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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd July 2021
Published on July 22, 2021, 5:17 p.m.

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


New generation of Akash surface-to-air missile

Part of: GS Prelims and GS - III - Defence and Security

In news A new generation of Akash surface-to-air missile was successfully flight-tested on by the DRDO from an integrated test range off the Odisha coast in a boost to air defence capabilities.

  • The new variant of the Akash missile (Akash-NG) has a slightly better range compared to the original version that can strike targets at a distance of around 25 km.
  • During the test, the missile demonstrated high manoeuvrability required for neutralising fast and agile aerial threats. 

About Akash Missile System

  • Akash is India’s first indigenously produced medium range Surface to Air missile that can engage multiple targets from multiple directions.
  • Manufactured by: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
  • The all-weather missile can engage targets at a speed 2.5 times more than the speed of sound and can detect and destroy targets flying at low, medium and high altitudes.
  • The Akash missile system has been designed and developed as part of India’s 30-year-old Integrated guided-missile development programme (IGMDP) which also includes other missiles like Nag, Agni, Trishul and Prithvi.
  • The nuclear-capable missile can fly at a speed of up to Mach 2.5 (nearly 860 m/s) at a maximum height of 18 km.
  • It can strike enemy aerial targets from a distance of 30 km.
  • Unique features of Akash:
    • It can be launched from mobile platforms like battle tanks or wheeled trucks. It has nearly 90% kill probability.
    • The missile is supported by the indigenously developed radar called 'Rajendra' that can handle highly-manoeuvring multiple targets from multiple directions in group or autonomous mode.
    • The missile is reportedly cheaper and more accurate than USA’s Patriot missiles due to its solid-fuel technology and high-tech radars.

News Source: PIB


Draft National Strategy and Roadmap for Development of Rural Tourism in India

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III - Tourism

In news Ministry of Tourism has invited feedback/ comments/ suggestions on the draft National Strategy and Roadmap for Development of Rural Tourism in India

from all the State Governments/UT Administrations. 

  • Rural Tourism is any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations.
  • It benefits the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience.
  • Driven by the spirit of “Vocal for Local”, rural tourism can contribute significantly to the mission of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
  • The Ministry of Tourism has identified Rural Circuit as one of the thematic circuits under Swadesh Darshan Scheme 

What is the focus of the strategy?

  • It focuses on the key pillars like 
    • Model policies and best practices for rural tourism
    • Digital technologies and platforms for rural tourism
    • Developing clusters for rural tourism
    • Marketing support for rural tourism
    • Capacity building of stakeholders
    • Governance and Institutional Framework.

What is the Potential/Significance of Rural Tourism in India?

  • The concept of Rural Tourism is useful for India since almost 74% of the population resides in its 7 million villages.
  • Numerous local traditions like plays, art forms, dances etc. enhance the cultural wealth of rural areas, making these attractive for the tourists.
  • Lush green forests in south Indian villages, sacred groves etc. make them an ideal site to promote tourism. 
  • It could provide jobs to many young men and women who otherwise are increasingly migrating to cities.
  • Socially, it can open the rural mindset to new thoughts and ideas from the outside world. For the urban citizen, a few days spent amidst traditional rural lifestyle may prove to be a great stress reliever.

News Source: PIB


New Shephard rocket system

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III - Space

In news Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos came back to earth after a 10-min flight to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft.

What is the Significance of the mission?

  • The astronauts experienced three to four minutes of zero-gravity and travelled above the Kármán Line, the internationally-recognised boundary of space.

What is New Shephard, the rocket system?

  • It is a rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully.
  • The system is built by Blue Origin, Private Space Company based out in USA.
  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard, the first American to go to space.
  • It offers flights to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
  • The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle 

Scientific objectives of the mission:

  • It is a rocket system that has been designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line.
  • The idea is to provide easier and more cost-effective access to space meant for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development, entrepreneurial ventures and space tourism among others.

News Source: TH


SMILE Scheme

Part of: GS Prelims and GS II - Policies and interventions

In news Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a scheme “SMILE - Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”.

