23rd June, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank’ (GS2: Multilateral Institutions)
Issue: The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will jointly host the third Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
About the meeting
- The theme for this year’s meeting is *“Mobilizing Finance for Infrastructure: Innovation and Collaboration”* that will see leaders from varied organizations and levels of government to share ideas and experiences for creating a sustainable future through sound infrastructure investment.
- This year will also see the launch of the inaugural Asian Infrastructure Forum, which will gather infrastructure practitioners in a practical and project-driven discourse, focused on matching innovative finance to critical infrastructure needs.
- The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), is also organizing an exhibition “India Infrastructure Expo 2018. The objective of the exhibition is to offer companies from the public and private sector to showcase their latest solutions, technologies and offerings in the realm of infrastructure project development and delivery.
- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. The bank currently has 64 member states while another 22 are prospective members for a total of 86 approved members and was proposed as an initiative by the government of China. The initiative gained support from 37 regional and 20 non-regional Prospective Founding Members (PFM), all of which have signed the Articles of Agreement that form the legal basis for the bank. The bank started operation after the agreement entered into force on 25 December 2015, after ratifications were received from 10 member states holding a total number of 50% of the initial subscriptions of the Authorized Capital Stock. Major economies that are not members include Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and the United States.
- The United Nations has addressed the launch of AIIB as having potential for “scaling up financing for sustainable development” for the concern of global economic governance. The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
- The bank was proposed by China in 2013 and the initiative was launched at a ceremony in Beijing in October 2014. It received the highest credit ratings from the three biggest rating agencies in the world, and is seen as a potential rival to World Bank and IMF
‘Energy Efficiency campaign’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Under the guidance of Ministry of Power, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has carried out a study and has recommended that the default setting in the air-conditioning should be at 24 degree Celsius. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission.
Logic behind the campaign
Normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37 degree Celsius, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21 degree Celsius. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy. Setting the temperature in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius compels people to wear warm clothing or use blankets; therefore, this is actually wastage of energy. Some countries like Japan have put in place regulation to keep the temperature at 28 degree Celsius
After an awareness campaign of 4-6 months, followed by a survey to gather public feedback, the Ministry of Power would consider making this mandatory. If all the consumers adopt, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone.
‘SKOCH award’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Lauding the achievements of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in delivering the promises made and for its significant achievements and initiatives from the last 4 years, SKOCH has conferred the ‘Best performing Social Sector Ministry’ award on the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Skoch Group is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth since 1997. The group companies include a consulting wing, a media wing and a charitable foundation. Skoch Group is able to bring an Indian felt-needs context to strategies and engages with fortune-500 companies, state owned enterprises, government to SMEs and community-based organisations with equal ease. The repertoire of services include field interventions, consultancy, research reports, impact assesments, policy briefs, books, journals, workshops and conferences. Skoch Group has instituted India’s highest independent civilian honours in the field of governance, finance, technology, economics and social sector
‘Beating Plastic Pollution’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The Maharashtra government has banned single-use plastic items including carry bags, disposable cutlery and thermocol from today.
‘General Theory of Relativity’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Chalk up another win for Einstein’s seemingly invincible theory of gravity. A new study shows that the theory of general relativity holds true even over vast distances.
General relativity prevailed within a region spanning a galactic distance of about 6,500 light-years
What is General Theory of Relativity?
The theory of the space-time continuum already existed, but under general relativity Einstein was able to describe gravity as the bending of space-time geometry. Einstein defined a set of field equations, which represented the way that gravity behaved in response to matter in space-time. These field equations could be used to represent the geometry of space-time that was at the heart of the theory of general relativity.
Applications of General Theory of Relativity
- Global Positioning System
- Nuclear plants: Relativity is one of the many reasons that mass and energy can be converted into each other which is how nuclear power plants work.
- Study of black holes, supernovas, and other outer space phenomena
- Behavior of light under different conditions.
‘Eggshells and Chapatis’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: A seven-member team working through the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru (UAS-B) has demonstrated that scientifically processed eggshell powder could fortify wheat flour used in home-cooked foods like chapatis and commercial snacks like biscuits.
