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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 24 October 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 24 October 2019


Table of contents:

 

GS Paper 1:

  1. Ozone hole.
  2. El Niño.

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. Government e Marketplace (GeM).
  2. Non-Aligned Movement summit.

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Merger of BSNL and MTNL.
  2. World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business.
  3. Quantum Supremacy.

 

GS Paper 4:

  1. Why link Aadhaar to social media accounts?

 

Facts for prelims:

  1. Snow Leopard.
  2. GIA – Group of Intellectuals and Academicians.

 


 

GS Paper 1:

 

Topics Covered:

  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.

 

Ozone hole

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About Ozone hole, how it is formed, ozone layer, CFCs and measures to prevent.

 

Context: During September and October, the annual ozone hole over the Antarctic reached its peak extent of 16. 4 million sq km on September 8, then shrank to less than 10 million sq km. This has been the smallest observed since 1982. NASA has described it as great news for the Southern Hemisphere.

 

Why it’s small this year?

There have been abnormal weather patterns in the atmosphere over Antarctica. In warmer temperatures like this year, fewer polar stratospheric clouds form and they don’t persist as long, limiting the ozone-depletion process.

 

What is ozone layer?

A layer of ozone envelops the Earth and keeps damaging ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from reaching living things on the planet’s surface.

The ozone layer exists mainly in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that reaches from 10 to 50 kilometers (about 6 to 30 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

 

What is ozone hole?

The ozone hole is a region of depleted layers of ozone above the Antarctic region, whose creation is linked to increased cases of skin cancer.

Manufactured chemicals deplete the ozone layer. Each spring over Antarctica, atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chemical processes. This creates the ozone hole, which occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

 

Factors responsible for the depletion of ozone:

Depletion of ozone is due to many factors, the most dominant of which is the release of chlorine from CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which destroys the ozone. CFCs are released by products such as hairsprays, old refrigerators etc.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


 

Topics Covered:

  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.

 

El Niño

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: ENSO- El Nino and La Nia- causes, effects and impacts, global climate change and ENSO cycle.

 

Context: In a new study, researchers have found that because of climate change, extreme El Niño events are likely to become more frequent.

 

Key findings:

  • There is a shift in El Niño behaviour since the late 1970s.
  • All events beginning in the eastern Pacific occurred prior to that time, while all events originating in the western-central Pacific happened since then.
  • Therefore, climate change effects have shifted the El Niño onset location from the eastern Pacific to the western Pacific, and caused more frequent extreme El Niño events.

 

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.

During this event, there is a warming of the sea surface temperature in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean.

It is one phase of an alternating cycle known as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

 

What causes El Nino?

El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern.

  1. 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.
  2. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition.

 

Impact:

  1. The temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
  2. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
  3. Favours eastern Pacific hurricanes and tropical storms. Record and unusual rainfall in Peru, Chile and Ecuador are linked to the climate pattern.
  4. Reduces upwelling of cold water, decreasing the uplift of nutrients from the bottom of the ocean. This affects marine life and sea birds. The fishing industry is also affected.
  5. A recent WHO report on the health consequences of El Nino forecasts a rise in vector-borne diseases, including those spread by mosquitoes, in Central and South America. Cycles of malaria in India are also linked to El Nino.

 

Sources: Indian Express.

 


 

GS Paper 2:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance, e-applications, models, successes, limitations and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

Government e Marketplace (GeM)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About GeM and it’s features.

For Mains: Significance and the need for GeM.

 

Context: The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Federal Bank to offer various services.

Significance: The MoU will facilitate a cashless, paperless and transparent payment system on the portal and would create an efficient procurement system for government entities.

 

About GeM:

What is it? GeM is a state-of-the-art national public procurement platform of Ministry of Commerce and Industries, that has used technology to remove entry barriers for bonafide sellers and has created a vibrant e-marketplace with a wide range of goods and services.

Aim: GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.

 

GeM facilities:

  1. Listing of products for individual, prescribed categories of Goods/ Services of common use.
  2. Look, estimate, compare and buying facility on dynamic pricing basis.
  3. Market place buying of majority of common User Items.
  4. Buying Goods and Services online, as and when required.
  5. Transparency and ease of buying.
  6. Useful for low value buying and also for bulk buying at competitive price using Reverse Auction/ e-bidding.
  7. Continuous vendor rating system.
  8. Return policy.

