Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 15 July 2019
Relevant articles from pib:
GS Paper 1:
- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Location and significance of the corridor, issues involved in its construction.
Context: The second round of talks with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was recently held at Wagah, Pakistan.
Pakistan has agreed in principle to allow visa-free, year-long travel to the Sikh shrine.
Concerns raised by India:
India conveyed its concerns to Pakistan on the possible attempts by individuals and groups to disrupt the Kartarpur Sahib pilgrimage and the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak due to earth-filled embankment road or a causeway proposed by Islamabad.
What is the “Kartarpur Corridor” project?
The corridor – often dubbed as the “Road to Peace” – will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district. The construction of the corridor will allow visa-free access to pilgrims from India. The proposal for the corridor has been on the table since 1988, but tense relations between the two countries led to the delay.
The Union Cabinet has already approved the building and development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the international border, in order to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river, in Pakistan, where Shri Guru Nanak Devji spent eighteen years.
The Kartarpur corridor will be implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding, to provide smooth and easy passage, with all the modern amenities.
- The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
- It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
- The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.
- Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 3:
- Conservation related issues.
What to study?
For prelims: Key features of the programme.
For mains: Water scarcity problem in India and Maharashtra in particular, causes, challenges and measures proposed.
What is Jalyukta Shivar?
It is the flagship programme of the Maharashtra government launched in December 2014.
Aim: To make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity.
- The scheme targets drought-prone areas by improving water conservation measures in order to make them more water sustainable. The scheme envisages to arrest maximum run-off water, especially during the monsoon months, in village areas known to receive less rainfall, annually.
- Under the scheme, decentralised water bodies were installed at various locations within villages to enhance the groundwater recharge.
- It also proposed to strengthen and rejuvenate water storage capacity and percolation of tanks and other sources of storage.
- Dedicated committees were formed to assist in construction of watersheds like farm ponds, cement nullah bunds alongside rejuvenating the existing water bodies in the villages.
Why was the scheme introduced?
About 82 per cent area of Maharashtra falls is rainfed sector while 52 per cent of area is drought prone. This, when coupled with natural rainfall variability and long dry spells during the monsoons, severely hampers agriculture activities.
How does this intervention work?
- Under the scheme, water streams in a locality are deepened and widened, which would later be connected to the newly constructed chains of cement nullah bunds in the village.
- Besides, efforts would be made to arrest and store water in small earthen dams and farm ponds in such areas. While new interventions are made, maintenance of existing sources like canals and all kinds of wells would be undertaken.
- Activities like desilting of water conservation structures and repairs of canals are undertaken to help improve water storage and percolation at the site.
- Additionally, recharge of dug and tubewells would be taken up in specific locations.
- Real time information of water availability due to such interventions would be gathered from each village of every tehsil from all districts and the same would be fed into a common portal.
What are the outcomes of the scheme?
Long- term outcomes:
- To strengthen the rural economy, which continues to be largely agriculture-driven.
- Improve farmer income by addressing the basic problem pertaining to availability of water for farming or irrigation purposes.
- Reducing water scarcity in villages that have limited natural supply.
- Improving in risk management or becoming drought resilient and improving water availability through effective management.
Short- term outcomes:
- Reduction in the run-off water and diverting it to some kind of storage.
- Increasing water storage capacity.
- Increasing the rate of groundwater recharge.
- Enhancing soil fertility and ultimately, improving farm productivity.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper 3:
- Awareness in space.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Key objectives, significance, payloads of the mission.
Context: The Chandrayaan 2 launch has been cancelled due to a technical snag. New dates will be announced in a few days.
In September 2008, the Chandrayaan-2 mission was approved by the government for a cost of Rs 425 crore.
- It is India’s second mission to the moon.
- It aims to explore the Moon’s south polar region.
- It will be launched onboard India’s most powerful launcher – GSLV MK-III.
- The mission is an important step in India’s plans for planetary exploration, a program known as Planetary Science and Exploration (PLANEX).
- There are three components of the mission, an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
- The mission payloads include — Terrain Mapping Camera which will generate a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the entire moon, Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer which will test the elemental composition of the Moon’s surface Solar X-Ray Monitor which will provide solar X-ray spectrum inputs for CLASS.
- The orbiter will be deployed at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the surface of the Moon. The lander will then separate from the orbiter, and execute a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, unlike the previous mission which crash landed near the lunar south pole.
- The lander, rover and orbiter will perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface. The rover is named Pragyan.
- The mission’s lander is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme.
- If ISRO achieves the feat in its first attempt, it will make India only the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface. The erstwhile Soviet Union, the U.S. and China are the only countries to have achieved lunar landings.
Objectives of the mission:
The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.
Developed by ISRO, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III is a three-stage vehicle.
Primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geostationary orbit.
It has a mass of 640 tonnes that can accommodate up to 8,000 kg payload to LEO and 4000 kg payload to GTO.
GSLV Mk-III vehicle is powered by two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C25), that has been designed for carrying the four-tonne class satellites.
