DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 23rd November 2020
Published on Nov. 23, 2020, 4:38 p.m.

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


World Fisheries Day observed

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy

In news

  • The World Fisheries Day is observed on the 21st November every year.
  • Aim: To draw attention to overfishing, habitat destruction and other serious threats to the sustainability of marine and inland resources.

Key takeaways

  • For the first time, the Indian Government will award best performing States in the Fisheries Sector.
  • Best States: (1) Odisha (amongst Marine states); (2) Uttar Pradesh (amongst Inland states); (3) Assam (amongst Hilly and NE states). 

Important value additions

Indian Government's Effort to Improve Fisheries Sector

  • Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) during 2018-19: It will cater to creation of fisheries infrastructure facilities both in marine and inland fisheries sectors to enhance the fish production in the country. 
  • Extension of Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) facilities to fishers and fish farmers to help them in meeting their working capital needs.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana: It aims to achieve 22 million tonnes of fish production by 2024-25. It is also expected to create employment opportunities for 5.5 million people.
  • Blue Revolution: It focuses on creating an enabling environment for integrated development and management of fisheries for the socio-economic development of the fishers and fish farmers.

Do you know?

  • India is the second major producer of fish through aquaculture in the world.
  • It is the 4th largest exporter of fish in the world. 
  • It contributes 7.7% to the global fish production.
  • Fish constituted about 10% of total exports from India and almost 20% of agriculture exports in 2017-18.
  • The fisheries and aquaculture production contribute around 1% to India’s GDP and over 5% to the agricultural GDP.
  • Around 28 million people are employed in the fisheries sector in India.

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure

In news

  • Under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative, the government is looking at setting up 5,000 CBG plants by 2023-24 with a production target of 15 million tonnes. 
  • India will see an investment of Rs 2 lakh crore in setting up 5,000 plants. 
  • These will produce gas from bio and crop wastes by 2023-24. 

Key takeaways 

  • To boost the availability of affordable and clean transport fuel, an agreement was signed for setting up 900 compressed bio-gas or CBG plants by companies such as Adani Gas and Torrent Gas.
  • SATAT provides for generating gas from municipal waste as well as forest and agri waste. 
  • Animal husbandry and marine wastes are also included.
  • The gas produced at CBG plants can be used as fuel to power automobiles. 

Promulgation of ordinance to ban online Games in TN

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I – Social Issues & GS-II – Policies and interventions

In news

  • Tamil Nadu Governor promulgated an ordinance that banned online gaming in the state, with a fine up to Rs 5,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

Key takeaways 

  • According to the Governor, due to online gaming, innocent people, mainly youngsters, are being cheated, and some people committed suicide.
  • The decision to ban online gaming was taken to avoid such incidents of suicide and protect the innocent people. 
  • Any form of wagering or betting in cyberspace by using computers or any other communication device, common gaming houses, and any electronic transfer of funds to distribute winnings or prize money has also been banned.
  • This effectively means that players in the state will not be able to purchase any add-on for the games they play, go to gaming arcades or participate in online gaming tournaments. 

Do you know? 

  • In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, some forms of online games and gambling are banned.
  • Karnataka has also been mulling a law to ban online games and gaming.

Sentinel-6 Satellite launched

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Sci & Tech

In news

  • The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on November 21.
  • Objective: Designed to monitor oceans
  • Developed jointly by: European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EU.

Key takeaways 

  • This is a part of the next mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level. 
  • The mission, called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission, is designed to measure the height of the ocean. 
  • Height of the ocean is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • The spacecraft consists of two satellites, out of which one was launched recently, and the other, called Sentinel-6B, shall be launched in 2025.

Do you know? 

  • Other satellites that have been launched since 1992 to track changes in the oceans on a global scale include the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and OSTN/Jason-2, among others.

Roridomyces Phyllostachydis: Bioluminescent variety of mushroom

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Biodiversity

In news

  • A mushroom documentation project in the forests of Northeast India has led to a new discovery: a bioluminescent (light emitting) variety of mushroom.

Key takeaways 

  • The new species — named Roridomyces phyllostachydis — was first sighted in August in Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and later at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district.
  • It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.
  • The new species is important because it is the first mushroom in the Roridomyces genus to be found in India.
  • It was the only member in its genus to have light emitting from its stipe or stalk.

