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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 10 November 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Fifteenth Finance Commission.

2. CCI to probe Google’s ‘abuse’ of position.

3. What is the Opec+?

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Polavaram project.

2. NGT links firecracker sales to air quality.

3. Pfizer vaccine.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. India Mobile Congress (IMC).

2. Saffron.

3. Minks.

4. India, Maldives sign four MoUs to boost ties.

5. 13th Urban Mobility India (UMI) Conference inaugurated.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Fifteenth Finance Commission:


Context:

The Fifteenth Finance Commission led by Chairman N K Singh, submitted its Report to the President of India.

  • The Report will be available in the public domain once it is tabled in the Parliament by the Union Government.

Background:

The Finance Commission was required to submit two reports. The first report, consisting of recommendations for the financial year 2020-21, was tabled in Parliament.

Terms of reference (ToR):

  1. The Commission was asked to give its recommendations on many unique and wide-ranging issues in its terms of reference.
  2. Apart from the vertical and horizontal tax devolution, local government grants, disaster management grant, the Commission was also asked to examine and recommend performance incentives for States in many areas like power sector, adoption of DBT, solid waste management etc.
  3. The Commission was also asked to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalised.

What is the Finance Commission?

The Finance Commission is a constitutionally mandated body that is at the centre of fiscal federalism.

  • Set up under Article 280 of the Constitution, its core responsibility is to evaluate the state of finances of the Union and State Governments, recommend the sharing of taxes between them, lay down the principles determining the distribution of these taxes among States.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. FC- composition.
  2. Functions of FC.
  3. Appointment of members and constitution of FC.
  4. Types of FC grants.
  5. Formula used by 15th finance commission.

Mains Link:

Give an account of the composition and functions of the Finance Commission as mentioned in the Constitution of India.

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

CCI to probe Google’s ‘abuse’ of position:


Context:

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered a detailed probe against Google for ‘abuse’ of its dominant position, primarily with regard to its digital payments application GPay.

What’s the case against Google?

Multiple instances of abuse of dominant position including pre-installation of GPay on Android OS smartphones and use of Google Play’s in-app billing as the method of payment by developers.

What next?

CCI is of the prima facie view that the opposite parties have contravened various provisions of Section 4 of the Act. These aspects warrant a detailed investigation.

Section 4 of the Competition Act pertains to abuse of dominant market position.

Competition Commission of India:

It is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition.

Functions of the commission:

  1. It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  2. The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About CCI.
  2. Functions.
  3. Overview of the Competition Act, 2002.
  4. Appeals against the orders of CCI.

Mains Link:

Discuss how competition law is enforced in the country.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

What is the Opec+?


Context:

After news of a highly effective Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 and Saudi Arabia’s assurance that an OPEC+ oil output deal could be adjusted to balance the market, Oil prices have jumped.

What is the Opec+?

Opec+ refers to the alliance of crude producers, who have been undertaking corrections in supply in the oil markets since 2017.

OPEC plus countries include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan and Sudan.

What is OPEC?

  1. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in Baghdad, Iraq, with the signing of an agreement in September 1960 by five countries namely Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. They were to become the Founder Members of the Organization.
  2. OPEC is a permanent, intergovernmental organization.
  3. OPEC’s objective is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.
  4. It is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
  5. OPEC membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and which shares the ideals of the organization.

 InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Founder members of OPEC.
  2. Top oil producers?
  3. India’s crude oil imports?
  4. Components and refining of crude oil.
  5. Crude oil storage facilities in India?
  6. Geographical location of OPEC members.
  7. Type of Crude oil produced by OPEC and non-OPEC members.
  8. What is OPEC+?

Mains Link:

How groups, such as OPEC, influence oil prices across the world? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage.

Polavaram project:


Context:

Andhra Pradesh government recently said that it is planning to complete the Polavaram project by 2022 kharif season, and six other projects — Vamsadhara-Phase 2, Vamsadhara-Nagavali link, Owk tunnel-2, Velugonda-Phase 1 and Nellore and Sangam barrages — in 2020-21.

(Note: Please try to have an overview of important irrigation projects and rivers across which they are being built. Also, locate them on the map.)

About the Polavaram project:

  • The dam is being built across the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It will facilitate an inter-basin transfer to the Krishna river basin through its Right canal.
  • Its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.
  • The project is a multipurpose major terminal reservoir project for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities.
  • The project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Godavari and its tributaries.
  2. Polavaram project- basin states.
  3. Locate these projects on map- Vamsadhara-Nagavali link, Owk tunnel-2, Velugonda-Phase 1 and Nellore and Sangam barrages.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of Polavaram project.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation and pollution related issues.

NGT links firecracker sales to air quality:


Context:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in NCR and also ordered a similar ban in all cities/towns where air quality fell below ‘poor’ and above categories last year.

  • The ban on firecrackers in NCR will start from midnight of November 9 to midnight of November 30.

Other directions issued by NGT:

  1. All states/UTs should initiate drives to contain air pollution from all sources in view of potential of aggravation of Covid-19.
  2. The cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below, only green crackers should be sold.
  3. The timings for use and bursting of crackers should be restricted to two hours during festivals like Diwali, Chhath, New Year/Christmas Eve etc., as may be specified by the state concerned.

What’s the issue?

Recently, the tribunal expanded its ambit of hearing cases on pollution by use of firecrackers beyond the Delhi-NCR region and issued notices to 19 states and Union Territories where air quality is beyond norms.