 

Benefits of GeM:

  1. Enhances transparency.
  2. Increased efficiency.
  3. Secure and safe.
  4. Savings to the government.

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered:

  1. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

Non-Aligned Movement summit

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What is NAM, objectives, composition and meets.

For Mains: Is NAM losing it’s relevance today, what’s the way out?

 

Context: Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu will represent India at the 18th Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Theme: ‘Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world’.

 

Some interesting facts about the latest NAM summit:

  1. Prime Minister Modi will skip the meet. This is the second time in a row that PM Narendra Modi will skip the summit, marking India’s transformation from a non-aligned country to one which is supposedly multi-aligned. 
  2. In 2016, Modi became effectively the first Indian PM to skip the meeting of heads of states and governments of NAM nations (Held in Venezuela).
  3. The only other Indian PM to have skipped a NAM summit was Charan Singh in 1979 but, unlike Modi, he was no more than a caretaker PM.
  4. While this may be yet another sign of the winds of change sweeping India’s foreign policy, it’s significant that India’s neighbours like Nepal and Bangladesh have again reposed trust in NAM.

 

Why PM is skipping the meet?
While NAM, of which India was one of the founding nations, in the past helped deal with challenges like apartheid and colonialism, it is now increasingly seen as having outlived its usefulness.

Even as it acknowledges that NAM allows member-states to pursue an independent foreign policy, India clearly believes NAM will be of little use in furthering India’s case on important issues like the menace of terrorism and UNSC reforms. 

 

The evolution of NAM:

During 1950s, the world was emerging out of the long, dark period of colonialism.

  • Newly independent nations dreamed they could make their way in this new world without hewing to either of the big powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, eschewing the icy hostilities of the Cold War and bask in the warmth of Third World (as it was then known) cooperation.
  • The co-founders were India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Egypt’s Gemal Abdel Nasser, Yugoslavia’s Josep Broz Tito, and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah were all figures of international consequence, and their collective charisma attracted lesser lights from around the world.
  • The Asian-African Conference of 1955 held in Bandung was the catalyst for the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • The actual formation took place in Belgrade, where the Non-Aligned Movement was formally established by the leaders of 25 developing countries in 1961.

 

Why is it losing relevance today? – Criticisms:

  1. NAM today has grown into a forum where developing nations could blame all their problems on the big powers.
  2. It has become a platform for some of the world’s most despicable leaders to preen and posture.
  3. NAM’s reason to exist ended in 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. The world was left with a single superpower, the US, but quickly became multipolar, with China and India emerging as strong magnetic forces in their own right.

 

Way ahead:

There are now new kinds of alignments, more likely to be defined by economics and geography than by ideology. To be aligned is now a virtue, a sign of good leadership.

Countries, especially small ones, can and should aim for multiple alignments of their interests. There is now no country in the world that can claim to be non-aligned.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

GS Paper 3:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Merger of BSNL and MTNL

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: The merger, need, challenges and significance and outcomes, reasons for the crisis.

 

Context: Union Cabinet approves revival plan of BSNL and MTNL.

 

The revival plan includes:

  1. Allotment of spectrum for 4G services.
  2. Debt restructuring by raising of bonds with sovereign guarantee.
  3. Reducing employee costs.
  4. Monetisation of assets.
  5. In-principle approval of merger of BSNL & MTNL.

 

What’s the crisis all about?

For some time now, BSNL is trying hard to sustain itself in a competitive market and was willing to accept what the government decides.

The government was in a Catch-22 situation wherein it had to decide between survival of BSNL/MTNL on one side and safeguarding the interests of employees.

 

Challenges faced by PSUs:

Overstaffing: BSNL has a huge employee base of 1.66 lakh and MTNL 21,679. Private players have just 25,000-30,000 employees across India.

Huge expenses: About 60% of BSNL’s revenues go towards managing employee expenses, while for MTNL it is around 87%.

Increased competition: Triggered after entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016. PSUs failed to keep up with the change. The low data tariffs with free voice calls impacted the industry as a whole and not just PSUs.

