Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 08-02-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 08-02-2021


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  1. Environment and Ecology - Glacier breaks off in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, flash flood in Dhauli Ganga - A glacier burst in Raini area of Chamoli in Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand on 07-02-2021, causing a flash flood endangering the life of people living near the river bank. The flood caused heavy damaged to the hydropower plant nearby. The Tapovan- Vishnugad hydropower plant was damaged amidst a flood of water gushing down the Ganga river. The IAF reported that Tapovan Hydro-Electric Power Dam (Rishi Ganga Project) was completely washed off. IAF's Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) deployed at Joshimath undertook a recce of affected areas. Authorities swung into action in Uttarakhand and also in UP, fearing floods in many areas. The Centre announced a ?2L ex-gratia for families of those killed in flash floods, from the PMNRF. The state government announced an amount of Rs. 4 lakh each for families of the deceased.
  2. Environment and Ecology - Uttarakhand disaster was man-made, says Magsaysay award winner - The glacier burst in Reni village of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli in Garhwal Himalayas on 07-02-2021 resulting in a flash flood has proven right the 2017 prediction of conservationist Rajendra Singh, also known as the ‘Waterman of India’ who after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 had claimed that a similar tragedy was waiting to happen. Singh said “We had informed the authorities concerned that no dams should be constructed on rivers Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, and Mandakani as there are very steep slopes in the area and it is an extremely eco-sensitive zone. The rampant construction continue due to which the recent disaster was inevitable. In fact, it was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one.” In 2019, a village resident had filed a PIL in the Uttarakhand high court (HC) alleging unfair and environmentally hazardous practices by the private firm involved in the project. It was alleged that the firm was "using explosives and blasting the mountains for mining". The blasting, the petition said, had damaged the sensitive areas around the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.
  3. Environment and Ecology - Why did glacier break in cold winter month of Feb - February temperatures can drop to below zero in the hills of Uttarakhand's Chamoli. Why, then, did a glacier break off, with disastrous effect? In winter, glaciers remain firmly frozen. Even walls of glacial lakes are tightly bound. A flood of this sort in this season is usually caused by an avalanche or landslide. Neither seems to be the case here. The tragedy could be result of ‘very rare’ bursting of water pockets in glacier. Scientists said satellite and Google Earth images did not show a glacial lake near the region, but there was a possibility of 'water pockets' (lakes inside the glaciers) which might have burst. Though the event needs mpre analysis, it is unlikely to be a 'cloud burst' as weather reports in Chamoli district showed sunny weather on 07-02-2021, with no record of precipitation.
  4. Science and Technology - UAE's Mars probe to reach Mars before China, US probes this month - UAE's 'Hope' probe, which was launched in July 2020, will reach Mars' orbit on February 9, 2021. The probe will reach Mars before the probes sent by China and the US, which were also launched in July 2020. Earlier, China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft sent back its first Mars image which it took from a distance of around 2.2 million kilometres. The Hope Probe will be the first to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the red planet's orbit in 2021. The probe will enter the Red Planet's orbit in 2021, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the Union. The mission design, development, and operations were led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). It was assembled at the University of Colorado, USA.
  5. Science and Technology - China's Tianwen-1 space probe sends back its first image of Red Planet - The Tianwen-1 probe sent back a black and white photo, which shows geological features of Mars including the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris, a vast stretch of canyons on the Martian surface. The image was released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on February 5, 2021. The Mars probe is preparing to touch down on the Red Planet later in 2021. Launched in July 2020, at the same time as the US Mars mission, the probe expected to enter Mars orbit around February 10. China National Space Administration is the national space agency of China responsible for the national space program and for planning and development of space activities. China has a strong space programme, and the Chinese Chang'e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side of the Moon on 3 January 2019. All soft landings took place on the near side of the Moon until then.