Important value additions 

  • Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence. 
  • Bioluminescent organisms are usually found in the ocean environments, but they are also found on terrestrial environments.
  • The colour of the light emitted by the organism depends on their chemical properties. 
  • In the case of fungi, the luminescence comes from the enzyme, luciferase.

Scheme For Creation And Expansion Of Food Processing And Preservation Capacities (CEFPPC) 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Food Processing

In news

  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has approved 28 Food Processing Projects worth over 320 crore rupees under the Scheme for Creation and Expansion of Food Processing and Preservation Capacities (CEFPPC).

Key takeaways 

  • Objective: (1) Creation of processing and preservation capacities; (2) Modernisation and expansion of existing food processing units with a view to increasing the level of processing, value addition leading to reduction of wastage.
  • Scheme is implemented through organizations such as Central & State PSUs/ Joint Ventures/ Farmer Producers Organization (FPOs)/ NGOs, etc. 

15th G20 Summit held

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Relations

In news

  • In a recently held 15th G-20 summit, Indian Prime Minister termed the COVID-19 pandemic as an important turning point in history of humanity and the biggest challenge the world is facing since the World War II.
  • Convened by: Saudi Arabia in a virtual format.

Key takeaways 

  • Indian PM called for a new Global Index for the Post-Corona World that comprises four key elements.
    • Creation of a vast Talent Pool
    • Ensuring that Technology reaches all segments of the society
    • Transparency in systems of governance
    • Dealing with Mother Earth with a spirit of Trusteeship.
  • Noting that ‘Work from Anywhere’ is a new normal in the post-COVID world, he also suggested creation of a G20 Virtual Secretariat as a follow up and documentation repository.
  • The G20 Leaders’ Summit would culminate in the adoption of the Leaders’ Declaration and with Saudi Arabia passing on the Presidency to Italy.

Important value additions 

The G20 (or Group of Twenty) 

  • It is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU). 
  • Founded in: 1999 
  • Aim: To discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. The G20 has expanded its agenda since 2008. 
  • 20 members: India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, People's Republic of China, France, Germany, Argentina, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, European Union

APEC virtual meet held

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Relations

In news

  • Recently, a virtual meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum was held.
  • The meeting was hosted by Malaysia. 

Key takeaways

  • With growth in the Asia-Pacific region expected to decline by 2.7% this year, APEC's focus was on accelerating economic recovery and developing an affordable vaccine.
  • Focus Areas: Trade and investment, Digital Economy and Technology, Structural Reform, Economic and Technical Cooperation and Thematic and institutional matters.
  • APEC leaders adopted the Putrajaya Vision 2040, a new 20-year growth vision to replace the Bogor Goals where leaders agreed in 1994 to free and open trade and investment.
  • They also recognised the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment to drive economic recovery at such a challenging time (Covid-19).
  • They also discussed the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agenda and the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap (AIDER).

Important value additions 

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

  • Established: 1989
  • Members: 21
  • India is not a Member.
  • Members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States.
  • Its 21 member economies are home to around 2.8 billion people and represented approximately 59% of world GDP and 49% of world trade in 2015.
  • India had requested membership in APEC, and received initial support from the United States, Japan, Australia and Papua New Guinea. 
  • Officials have decided not to allow India to join as India does not border the Pacific Ocean, which all current members do.
  • India was invited to be an observer for the first time in November 2011.

Miscellaneous

Booker Prize

  • Scottish writer Douglas Stuart has won the 2020 Booker Prize for fiction with his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which described a boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s with a mother battling addiction.


India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol

  • Recently, the 30th edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) has been concluded in the Andaman Sea close to the Strait of Malacca.
  • India and Thailand have been carrying out CORPAT along their International Maritime Boundary Line twice a year since 2005.
  • Aims: (1) To keep part of the Indian Ocean safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade; (2) To ensure effective implementation of the United Nations Conventions on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).

(MAINS FOCUS)


HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2, 3:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

In vaccine race last lap, the key steps for India

Context: Nearly unparalleled efforts in science over the past few months have yielded at least two COVID-19 vaccines (from major pharma companies, Pfizer and Moderna) with promise (above 90% efficacy), in a historically short span of time.

Oxford University and its partner AstraZeneca are expecting the results of their phase-3 trials by December end, and have reportedly seen a good immune response in earlier trials among senior citizens

What should be the evaluation criteria for COVID-19 vaccine?

