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13 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

1) More wildlife in Aravallis at Faridabad, Gurgaon than at Asola, need better protection: Study

GS 3: Biodiversity conservation

CONTEXT:

1. According to a recent study, the wildlife corridor of the Aravallis in Gurgaon and Faridabad harbours a richer “variety of mammals” than the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary.

ABOUT:

1. The study — a “systematic assessment” of mammals in the wildlife corridor formed by the Aravalli hills in Gurgaon and Faridabad with the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Delhi — has been carried out.

2. Conducted over two seasons in 2019, the study is “supported” by WWF-India Small Grants Programme and CEDAR.

FINDINGS:

1. In comparison to Asola WLS, both Gurgaon and Faridabad Aravallis were found to harbour extremely rich variety of mammals — despite the fact that Asola is a wildlife sanctuary and has more legal protection.

2. This can be attributed to “the attitude of tolerance to wildlife” amongst the local population, “general low density of people”, and “subsistence agricultural practices” prevalent in the two districts.

3. The study indicated that the hotspot of wildlife in this corridor is actually between Damdama and Mangar Bani, and wildlife moves from there to Asola through the Aravalli in Faridabad.

4. This indicates that Asola will survive as long as the Aravalli region of Gurgaon and Faridabad survives. If this finishes, Asola will automatically finish as well. It is, hence, critical to protect this region.

5. The density of leopards and other endangered species, including striped hyena, is approximately double in Gurgaon Aravallis of what it is in Faridabad and Asola.

THREAT TO WILDLIFE:

1. Highways, especially the Gurgaon-Faridabad Expressway, and increasing construction are a “major threat” to the wildlife corridor. This expressway poses a major barrier to movement of wildlife between the Aravallis of Delhi and Haryana.

2. Land use change and protect the wildlife corridor and habitat from further fragmentation, construction and deforestation are other threats.

SOLUTION:

1. Construction of expressways and highways, and planning, also needs to take into account wildlife in the city, such as by constructing underpasses or flyovers that allow at least a portion of the wildlife to cross from one part to the other and prevent complete fragmentation of wildlife populations between Aravallis of Delhi and Haryana.

2. Community-based conservation must be looked at — it is the low carbon lifestyle of the local people that is helping to conserve the area.

3. The government needs to understand that even if protecting this section of the Aravalli, most species will be able to regenerate.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

2) School attendance low after reopening: 3 states to House panel

GS 2: Issues relating Services relating to Education

CONTEXT:

1. Recently, a meeting was called to discuss “plans for bridging the learning gap caused due to school lockdown as well as review of online and offline instructions, examinations and plans for reopening schools”.

FINDINGS:

1. During this meeting, it was reported by Assam, UP and J&K representatives to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on education headed by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe that schools continue to report low attendance after reopening.

a. Assam: Schools recorded around 50% attendance

b. Uttar Pradesh: 40%

c. Jammu and Kashmir too reported low attendance during the interaction2.It leads to learning loss that may have taken place due to the long absence of students from classrooms.

2. Pupils missing out on almost half the year of schooling last year and then a patchwork of inequalities of missed schooling this term will impact on children's education.

a. There'll be a widening of existing inequalities - particularly as it's tended to be quite disadvantaged council areas where pupils have missed out on most schooling.

b. Though most absence during the term was due to disruption as a result of positive Covid cases, some families have been anxious about children going to school.

STEPS TAKEN

1. Digital initiatives taken to continue learning during classroom lockdown and innovative measures adopted by different states to help students who lack access to online classes.

Source: Indian Express

 

3) 30th National Energy Conservation Awards

GS 2: Government Policies & Interventions

GS 3: Conservation

CONTEXT:

1. Ministry of Power, in association with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), organised the 30th National Energy Conservation Awards (NECA) function as a Hybrid event due to the COVID pandemic.

