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[Mission 2023] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 22 February 2023

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 ina 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

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  1. Why India is watching the El Niño forecast with bated breath
  2. International Mother Language Day: India should shed its colonial legacy by creating content in mother languages

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. Russia suspends New START: What is its last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the US?

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Explained | Vostro accounts and how they facilitate trade
  2. Global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Four-Day Workweek
  2. Coal India converts 30 mined-out areas into an eco-tourism destination

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Muziris: The ‘first emporium of India’ lost for 700 years
  2. Statehood Day- Arunachal and Mizoram
  3. Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity
  4. UPI Pay Linkages
  5. Product Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of pharmaceuticals
  6. Quality Control Orders
  7. New wheat varieties that can beat the heat

 


 

Why India is watching the El Niño forecast with bated breath

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, Volcanic activity, cyclones, etc.

 

Source: The Hindu 

Context: The La Niña itself is going on for a record-breaking third consecutive year; forecasts for 2023 are predicting that El Niño– will occur with more than a 50% probability.

  

About El Niño and La Niña:

  • El Niño refers to a band of warmer water spreading from west to east in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Similarly, a La Niña occurs when the band of water spreads east-west and is cooler.
  • Both phenomena affect the weather worldwide and can have drastic effects on economies that depend on rainfall.
  • Together, El Niño and La Niña make up a cyclical process called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (or ENSO).

  

Issues in predicting El Niño:

  • El Niño forecasts before spring tend to be notoriously unreliable due to a so-called ‘spring predictability barrier’. 
  • The tropical Pacific Ocean soaks up heat like a sponge and builds up its volume of warm water. During El Niño, this warm water spills from the western part of the Pacific Ocean to the eastern part.
  • But the earth has had three straight La Niña years, which means the Pacific’s warm-water volume is fully loaded and is likely to birth an El Niño soon.

  

Effects on the northern Indian Ocean:

  • It tends to produce the largest deficit in the monsoon, approximately 15%.
  • The vertical shear (change in the intensity of winds from the surface to the upper atmosphere) tends to be weaker as well. This in turn can favour enhanced cyclogenesis, i.e. cyclone formation.

el_nino

Prelims Link: UPSC 2017

With reference to the ‘Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)’ sometimes mentioned in the news while forecasting the Indian monsoon, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. IOD phenomenon is characterized by a difference in sea surface temperature between the tropical Western Indian Ocean and the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean.
  2. An IOD phenomenon can influence an EI Nino’s impact on the monsoon.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Solution: B

International Mother Language Day: India should shed its colonial legacy by creating content in mother languages

GS Paper 1/2

Syllabus:  Indian society/ Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education

 

Source: IE

 Context: In 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day in response to the declining state of many languages all over the world.

 

The theme of International Mother Language Day 2023: “Multilingual education — a necessity to transform education.”

 

Significance of the theme:

  • A monolingual system of education negatively impacts learning performance and the development of socio-emotional and foundational literacy skills.
  • The theme underscores the importance of using multiple languages in framing an impactful system of education.

 

Significance of mother tongue: It helps to express oneself, with authenticity, deepest thoughts, feelings, values and ideals and gives a sense of identity.

 

Situation of mother languages all over the world:

  • 40% of the speakers of 6,700 languages do not have access to education in their mother tongue.
  • Therefore, mainstreaming of mother tongue-based multilingual education should be accorded the highest priority.

 

Why has the Day added significance in the Indian context?

  • India is home to a rich linguistic (an ancient repository of hundreds of languages and of dialects) and cultural diversity.
  • “We must teach science in our mother tongue. Otherwise, science will become an activity in which all people can’t participate.” (The Nobel Prize-winning physicist C V Raman)
  • “Foreign medium has turned our children into crammers and imitators and has made our children practically foreigners in their own land.” (Mahatma Gandhi in Young India in 1921)

 

Concerns:

  • Threat westernisation poses to the survival of many Indian dialects and languages.
  • Even as India celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (to mark 75 years of Independence), the colonial legacy of dependence on English continues.
  • Educators and parents continue to accord unquestioned primacy to English, making the educational system exclusive and restrictive.
  • Loss of indigenous languages in India due to modernization and globalizationg. challenges faced by tribal students in Odisha who are not familiar with Odia language, which is spoken by most teachers
    • Lack of education in tribal languages is identified as one of the main reasons for language death in the country.