The C25 is powered by CE-20, India’s largest cryogenic engine, designed and developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.
Why the south polar region of the moon?
According to ISRO, the lunar south pole is an interesting surface area, which remains in shadow as compared to the north pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it, the agency said, adding craters in the south pole region have cold traps and contain fossil records of the early solar system.
The challenges along the way:
Challenges involved in the moon landing are identifying trajectory accurately; taking up deep space communication; trans-lunar injection, orbiting around the moon, taking up soft landing on the moon surface, and facing extreme temperatures and vacuum.
Sources: Indian Express.
Mains Question: Chandrayaan 2 is yet another audacious attempt being made by ISRO in the field of space research. Examine the distinctiveness and significance of such a mission.
GS Paper 1:
- Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: ENSO- El Nino and La Nia- causes, effects and impacts, global climate change and ENSO cycle.
Context: A weak El Nino prevailing in the Pacific Ocean since the start of this year is beginning to dissipate. Over the next two months, a fully neutral condition is likely to be restored in the Pacific Ocean, according to the latest bulletin issued by the Climate Prediction Centre of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US.
What is ENSO?
- ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation. As the name suggests, it is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean.
- ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics).
- The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.
What is El Nino?
El Nino is a climatic cycle characterised by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern.
In normal conditions, strong trade winds travel from east to west across the tropical Pacific, pushing the warm surface waters towards the western Pacific. The surface temperature could witness an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Asian waters. At the same time, cooler waters rise up towards the surface in the eastern Pacific on the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. This process called upwelling aids in the development of a rich ecosystem.
What causes El Nino?
El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern. The westward-blowing trade winds weaken along the Equator and due to changes in air pressure, the surface water moves eastwards to the coast of northern South America. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition. The temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Overseas bonds- uses, need, significance and challenges, what is crowding- out- effect?
Context: The government has announced its plans to raise a portion of its gross borrowing from overseas markets. The government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will reportedly finalise the plans for the overseas issue of sovereign bonds by September. While several commentators have argued that this is a risky move, the government itself is convinced that it will help boost private investment in the country.
What is an overseas bond issue?
A government bond or sovereign bond is a form of debt that the government undertakes wherein it issues bonds with the promise to pay periodic interest payments and also repay the entire face value of the bond on the maturity date. So far, the government has only issued bonds in the domestic market.
What are the benefits of an overseas bond issue?
The government has been arguing that the quantum of its borrowing within India is ‘crowding out’ the private sector. In other words, it is saying that government borrowing is at such a level that there are not enough funds available for the private sector to adequately meet its credit and investment needs.
If the private sector cannot borrow adequately, then it cannot invest as it wants to, and that cripples one major engine of economic growth.
Therefore, borrowing overseas allows the government to raise funds in such a way that there is enough domestic credit available for the private sector.
What are the risks?
- With this, India might follow the path of some Central and South American countries such as Mexico and Brazil. In the 1970s, several of these countries borrowed heavily overseas when the global market was flush with liquidity. But then, when their currencies depreciated sharply a decade later, these countries were in big trouble as they could not repay their debt.
- India is not likely to be viewed as a risky proposition by the international market and so is likely to fetch an attractive rate for the bonds. Cheap and plentiful funds, however, should not encourage the government to borrow too heavily from abroad.
- This would also lead to a quicker increase to its foreign exchange reserves, which would lead to a stronger rupee at a time when it is already appreciating against the dollar. A stronger rupee would encourage imports at a time when the government is trying to curb them, and discourage exports at a time when they are being encouraged.
- On the other hand, a rupee depreciation for whatever external reason would prove even more disastrous as it would make it far more expensive for India to repay its external debt.
- Another problem with an overseas bond issue is that the government would not be able to inflate itself out of trouble. That is, in the domestic market, if the government does ever reach the stage where it is finding it difficult to repay its debt, it can simply print more money, let inflation rise quickly and repay its debt. This is not an option in an overseas bond issue. The Indian government cannot print foreign currency to repay its debt.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: privatisation of railways- pros and cons, Debroy committee recommendations.
Context: Government rules out privatisation of railways.
Recommendations by Bibek Debroy Committee:
The Bibek Debroy Committee, which was set up to suggest ways to mobilise resources for the Indian Railways and restructure the Railway Board, has favoured privatisation of rolling stock: wagons and coaches.
Improved Infrastructure – It will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would lead to improved amenities for travelers.
Balancing Quality of Service with High Fares – The move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.
Lesser Accidents – Because private ownership is synonymous with better maintenance, supporters of privatisation feel that it will reduce the number of accidents, thus resulting in safe travel and higher monetary savings in the long run.
Coverage Limited to Lucrative Sectors – An advantage of Indian Railways being government- owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit. This would not be possible with privatisation since routes which are less popular will be eliminated, thus having a negative impact on connectivity. It will also render some parts of the country virtually inaccessible and omit them from the process of development.