  6. World Politics - Thousands protest against military coup in Myanmar's biggest city - Many people took part in protests against the military coup in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, on 07 Feb, 2021, deciding to fight until the end. The next generation can have democracy if this military dictatorship ended, as per protesters. They flashed the three-finger salute from 'The Hunger Games' films that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. The army - Tatmadaw - has always been in charge. British Burma was created through conquest in the 19th century, by lumping together over 100 different ethnic groups. After independence in 1948 many rebelled against the new government. The army, then as now dominated by officers from the Bamar ethnic majority, began a suppression of such separatism that has gone on ever since. After toppling a democratically elected government in 1962 it stayed in power almost continuously for 50 years, claiming only it could hold the country together. In 1988 it savagely quashed a democratic uprising. In 2011, the Tatmadaw amazed the world by making way for a civilian government. Why? It was worried about the country's direction, and China's rising interference. And it thought power would never actually go to civilian hands.
  7. World Economy - Total cryptocurrency market value records new high of $1.24 trillion - The market value of over 6,000 cryptocurrencies hit a new record high of $1.24 trillion on 06-02-2021, a month after it passed the $1 trillion-mark for the first time. The largest cryptocurrency Bitcoin rose 7% to touch $40,000, taking its market capitalisation to over $733 billion, followed by Ethereum, which recorded a market capitalisation of about $188 billion. Elon Musk, the maverick entrepreneur, has weighed in from time to time in this story, adding "Bitcoin" to his Twitter bio, and promoting the "Dogecoin". India, however, was planning to outlaw all private cryptocurrencies, putting a question mark on investments by millions of investors. A cryptocurrency uses digital files as money, created using cryptography methods and uses 'decentralized control', via blockchain technology.
  8. Health and Medicine - Chinese Army provides coronavirus vaccines to Pak military - The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) delivered a batch of vaccines to the Pakistani military, in a first such mission. The Pak military became the first foreign military to receive COVID-19 vaccine aid from the PLA but the number of doses delivered was not mentioned. Earlier, China had donated 5 lakh doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan. The richest countries are grappling with shortages of Covid-19 vaccines, and the poorest are worrying about getting vaccines at all. The Chinese and Russian vaccines were initially dismissed in Western media due to a perception that they were inferior to the vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca. Leading medical journal 'The Lancet' published in Feb 2021 showed results from late-stage trials showing that Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine, had an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Serbia, Morocco, Hungary and Pakistan have approved the Sinopharm vaccine from China. India meanwhile is continuing with its vaccine diplomacy.
  9. Social Issues - Clubhouse arrives - Elon Musk, the US entrepreneur, debuted on Clubhouse, an invite-only social networking app based on audio-chat. Users can listen in to conversations and interviews between people on various topics, similar to podcasts, but the conversations are live on the app in different 'rooms'. Founded in 2020 by Stanford University alumni Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse is reportedly valued at $1 billion.
  10. Science and Technology - NASA to launch Mars ice mapping mission - NASA has signed a statement of intent with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for collaboration in the mission. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to launch a robotic Mars ice mapping mission in collaboration with three international partners. The mission could help the agency identify potential science objectives for initial human missions to Mars. The ice mapping mission will help in identifying abundant, accessible ice for future candidate landing sites on the Red Planet. This was informed by NASA on February 3, 2021.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
Fiscal design of India needs update
  • What Covid did: In 2020, the Covid-19 crisis exposed public finance to new risks, and showed the inability of sub-national governments to absorb the fiscal costs. These risks well exceed those experienced in the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • Right design, right response: A lesson from history is that accountability and efficiency in public financial management become more critical during crises. Without improving the adaptability and responsiveness of fiscal management, the costs to the economy from misdirected resources and inefficient resource use will compound the effects of the covid crisis.
  • Three pillars: The challenges being faced highlight the need for greater clarity in the three pillars of the fiscal architecture: (a) public financial management processes; (b) the nature of the fiscal rules; and (c) the establishment of fiscal institutions to widen accountability over the fiscal rules. Many countries don’t have the fiscal architecture fully in place, but a growing number are quickly putting in place new and innovative ones,
  • PFM systems: Public financial management (PFM) refers to the set of laws, rules, systems and processes used to mobilize revenue, and allocate and account for the use of public funds. It is well-recognized that a strong PFM system is an essential part of the institutional framework for effective public service delivery. Most advanced and large emerging market countries have, in the past decade, established legal frameworks for public financial management that set out the budget, reporting, accounting, and audit processes. So New Zealand sets a high standard for transparency and the lucidity of its budget documents. Within middle-income countries, South Africa’s budget documentation is highly transparent and accessible, with extensive debt reporting, and clear and concise fiscal risks reports.
