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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 13DECEMBER 2019

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 13DECEMBER 2019

Table of contents:

GS Paper 2:

      1. India Skills Report.

     2. Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY).

GS Paper 3:

     1. Rare Earth Elements.

     2. Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019.

     3. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  

     4. Heavy metals contaminating rivers.

Facts for prelims:

  1. ‘Iron Union 12’.

  2. NFRA

  3. Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF).

 

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.

India Skills Report 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key findings, top performers.

For Mains: Significance of the report.

Context: India Skills Report 2019-20 has been released.

For Prelims:

What is India Skills Report?

It is a joint initiative by PeopleStrong, a Global Talent Assessment Company, in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) along with partners like UNDP, AICTE, and AIU.

The report also consists of an in-depth study of employability amongst the fresh candidates joining the workforce.

Key findings:

  1. About 46.21 per cent students were found employable or ready to take up jobs in 2019, compared with 33 per cent in 2014, and 47.38 per cent in 2018.
  2. Female employability witnessed an upward trend at 47 per cent this year from 38 per cent in 2017 and 46 per cent in 2018.
  3. Most employable candidates as per the courses were MBA Students at 54 per cent as against 40 per cent in the last two years.
  4. A decline in employability was seen in BTech, Engineering. MCA graduates, Technical & Computer-related courses.

Performance of states:

Top three states in terms of employability: Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Top two employable cities: Mumbai and Hyderabad.

States that registered a dip in ranking were West Bengal and Haryana, which could not make it to the top ten list.

Value addition for Mains:

Way ahead for India:

Availability of employable talent has improved over the past six years.

Prime Minister Modi’s vision of India becoming a $5 trillion economy requires increasing the per-capita income of Indians which can happen only when people get employment, which consequently demands the skills and useful talent.

To achieve that, along with the universities and colleges in India, various emerging start-ups are already using innovative technologies to facilitate skill up-gradation, job creation, internships and workforce management on their platforms.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

PIB- Atal Bhujal yojana

What to study?

For Prelims: Atal Bhujal Yojana- Objectives, funding and implementation, CGWA.

For Mains: Groundwater crisis- reasons, challenges, concerns and solutions, various efforts by the government.

For Prelims:

About Atal Bhujal Yojana:

It is a Rs.6000 crore World Bank approved Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

The funding pattern is 50:50 between Government of India and World Bank.

Aims to improve ground water management in priority areas in the country through community participation.

Priority areas:

  • The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India.
  • They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.

Implementation of the scheme:

Funds under the scheme will be provided to the states for strengthening the institutions responsible for ground water governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving ground water management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water. The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.

Value addition for Mains:

Expected outcomes:

The implementation of the scheme is expected to have several positive outcomes like better understanding of the ground water regime, focused and integrated community based approach for addressing issues related to ground water depletion, sustainable ground water management through convergence of on-going and new schemes, adoption of efficient water use practices to reduce ground water use for irrigation and augmentation of ground water resources in targeted areas.

Status of groundwater in India:

Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating ground water development in States/UTs. As per the assessment of dynamic ground water resources of country carried out jointly by CGWB and State Ground Water Departments, out of the total 6584 numbers of assessment units (Block/ Taluks/ Mandals/ watershed/ Firkka), 1034 units have been categorized as ‘Over-exploited’. This may be due to increase in population, rapid urbanization & industrialization and other related factors.

Sources: pib.

 

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Rare Earth Elements

What to study?

For Prelims: What are Rare earth elements? Applications?

For Mains: Significance.

 

Context: The US Army plans to fund the construction of a Rare Earths processing facility to secure the domestic supply of minerals that are used to make military weapons and electronics.

This will be the first financial investment by the US military into commercial-scale Rare Earths production since the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War II.

What necessitated this?

  • The decision comes after China threatened to stop exporting Rare Earth materials to the US amid the ongoing trade war between the countries.
  • At present, China refines approximately 80%-90% of the world’s Rare Earths, thereby having substantial control over their supply.

For Prelims and Mains:

What are REMs?

  • The rare earths minerals (REM) are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium that show similar physical and chemical properties to the lanthanides.
  • The REMs have unique catalytic, metallurgical, nuclear, electrical, magnetic and luminescent properties. While named ‘rare earth’, they are in fact not that rare and are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.

Strategic importance of REMs:

They have distinctive electrical, metallurgical, catalytic, nuclear, magnetic and luminescent properties.

  • Its usage range from daily use (e.g., lighter flints, glass polishing mediums, car alternators) to high-end technology (lasers, magnets, batteries, fibre-optic telecommunication cables).
  • Even futuristic technologies need these REMs (For example high-temperature superconductivity, safe storage and transport of hydrogen for a post-hydrocarbon economy, environmental global warming and energy efficiency issues).
  • Due to their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, they help in technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; therefore give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics covered:

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019

What to study?

For Prelims: About CCPI- features, criteria and performance of various countries.

For Mains: Concerns for India, areas for improvement and the need for government’s active involvement in controlling climate change.

Context: The latest edition of Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) was recently presented at the climate summit in Madrid.

For Prelims:

What is Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI)?

Designed by the German environmental and development organisation Germanwatch e.V.