 

Steps taken to promote mother languages in India:

  • The Indian Constitution (Article 350 A) provides that every state must provide primary education in a mother tongue.
  • The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 advocates education in one’s mother tongue right from the primary-school level. It will instil confidence in students belonging to poor, rural and tribal backgrounds.
  • AICTE’s landmark decision to permit BTech programmes in 11 native languages.
  • The UGC has written to governors and CMs of various states to give a fillip to mother tongue education in colleges and universities.
  • The Staff Selection Commission has decided to conduct examinations in 13 Indian languages in addition to Hindi and English.
  • Similarly, the SC’s decision to make verdicts accessible in all Indian languages is of great significance.

Way ahead:

  • Recognising the role of technology and AI in transforming the educational landscape globally, societies.
  • Fast-track methods to make quality education more accessible, equitable and inclusive.
  • Involve all key stakeholders in education to hasten the process of content creation in mother languages, especially in technical and professional courses.

 

Conclusion: “Mother tongue is eyesight and spectacles to other languages. Spectacles can function properly only if there is eyesight.” (Former VP M Venkaiha Naidu)

 

Insta Links:

Importance of Mother Tongue in Education

Russia suspends New START: What is its last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the US?

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations

 

Source: IE

 Context: The Russian President announced to suspension of its participation in the last remaining major military agreement with the US – New START.

Background:

  • The original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty/START-I was signed between the US and the erstwhile USSR in 1991 and came into force in 1994.
  • START-I, which capped the number of nuclear warheads (to 6,000) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs to 1,600), lapsed in 2009.
  • This was replaced first by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)/the Treaty of Moscow and then by the New START treaty.

 

What is the New START?

  • Officially, the Treaty between the USA and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, entered into force on February 5,
  • It placed new verifiable limits (to be met by 2018) on intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. For example, 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs (submarine-launched) and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments, etc.
  • The US and Russian Federation subsequently agreed to extend the treaty through February 4, 2026.

 

How is compliance with the treaty ensured? The two parties have conducted on-site inspections, exchanged notifications, held meetings with the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and held data exchanges.

 

What is the latest situation on compliance?

  • US: Russia was not complying with the New START, jeopardising a source of stability in their relationship.
  • Russia: The USA’s goal is Russia’s strategic defeat, and for Russia the “theatre of the absurd” (the idea of existentialism) is important.

 

Conclusion:

  • Over the decades, the two sides signed various arms control agreements, imposing breaks on the nuclear arms race – an alarming feature of the Cold War competition.
  • However, deep fissures in their relationship and the suspension of almost all the treaties in recent years, have once again raised the risk of a nuclear arms race.

 

Insta Links:

The Fragile State Of Nuclear Disarmament

 

Mains Links:

In what ways would the ongoing US-Iran Nuclear Pact Controversy affect the national interest of India? How should India respond to its situation? (UPSC 2018)

Explained | Vostro accounts and how they facilitate trade

GS Paper 3

Source: TH

Context: 20 Russian banks have opened Special Rupee Vostro Accounts (SRVA) with partner banks in India.

 

What is SRVA?

SRVA is an account that domestic banks hold for foreign banks in the former’s domestic currency, the rupee, which allows domestic banks to provide international banking services to their clients who have global banking needs without having to be physically present abroad.

  • The SRVA is an additional arrangement to the existing system that uses freely convertible currencies and works as a complimentary system.