  • Fiscal rules: With respect to strengthening budget institutions and management practices, and their accountability, many advanced countries have set fiscal rules (including at sub-national levels) to retain the confidence and trust of financial markets. From international experience, well-designed and well-implemented fiscal rules have helped contain the ‘deficit bias’, strengthen market credibility of the commitment to fiscal sustainability, and allow countercyclical fiscal management. The challenge to achieve these outcomes is at least three-fold: to ensure that they are well-designed, that the public financial management systems and institutions allow them to be well monitored and implemented, and deviations from the fiscal rules allow the return to the rules in a time-bound manner.
  • Fiscal Institutions: Fiscal rules and fiscal councils have developed as complements. Good councils will learn how to better interpret the fiscal rules and to suggest improvements. Well-designed rules will make the task of councils easier to perform and less controversial than poorly designed or weak rules. Thus, effective rules and functioning councils are expected to reinforce each other. Independent fiscal institutions are now a common component of fiscal frameworks in most advanced economies, and the overall number of countries with such fiscal councils has more than tripled over the past decade.
  • What effective institutions have: A variety of institutional models exist for the manner and location in which fiscal councils are set up and reside. Effective fiscal councils should have (a) legal and operational independence, (b) strong media presence, and (c) the chair and board members with non-partisan affiliations.
  • Summary: As the crisis will continue to cast a long shadow over the public finances of many countries, the need to restore fiscal credibility encourages further reforms of fiscal frameworks. It is crucial to ensure the full transparency, good governance, and costing of all fiscal measures, especially given their size, exceptional nature, and speed of deployment. It is India’s moment now to benchmark its fiscal architecture to its peers, learn from the experiences of other federal countries, and adopt some of the best practices.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Uttarakhand's Glacial lake burst - an analysis
  • A terrible tragedy: On Sunday, 07th Feb 2021, a glacial lake in Uttarakhand burst, triggering a sudden surge of water near Chamoli, reminding people of the 2013 disaster in the state. The flood caused heavy damaged to the hydropower plant nearby. The Tapovan- Vishnugad hydropower plant was damaged amidst a flood of water gushing down the Ganga river. The IAF reported that Tapovan Hydro-Electric Power Dam (Rishi Ganga Project) was completely washed off. After a few hours, the prospect of largescale flooding and destruction had receded. Scientists prepared to travel to the site in the high mountains north of Chamoli to ascertain the cause of the incident. GLOF events are not unusual, but their impact depends on the size of the proglacial lake that burst, and location.
  • Most likely: The scenario most talked about was what glaciologists call a GLOF, or "glacial lake outburst flood". It is a reference to flooding caused downstream due to a breach in a glacial lake. The breach can be caused by several reasons — in this particular case, for instance, an avalanche was reported in the region two days ago.
  1. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) occur from an unstable natural dam formed from a glacial retreat.
  2. Glaciers are large bodies of ice moving slowly. So, when a glacier retreats, it leaves behind a large impression in the ground, filling it with water and a lake is formed. This is known as a moraine, which can be impounded by precarious pile of debris and buried ice.
  3. The moraine dammed lakes weaken as the water level rises and the glacier retreats. They might crumble under pressure from the swelling lake, leading to massive floods.
  • Proglacial lakes: So retreating glaciers, like several in the Himalayas, usually result in the formation of lakes at their tips, called proglacial lakes, often bound only by sediments and boulders. If the boundaries of these lakes are breached, it can lead to large amounts of water rushing down to nearby streams and rivers, gathering momentum on the way by picking up sediments, rocks and other material, and resulting in flooding downstream.
  • Lakes inside glaciers: While GLOF was being considered to be the most likely trigger for the event, questions exist. As per experts: “We don’t know of any big glacial lakes in this region. An avalanche is quite common, and there could have been one, but an avalanche on its own would not result in an increase in the flow of water in the river. The water has to come from a source, and as of now, we do not know what this source is.” So it is possible that a glacier lake was present in the area but not known to scientists. There are hundreds of such lakes all over the place and it is possible that there is one that experts do not know about. Lakes form inside the glaciers too, which cannot be detected in satellite images.