2. During the event, the Standards and Labelling Programme for Air Compressors and Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV on voluntary basis was initiated; SAATHEE (State-wise Actions on Annual Targets and Headways on Energy Efficiency) – A portal for State Designated Agency for state level activities was also launched.

3. During the award ceremony, it was specifically mentioned that the impact of PAT Cycle II achieved emission reduction of 61 million ton of CO2.

ABOUT:

1. The event included a virtual exhibition on achievements on Energy Efficiency. The awards were presented to the winners from different industries and sector establishments.

2. Energy Efficiency is not only good for the world but also for companies and industries themselves.

3. Despite this the country has made ambitious commitments to meet the global challenge posed by climate change. Our country has target to reduce the emission intensity to 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 level, as part of commitments made during COP 21.

NATIONAL ENERGY CONSERVATION AWARDS PROGRAMME:

1. It was launched by the Ministry of Power in 1991, to provide national recognition to those industries and establishments which have taken special efforts to reduce energy consumption while maintaining their production.

2. The awards were given away for the first time on 14th December, 1991, which was declared as the 'The National Energy Conservation Day'. It recognizes the energy efficiency achievements in 56 sub-sectors across industry, establishments and institutions.

STANDARDS AND LABELLING PROGRAMME FOR AIR COMPRESSORS AND ULTRA HIGH DEFINITION (UHD) TV:

1. Aim: To enhance the level of energy conservation, this can then be used for a different purpose in the home or workplace. Besides saving energy, this programme could also facilitate reducing energy bills.

2. It is to be carried out on a voluntary basis.

SAATHEE PORTAL:

1. BEE has developed a Management Information System (MIS) portal called SAATHEE for the State Designated Agency (SDA) for state level activities.

2. Useful in capturing the physical and financial status/ progress of Energy Efficiency activities being implemented by States/ UTs across the country. Thus, it will facilitate Real Time Monitoring.

3. Help in decision making, coordination, control, analysis, and implementation and enforcement of the compliance process for various energy consumers at the pan India level.

 

Source:  PIB

 

4) US House plans vote demanding Pence seize Trump’s powers

GS 2: Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

CONTEXT:

1. In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump supporters storming the US Capitol building, which houses both the US Senate as well as the House of Representatives, Democrats in the House of Republicans introduced an article of impeachment against U.S. President.

WHAT IS THE 25TH AMENDMENT OF THE US CONSTITUTION?

1. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is primarily designed to clarify the presidential order of succession. Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States.

2. The fourth section of the amendment provides a multistep process for the vice president and a majority of the officials who lead executive agencies — commonly thought of as the cabinet — to declare that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

3. That process ultimately requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.

4. The Twenty-fifth Amendment was an effort to resolve some of the continuing issues revolving about the office of the President; that is, what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President and what is the course to follow if for some reason the President becomes disabled to such a degree that he cannot fulfill his responsibilities.

5. Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the “the sole power of impeachment” while the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”. The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.

WHEN WAS IT INTRODUCED AND HAS IT BEEN USED IN THE PAST?

1. In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 25th Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified by the states on February 10, 1967.

2. Grounds for impeachment: The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

 

 

Source: Indian Express

 

5) China holds third South Asia multilateral meet in new push

GS 2: India and its neighborhood- relations

CONTEXT:

1. China has held its third multilateral dialogue virtually with 5 countries from South Asia (Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) except India, Bhutan and the Maldives.

2. All three dialogues have been attended by Pakistan and Nepal.

ABOUT:

1. It aims to take forward closer cooperation on fighting COVID-19 and coordinating their economic agendas, reflecting a new approach in China’s outreach to the region.

2. It brought together every country in the region barring, and was aimed at “anti-epidemic cooperation and poverty reduction cooperation”.

3. The two virtual meets appear part of China’s growing engagement in the region, in the wake of the global pandemic.

4. The arising geopolitical turbulence is unpredictable. There is a transition from multilateralism to unilateralism, from cooperation to competition.

CHINA INITIATIVES IN SOUTH ASIA:

1. In July 2020, at quadrilateral dialogue with Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, China proposed to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.