Benefits of eggshell
- An eggshell yields about a teaspoon of powder, which has 750–800 mg of elemental calcium and other micro-elements which can increase bone mineral density in people with osteoporosis.
- Approximately 11% of an egg’s mass is shell, which usually goes into the garbage. India is the world’s third-largest producer of chicken eggs, with 2,795 crore consumed in 2017-18. So, with eggs at around ₹5 each and just over 50 paise wasted with each one, that’s approximately ₹1,375 crore of value lost in a year.
- Using them to fortify food products will not only prevent wastage, but also go a long way towards health benefits especially increasing bone mineral density
‘ADHAR data’ (GS2: Fundamental Rights)
Issue: A day after the National Crime Records Bureau made a case for limited Aadhaar data access for the police to crack crimes, the UIDAI asserted that use of Aadhaar biometric data for criminal investigation is not allowed under the Aadhaar Act.
- However, Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act, which permits use of or access to biometric data in cases involving national security, only after pre-authorization by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
‘Ambubachi Mela’ (Facts that can be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, began on Friday.
About the Mela
- Kamakhya, atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, is one of 51 shaktipeeths or seat of Shakti followers, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion. The temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses the yoni — female genital — symbolized by a rock.
- Temple priests said the ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India. The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called ‘Tuloni Biya’, meaning small wedding.
About Kamakhya Temple
- The Kamakhya Temple also Kamrup-Kamakhya is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother Goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas. Situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India, it is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. It is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and especially for Tantric worshipers. A scholarly study of the Kamakhya Temple was authored by Kali Prasad Goswami, Adari Surendra
‘World’s Smallest Computer’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Researchers at the University of Michigan in the United States have come out with the world’s smallest “computer” — a device measuring just 0.3 mm to a side, completely dwarfed by a grain of rice.
About this new invention
Unlike traditional desktops that retain their program and data with or without a power back-up, these new micro-devices lose all prior programming and data as soon as they are switched off
In addition to the RAM and photo-voltaics, the new micro-computing device —— Michigan Micro Mote —— has processors and wireless transmitters and receivers.
As the Motes are too small to have conventional radio antennae, they receive and transmit data with visible light. A base station provides light for power and programming, and it receives the data.
Designed as a precision temperature sensor, the new device converts temperatures into time intervals, defined with electronic pulses. The intervals are measured on-chip against a steady time interval sent by the base station and then converted into a temperature.
‘Smart Cities Mission’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The government’s flagship Smart Cities Mission has been too “project-focused” instead of evolving an integrated urban development paradigm and also lacks a strong gender equality or non-discrimination approach to city development, according to a report released on the eve of the third anniversary of the launch of the scheme.
What the report says?
- The report also critiques the model for creating small area-based ‘smart enclaves’ resulting in undue focus on a part of the cities. These area-based development zones cover less than 5% of the geographic domain of many of the proposed smart cities
- The scheme could perpetuate existing biases and discrimination in national planning processes by aiming to impact the lives of only 8% of India’s population
- A shift is required to bring about substantial and sustained improvement in the lives and livelihoods of not only the 8% of India’s population covered by the mission’s proposed ‘area-based development’—but for every inhabitant of this country
- The report also highlights the lack of any specific directions with the mission to make Indian cities more gender friendly or non-discriminatory.
- More importantly, the report says the mission has just descended into a series of projects without a holistic plan
About Smart Cities mission
The concept of Smart City emerged in India with the launch of “Smart City Mission” in 2015 as part of fulfilling the announcement made in Union Budget 2014-15. The Budget outlined the vision of developing ‘one hundred Smart Cities’, as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities.
In a nutshell, smart cities are those cities which harness the potential of technology in developing city infrastructure and in enhancing the quality of life for city dwellers. No precise definition for smart city has been developed but a set of core features have been identified.
- adequate water supply,
- assured electricity supply,
- sanitation, including solid waste management,
- efficient urban mobility and public transport,
- affordable housing, especially for the poor,
- robust IT connectivity and digitalization,
- good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
- sustainable environment,
- safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
- health and education.
