Print Friendly, PDF & Email

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 05 February 2020

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 05 February 2020

Table of Contents:

 

GS Paper 2:

1. Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA).

2. East Asia Summit.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Vikram Sarabhai.

2. India develops new vaccine to control classical swine fever.

3. Reverse osmosis (RO).

4. Blue dot network.

5. Maharashtra tops list of States hit by global medical data leak.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Burhi Dihing river.

2. Mukti Caravan.

3. nCoV outbreak declared a State calamity in Kerala.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

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

Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)

What to study?

For Prelims: PTA- features and applications.

For Mains: Significance of the move and it’s implications.

Context: The government has announced that it was abolishing in “public interest” an anti-dumping duty that was levied on imports of a chemical called PTA.

Implications:

Domestic manufacturers of polyester have called the move a huge relief for the industry, claiming they had been fighting to remove the duty for four-and-a-half years.

What is PTA?

  • Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) is a crucial raw material used to make various products, including polyester fabrics.
  • PTA makes up for around 70-80% of a polyester product and is, therefore, important to those involved in the manufacture of man-made fabrics or their components.
  • This includes products like polyester staple fibre and spun yarn. Some sportswear, swimsuits, dresses, trousers, curtains, sofa covers, jackets, car seat covers and bed sheets have a certain proportion of polyester in them.

What led to the government decision?

  1. There has been persistent demand that they should be allowed to source that particular product at an affordable rate, even if it means importing it.
  2. Easy availability of this “critical input” at competitive prices was desirable to unlock “immense” potential in the textile sector, seen as a “significant” employment generator.
  3. The duty had meant importers were paying an extra $27-$160 for every 1,000 kg of PTA that they wanted to import from countries like China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Korea and Thailand.
  4. Removing the duty will allow PTA users to source from international markets and may make it as much as $30 per 1,000 kg cheaper than now.

Why was it imposed in the first place?

The companies, which submitted that they accounted for over 50% of the domestic PTA industry, had argued that some countries had been exporting the product to India at prices lower than its value in their own domestic markets. This dumping of PTA into the Indian market had a “significant” adverse impact on the domestic industry, they argued.

Why was the move controversial?

  1. Companies using PTA to manufacture polyester products claimed that the move went against the government’s vision of making the textiles sector a globally competitive industry. According to them, the move left them with limited domestic suppliers of PTA. The companies had alleged that the product’s cost had become more expensive domestically, which made their own products pricier and less attractive for their domestic and international buyers.
  2. This had led to a drop in exports of some of these products during 2014-16, and an increase in imports of the products they had been producing, as there was no safeguard against imports of cheaper versions of these downstream polyester-based products.
  3. On top of this, the domestic industry had argued that domestic PTA producers had not only been unable to ramp up capacity to cater to demand for the product, shutdowns of their manufacturing facilities once a year for maintenance purposes had also led to shortages of the raw material. PTA users claim that they had not been manufacturing as much polyester as they were capable of, operating at 70% of their capacity at any given time.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

East Asia Summit

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: EAS- composition, objectives, significance for India and issues associated.

Context: India is set to host an East Asia Summit conference this week in Chennai with a focus on maritime security cooperation and tackling challenges in the maritime domain.

It will be organised by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in partnership with the governments of Australia and Indonesia.

Significance:

The Conference is expected to serve as a platform for free and open dialogue among all the EAS partners on various issues of maritime security cooperation, and to come up with useful suggestions on tackling challenges in the maritime domain in a cooperative manner.

Background:

This conference is the fourth in a series of EAS Maritime Security Conferences organised by the Indian government — the first conference was organised in New Delhi in November 2015, the second in Goa in November 2016 and the third in Bhubaneswar in June 2018.

About East Asia Summit:

EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.

It is a forum held annually by leaders of 18 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions.

EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings.

The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005.

There are six priority areas of regional cooperation within the framework of the EAS. These are – Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. India endorses regional collaboration in all six priority areas.

Potential:

  1. EAS, representing nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global trade, is a mega gathering and is a testimony to the rise of Asia.
  2. EAS is a region of strong and fast growing economies. It is considered the third pole of world economy after the US and Europe.Its four major economic players namely Japan, China, India and Korea are among the twelve largest ranking global economies.
  3. Financial and monetary cooperation between ASEAN+6 or EAS countries could be an area of fruitful cooperation in view of the fact that their combined foreign exchange reserves exceed $ 3 trillion.