The survival of the PSUs was largely dependent on the attitude of its employees, who could not approach a professional attitude with the change in times.

Excessive interference by the Department of Telecommunications.

 

What else can be done?

  1. If the government is agreeable to an upgrade of its management, and to bring in a commercially driven partner who can leverage the massive resources of the PSUs and generate revenues, then the revival package would be worth it.
  2. Both the firms, especially BSNL, have huge assets, be in terms of real estate or optical fibre, which will be very essential for the smooth rollout of next-generation technology 5G.
  3. BSNL has huge infra assets and Right of Ways are an advantage, which can be shared with private players. Their real estate is very valuable with presence in all major city centres with premium real estate.

 

Way ahead:

With the proposed measures, it is expected that BSNL will come out of losses by 2023-24 while MTNL will be back to profits in 2025-26, according to estimates. Both the PSUs have a debt of around Rs 20,000 crore.

 

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered:

  1. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

 

World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About the index, top and bottom performers, performance of India.

For Mains: Challenges for India and ways to address these challenges to reach the target set.

 

Context: World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking released.

10 top improvers are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria.

 

About Doing Business project:

It provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies and selected cities at the subnational and regional level.

Launched in 2002, looks at domestic small and medium-size companies and measures the regulations applying to them through their life cycle.

Indicators:

This year’s study covers 12 indicator sets and 190 economies. Ten of these areas—starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency—are included in the ease of doing business score and ease of doing business ranking.

Doing Business also measures regulation on employing workers and contracting with the government, which are not included in the ease of doing business score and ranking.

 

Performance of India:

  • India went up 14 rungs in the 2020 survey to score a 63, making it the one of world’s top 10 most improved countries for the third consecutive time.
  • However, India failed to achieve government’s target of being at 50th place. It was 77th last year.
  • This is the third year in a row that India has made it to the top 10 in Doing Business, which is a success which very few countries have done over the 20 years of the project.

 

Challenges:

  1. India still lags in areas such as enforcing contracts (163rd) and registering property (154th).
  2. It takes 58 days and costs on average 7.8% of a property’s value to register it, longer and at greater cost than among OECD high-income economies.
  3. It takes 1,445 days for a company to resolve a commercial dispute through a local first-instance court, almost three times the average time in OECD high-income economies.

 

What helped India improve its ranking?

  1. Sustained business reforms over the past several years.
  2. India conducted four reforms in the 12-month period to May 1. Among other improvements, India made the process of obtaining a building permit more efficient.
  3. Importing and exporting also became easier for companies with the creation of a single electronic platform for trade stakeholders, upgrades to port infrastructure and improvements to electronic submission of documents.

 

Way ahead:

In 2015, the government’s goal was to join the 50 top economies on the ease of doing business ranking by 2020. While the competition to move up the ladder would increase and become much tougher, India is on track to be within top 50 of the Ease of Doing business in the next year or two. And to come under 25 or below 50, the government needs to announce and start implementing next set of ambitious reforms now, as these reforms takes a few years to be realized on the ground.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

Quantum Supremacy

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: What is it? Significance.

 

Context: Google researchers claim to have achieved a major milestone in computer science known as “quantum supremacy.”

They said their quantum system had executed a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken a classic computer 10,000 years to complete.

 

What is quantum supremacy?

It means only that researchers have been able to use a quantum computer to perform a single calculation that no conventional computer, even the biggest supercomputer, can perform in a reasonable amount of time.

 

The case of Google:

  1. This calculation involved checking whether the output of an algorithm for generating random numbers was truly random.
  2. The researchers were able to use a quantum computer to perform this complex mathematical calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds, according to the paper.
  3. They say it would have taken Summit 3—an IBM-built machine that is the world’s most powerful commercially-available conventional computer—about 10,000 years to perform the same task.

 

How do quantum computers work?

Quantum computers work by harnessing the properties of quantum mechanics.

Quantum computers use logical units called quantum bits, or qubits for short, that can be put into a quantum state where they can simultaneously represent both 0 and 1.

 

Difference between classical and quantum computers?

