundwater resources
- Fifty four per cent of India’s groundwater wells are showing a decline in levels due to extraction rates exceeding recharge rates and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as early as 2020, affecting 100 million people
- Bengaluru has turned into a concrete jungle that does not allow rainwater to percolate into the ground and recharge the groundwater table
Steps that could be taken mitigate the stress
- Rejuvenation of Lakes, ponds etc
- Use recycled water for potable purposes
- Sustainable groundwater management
- People awareness campaign
- Recycled water for non-potable purposes
‘Earthquake’ (GS1: Geophysical Phenomenon)
Issue: A magnitude 6.1 earthquakes shook Osaka, Japan’s second-biggest metropolis, early on Monday morning, killing three people, halting factory lines in a key industrial area and bursting water mains
Why is Japan subjected to such frequent and high intensity earthquakes?
- The island nation lies along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an imaginary horseshoe-shaped zone that follows the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. In fact, 81 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes happen in this active belt
- Japan itself sits atop a complex mosaic of tectonic plates that grind together and trigger deadly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions
- The 2011 earthquake released hundreds of years of pent-up stress within the sub-duction zone and triggered an enormous tsunami that inundated the coastal Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, eventually causing a level 7 nuclear meltdown.
‘Black Hole’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: For the first time, astronomers have directly imaged the formation and expansion of a fast-moving jet of material ejected when a super-massive black hole ripped apart a star that wandered too close to the cosmic monster.
- The scientists tracked the event with radio and infrared telescopes, including the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), in a pair of colliding galaxies called Arp 299, nearly 150 million light-years from Earth. At the core of one of the galaxies, a black hole 20 million times more massive than the Sun shredded a star more than twice the Sun’s mass, setting off a chain of events that revealed important details of the violent encounter.
What is a black hole?
- A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.
- Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars
- Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. Mass is the amount of matter, or “stuff,” in an object.
- Another kind of black hole is called “stellar.” Its mass can be up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun. There may be many, many stellar mass black holes in Earth’s galaxy. Earth’s galaxy is called the Milky Way.
- The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center. The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A. It has a mass equal to about 4 million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.
- A black hole cannot be seen because strong gravity pulls all of the light into the middle of the black hole. But scientists can see how the strong gravity affects the stars and gas around the black hole. Scientists can study stars to find out if they are flying around, or orbiting, a black hole.
- When a black hole and a star are close together, high-energy light is made. This kind of light cannot be seen with human eyes. Scientists use satellites and telescopes in space to see the high-energy light.
- Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernova. A supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space
‘NITI AYOG governing council meeting’ (GS2: Governance)
Issue: The fourth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog was held under the chairmanship of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi
Highlights of the meeting
- At the end of the day-long deliberations, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog as a platform to inspire cooperative federalism, stressing the need for effective center-state cooperation to advance development outcomes and achieve double-digit growth for India.
- Called upon States to fix growth targets for their economies as the world looks towards India soon becoming a USD 5 trillion economy
- Advised the States to pay special attention to expanding their exports and attracting export oriented investment while organizing their investments summits and events.
About the Governing council of NITI AYOG
- The Governing Council of NITI Aayog comprises the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of all the States and Union Territories with Legislatures and Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and four Union Ministers as ex-officio members and three Union Ministers as Special Invitees. It is the premier body tasked with evolving a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States in shaping the development narrative.
- The NITI Aayog has been mandated with fostering cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation. It seeks to design and assist the implementation of strategic, long-term policy frameworks and programme initiatives, and also monitor their progress and efficacy.
- The Governing Council, which embodies these objectives of cooperative federalism, presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the national development agenda, in the spirit of Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat.
‘5G rollout’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The telecom department should quickly release spectrum for research and development (R&D) of fifth-generation, or 5G, networks and set up labs to showcase potential uses to industry, a government panel set up to provide a road map for 5G deployment has suggested.
Advantages of 5G network
- 5G networks will be significantly faster and more reliable than the most advanced 4G network and will support connection of many more devices simultaneously than is possible now.
- The committee has also suggested that the government announce the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz, 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands as 5G bands and allow for research trials.
- A primary goal of the high-level forum is creating a globally competitive product development and manufacturing ecosystem targeting 50% of India market and 10% of global market over the next 5 to 7 years.