About the Scheme:

  • It is a new Scheme after the merger of existing Schemes for Beggars and Transgenders.
  • Scheme provides for the use of the existing shelter homes available with the State/UT Governments and Urban local bodies for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of Begging.
  • In case of non-availability of existing shelter homes, new dedicated shelter homes are to be set up by the implementing agencies.
  • It is estimated that an approximate 60,000 poorest persons would be benefited under this scheme for leading a life of dignity
  • Focus: Rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development, economic linkages and so on.
  • Implementation: It will be implemented with the support of State/UT Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations.

What is the Status of Beggars In India?

  • According to the Census 2011 , total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 and the number has increased from the last census.
  • Top States: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar 
  • Top UTs: New Delhi and Chandigarh.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea for decriminalising begging which has been made an offence in various states under Prevention of Begging Act.

News Source: PIB


Roadmap for India’s Offshore Wind Energy

Part of: GS Prelims and GS - III - Renewable Energy

In news Recently, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set a target of installing 5 GW of offshore wind energy capacity by 2022 and 30 GW by 2030.

  • India can generate 127 GW of offshore wind energy with its 7,600 km of coastline.

About Offshore Wind Energy:

  • Wind energy today typically comes in two different “types”
    • Onshore wind farms which are large installations of wind turbines located on land
    • Offshore wind farms which are deployment of wind farms inside the water bodies. They utilise the sea winds to generate electricity. 
  • Offshore wind farms either use fixed-foundation turbines or floating wind turbines.
  • Offshore wind farms must be at least 200 nautical miles from the shore and 50 feet deep in the ocean.
  • The produced electricity is returned to shore through cables buried in the ocean floor.

What is the Status of Wind Energy in India?

  • India’s electricity generation from wind reached 39.2 gigawatts (GW) a year in March 2021. 
  • An addition of another 20 GW over the next five years is expected to happen soon.
  • The compound annual growth rate for wind generation has been 11.39% between 2010 and 2020, and for installed capacity, it has been 8.78%.
  • More than 95% of commercially exploitable resources are located in seven states: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

News Source: DTE


Indigenously developed MPATGM for minimum range

Part of: GS Prelims and GS - III - Defence and security

In news In a major boost towards AatmaNirbhar Bharat and strengthening of Indian Army, DRDO successfully flight-tested indigenously developed low weight, fire and forget Man Portable Anti tank Guided Missile (MPATGM).

  • The test has validated the minimum range successfully.
  • The missile has already been successfully flight tested for the maximum range. 
  • The missile is incorporated with state-of-the-art Miniaturized Infrared Imaging Seeker along with advanced avionics. 
  • The test brings the development of indigenous third generation man portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile close to completion. 

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic:
  • GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations. 
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

India must directly engage with Taliban 2.0

In News: With the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in process, India’s Afghan policy is at a major crossroads; to safeguard its civilian assets there as well as to stay relevant in the unfolding ‘great game’ in and around Afghanistan,

What has been the recent actions of India in Afghanistan?

  • India has ‘temporarily’ closed its consulate in Kandahar and evacuated its diplomats and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel stationed there. 
  • This follows the suspension of operations in the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Herat. India has only its Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.
  • In other words, New Delhi has decided to ramp down its civilian presence in the war-torn country, bracing for a full-blown civil war.

What does India’s decision to partially “withdraw” from Afghanistan indicate?

  • It shows that betting only on the government in Kabul was a big mistake.
  • It also shows that India realises the threat Taliban poses to Indian assets and presence in Afghanistan. 

Has India’s Policy towards Taliban changed in the recent past?

  • India has been steadily abandoning its strict policy towards the Taliban over the past few years. 
  • In 2018, India sent a ‘non-official delegation’ of two retired diplomats to Moscow for a conference that had Taliban & other regional countries
  • In Sep 2020, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) joined the inaugural session of the intra-Afghan (Taliban & Afghan government) negotiations in Doha
  • Latest reports indicated that India has started reaching out to the Taliban through back channel Diplomacy, which was indirectly confirmed by EAM
  • Overall, we can say that India’s approach to Taliban has been half-hearted, half-embarrassed and ideologically-hesitant 

What are the reasons that has kept India’s engagement with Taliban Slow & Half-hearted?

