31th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘BIMSTECT summit’ (GS2: Regional groupings)
Issue: The BIMSTEC is a regional grouping, comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
Major announcements made by India during the summit
- Making a strong pitch for enhanced regional connectivity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India was committed to working with the BIMSTEC member states in the critical sector and to combating the menace of terrorism and drug trafficking.
- Nepal underlined the need for implementing the BIMSTEC poverty plan as well as the Millennium Development Goals for the benefit of the member states
- Leaders stressed the need for deeper economic integration and collaboration among the members for speedy development of the region.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the BIMSTEC member states, situated between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, face frequent natural disasters such as flood, cyclone and earthquake, and called for “cooperation and coordination” among them in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
- For research on art, culture and other subjects in the Bay of Bengal, India would set up a Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies at the Nalanda University
- India was committed to enhance its national knowledge network in the field of digital connectivity in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. India also plans to extend it to Myanmar and Thailand. Mr.
‘Seaweed’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: University of California researchers are feeding seaweed to dairy cows in an attempt to make cattle more climate-friendly.
Researchers are studying whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed can help reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s released when cattle burp, pass gas or make manure.
Observations made in the studies
- In a study this past spring, researchers found methane emissions were reduced by more than 30 % in a dozen Holstein cows that ate the ocean algae, which was mixed into their feed and sweetened with molasses to disguise the salty taste.
- More studies will be needed to determine its safety and efficacy, and seaweed growers would have to ramp up production to make it an economical option for farmers.
- Dairy farms and other livestock operations are major sources of methane, a heat-trapping gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.
If successful, adding seaweed to cattle feed could help California dairy farms comply with a state law requiring livestock operators to cut emissions by 40 % from 2013 levels by 2030.
Significance for India
India has one of the largest cattle populations in the world. Such a system if successful can help India also to meet its commitments to Paris climate agreement targets
Seaweed or macro-algae refers to several species of macroscopic, multi-cellular, marine algae.
The term includes some types of red, brown, and green macro-algae. Seaweed may provide excellent opportunities for its industrial exploitation as they could be a source of multiple compounds (i.e. polysaccharides, proteins and phenols) with applications such as food and animal feed, pharmaceuticals or fertilizers.
‘Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)’ (GS2: Effect of policies of developed countries on India’s interests)
Issue: No blanket waivers from punitive U.S. sanctions will be issued for any one particular country under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) according to some officials of the White House
The punitive Russian sanctions act or CAATSA, which was recently amended by the US Congress, does not have a country-specific provision
Effect of such a stand by USA on India’s interest
India is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf missile air defence systems from Russia for around $4.5 billion. India would be subjected sanctions too if it goes under the CAATSA
‘Rupee depreciation’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Indian rupee fell to a record 71 per dollar in opening trade on Friday, tracking weakness in almost all other Asian peers as the latest round of U.S.-China trade tensions dulled investor risk appetite and gave a boost to the dollar.
Action taken by the Central Bank in this regard
Central bank was likely sporadically selling dollars through state-run banks to prevent a sudden sharp fall but traders do not expect any major intervention as the fall has been in line with fundamentals.
‘Asian Games 2018’ (Facts that can be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Jinson was in the second spot, behind Qatar’s Al Musaab, for a major part of the race, before winning the gold. And Manjit Singh, who had sneaked in to steal the gold from him in the 800m, appeared to be caught in the traffic midway through the race and finished fourth.
Other medals won include:
- There were more celebrations as the 4x400m relay women won the gold
- Seema Punia, the defending champion in the women’s discus throw, had to be content with a bronze this time after a day’s best of 62.26m.
- Asian champion P.U. Chitra also won a bronze in the women’s 1,500m as India finished its athletics competition with an impressive haul of seven gold, 10 silver and two bronze medals.
‘Economies of Scale’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: ONGC-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) plans to merge its subsidiary Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) with itself.
The company plans to invest ₹75,000 crore over five years across its business segments to fuel growth and expansion. Of this, ₹33,303 crore is earmarked for refinery expansion, ₹29,554 crore for marketing, ₹774 crore for renewables and R&D, and ₹12,000 crore for joint ventures.
What is Economies of Scale?
Economies of scale refer to reduced costs per unit that arise from increased total output of a product. For example, a larger factory will produce power hand tools at a lower unit price, and a larger medical system will reduce cost per medical procedure
Economies of scale give rise to lower per-unit costs for several reasons. First, specialization of labor and more integrated technology boost production volumes. Second, lower per-unit costs can come from bulk orders from suppliers, larger advertising buys or lower cost of capital. Third, spreading internal function costs across more units produced and sold helps to reduce costs.
‘Uber aerial Taxi’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Uber had named Dallas and Los Angeles as its first two launch cities in the U.S. for introducing its aerial taxi service and has been on the lookout to select an international city as its third partner.
It has now short-listed five countries — India, Japan, Australia, Brazil and France — and one of them will become the first Uber Air City outside of the U.S.
Uber hopes to start operating demonstrator flights starting 2020 and beginning commercial operations in 2023 in the three cities.
About the mission
The decision will be based on factors like size of the market, and availability of enabling conditions. Uber Elevate will also take into account a third criteria of local commitment, where it will work with the respective governments and communities to make the dream project a reality.
‘Russia-China’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: China will join Russia in a giant military exercise, sending a message of deterrence to the U.S. which has designated Beijing and Moscow as “revisionist powers”.
About the exercise
The five-day Vostok 2018 exercises, to be held from September 11, will be bigger than Zapad 81 — the mammoth manoeuvres carried out in Eastern Europe by the former Soviet Union in 1981. Mongolia will be the third country participating in the drills.