Why do we need such measures?

The tribunal has given primacy to the precautionary principle in sustainable development over employment and revenue losses.

  • This is understandable as the impact of COVID-19 became clear in March, and there were fears of a case surge during the winter, it was incumbent on the Centre to work with States and resolutely prevent the burning of farm stubble ahead of Deepavali.
  • This annual phenomenon unfailingly fouls the air across northern and eastern India, and imposes heavy health and productivity costs.

What else needs to be done now?

Only damage control is possible now, including steps to address the concerns of the fireworks industry.

However, states like Tamil Nadu, where 90% of firecrackers are produced, have legitimate concerns on the fate of the industry this year, which, producers claim, represents about ₹2,300 crore worth of output.

  • Therefore, a transparent compensation scheme for workers, and suitable relief for producers may be necessary.
  • The longer-term solution might lie in broad basing economic activity in the Sivakasi region, reducing reliance on firecrackers.

Conclusion:

There were 148 days of poor to severe air quality during 2019 in the NCR, down from 206 days the previous year. Many other cities have a similar profile, but get less attention.

With 40% of all pollution-linked deaths attributed to bad air quality in leading emerging economies and some evidence from the U.S. on higher COVID-19 mortality in highly polluted areas, it is time governments showed a sense of accountability on the right to breathe clean air.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

Pfizer vaccine:


Context:

A vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials.

What is Phase 3 trial?

During phase three vaccine trials the emphasis for drugmakers is on both determining the efficacy and the safety of a vaccine.

  • This is done so that explicit data can be presented to the various global and national bodies which govern the approval and registering of drugs.
  • If the vaccine is determined effective and relatively safe it will be approved for distribution.

How the vaccine was developed?

  • The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks, and produced at scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines.
  • Unlike traditional vaccines, which work by training the body to recognise and kill proteins produced by pathogens, mRNA tricks the patient’s immune system to produce viral proteins itself. The proteins are harmless, but sufficient to provoke a robust immune response.

Challenges ahead:

  1. Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is among the ones requiring storage at ultracold temperatures. But, billions of people are in countries that don’t have the necessary infrastructure to maintain the cold chain for either existing vaccines or more conventional coronavirus candidates.
  2. Many questions also remain including how long the vaccine will provide protection.
  3. WHO has also warned that there was a funding gap of $4.5bn that could slow access to tests, medicines and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

But, in general, why do we need to vaccinate?

The big idea behind vaccinating the public is to reach an inflection point where so many people will have taken the vaccine that the virus doesn’t have enough viable hosts to continue jumping from person to person and, eventually, as the overwhelming number of people who are essentially partially-immune increase, the virus dies out. This is a form of herd immunity.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Differentiate between- RT- PCR, Rapid antibody and rapid antigen tests.
  2. What are antibodies?
  3. Wha are antigens?
  4. How body’s immune system works?
  5. What are lymphocytes?
  6. What is mRNA technology?

Mains Link:

Write a note on rapid antigen tests.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


India Mobile Congress (IMC):

Context:

Fourth edition of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) was inaugurated recently. To be held virtually this year given the ongoing pandemic.

Theme – “Inclusive Innovation – Smart I Secure I Sustainable”.

Key Points:

  • IMC is jointly organized by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
  • IMC is considered the largest Digital Technology Forum in Asia for bringing together the industry, Government, academia, and other ecosystem players to discuss the latest industry technology trends around major themes such as SG, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Internet of things (loT) etc.

Saffron:

  • The saffron bowl, which was so far confined to Kashmir, may soon expand to the North East of India.
  • Plants from seeds transported from Kashmir to Sikkim and acclimatized there are now flowering in Yangyang in the Southern part of the North-East state.
  • The North East Centre For Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) has undertaken a pilot project to explore the feasibility of growing saffron in North East region of the country.

Background: Pampore region, in India, commonly known as Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron production, followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts.

Minks:

  • Mink are dark-coloured carnivorous mammals from the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, otters and ferrets.
  • More than 50 million mink a year are bred for their fur, mainly in China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland.
  • Mink oil is used in some medical products and cosmetics, as well as to treat, preserve and waterproof leather.
  • There are two extant species referred to as “mink”: the American mink and the European mink.
  • The European mink is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered due to an ongoing reduction in numbers.

Why in News?

Denmark has recorded over 200 human cases infected with SARS-CoV-2 variants that are associated with farmed minks.

Why?

  • Mink, like their close relatives, ferrets, are known to be susceptible to coronavirus.
  • Like humans they can show a range of Covid-19 symptoms, from no signs of illness at all to severe problems, such as pneumonia.

India, Maldives sign four MoUs to boost ties:

  • It includes a $100 million Indian grant for an ambitious connectivity project. This is a part of India’s “$500 million package” for the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP).
  • Two MoUs have been signed for high impact community development projects.
  • A fourth MoU was signed on cooperation in sports and youth affairs.

13th Urban Mobility India (UMI) Conference inaugurated:

  • The annual Urban Mobility India (UMI) Conference and Expo is a flagship event held under the aegis of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India.
  • The genesis of UMI is from the National Urban Transport Policy of the Government of India, 2006 (NUTP).
  • It is a platform for delegates to interact with other professionals, experts, academia, industry, civil society, technology, services providers and other stake holders in Urban Transport .
  • Theme for 2020: “Emerging Trends in Urban Mobility”.

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