 

It has three important components:

  • All exports and imports must be denominated and invoiced in domestic currency (e.g. Rupee)
  • The exchange rate between the currencies of the trading partner countries would be market-determined
  • The final settlement also takes place in domestic currency (e.g. Rupee)

 

Eligibility criteria:

  • Banks include approval from the apex banking regulator (e.g. RBI)
  • The correspondent bank is not from a country mentioned in the updated FATF Public Statement on High Risk & Non-Co-operative jurisdictions
  • All reporting of cross-border transactions is to be done in accordance with the extant guidelines under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999.

 

Working:

 

Different types of Accounts:

 

Benefits ( as per the Economic Survey (2022-23))

  • The system could reduce the “net demand for foreign exchange, the U.S. dollar in particular, for the settlement of trade flows”
  • Reduce the need for holding foreign exchange reserves
  • Reduce the dependence on foreign currencies
  • Making the country less vulnerable to external shocks
  • Timely payments: Indian exporters could get advance payments in INR from overseas clients and in the long term,
  • It would promote Indian Rupee as an international currency once the rupee settlement mechanism gains traction: Currently, the U.S. dollar was the most dominant vehicle currency accounting for 88% of all trades. The INR accounted for 1.6%

 

 

Issues:

  • Despite Vostro’s account, Indian Banks having large exposure to the EU and US financial system are not willing to verify trade as they fear violating the sanctions on Russia
    • A similar Vostro account set up for the purpose of trade with Iran had run dry as India was stopped from sourcing oil from Iran amid US sanctions
  • Western countries have put pressure on India to not allow any such mechanism

 

Insta Links

 Lessons from Russia for India

 

Prelims Links

The problem of international liquidity is related to the non-availability of (UPSC 2015)

 

(a) goods and services

(b) gold and silver

(c) dollars and other hard currencies

(d) exportable surplus

 

Answer: C

Since most International transactions occur in dollars or other hard currencies.

.

The balance of payments of a country is a systematic record (UPSC 2013)

(a) All import and export transactions of a country during a given period of time, normally a year

(b) Goods exported from a country during a year

(c) Economic transaction between the government of one country to another

(d) Capital movements from one country to another

Answer: A

In international economics, the balance of payments of a country is the difference between all money flowing into the country in a particular period of time and the outflow of money to the rest of the world.

Global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Agriculture – Cropping pattern, Soil

 

Source: FAO

 Context: The first FAO Global assessment of Soil Carbon in Grasslands measured the baseline of stocks of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) in both semi-natural and managed grasslands and estimated their potential for SOC sequestration.

  • The Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (FAO LEAP Partnership) funded this study.

  

About Soil Organic Carbon:

  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the amount of carbon stored in soil organic matter. It is an important component of soil health and fertility, as it influences soil structure, nutrient cycling, water-holding capacity, and the ability of soil to support plant growth.
  • It shows the carbon held within the soil that is measurable, expressed as a percentage by weight (gC/Kg soil).

   

Benefits of SOC:

 

 

Findings of the report:

  • Grasslands contain approximately 20 per cent of the world’s SOC; have suffered losses because of human activities such as intensive livestock grazing, agricultural activities, and other land-use activities.
  • Most of the world’s grasslands have a positive carbon balance, meaning the land is stable or well-maintained.
    • However, negative carbon balance was found in East Asia, Central and South America, and Africa south of the Equator, meaning these stocks are likely to be decreasing due to anthropogenic stresses combined with climatic conditions.
  • The lack of incentives for farmers to improve management practices, and the current difficulty in accurately monitoring SOC stocks and changes are the main reasons that SOCs are not being included in the national climate plans known as National Determined Contributions (NDCs).

