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18 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

1) What is 5G and how prepared is India to adapt to this tech?

GS 3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

CONTEXT:

1. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought inputs from telcos and other industry experts on the sale and use of radio frequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands.

WHAT IS 5G TECHNOLOGY AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?

1. 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.

2. 5G mainly works in 3 bands: ( all of which have their own uses as well as limitations)

  1. Low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second). This means that while telcos can use and install it for commercial cellphone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed internet, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialised needs of the industry.
  2. The mid-band spectrum offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals. Telcos and companies, which have taken the lead on 5G, have indicated that this band may be used by industries and specialised factory units for building captive networks that can be moulded into the needs of that particular industry.
  3. The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength. Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (giga bits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.

WHERE DOES INDIA STAND IN THE 5G TECHNOLOGY RACE?

1. India had, in 2018, planned to start 5G services as soon as possible, with an aim to capitalise on the better network speeds and strength that the technology promised.

2. All the three private telecom players, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vi, have been urging the DoT to lay out a clear road map of spectrum allocation and 5G frequency bands, so that they would be able to plan the roll out of their services accordingly.

3. One big hurdle, however, is the lack of flow of cash and adequate capital with at least two of the three players, namely Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

4. Reliance Jio plans to launch an indigenously built 5G network for the country as early as the second half of this year. The company is said to have a complete end-to-end 5G solution prepared by the company itself that is ready for deployment once the networks are in place. This solution can also be deployed by other telecom operators as a complete managed service.

WHAT IS THE GLOBAL PROGRESS ON 5G?

1. More than governments, global telecom companies have started building 5G networks and rolling it out to their customers on a trial basis. In countries like the US, companies such as AT&T, T-mobile, and Verizon have taken the lead when it comes to rolling out commercial 5G for their users.

2. While some such as AT&T had started testing and deploying the technology as early as 2018, other companies such as Verizon have followed suit, expanding their 5G ultra-wide broadband services to as many as 60 cities by the end of 2020. In other countries such as China, some of the telcos such as China Unicom had started 5G trials as early as 2018, and have since rolled out the commercial services for users.

3. South Korean company Samsung, which had started researching on 5G technology way back in 2011, has, on the other hand, taken the lead when it comes to building the hardware for 5G networks for several companies.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

2) To spur growth & jobs, booster for construction and low-cost housing

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

CONTEXT:

Budget 2021-22 is expected to give a special focus to construction development and affordable housing as increased activity in these areas provide a higher boost to overall demand in the economy because of their forward and backward linkages.

ABOUT:

1. The government plans further liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) regulations for the construction development sector while a higher allocation is expected towards a credit-linked subsidy scheme for affordable housing.

2. One factor behind the exodus of migrants from cities during the pandemic was their lack of access to safe, affordable housing in urban clusters.

3. Significantly, as part of the pandemic slowdown stimulus, several state governments provided various concessions in stamp duty and other charges to kickstart transaction activity in the construction and real estate sector. The Centre, too, set up a fund to provide last-mile funding to stressed housing projects across the country.

4. Revival of construction development sector is also seen as crucial for employment creation. While 100 per cent FDI is already permitted in construction development sector, certain legal structures such as LLP are not allowed to receive foreign investment in this sector.

5. There has also been demand to raise allocation under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) from the Rs 27,500 crore allocated in the Union Budget 2020-21 to ensure every Indian has a home in the near future.

6. To provide relief to stressed home buyers, funds could also be set aside for the National Building Construction Corporation to complete stalled projects which have been stuck due to fund shortage.

7. This would boost consumer sentiment and revive up the demand cycle. There could be a provision to recover the costs involved once the project is completed.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

3) Johnson invites PM to G7 in June, says will visit India before summit

GS 2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

CONTEXT:

British Prime Minister invited the Indian Prime Minister to the UK for the G7 summit in June 2021.

ABOUT:

1. The proposed summit will be the first in-person G-7 summit in almost two years, as it will be held in the English region of Cornwall from June 11 to 13.

2. Besides India, Australia and South Korea have also been invited as guest countries as a testament to UK’s commitment to ensuring multilateral institutions better reflect today’s world.

3. G7 PLUS India, Australia and South Korea is seen as a gathering of D-10 —10 leaders who represent over 60% of people living in democracies around the world. This is also seen as a signal to China.

4. India had attended the G-7 summit in Biarritz in France in August 2019 and was also invited for the 2020 summit hosted by the US — which could not take place due to the pandemic.

5. This is expected to be second G-7 summit in the tenure of present PM; his predecessor had attended the G-8 summit (it became G-7 from G-8 with the expulsion of Russia in 2014) five times between 2005 and 2009.

6. G7 is the most prominent grouping of democratic countries, and it has long been the catalyst for decisive international action to tackle the greatest challenges. From cancelling developing world debt to our universal condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the world has looked to the G7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might to create a more open and prosperous planet.

7. The G7, which includes UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and the EU, is the only forum where the world’s most influential and open societies and advanced economies gather for discussions.

8. The summit itself will be held in the coastal town of Carbis Bay, supported by neighbouring St. Ives and other towns across the Cornwall region.

9. In February, UK will assume the Presidency of the UN Security Council, and, later this year, it will host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and a global education conference.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

4) 10% of CSIR staff exposed to virus, says survey

GS 2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

CONTEXT:

A first such pan-India survey tracking nearly 10,000 employees of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the prevalence of COVID-19 found that nearly 10% of the staff were infected.

ABOUT:

1. Key neutralising antibodies that protect against the virus waned after infection, but were at “detectable levels” even after six months — a proxy for the period of effectiveness of future vaccination and general immunity.

2. About three-fourths of the respondents could not recall having experienced a single one of the symptoms commonly associated with the disease, and a vegetarian diet and smoking appeared to be “protective” against the infection.

‘LONGITUDINAL STUDY’

1. This is a first-of-its-kind longitudinal study anywhere in the world. An association between smoking and protection against SARS-CoV-2, or lower odds of infection by the virus, has also been reported in studies in China and France.

2. CSIR staff and family members who volunteered to be part of the survey filled out questionnaires on their lifestyle, food and disease histories. They were also tested with two different kinds of antibody tests to study the kinds of antibodies that were produced following infection.

3. It usually takes a week to a fortnight after being infected for antibodies to be detected in the blood.

4. A serology survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated 7% exposure to SARS-CoV-2 until mid-August, and a modelling exercise by the National Supermodel Committee estimated that 30% may have been exposed by September.

CLASS BIAS:

1. The study also revealed a distinct class bias in those affected. Those able to work from home and able to access private transport were nearly twice less likely to be exposed to the virus than the “outsourced staff” involved with sanitation and security, and using public transport.

2. Higher sero-prevalence among outsourced staff and public transport users in our cohort is more likely to be representative of general population of cities and towns that are part of the cohort.

3. Millions of migrant workers trapped in Indian cities during the lockdown returned to villages in June in packed public transport.

4. Outsourced workers, with highest seropositivity, reflect the high infection rate of this subgroup and it can be reasonably assumed that the pandemic had already reached rural India by September 2020.

5. There was even a distinction in blood groups. “Sero-prevalence was highest for blood group type AB, followed by group B, group O and the lowest for group A . Blood group O was observed to be protective”.

6. The overarching aim is to be able to build a medical cohort to give long-term perspective on the malaises that affect Indians, and determine if such a data bank can be used to help with predicting, say, the onset of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

 

Source: The Hindu