‘Petroglyph’ (GS1: Indian History)
Issue: Kandanathi, a tiny village located about 5-km south of Yemmiganur mandal headquarters in the district, is the biggest petroglyph site in Andhra Pradesh
- The petroglyphs at Kandanathi reveal the presence of the Boya community divided into many exogamous groups such as Mandla (herdsmen) and Yenubothula (buffalomen)
What is a Petroglyph?
- Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.
‘Dhanush artillery guns’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The indigenously upgraded artillery gun Dhanush has successfully completed final user trials and is ready for induction into the Army. Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish Bofors gun procured by India in the mid-1980s.
- During the trials, the guns travelled extensively in towed/ self-propelled mode in desert and high-altitude terrains with each gun clocking over 1,000 km demonstrating their mobility.
- As of now, the gun has over 80% indigenous content. The imported systems include the power pack, parts of the electronic suite, and some seals and bearings.
‘Integrated management of Water resources’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Three recent studies provide clues and direction for retaining, recycling, harvesting and extracting water in a more sustainable manner to reduce dependency on River Kaveri.
What the study says?
- Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of Queensland (UQ) and International Water Centre (IWC), all in Australia, and led by Reba Paul, sought to introduce a water accountancy system, called urban water mass balance, to tabulate how Bengaluru can better use its water.
- Published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, the study finds that the city receives as much as 356 Giga Litres per annum (1,000 million litres makes one giga litre) from the Cauvery, 288 GLA through groundwater and 24 GLA through surface water (rivers, lakes).
- While the city receives nearly 78 GLA through rains, barely 0.004 GLA is captured through decentralised rainwater harvesting. In terms of water flowing out of the city, 378 GLA is through wastewater while just 4.4 GLA seeps through the increasingly concretised landscape as groundwater recharge.
- With these numbers in hand, researchers sought to know how much of the current system of piped water needs to be replaced and augmented so that Bengaluru will not face a water crisis in 2021. The demand is expected to rise to 1,650 Million Litres per Day (MLD) then, and the gap between supply and demand could rise to more than 895 MLD.
- This gap, notes the study, can be easily filled if 60% of the recycling potential is tapped. Up to 14% of the city’s water supply could come through rainwater harvesting or using rainwater flowing through storm water drains, while 55% of wastewater could be recycled. Furthermore, curbing seepage and leakage through pipes could lower dependence on Cauvery to just 10% instead of the current 52%.
‘Water crisis’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: According to the Composite Water Management Index developed by Niti Aayog, 70% of the water resources are identified as polluted.
What the Index points out?
- The system of ratings for States is based on their performance in augmenting water resources and watersheds, investing in infrastructure, providing rural and urban drinking water, and encouraging efficient agricultural use.
- States such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Telangana have initiated reforms for judicious water use, while populous ones such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have failed to respond to the challenge
- The trends that the data reflect of high to extreme stress faced by 600 million people call for speedy reforms
- Two areas that need urgent measures are augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture and to serve habitations, and strict pollution control enforcement.
- The Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and the Central Ground Water Board, chaired by Mihir Shah, has called for a user-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture. It advocates decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund
- Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs. These forward-looking changes would need revamped national and State institutions, and updated laws. A legal mandate will work better
‘Interest rate’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Millions of customers are paying higher interest rates on home and auto loans, among others, in effect ensuring that public sector banks avoid further losses.
Reason for such a condition
- This is because the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is yet to mandate banks to allow customers who signed up for loans in the erstwhile ‘Base Rate’ regime and who are paying higher rates, to shift to the current ‘MCLR’ structure, which is lower than the base rate.
- An internal study by the banking regulator has found that if banks offer their customers a lower interest rate, public sector banks will incur a whopping Rs. 40,000 crore loss.
- Nineteen of India’s 21 state-run lenders reported losses in 2017-18, wiping out almost all of the government’s capital injections during the year.
Action taken by RBI in this regard
- Since MCLR is more sensitive to policy rate signals, it has been decided to harmonize the methodology of determining benchmark rates by linking the base rate to the MCLR with effect from April 1, 2018.
Difference between MCLR and Base rate
- It is defined as the minimum interest rate of a bank below which it is not viable to lend (Loans).
- It was introduced on 1 July 2010 by the RBI.
- It replaced the benchmark prime lending rate (BPLR), the interest rate which commercial banks charged their most credit worthy customer.
Marginal cost of lending rate
The marginal cost that is the novel element of the MCLR. The marginal cost of funds will comprise of Marginal cost of borrowings and return on net worth. According to the RBI, the Marginal Cost should be charged on the basis of following factors:
- Interest rate given for various types of deposits – savings, current, term deposit, foreign currency deposit.