Evaluation of candidate vaccines for COVID-19 should be done on technical parameters and programmatic suitability. An ideal vaccine would provide all of these — 

  1. A vaccine that provides immunity of high degree (90% + protective especially against severe illness), broad scale (against different variants) and durable (at least five years if not lifelong)
  2. A vaccine that is safe (little or no side-effects and definitely no serious adverse effects)
  3. A vaccine that is cheap (similar to current childhood vaccines); 
  4. A vaccine that is programmatically suitable (single dose, can be kept at room temperature or at worst needs simple refrigeration between 2°C and 4°C, needle-free delivery.
  5. A vaccine that is available in multidose vials, has long shelf life and is amenable to rapid production.

A difficult vaccine to develop

Historically, we have faced difficulties in the development of coronavirus vaccines. 

  • No Reference Vaccines: Although there were some attempts at development of vaccines against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), there are no licensed vaccines for any coronavirus yet. 
  • Danger of Re-infection: Previous coronavirus vaccines were found to be immunogenic (generate antibodies as in phase II) but did not effectively prevent acquisition of disease (phase III) fuelling a concern that re-infection may be possible
  • Inadequate Long term experience: There are also safety concerns due to immunological consequences of the vaccine as these vaccines use newer techniques with which we do not have long term or large population experience.
  • Need of post-licensure surveillance system: About the safety of vaccines, there are always possibilities of rare (one in million) or delayed (by months or years) serious adverse events which will come to light only after mass vaccination has started; this requires a good post-licensure surveillance system to be in place. 

Given various candidate COVID-19 vaccines, what should the government strategy be while choosing a vaccine and for vaccination?

  • Ranking by risk category: The first rule would be to not to put all your eggs in one basket. We already know that government has planned for vaccine supply from different sources
  • The second rule would be to prioritise: WHO has issued guidelines for prioritisation for vaccine recipients. For this, we need to rank population sub-groups by risk category and by programmatic ease of vaccination. Vaccination should start with where these two criteria intersect — health-care workers followed by policemen
  • The third rule is use multiple channels to immunise the population. Other important considerations would be of equity and cost. 

Challenges Ahead

  1. Vaccinating the general population
  • Vaccinating the frontline workers like healthcare workers (& policemen) by utilizing the cold storage requirements at their own facility, including in private sector or district hospitals
  • The problem arises in vaccinating general population especially the high-risk groups (the elderly and those with co-morbidity) 
  • It might be easier to vaccinate the institutionalised elderly as compared to community-dwelling ones. 
  • Solution: The only orderly option is to create some sort of a technological solution of a queuing system based on an earlier registration process for age and presence of co-morbidity and allotment of appointment in a nearest booth
  1. Ensuring Equity in Vaccine Distribution
  • The greatest challenge would be to immunise the poorest and the most vulnerable (slums/migrants/refugees/people with disabilities). 
  • Solution: Because of access issues, this must be by an outreach or camp approach (booths along with web-enabled appointments facilitated by civil society)
  • Leveraging Institutional Experience: India has learnt major lessons through social mobilisation efforts during the Pulse Polio campaigns, Aadhaar card enrolment and elections, which will serve as good models
  • Strategic Usage:  It is expected that the pandemic would start receding once we protect about 60% of the population (in terms of coverage x effectiveness). However, we should ensure that this coverage is well-spread out, else focal outbreaks will keep occurring in areas with poor vaccine coverage. 
  • This also raises the possibility of using a ring immunisation strategy (immunising the population around reported cases), even earlier.
  1. Issue of Market forces
  • One major challenge would be that many people would be willing to pay for the vaccine and ask for expedited access. 
  • Obviously, till we cover a bulk of phase 1 beneficiaries, the government should not concern itself with other groups. 
  • However, government can and should allow the vaccine to be available in the private sector at a market-driven price for such people. 
  • It will be ethical as well as cost-saving for the government, if it does not divert vaccines from the government-driven programme.
  • Let the decision to wait for a government-delivered vaccine or one from the private sector be made by individuals, and not the government. It will also free the government to focus more on “needy” people.

Conclusion

  • Many countries have already published their prioritisation policy, therefore it is critical that the government has a fair, transparent and published policy in this regard even if it results in heartburn in some quarters. 

INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 
  • Challenges to security in border areas

Water bomb in the Himalayas

Context: With India-China relations hitting its lowest point since the 1962 war, border infrastructure has come under intense scrutiny.