 

Suggestions given in the report:

  • Stimulating plant growth, capturing carbon in the soil, and protecting carbon in highly organic soils, such as semi-natural (non-human managed) grasslands.
  • In livestock management, implementing rotational, planned, or adaptative grazing measures for animals.
  • Improving management practices in grasslands— large areas covered with grass, especially used for animal grazing— can boost the capacity of soils as carbon sinks, and help countries reach their climate goal

 

Related News: FAO and SEED launch SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme for innovators

Source: FAO

Context: FAO and the SEED partnership launched the SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme, an instrument designed to help agrifood system start-ups develop their businesses while contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • The SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme acknowledges that all 17 SDGs are interconnected and address challenges across a broad range of goals, from no poverty and zero hunger to good health, gender equality, and climate action.

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)


Four-Day Workweek

 Source: BBC, BBC

 

Usage: Such examples can be used in Ethics/Essay/Society questions on work culture/ work-life balance.

 

Coal India converts 30 mined-out areas into an eco-tourism destination

Source: LM

Coal India Limited (CIL) has transformed 30 abandoned mining areas into eco-parks and eco-tourism destinations, providing a source of income for locals and boosting the region’s green cover.

Lessons:

  • Transformation of degraded areas into sustainable and valuable assets.
  • Companies and organizations can contribute to environmental sustainability and ecological restoration by planting trees and expanding green cover in mining areas.
  • New and effective approaches to restoring degraded lands: Innovative techniques such as seed ball plantation, seed casting through drones, and Miyawaki plantation can be used in land reclamation and restoration.

Usage: The success of CIL’s initiative demonstrates that it is possible to reconcile economic development with environmental sustainability.

 


Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Muziris: The ‘first emporium of India’ lost for 700 years

Source: BBC

  • Muziris was a major ancient port city for the spice trade. It was also known as Murachipattanam.
  • When Kerala established itself as a major centre for spice, it was the ancient port of Muziris that emerged as its hub.

 Mentioned in literature:

  • Sangam literature describes Roman ships coming to Muziris laden with gold to be exchanged for pepper.
  • According to the first-century annals of Pliny, the Elder, and the author of Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, Muziris could be reached in 14 days’ time from the Red Sea ports in the Egyptian coast purely depending on the monsoon winds.

 Decline of Muziris Port:

  • Around 1341, when the profile of the water bodies in the Periyar River basin underwent a major transformation – and Muziris dropped off the map due to flood and earthquake.

 

Statehood Day- Arunachal and Mizoram

 Source: PIB

 

 

Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity

Source: PIB

Context: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released its recommendations on “Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity”

Objective:  This is to promote making Digital Connectivity Infrastructure (DCI) an intrinsic part of building development plans similar to other building services such as water, electricity etc.

 

Recommendations:  Amendment in the Model Building Bye-Laws (MBBL) and National Building Code of India (NBC); Buyer-builder agreements should specify requirements for DCI; System for rating buildings for DCI (on lines of green buildings rating)

About TRAI:

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is a regulatory body (for the telecommunications sector in India) set up by the Government of India under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.

 

UPI Pay Linkages

Source: PIB, IE

Context: As part of an agreement, India’s UPI will be linked to Singapore’s PayNow

  • Singapore is the first country with which cross border Person to Person (P2P) payment facility has been launched.
  • Acceptance of UPI payments through QR codes is already available in selected merchant outlets in Singapore.
  • Of the total inward remittances to India in 2020-21, the share of Singapore stood at 5.7 per cent

Benefit:

  • This will help the Indian diaspora in Singapore, especially migrant workers/students instantaneous and low-cost transfer of money from Singapore to India and vice-versa.
  • It eliminates the risk of sharing bank account details by the remitter.
    • UPI supports both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments and it also enables a user to send or receive money.
  • It closely aligns with the G20’s financial inclusion priorities of driving faster, cheaper and more transparent cross-border payments.

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI):

It is an advanced version of Immediate Payment Service (IMPS)- round–the–clock funds transfer service to make cashless payments faster, easier and smoother.

It integrates multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application, merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.

  • Operator: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
  • Origin: NPCI launched UPI with 21 member banks in 2016.