Significance for India:

  1. For India, EAS acts as an alternative to the APEC in which India doesn’t enjoy the membership.
  2. India’s membership to the EAS is a recognition of its fast growing economic and political clout.
  3. Act East policy of India: In order to build multi-faceted relations with ASEAN and other multilateral nations and strengthen bilateral relations India has emphasised upon its Act East Policies for which EAS will prove crucial.
  4. China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and the nature of its growing investments has led the ASEAN countries to view India as a potential power that could balance a rising China.
  5. India’s strength lies in service sector and information-technology and Japan has a sound capital base. Thus there are complementarities in trade and production structures of the EAS members.
  6. India’s deep cultural and civilizational links with the EAS countries are widely known. India can play a major role in cultural and people to people cooperation with the region, which can reinforce the economic momentum for community building.

East_Asia_Summit

Sources: pib.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Vikram Sarabhai

What to study?

For prelims: Key contributions of Vikram Sarabhai.

For mains: Contributions of India and Indians to the development of space technology.

Context: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are conducting various events at national level in a year long programme to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.

About Vikram Sarabhai and his contributions:

Vikram Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919. Sarabhai was instrumental in forming India’s future in astronomy and setting up the country’s space research facilities.

Key contributions:

  1. Based on his persuasion, the Indian government agreed to set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962.
  2. Sarabhai was the first chairman of the committee. The INCOSPAR was restructured and renamed as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969.
  3. Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad in the year 1947. The laboratory started its operation from RETREAT, Sarabhai’s residence in Ahmedabad. Its first topic of research was cosmic rays.
  4. He also set up India’s first rocket launch site in Thumba,a small village near the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala.
  5. Vikram Sarabhai was also responsible for bringing cable television to India. His constant contact with NASA paved a way for the establishment of Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1975.
  6. Sarabhai was the mastermind behind building India’s first satellite, Aryabhata.
  7. He was one of the founding members of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).
  8. Vikram Sarabhai received the Padma Bhushanin 1966 for his contribution to India’s progress. He was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972, posthumously.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

India develops new vaccine to control classical swine fever

What to study?

For Prelims: About CSF, symptoms and prevention, the new vaccine.

For Mains: Significance and the need for new vaccines.

Context: The Indian Institute of Veterinary Research (IVRI) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed a new vaccine to control classical swine fever.

About the vaccine and it’s significance:

It is a live attenuated CSF cell culture vaccine (indigenous strain).

The indigenously developed vaccine will help in saving rabbits as the currently used vaccine (lapinized CSF vaccine) is produced by sacrificing large numbers of rabbits.

Besides, the new vaccine gives immunity for two years as compared to 3 to 6 months protection under the currently used vaccines.

The new vaccine will be a part of the government’s One Health Initiative.

What is Classical Swine Fever (CSF)?

Hog Cholera or Classical swine fever (CSF) is a contagious viral disease of domestic and wild swine.

It happens due to the viruses that bring viral diarrhea in pigs and ailments in sheep.

The disease does not harm humans but all-important precautions are advised to follow.

Concerns for India:

  • Classical Swine Fever (CSF) is one of the biggest pigs’ diseases in India. It causes a loss of about 400 crores of rupees per year in India. This has led to a decrease in the population of pigs in 2019.
  • India currently requires 22 million doses of the CSF (Classical Swine Fever) vaccine every year. However, currently, only 1.2 million doses are being produced. The reason behind its less production is that only 50 doses can be prepared from the spleen of a rabbit.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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.

Reverse osmosis (RO)

What to study?

For Prelims: What is Osmosis and RO? TDS in water.

For Mains: Why was it banned? Issues and alternatives available.

 Context: The Union Environment Ministry has issued a notification to comply with the NGT order which prohibited the use of reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers in places where total dissolved solids (TDS) in the supplied water are below 500 mg per litre.

The NGT had ordered a ban on RO filters on the grounds that they wasted water and that, in the process of removing salts, they often deprived drinking water of essential salts, which could affect the nutritional intake of the people.

Background:

Current BIS regulations consider 500 mg/litre—1,200 mg/litre of total dissolved solids, which consist of salts and some organic matter, as acceptable.

Osmosis and RO:

Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.

A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurised against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.

What are the problems with RO plants?

Deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.

Affects fauna and flora: Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species. The high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.

Construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. Freshwater that was sucked out and is replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Cost and time: On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.

Energy needed: To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source. Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.

Is RO water healthy?

There are concerns that desalinated the RO water may be short of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates.

Most RO plants put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.

Are there technological alternatives?

Low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water. So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber. Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: It will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process. This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially. For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Infrastructure.

Blue dot network

What to study?

For Prelims: Meaning, members and features.

For Mains: Need for and significance.

Context: The first meeting of the Blue Dot Network‘s embryonic steering committee was held recently in Washington, with Australia and Japan as partners.

What is the Blue dot network?

The U.S., Australia and Japan announced the network during the November 4, 2019, Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok. The initiative aligns with the G20’s Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment, particularly on governance, environmental standards and transparency.

  • It is a new S.-led certification plan.
  • A “blue dot” will be awarded to projects the initiative endorses. 
  • The Network will not itself directly invest in projects.
  • At present the project is led by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (boasting access to $60 billion in capital), in partnership with the government-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs. 
  • Once fully up and running, the new network will bring together governments, the private sector and other organizations behind a set of high-quality global infrastructure development standards.

 Significance:

It will act as a globally recognized seal of approval for major infrastructure projects, letting people know the projects are sustainable and not exploitative.

Here’s how the network will work:

  • Any country or company can participate in the network, as long as it agrees to adhere to the network’s high standards of promoting quality, private sector-led investment. Projects that seek to be certified by the Blue Dot Network will complete an online application.
  • Countries, companies and local communities will all benefit from the Blue Dot Network. When projects are certified by the Blue Dot Network, communities and investors can be confident about the high standards and sustainability of the infrastructure.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

Maharashtra tops list of States hit by global medical data leak

What to study?

For Prelims: Key findings.

For Mains: Concerns, challenges and preparedness.

Context: Greenbone Sustainable Resilience, a German cybersecurity firm, has published a report on medical data leak. This is the second report.

Key findings:

  1. Medical details of over 120 million Indian patients have been leaked and made freely available on the Internet.
  2. Leaks include a massive number of records, including images of CT scans, X-rays, MRIs and even pictures of the patients.
  3. The report also places Maharashtra at the top of the States affected by the leak. Followed by Karnataka.

Ranking of the countries:

This is the second edition of the report and it classifies countries in the “good”, “bad” and “ugly” categories based on the action taken by their governments after the first report was made public. India ranks second in the “ugly” category, after the U.S.

Concerns:

  • The leak is worrying because the affected patients can include anyone from the common working man to politicians and celebrities. In image-driven fields like politics or entertainment, knowledge about certain ailments faced by people from these fields could deal a huge blow to their image.
  • The other concern is of fake identities being created using the details, which can be misused in any possible number of ways.

Issues to be addressed:

The report says the leak was facilitated by the fact that the Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) servers, where these details are stored, are not secure and linked to the public Internet without any protection, making them easily accessible to malicious elements.

Why maintain privacy?

Any communication between a doctor and a patient is privileged one. A doctor or a hospital is thus ethically, legally and morally bound to maintain confidentiality.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


 

Burhi Dihing river:

Context: A stretch of the eastern Assam’s Burhi Dihing River was recently on fire for the last two days due to a leakage in the underwater oil pipeline.

Key facts:

Dihing or Burhi Dihing is a large tributary of the Brahmaputra River in Upper Assam.

Originates in the Eastern Himalayas (the Patkai Hills) in Arunachal Pradesh and flows through Tinsukia and Dibrugarh Districts in Assam to its confluence with the Brahmaputra at Dihingmukh.

 

Mukti Caravan:

Context: It was recently flagged off in Rajasthan.

Significance: It is mobilising people against child trafficking with the focus on generating awareness about preventive procedures in place to combat forced labour, exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

Objective: Led by the child labour survivors, the caravan will reach out to villages and towns prone to human trafficking. The participants will distribute pamphlets and hold discussions with the people at public places and organise activities such as skits, poem recitation and screening of short films with an appeal to take action against trafficking.

Organisers: The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) and Rajasthan Police have joined hands to run the campaign, which will be joined by the Superintendents of Police in the districts of their jurisdiction.

 

nCoV outbreak declared a State calamity in Kerala:

  • Kerala has declared the novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection a State calamity.
  • So far, there have been three confirmed cases.
  • The decision will help ensure that the outbreak is controlled.