The Vostok-2018 will involve 300,000 troops. They will engage in tri-service mock-operations, involving 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets and all its airborne units
Symbolism of this exercise
These exercises are taking place amid Washington’s growing friction with Russia and China, which include mounting sanctions and a trade war. The Pentagon’s national defence strategy unveiled in January focused on Russia and China as principle strategic challenges to the U.S. In presenting the new strategy
‘Law Commission of India’ (GS2: Executive bodies)
Issue: The Commission, which is the Centre’s topmost advisory body on laws, headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.S. Chauhan, published a consultation paper
Recommendations made by the commission include:
- Re-think or even repeal the provision of sedition (Section 124A) from the Indian Penal Code which has been used frequently in recent times to slapping sedition charges
- Commission has also posed the query that if contempt of court invites penal action, should “contempt of government” also attract punishment. The Commission asks whether it would be “worthwhile” to rename Section 124A and find a “suitable substitute” for the term ‘sedition’.
- The Commission, in draft recommendations, said simultaneous polls would help the government of the day focus on “developmental activities rather than in electioneering.” and also in saving public money
About Law commission of India
Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice
The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.
‘Nilgiri Tahr’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: In a heartening development for conservationists, a recent census has revealed that the population of the Nilgiri tahr (an endangered mountain goat) at the Mukurthi National Park has grown by an impressive 18% in the last two years, from 480 to 568.
Challenges to increase the number further include
Researchers point to the continuing spread of invasive species of flora, such as wattle and pine, and exotic weeds like scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and gorse, which end up diminishing grazing land.
About Nilgiri Tahr
The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitats at elevations from 1200 to 2600 m (generally above 2000 m) of the South Western Ghats. Their range extends over 400 km from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills, Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India’s southern tip.
‘Innovation cell’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has launched the Innovation Cell and Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements
About the initiative
The Innovation cell, an initiative of the Ministry, has been established at the premises of All India Council for Technical Education with a view to foster the culture of innovation in all Higher Education Institutions across the country.
‘Floods in Arunachal Pradesh’ (GS3: Disaster management policy)
Issue: Heavy discharge of water from China, the highest in 50 years, is threatening to submerge at least 12 villages along the river Siang in Arunachal Pradesh.
Hydrological experts said the “unusually high” discharge indicates sudden release of water from man-made barriers or a natural dam that was formed due to landslips caused by major earthquakes in the Tibetan region of China in November 2017.
The Siang has already eroded 12 acres in Borguli village while at least 10 families of Seram village nearby have dismantled their houses and shifted to a safer location.
‘Mekedattu project’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The recent heavy rain and floods have resulted in Karnataka releasing 310 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu since the beginning of this water year (since June) as against the scheduled 82 tmcft, as the State does not have adequate storage facility.
This has led to the State intensifying its focus on getting the Centre’s nod to build a balancing reservoir across Cauvery at Mekedatu. The proposed project that involves submergence of about 4,000 acres of forest land
Need for such a project
A balancing reservoir with a storage capacity of 67 tmcft would help in storing excess water which can be released to Tamil Nadu during dry months, in addition to taking care of drinking water requirements of several cities and towns of Karnataka.
‘REDD+ strategy’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Reiterating India’s commitment to Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Union Minister for Environment has emphasized that the cooperation and involvement of the tribals, other forest dwelling people and the society as a whole, is crucial for the implementation of the REDD+ strategy
What is REDD+ strategy?
In simple terms, REDD+ means “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. REDD+ aims to achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation. The strategy seeks to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and also developing a roadmap for enhancement of forest carbon stocks and achieving sustainable management of forests through REDD+ actions. The National REDD+ Strategy will soon be communicated to the UNFCCC.
Paris agreement on climate change also recognizes role of forests in climate change mitigation and calls upon country Parties to take action to implement and support REDD+. India has communicated in its Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris Agreement, that it will capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Carbon dioxide through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. India’s first biennial update report to UNFCCC has revealed that forests in India capture about 12% of India’s total GHG emissions. Thus, forestry sector in India is making a positive cost effective contribution for climate change mitigation.
‘National Mission on Government-E-market place’ (GS2: E-governance)
Issue: National Mission on Government e Marketplace (GeM) will be launched on 5th September 2018 to accelerate the adoption and use of GeM by major central Ministries, State Governments and their agencies.
Objective of this mission
The aim of the National Mission is to promote inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in public procurement and achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction. This will increase overall efficiency and lead to cost saving on government expenditure in procurement.
The GeM has completed two years and as on 26th of August 2018, it has crossed ₹ 10,800 crore in value terms and 6.96 lakh in volume of transactions through the platform. More than 1.35 lakh sellers offer 4.43 lakh products on the GeM platform which has 26,500 organizations as buyers. While all States and Union Territories are buying through GeM, 25 States and UTs have already signed an MoU to make procurement through GeM mandatory. It has led to an overall average saving in cost of procurement to the tune of about 25%.
The GeM platform provides online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all Central Government Departments and State Governments. Public Sector Units and affiliated bodies
‘Mobility week’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr.Rajiv Kumar, and Chief Executive Officer Shri. Amitabh Kant, today unveiled a series of events to take place in the ‘Mobility Week’ from 31 August to 6 September 2018, in the run up to MOVE: The Global Mobility Summit 2018 on 7 and 8 September 2018
About the summit
During the week will see diverse groups – start-ups, academicians, corporations, policy analysts, NGOs and the government, as well as the civil society, engage in conversations on the mobility landscape, future possibilities and preparedness of the country towards meeting the opportunities and challenges. The programs will address disruptive changes in the mobility space.
Participants include global and Indian leaders from across the mobility sector such as battery manufacturers, charging infrastructure providers, technology solution providers, representatives from the Indian government as well as foreign governments, various inter-governmental organizations, academia, and policy think tanks.