- Borrowings – Short term interest rate or the Repo rate etc., Long term rupee borrowing rate.
- Return on net worth – in accordance with capital adequacy norms.
In essence, the MCLR is determined largely by the marginal cost for funds and especially by the deposit rate and by the repo rate. Any change in repo rate brings changes in marginal cost and hence the MCLR should also be changed.
‘Cotton production’ (GS3: Indian Agriculture)
Issue: The Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) estimates cotton production for this season (October 2017 to September 2018) to be 370 lakh bales.
- Production estimates were lower in the beginning of the season as the board expected damage to the crop from bollworm attack. However, state governments took steps to contain the damage
About cotton production in India
- Cotton is the crop of tropical and sub-tropical areas and requires uniformly high temperature varying between 21°C and 30°C. The growth of cotton is retarded when the temperature falls below 20°C. Frost is enemy number one of the cotton plant and it is grown in areas having at least 210 frost free days in a year.
- The modest requirement of water can be met by an average annual rainfall of 50- 100 cm. However, it is successfully grown in areas of lesser rainfall with the help of irrigation.
- About 80 per cent of the total irrigated area under cotton is in Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Moist weather and heavy rainfall at the time of boll-opening and picking are detrimental to cotton as the plant becomes vulnerable to pests and diseases.
- Cotton is a kharif crop which requires 6 to 8 months to mature. Its time of sowing and harvesting differs in different parts of the country depending upon the climatic conditions. In Punjab and Haryana it is sown in April-May and is harvested in December-January that is before the winter frost can damage the crop.
- In the peninsular part of India, it is sown upto October and harvested between January and May because there is no danger of winter frost in these areas. In Tamil Nadu, it is grown both as a kharif and as a rabi crop.
- Cotton cultivation is closely related to deep black soils (regur) of the Deccan and the Malwa Plateaus and those of Gujarat. It also grows well in alluvial soils of the Satluj-Ganga Plain and red and laterite soils of the peninsular regions. Cotton quickly exhausts the fertility of soil. Therefore, regular application of manures and fertilizers to the soils is very necessary.
- India has the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world though she is the world’s third largest producer of cotton after China and the USA. Currently it is grown over 6 per cent of the net sown area
‘Rani LaxmiBhai’ (GS1: Modern India History)
Issue: On June 18, 1858, Lakshmibai, the Rani of the princely state of Jhansi and one of the most important figures of India’s First War of Independence, died while fighting against the British in Gwalior.
About Rani Laxmibai
- Lakshmibai was born on November 19, 1828, in the holy town of Varanasi in a Maharashtrian family. She was named Manikarnika and was affectionately called Mannu by her parents
- Manikarnika got married in 1842 to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao and was thereafter named Lakshmibai, a name which would go down in history and earn great respect. In 1851 the couple had a baby boy named Damodar Rao but died when he was only 4 months old. After the death of their infant son, the couple adopted the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, named Anand Rao who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer. Raja gave him a letter requesting them to give Lakshmibai the government of Jhansi for the rest of her life.
- The British, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, stating that they would not recognize the adopted child as the legal heir of the Raja and would annex Jhansi to British territory. Rani Laxmibai in the reaction of the unfairness on the part of British regarding her domain consulted a British Lawyer and appealed for the hearing of her case in London. The appeal was turned down. The British seized the state jewels of Jhansi and, in 1854, gave her a pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered her to leave the palace. She moved into a place called Rani Mahal, which has now been converted into a museum.
- Laxmibai began securing her position and formed an army of both men and women who were given military training in fighting a battle.
- When the British finally arrived at Jhansi they discovered that the Jhansi Fort had been well guarded. Sir Hugh Rose, commanding officer of British army asked for the city to surrender with the threat that it would be destroyed.
- Laxmibai’s name lives on right till this day and a medical college in Jhansi, the Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College is named after her. She has also inspired generations of poets, writers and film makers who tried to capture her essence of who she really was. The most famous poem composed on the Rani remains the one written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, titled ‘Jhansi Ki Rani”, which demonstrates her courage and how she fought hard till the very end.
‘Peggy Whitson’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other American, retired from NASA
About her achievement
- During her career, Whitson racked up a total of 665 days in space — more than any other NASA astronaut and a record for women worldwide.