 

About NPCI:

NPCI (“Not for Profit” Company under the Companies Act 1956 ) is an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. It is an initiative of RBI and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007

Related news: 

RBI allows UPI-based transactions for inbound travellers to India

Source: TH

A facility to enable in-bound travellers visiting India to make local payments using Unified Payments Interface (UPI) while they are in India has been made available

  • To start with, the facility is available to travellers from G-20 countries at the international airports of Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi.
  • Eligible travellers would be issued Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI) wallets linked to UPI for making payments at merchant outlets
  • To begin with, ICICI Bank, IDFC First Bank and two non-bank PPI issuers, Pine Labs Private Ltd Transcorp International Ltd. will issue UPI-linked wallets

 

 

Product Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of pharmaceuticals

 Source: PIB

 Context: Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has released the first tranche of incentives under the Product Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of pharmaceuticals

  • Under the Atmanirbharta initiative of the Government, the Department of Pharmaceuticals launched the PLI scheme for pharmaceuticals in 2021

 Objective: To enhance India’s manufacturing capabilities and contribute to product diversification towards high-value goods in the pharmaceutical sector

Three different categories of products are being supported under the scheme:

  • Category 1: Biopharmaceuticals; Complex generic drugs; Patented drugs or drugs nearing patent expiry; Cell-based or gene therapy drugs; Orphan drugs; Special empty capsules, Complex excipients,
  • Category 2: Bulk drugs
  • Category 3:Drugs not covered under Category 1 and Category 2 such as Repurposed drugs; Autoimmune drugs, anti-cancer drugs, etc.

 

Related news:

 Source: TOI

India has started making 29 out of 43 ‘critical’ active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that were earlier imported.

API is part of the medicine (the other part being Excipient (chemically inactive substances that help deliver the API to the organs) that produces the intended therapeutic effects

  • g. In a painkiller Crocin, API is paracetamol (relieves pain) while excipients are fillers, binders, and preservatives

 

Quality Control Orders

Source: PIB

Context: Ministry for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles has said that there is a need to issue Quality Control Orders (QCOs) across sectors in the electrical industry.

  • It will help save the industry from unfair competition from non-transparent economies which are pumping low-quality goods and sub-optimal goods into the country
  • Also, Government has extended QCOs for ferronickel grade for six months. 

About Ferronickel

It is a ferroalloy containing Iron and Nickel, used to produce stainless steel and nickel alloy steels.

About QCO

They are issued by various Ministries/Departments to regulate the quality of products and ensure compliance in the exercise of powers conferred under the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act, 2016.

  • Items, under these orders, cannot be produced, sold/traded, imported and stocked unless they bear the BIS mark.

 

New wheat varieties that can beat the heat

Source: Indian Express

 Context: The IARI scientists have developed three varieties of wheat, all of them incorporating genes that are responsible for the mild vernalization requirement preventing premature flowering and early heading.

 

  • The first, HDCSW-18, was released and officially notified in 2016. Although having a potential wheat yield of over 7 tonnes per hectare – as against 6-6.5 tonnes for existing popular varieties. Being tall, compared to 90-95 cm for normal high-yielding varieties, made them prone to lodging or bending over when their ear heads were heavy with well-filled grains.
  • The second variety HD-3410, released in 2022, has higher yield potential (7.5 tonnes/hectare) with lower plant height (100-105 cm).
  • The third one, HD-3385, looks the most promising, it is the least lodging-prone and most amenable for early sowing.

 

IARI has registered HD-3385 with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA). It has also licensed the variety to the DCM Shriram Ltd-owned Bioseed for undertaking multi-location trials and seed multiplication.

 

Optional

PSIR:
IE:
A Modi-Xi solution? (by C Raja Mohan)

TH: Indo-US partnership:  A new chapter in defence and tech

 

Law/Pub Ad

IE: Missing in Parliament ( Deputy speaker) (also covered in today's Editorial)

 

Sociology/Indian Society

IE: Learning from genes (India must embrace the diversity of our genomes and brains)

Read the Daily CA in PDF Format here:

 


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