  1. Doesn’t want to upset Afghan Government
  • If New Delhi chooses to engage the Taliban directly, it could make Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, thus far India’s trusted partner, uneasy. 
  • This could potentially nudge him to look towards China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for national security and personal political survival. 
  1. Dilemma of whom to Talk to in Taliban
  • New Delhi faces difficulty as to whom to talk to within the Taliban given that it is hardly a monolith.
  •  New Delhi may have little access to the fighters on the ground in Afghanistan. So, the only option might be the Doha-based Taliban negotiators.
  1. Moral Principles cautioning against the rush to engage
  • Taliban faced global criticism, including from India, in its earlier avatar for its conservative & anti-Democratic Policies.
  • Due to lack of evidence about whether Taliban is a changed outfit today, New Delhi might not want to court the Taliban so soon. 
  • More so, there is little clarity about what the Taliban’s real intentions are going forward and what they would do after ascending to power in Kabul. 
  1. Pakistan Factor
  • There is this possibility of Pakistan acting out more aggressively against India in Kashmir if India were to establish deeper links with the Taliban.

Why India should engage with the Taliban more proactively and openly?

  • Accepting the reality: Taliban, one way or another, is going to be part of the political power in Afghanistan, and most of the international community are going to recognise/negotiate/do business with the Taliban. Non-engagement with Taliban might lead to India being left out in the country.
  • Pakistan Factor: So the less proactive the Indian engagement with the Taliban, the stronger Pakistan-Taliban relations would become, which is against India’s interest in the region.
  • Political Need of Taliban: Taliban today is looking for regional and global partners for recognition and legitimacy especially in the neighbourhood. Also, to balance its neighbour Pakistan, Taliban might be looking for India as its strategic partner.
  • To ensure security of India’s civilian assets: It makes neither strategic nor economic sense to withdraw from Afghanistan after spending over $3 billion by India in developmental aid. Therefore, India needs to engage with Taliban to ensure security of its civilian assets.
  • To shape regional destiny: If India is not proactive in Afghanistan at least now, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests there.
  • Opening up the congested north-western frontier: Backchannel talks and consequent ceasefire with Pakistan, political dialogue with the mainstream Kashmiri leadership, secret parleys with Taliban all indicate that New Delhi is opening up its congested north-western frontier. Proactive engagement of the Taliban will provide this effort with more strategic heft.
  • Engagement is not endorsement: Open engagement of the Taliban is neither tolerating nor accepting the condemnable atrocities committed by the Taliban.

Conclusion

  • In the end, India’s engagement with the Taliban may or may not achieve much, but non-engagement will definitely hurt Indian interests
  • So New Delhi must forget the demons of IC-814 (the December 1999 hijacking) from its collective memory and engage with the Taliban 2.0 — there is no need to be secretive or embarrassed about it. 

Connecting the dots :


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

Topic:
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

India Inequality Report 2021: Oxfam

The report was released by Oxfam India 

Who is Oxfam?

  • Oxfam International is a group of independent NGOs formed in 1995.
  • The name “Oxfam” comes from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, founded in Britain in 1942.
    • The group campaigned for food supplies to starving women and children in enemy-occupied Greece during the Second World War.
  • Oxfam aims to maximize efficiency and achieve greater impact to reduce global poverty and injustice.
  • The Oxfam International Secretariat is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Key Findings of the 2021 report

  • It provides a comprehensive analysis of the health outcomes across different socioeconomic groups to gauge the level of health inequality that persists in the country.
  • The findings are primarily based on secondary analysis from rounds 3 and 4 of the National Family Health Survey and various rounds of the National Sample Survey.
Female Literacy
  • Literacy rate for women in the general category is 18.6 percent higher than SC women and 27.9 percent higher than ST women.
  • Inequality is evident in the attainment of female literacy with a gap of 55.1% between the top and bottom 20 percent of population in 2015-16 
 