  • Published in cooperation with the NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network International and with financial support from Barthel Foundation.
  • Objective: To enhance transparency in international climate politics.
  • First published in 2005 and an updated version is presented at the UN Climate Change Conference annually.
  • In 2017, the underlying methodology of the CCPI was revised and adapted to the new climate policy framework of the Paris Agreement from 2015. The CCPI was extended in order to include the measurement of a country’s progress towards the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the country’s 2030 targets.

The national performances are assessed based on 14 indicators in the following four categories:

  1. GHG Emissions (weighting 40%).
  2. Renewable Energy (weighting 20%).
  3. Energy Use (weighting 20%).
  4. Climate Policy (weighting 20%).

Components_of_the_CCPI

India’s performance:

  1. India, at rank 9, joins the top ten countries.
  2. Despite high ratings for the performance of its climate policy, the government is yet to draw up a roadmap to reduce subsidies on fossil fuels in a phased manner.
  3. In short, more stringent laws and amendments should be made to achieve climate change targets.

Performance of other countries:

  • USA for the first time replaces Saudi Arabia as worst performing country.
  • Sweden is ranked first, Denmark climbs up significantly in the ranking.
  • Eight EU countries rated “high” – Poland and Bulgaria “very low”.
  • China, the largest global emitter, once again slightly improves its ranking to 30th place (“medium”).
  • While only two G20 countries, the UK (7th) and India (9th), are ranked in the “high” category, eight G20 countries are remaining in the worst category of the index (“very low”).

Value addition for mains:

Key findings:

  • Majority of countries show decline in emissions.
  • Decreasing emissions in 31 out of 57 high emitting countries – global coal consumption falling.
  • But more ambition and accelerated action needed.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered:

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Conservation related issues.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Categorization of IUCN red list, features and criteria, recent additions from India to the list.

 

Context: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added about 1,840 new species to its updated “Red List of Threatened Species”. The list now contains over 30,000 species under threat of disappearing.

For Prelims:

What is IUCN red list of threatened species?

It is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.

How are species categorised? It uses a set of quantitative criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species.

The IUCN Red List Categories:

The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed. Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).

Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.

Nine_Categories_Extended_From_Ne_to_EX

Table

The IUCN system uses a set of five quantitative criteria to assess the extinction risk of a given species. In general, these criteria consider:

  1. The rate of population decline.
  2. The geographic range.
  3. Whether the species already possesses a small population size.
  4. Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area.
  5. Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild.

Value addition for Mains:

Utility of the red list:

It brings into focus the ongoing decline of Earth’s biodiversity and the influence humans have on life on the planet. It provides a globally accepted standard with which to measure the conservation status of species over time.

  • Scientists can analyze the percentage of species in a given category and how these percentages change over time; they can also analyze the threats and conservation measures that underpin the observed trends.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered:

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Heavy metals contaminating rivers

What to study?

For Prelims: What are heavy metals?

For Mains: Key findings, contamination and concerns.

Context: Central Water Commission (CWC) has released a report on heavy metals contaminating Indian rivers.

Background:

The exercise was limited to surface water and did not cover groundwater contamination.

Value addition for Mains:

Key findings:

  • Samples from two-thirds of the water quality stations spanning India’s major rivers are contaminated by one or more heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • Ironemerged as the most common contaminant.
  • Arsenic and zinc are the two toxic metals whose concentration is always found within the limits.
  • Other major contaminants found in the samples were lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium and copper.
  • The contamination of water sites depends on the season- varied presence of contaminants is found in different seasons.
  • Metals found in Non-Monsoon Period: Lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and copper.
  • Monsoon Period:Iron, lead, chromium and copper exceeded ‘tolerance limits’ in this period most of the time.
  • The main sources of heavy metal pollution are mining, milling, plating and surface finishing industries that discharge a variety of toxic metals into the environment.
  • The population growth and rise in agricultural and industrial activities are also responsible for contamination of surface water.

What’s the concern?

The presence of metals in drinking water to some extent is unavoidable and certain metals, in trace amounts, are required for good health. However, when present above safe limits, they are associated with a range of disorders.

Long-term exposure to the heavy metals may result in physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that mimic Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

For Prelims:

What are heavy metals?

Metals with relatively high densities, atomic weights, or atomic numbers.

A density of more than 5 g/cm3 is sometimes quoted as a commonly used criterion.

Sources: the Hindu.

Facts for prelims:

It is a joint military exercise between the ground forces of the UAE and the United States. The latest edition is being held in UAE.

National Financial Reporting Authority:

What is it? NFRA is a body proposed in Companies Act 2013 for the establishment and enforcement of accounting and auditing standards and oversight of the work of auditors.

Functions: It would be an overarching watchdog for auditing profession and once set up, the current powers of the ICAI to act against erring chartered accountants will be vested with the new regulator. The NFRA will have powers to debar an erring auditor or auditing firm for up to ten years besides slapping heavy penalties.

Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of the NFRA will extend to all listed companies as well as large unlisted public companies. Besides, the government can refer other entities for investigation by the NFRA where public interest would be involved.

Composition: The regulator will have 15 members, including a chairperson and three full-time members. Besides, there would be a secretary.

Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF):

Context: International technology company IBM is planning to develop this high-resolution weather forecast model that will also rely on user-generated data to improve the accuracy of forecasts available in India.

  • IBM GRAF, as the forecast system is called, can generate forecasts at a resolution of 3 kilometres.