2. It also proposed taking forward an economic corridor plan with Nepal, called the Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network.

3. China is the largest overseas investor in the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.  According to the American Enterprise Institute’s China Global Investment Tracker, it has committed around 100 billion USD in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

4. China was a part of the trilateral China-Pakistan-Afghanistan foreign ministers dialogue to facilitate Afghan domestic political reconciliation, enhancing regional connectivity, and improving regional common development.

5. China and Bangladesh pledged to deepen “defense industry and trade, training, equipment and technology” areas together.

6. Sri Lanka handed over Hambantota port (geostrategically located on the Indian Ocean) on a 99-year lease to China to repay its loan back to China.

 

 

 

Source: The Hindu

 

6) New Foreign Trade Policy to come into effect from April 1

GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development

CONTEXT:

1. The meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry was held on the subject "New Foreign Trade Policy 2021-26".

 ABOUT:

1. During the meeting, it was informed that that the new Foreign Trade Policy-FTP will come into effect from 1st April 2021 for a period of five years. District Export Hubs initiative will form an important component of the new FTP.

2. The policy will strive to make India a leader in the area of international trade and channelize the synergies gained through merchandise and services exports for growth and employment with a goal to make India a 5 trillion dollar economy.

3. The FTP 2015-20 came into effect on 1st April 2015 and the same was extended by one year till 31 March this year due to Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Source: News on Air

 

7) Free drinking water scheme launched in water-scarce Hyderabad

Preliminary: Social Development

CONTEXT:

1. Telangana Municipal Administration launched the free drinking water scheme in Rahmat Nagar and nine lakh families would stand to gain from it.

ABOUT:

1. In Hyderabad, water was being supplied from the Krishna and Godavari rivers .

2. The government would bear an expenditure of ?400 crore to ?500 crore towards it.

3. Even as the State dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, welfare measures including rice to the poor, pension payments, Rythu Bandhu and the 2BHK scheme had witnessed minor delay.

Source: The Hindu

 

8) Indian inflation slows to hit central bank’s target range

GS 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development

CONTEXT:

1. Recently, data has been released by National Statistical Office (NSO) (Ministry of Statistics) which shows that India’s retail inflation decelerated to 4.59% in December 2020, from 6.93% in November, dipping below 6% for the first time since March 2020 as food prices cooled.

2. It also showed that a nascent industrial recovery, which had begun in September, retreated in November as industrial output shrank 1.9%.

ABOUT:

1. The lowest consumer price inflation (CPI) print in 14 months was due to sharp slowdown in food price inflation, which eased to 3.4% in December.

2. India’s index of industrial production (IIP) for November gets lower by mining and manufacturing, which both shrank.

3. Electricity production grew, rising 3.5% year-on-year. The NSO also revised upwards the index for the preceding three months by incorporating more production data. As per the final data for August 2020, the IIP had shrunk 7.1% in the month, narrower than the 8% estimated earlier.

4. In September, industrial output had edged up 0.5% — higher than the 0.2% growth estimated earlier — after shrinking for six months. Industrial output grew 4.19% in October, higher than the 3.6% quick estimate.

5. The November data once again shows that the uptick witnessed in the month of September and October was due to a combination of festive and pent-up demand and the recovery is still shallow and fragile. The unevenness and fragility of the current recovery is evident with only 10 out of 23 industry group showing positive growth in November.

INFLATION SURPRISE:

1. Vegetable prices witnessed a 10.4% deflation in December, compared with inflation of 15.5% inflation in November. An accompanying moderation in the inflation rates for meat and fish, eggs and pulses, helped the consumer food price index record its slowest pace of increase in 16 months at 3.4%.

2. Core inflation too eased marginally to 5.5% in December, helping overall inflation moderate after having remained above the central bank’s tolerance band for price gains — of plus or minus two percentage points from its medium-term target of 4% — for a prolonged period.

 

Source:  FT