Sanitation
  • Two out of three households have access to improved, non-shared sanitation facilities in the general category. While SC households are 28.5 percent behind them, and ST are 39.8 percent behind them. 
  • Only 30.2 % of Total Households have piped water into residence 
Health Expenditure
  • 81 percent of the total hospitalisation expenditure is covered through the savings of the household while one in every six rupees spent is through borrowing
  • More than 50 percent of out of pocket expenditure is utilized in purchasing medicines and another 10 percent in medical and diagnostic labs. 
Pregnancy
  • The share of institutional deliveries in india has increased from 38.7 percent in 2005-06 to 78.9 percent in 2015-16, indicating a rise of 40.2 percent in a decade. 
  • Institutional births in ST households was 15% below the general category in 2015- 16. 
  • 810 women lose their lives daily from preventable pregnancy and/or childbirth-related causes.
  • Teenage childbearing has gone down significantly from 16 percent in 2005-06 to 8 percent in 2015-16: a 50 percent decline. 
  • The percentage of mothers who have received full antenatal care has declined from 37 percent in 2005- 06 to 21 percent in 2015-16.  Full antenatal care for urban areas is close to two times that of rural areas. 
Infant Mortality Rate
  • IMR is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age
  • IMR has dropped to 32 in 2018, which is closer to the world average of 28.9. 
  • SCs still have IMR 13.1 higher than the general category, while infant deaths in STs are 12.3 more. 
  • Under-five mortality rate (U5MR) has dropped to 36 in 2018, close to the world average of 38.6. 
Child Wasting
  • Percentage of wasted children (deficient in weight- for-height) has increased from 19.8 to 21 percent between 2005-06 and 2015-16. 
  • One in every two children are anaemic in India (50 percent), with three out of every five children anaemic in SC and ST households (60 percent) 
Child Stunting
  • The percentage of stunted children (deficient in height-for-age) has decreased from 48% to 38.4% between 2005-06 and 2015-16 in India. 
  • The difference between stunted children in SC and ST households and those in households belonging to the general category is 12.6 and 13.6 percent, respectively. 
Government Interventions
  • The National Health Profile in 2017 recorded one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people.
  • In the 2021-22 budget, the health ministry has been allocated a total of INR 76,901 crore, a decline of 9.8 percent from INR 85,250 crore from the revised estimates of 2020-21. 
  • The public expenditure on health by the central government as a percentage of GDP was a mere 0.32 percent in 2019-20. 
  • The combined expenditure by state and central government was about 1.16 percent of the GDP in 2019 rising marginally by 0.02 percent from 2018 
  • 1.58 lakh sub centres, 26 thousand PHCs and 5.6 thousand CHC. There is a shortfall of 43,736 sub-centres (23 percent), 8764 PHC (28 percent) and 2865 CHC (37 percent) across the country
  • The private health sector accounts for 66% of hospitalization and non-hospitalization cases and 33% of institutional births. This growth has been boosted by government concessions 
  • Only 14 percent of both SC and ST households are registered with the PM-JAY. 

Recommendations 

  1. The right to health should be enacted as a fundamental right that makes it obligatory for the government to ensure equal access to timely, acceptable, and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality 
  2. Increase health spending to 2.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to ensure a more equitable health system in the country; 
    • Ensure that union budgetary allocation in health for SCs and STs is proportionate to their population; 
    • Prioritize primary health by ensuring that two-thirds of the health budget is allocated for strengthening primary healthcare; 
    • Centre should extend financial support to the states with low per capita health expenditure to reduce inter-state inequality in health 
  3. Widen the ambit of insurance schemes to include out-patient care 
  4. Institutionalize a centrally-sponsored scheme that earmarks funds for the provision of free essential drugs and diagnostics at all public health facilities. 
  5. Direct all states to notify the Patients’ Rights Charter forwarded to them by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and set up operational mechanisms to make these rights functional and enforceable by law 
  6. Regulate the private health sector by ensuring that all state governments adopt and effectively implement Clinical Establishments Act or equivalent state legislation; 
  7. Extend the price capping policy introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to include diagnostics and non-COVID treatment in order to prevent exorbitant charging by private hospitals and reduce catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure. 
  8. Augment and strengthen human resources and infrastructure in the healthcare system by regularising services of women frontline health workers especially ASHA
  9. Inter-sectoral coordination for public health should be boosted to address issues of water and sanitation, literacy, etc. that contribute to health conditions. 

Connecting the dots:


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1 New Shephard, recently seen in news, is associated with which of the following? 

  1. A new Covid-19 variant
  2. A new hybrid of sheep
  3. A rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully
  4. A new drought resistant wheat variety

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

  1. It is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. 
  2. It is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.

Select the correct statements

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2 only
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding Akash Missile System:

  1. Akash is India’s first indigenously produced medium range Surface to Air missile.
  2. The Akash missile system has been designed and developed as part of India’s 30-year-old integrated guided-missile development programme (IGMDP).

Select the correct statements

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2 only
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

ANSWERS FOR 21st July 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 D
3 A

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