The construction of several dams along the Yarlung (Brahmaputra) river on the Chinese side has been a repeated cause for concern for Indian officials and the local people, whose livelihoods and security depend on the river.

Peculiar characteristics of Brahmaputra River that is cause of concern

  • Two Floods: Inhabitants along the river have to deal with two floods annually, one caused by the melting of the Himalayan snow in summer and the other due to the monsoon flows
  • Dangers of Climate Change: The frequency of these floods have increased and are devastating due to climate change and its impact on high and low flows.
  • Dynamic in nature: The river is in itself dynamic as frequent landslides and geological activity force it to change course very often.

Water Issues of China 

  • Resource Constraints: China, which is home to close to 20 per cent of the world’s population, has only 7 per cent of its water resources. 
  • Consequence of Industrialisation: Severe pollution of its surface and groundwater caused by rapid industrialisation is a source of concern for Chinese planners. 
  • Regional Imbalance within China: China’s southern regions are water-rich in comparison to the water-stressed northern part. The southern region is a major food producer and has significant industrial capacity as a consequence of more people living there.
  • River interlinking Plans: China has an ambitious plan to link its south(water rich) and north(water stressed) through canals, aqueducts and linking of major rivers to ensure water security
  • International Ramifications: In pursuit of above goals, China, being an upper riparian state in Asia, has been blocking rivers like the Mekong and its tributaries, affecting Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  It has caused immense damage to the environment and altered river flows in the region
  • Geopolitical Tool: Such projects by China has the potential to significantly change the flow rate during times of standoffs and high tensions. In fact, during the 2018 Doklam border standoff between India and China, China stopped communication of water flow levels from its dams, effectively rendering India blind to floods during the standoff.
  • Hegemonic Attitude:  China sees such projects as a continuation of their historic tributary system as the smaller states have no means of effectively resisting or even significant leverage in negotiations. Chinese projects in the Himalayas have only recently begun to operate amid protests from India.

There are now multiple operational dams in the Yarlung Tsangpo basin with more dams commissioned and under construction. These constructions present a unique challenge for Indian planners because

  1. It will lead to degradation of the entire basin
  • Massive amounts of silt carried by the river would get blocked by dams leading to a fall in the quality of soil and eventual reduction in agricultural productivity. 
  1. Impact on Ecological Diversity
  • The Brahmaputra basin is one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive zones. It is identified as one of the world’s 34 biological hotspots. 
  • This region sees several species of flora and fauna that are endemic to only this part of the world — the Kaziranga National Park houses 35 mammalian species out of which 15 are listed as threatened in the IUCN conservation list. 
  • The river itself is home to the Gangetic river dolphin, which is listed as critically endangered
  • Reduction in flow of waters downstream will have negative consequences of the flora and fauna of the surrounding ecosystem
  1. Prone to Disasters
  • The location of the dams in the Himalayas poses a risk. Seismologists consider the Himalayas as most vulnerable to earthquakes and seismic activity. 
  • Landslides resulting from earthquakes pose a significant threat — the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the resultant landslides wiped out several dams and other facilities. 
  • The sheer size of the infrastructure projects undertaken by China increases the vulnerability of the region to earthquakes and landslides
  1. Lives & Livelihoods are in danger
  • Close to a million people live in the Brahmaputra basin in India and tens of millions further downstream in Bangladesh. 
  • The projects in the Himalayas threaten the existence of hundreds of thousands of people.

Way Ahead: There are alternate solutions to solving the water crisis. 

  • Both sides must cease new constructions on the river and commit to potentially less destructive solutions. 
  • Building a decentralised network of check dams, rain-capturing lakes and using traditional means of water capture have shown effective results in restoring the ecological balance while supporting the populations of the regions in a sustainable manner. 
  • It is in the interest of all stakeholders to neutralise this ticking water bomb.

(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. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 Consider the following statements:

  1. Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana aims to achieve 22 million tonnes of fish production by 2024-25.
  2. Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) caters to creation of fisheries infrastructure facilities in marine sector only.

Which of the above is/are correct? 

  1. 1 and 3 only 
  2. 3 only 
  3. 1 and 2 only 
  4. 2 and 3 only

Q.2 Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) provides for generating gas from which of the following wastes?

  1. Municipal waste 
  2. Agricultural waste
  3. Animal husbandry waste
  4. Marine wastes 

Select the correct code:

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 3 and 4 only
  3. 1 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4 only

ANSWERS FOR 21st November 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 C
3 B
4 C

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