  1. Classical computers process information in a binary format, called bits, which can represent either a 0 or 1.
  2. While the bits in a classical computer all operate independently from one another, in a quantum computer, the status of one qubit effects the status of all the other qubits in the system, so they can all work together to achieve a solution.

 

How the result I’d obtained?

But while a conventional computer outputs the same answer to a problem every time you run a calculation, the outputs of a quantum computer are probabilistic. That means it does not always produce the same answer. So to use a quantum computer, you have to run a calculation through the system thousands or even millions of times, and the array of outputs converge around the answer that is most likely to be correct.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


 

GS Paper 4:

 

Why link Aadhaar to social media accounts?

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Right to Privacy.

For Mains: Linking of Aadhar- issues, concerns, challenges and other alternatives.

 

Context: From January, the Supreme Court will hear cases seeking the linking of Aadhaar with social media profiles of individuals. It will be the first big legal battle on the right to privacy after the Supreme Court held in a landmark verdict in 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.

 

Need for linking of Aadhar?

  1. To keep a check on the spread of fake news, pornographic and anti-national content, among other things.
  2. The government has referred to the Blue Whale game, the online suicide challenge that has reportedly claimed hundreds of deaths in countries like Russia and India.
  3. In the case of the Blue Whale challenge, the government found it hard to trace the originator of the online content.

 

Opposition to this move:

  1. Social media platforms like Facebook have been fighting this move to link user profiles with Aadhaar as they believe it would violate the users’ privacy policy.
  2. Facebook has also defended itself, saying that it cannot share the 12-digit Aadhaar number on WhatsApp as it is end-to-end encrypted, even for Facebook.
  3. If the apex court rules in favour of Aadhaar linking with social media accounts, it would end private communications and experts believe this could also allow the government to use social media platforms as surveillance tools.

 

What have the Courts said?

The Supreme Court said on August 20, 2019, that there is a need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the state to trace the origins of hateful messages and fake news.

On August 21, the Madras High Court dismissed the original prayer to link Aadhaar to social media accounts as it violated the Supreme Court’s judgment on Aadhaar.

 

Why this may not be the right move?

Cyberspace is like an ocean — endless and limitless — and we just cannot restrict it by or within any geography. There is no Indian internet as such.

Since Aadhaar has almost all information related to our bank accounts it is better to avoid treading that path. 

Also, a social media account is a private account of a person — it necessarily does not have to be linked to a government database just for the sake of privacy.

Linking with Aadhaar will be jeopardizing the independence and democratic rights of the person for one never knows know that data may be misused by the companies or the government of the day. 

 

What can be done?

  1. Phone verification: Most of the folks and younger generation use social media from their phones. There are already norms that every phone number needs to be verified — the need of the hour is to get them implemented more stringently on the ground.
  2. Another way is KYC option of linking social media accounts via the traditional physical verification option or through the references options.
  3. There is also a big need to create awareness among the users to stop propagating fake news and verify the news because in the long run an educated consumer of news is the best antidote to fake news.

 

Way ahead:

As a country, we must focus on investing on research to develop the technology to save our virtual space and not open our data for any misuse. 

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


 

Facts for prelims:

 

Snow Leopard:

Context: First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India Launched.

Launched on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day.

Key facts:

  • Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft).
  • State animal of Himachal Pradesh and the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan.
  • Habitat extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
  • Listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Global Snow Leopard Forum, 2013:12 countries encompassing the snow leopard’s range (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan).
  • Bishkek Declaration: To protect the species and it’s environment.
  • Global Snow Leopard and Eco-system Protection Program: It is a joint initiative of range country governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector. Goal — secure the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.

 

GIA – Group of Intellectuals and Academicians:

GIA is a group of empowered Indian women, intellectuals & academicians working together to elevate the position of women in our society, committed to work in the service of the nation.

  • Composition: National leaders, President Awardees, distinguished Supreme Court lawyers, industrialists, professors of prestigious institutions, principals of colleges, directors of institutes, internationally renowned artists/dancers, sportswomen, writers, poets, IT professionals and many others from various fields.
  • Aim: to become the voice of the most silent and underprivileged section of our nation with legal and academic support.

Why in News? GIA delegation presents ‘Report from Ground Zero’ on Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh post-Article 370 scrapping.