Some of its other features are mixed use of land, transit oriented development (i.e., developing commercial and residential plots in the same area to reduce use of vehicles or to increase the use of public transport), last mile connectivity through para transport (autos, disabled friendly vehicles etc.) housing solutions for the poor, pedestrian / cyclist friendly design of streets, preservation of open spaces and ecological balances, green buildings which reduce energy consumption, mobile and e-governance etc.
Cost and Duration
Cabinet approved the Smart Cities Mission with an outlay of Rs. 48000 Crore on 29 April 2015. The Mission is to cover 100 cities in five years (FY 2015-16 to FY 2019-20). Each city would get central assistance of Rs.100 crore per year for five years.
Generally a “mission mode” project implies a project that has clearly defined objectives, scopes, implementation timelines and milestones, as well as measurable outcomes and service levels.
The smart city proposal can be linked to other development schemes like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation of 500 cities AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Digital India, Skill development, Housing for All, construction of Museums funded by the Culture Department and other programs connected to social infrastructure such as Health, Education and Culture.
For North Eastern and Himalayan States, the area proposed to be developed will be one-half of what is prescribed for any of the alternative models – retrofitting, redevelopment or greenfield development.
The Mission relies on visionary leadership of local governments, public-private partnership and citizen participation.
Selection of 100 Smart Cities: Smart City aspirants are selected through a ‘City Challenge Competition’. Each state has to shortlist a certain number of smart city aspirants as per the norms (based on population and number of statutory towns in the state) and prepare smart city proposals as per their imagination for further evaluation by Center for grant of funds. This is intended to link financing with the ability to vision and develop a city.
Implementation: An Apex Committee (AC), headed by the Secretary, MoUD and comprising representatives of related Ministries and organisations and stakeholders will approve the Proposals for Smart Cities Mission, monitor their progress and release funds.
Smart City Action Plans will be implemented by Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to be created for each city and state governments will ensure steady stream of resources for SPVs.
‘Asteroid action plan’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: NASA has devised three strategies for potentially sparing Earth annihilation by asteroid, with each method’s effectiveness determined by the size and composition of an asteroid and how much warning there is.
Necessity for an asteroid plan
- More than 300,000 objects larger than 40 meters (131 feet) wide orbit the sun as NEOs (Near Earth Objects) , according to Nasa estimates, with many being difficult to detect more than a few days in advance. Forty meters is about the average size an object must be to make it through the atmosphere without burning up; thousands of much-smaller meteors disintegrate harmlessly each day far above the planet. The meteor that injured more than 1,000 people in Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013, mainly by glass shattered from the shock wave of its explosion, was believed to be about 20 meters wide (65 feet).
- The most recent encounter with an asteroid was on 2 June, when a 2-meter boulder dubbed 2018 LA entered the atmosphere at 10 miles per second (38,000 mph) and exploded over Botswana.
- Nasa’s catalog contains 18,310 NEOs, with about 8,000 of them classified as 140 meters wide and larger. That’s the size at which enormous regional impacts and mass casualties would occur if one hit.
- Nasa to complete its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in 2021-2022. The goal is to impact the smaller “moonlet” of a binary asteroid called Didymos, to learn how well we may be able to alter the course of a future killer rock.
‘OPEC meeting’ (GS2: International Institutions)
Issue: OPEC meets Russia and other allies on Saturday to clinch a new deal raising oil output, a day after agreeing a production hike within the group itself but confusing the market as to how much more oil it will pump.
- The United States, China and India had urged oil producers to release more supply to prevent an oil deficit that could undermine global economic growth.
- Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is an intergovernmental organization of 14 nations as of February 2018, founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria. As of 2016, the 14 countries accounted for an estimated 44 percent of global oil production and 73 percent of the world’s “proven” oil reserves, giving OPEC a major influence on global oil prices that were previously determined by American-dominated multinational oil companies.
- OPEC’s stated mission is “to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets, in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers, and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.” The organization is also a significant provider of information about the international oil market. As of May 2017, OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela, while Indonesia is a former member. Two-thirds of OPEC’s oil production and reserves are in its six Middle Eastern countries that surround the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
- The formation of OPEC marked a turning point toward national sovereignty over natural resources, and OPEC decisions have come to play a prominent role in the global oil market and international relations