Fares – Given that a private enterprise runs on profit, it is but natural to assume that the easiest way of accruing profits in Indian Railways would be to hike fares, thus rendering the service out of reach for lower income groups. This will defeat the entire purpose of the system which is meant to serve the entire population of the country irrespective of the level of income.
Accountability – Private companies are unpredictable in their dealings and do not share their governance secrets with the world at large. In such a scenario it would be difficult to pin the accountability on a particular entity, should there be a discrepancy.
Key recommendations made by Debroy committee:
- Link increase in passenger fares to better passenger services
- Create a separate company for railway infrastructure
- Open access for any new operator who wishes to enter the market for operating trains
- Separate suburban services and run them as joint ventures with state governments.
- Private entry into running both freight and passenger trains in competition with Indian Railways
- Separation of rail track from rolling stock
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Meghalaya to have State Water Policy:
- The Meghalaya Cabinet has approved a draft water policy to address water usages, issues of conservation and protection of water sources in the State.
- With this, Meghalaya will become the 1st state in India to ensure conservation of water and have its own State Water Policy.
- The policy’s objective is to recognise water resources as a common pool resource, to provide hygienic water for drinking, domestic needs, sanitation and livelihood development.
- The policy includes measures like building check dams to conserve rainwater, rainwater harvesting systems, controlling inappropriate use of groundwater and maintaining the quality of water.
Botanical Survey of India has come up with the first comprehensive census of orchids of India- key highlights:
Total number of orchid species or taxa to 1,256.
Orchids can be broadly categorised into three life forms:
- epiphytic (plants growing on another plants including those growing on rock boulders and often termed lithophyte).
- terrestrial (plants growing on land and climbers).
- mycoheterotrophic (plants which derive nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that are attached to the roots of a vascular plant).
- About 60% of all orchids found in the country, which is 757 species, are epiphytic, 447 are terrestrial and 43 are mycoheterotrophic.
- The epiphytic orchids are abundant up to 1800 m above the sea level and their occurrence decreases with the increase in altitude.
- Terrestrial orchids, which grow directly on soil, are found in large numbers in temperate and alpine region whereas mycoheterotrophic orchids, mostly associated with ectomycorrhizal fungi, are found in temperate regions, or are found growing with parasites in tropical regions.
- Himalayas, North-East parts of the country and Western Ghats are the hot-spots of the beautiful plant species.
- The highest number of orchid species is recorded from Arunachal Pradesh with 612 species, followed by Sikkim 560 species and West Bengal; Darjeeling Himalayas have also high species concentration, with 479 species.
- While north-east India rank at the top in species concentration, the Western Ghats have high endemism of orchids.
- Kerala has 111 of these endemic species while Tamil Nadu has 92 of them.
- Among the 10 bio geographic zones of India, the Himalayan zone is the richest in terms of orchid species followed by Northeast, Western Ghats, Deccan plateau and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Protection: The entire orchid family is listed under appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and hence any trade of wild orchid is banned globally.
Summaries of important Editorials:
Why is India setting up a mobile phone handsets database?
Context: The National Telecom Policy of 2012 calls for the establishment of a National Mobile Property Registry to address the issue of “security, theft, and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets”. Based on this, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under the Ministry of Communications initiated a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) for mobile service providers. The DoT issued a memorandum in July 2017 announcing the CEIR with a pilot project led by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited in Maharashtra. In January 2018, this project was handed over to the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDoT). Now, it is all set to roll out.
What is CEIR?
Based on a 2008 order from the DoT, every mobile network provider in India has an Equipment Identity Register (EIR), or a a database of the phones connected to its network. These EIRs will now share information with a single central database, the CEIR.
In essence, it will be a repository of information on all mobile phones connected to networks across India.
CEIR will have information on the device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (every phone or mobile broadband device has this unique 15 digit code that precisely identifies the device), model, version, and “other information”.
It will also know if the phone is blacklisted, and the reason why it has been blacklisted.
What is the purpose of a CEIR?
- Such centralised databases are meant to identify and block stolen or illegal mobile phones across networks. Currently, when a customer reports a mobile phone as missing or stolen, mobile service providers have the ability to blacklist the phone’s IMEI in their EIRs and block it from accessing their network. But if the SIM is changed to a new network, it can continue to be in use.
- With a CEIR, all network operators will be aware that the phone is blacklisted.
- The CEIR will also access the GSMA’s database of IMEI numbers to check whether the phone is authentic. There are cases of phones being in use with duplicate IMEI numbers, or with all zeroes instead of an authentic IMEI number.
- The CEIR will also be able to block services to subscribers. This ability had rested with individual networks till now.
- It also enables “IMEI-based lawful interception”, which means allowing legal authorities to use CEIR data.
What are the issues with having a CEIR?
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) raises a key issue with the CEIR — who should maintain such a high-value database? Should it be the service provider, or a neutral third party?
Another major issue is cloning, or reprogramming stolen or unauthorised mobile phones to attach existing genuine IMEI numbers. Blocking cloned IMEI numbers could result in the authentic ones also being blocked.