  • Strange timing: The surprise is also because of timing — a possible reason for the sudden rush of water, like a cloudburst, is not expected at this time of the year. Cloudburst would be a rare event during this time of the year. It is possible that an avalanche or a landslide created an obstruction in the flow of the river or streams in the upper mountains, resulting in a makeshift dam-like situation. When the pressure of the flowing water became large, the dam probably gave away, leading to a sudden gush of water.
  • Other factors: There are also issues also to consider, like climate change or disproportionate construction in a fragile ecosystem, which were supposed to have contributed significantly to the 2013 disaster as well. Intitally at least, the incident did not seem to have any direct linkage with construction-related activities, or the presence of big dams, but climate change as a factor is not something to ignore, particularly in the formation of proglacial lakes. A majority of the glaciers in the Himalayas are known to be receding, all leading to the formation of several proglacial lakes.
  • What it is not: Scientists are certain that the incident was not a result of any glacier ‘breaking off’. In fact, glaciers are not known to break in a manner that ice-sheets in the polar regions do. Some chunks of snow from near the tip of the glacier can indeed slide down, but they do not result in huge amounts of water like those seen in incidents like these.
  • Prior warning: The glacier burst has proven right the 2017 prediction of conservationist Rajendra Singh, also known as the ‘Waterman of India’ who after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 had claimed that a similar tragedy was waiting to happen. Singh said "We had informed the authorities concerned that no dams should be constructed on rivers Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, and Mandakani as there are very steep slopes in the area and it is an extremely eco-sensitive zone. The rampant construction continue due to which the recent disaster was inevitable."

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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

The EDISON Alliance
  1. What it is: The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced the launch of an EDISON Alliance, an open-ecosystem of change-makers, mobilizing joint effort and aligning priorities to enhance the case for digital investment. "EDISON" stands for Essential Digital Infrastructure and Services Network.
  2. About EDISON Alliance: It is an international organisation for public-private partnership and WEF will serve as the secretariat and platform for the EDISON Alliance. A wider group of ‘Champions Leaders’ will advise and support the Alliance, the WEF said while announcing the launch. Alliance aims to work towards ensuring global and equitable access to the digital economy. Its prime goal is to ensure an unprecedented level of cross-sectoral collaboration between the technology industry and other critical sectors of the economy, according to the WEF.
  3. Need of the Alliance: Access to digital technologies has enabled many to work, learn and live during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing gaps and inequalities almost half of the global population. Some 3.6 billion people, remain offline and broadband services are too expensive for 50 per cent of the population in developed countries. These hampers access to health, education and economic inclusion.
  4. Priority areas: The Alliance will prioritize three focus areas related to the Sustainable Development Goals each year. For 2021, the alliance will focus on health and healthcare, education, and financial inclusion.

Sri Lanka pushes India out of Colombo terminal project
  • What is the news: Sri Lanka decided to cancel the tripartite agreement to develop Colombo’s East Container Terminal. This project was a key marker for infrastructure investment in the island nation where Chinese projects are most prominent. More than two-thirds of trans-shipment at this port is tied to India, making it an important trade and connectivity link.
  • The original idea: Joint venture between India and Japan to invest in the ECT project provides South Asia with viable, transparent and sustainable alternatives for financing and development.
  • Why overturned: This was due to growing pressure from port union groups which opposed any foreign participation in developing the terminal. They threatened a work-to-rule agitation if ECT operations were handed to the Adani group, as proposed. It is worrying that whether the country will honour the commitments made by the previous government. Earlier the former PM signed a MoU for developing the Eastern city of Trincomalee through oil and infrastructure projects. There is suspicion that there is a Chinese hand behind this decision & it is curious that despite Sri Lanka’s financial difficulties it took this decision upsetting donors.
  • India's response: It continues to engage Sri Lanka on the ECT issue but it remains silent on Colombo’s alternative offer of developing the West Container Terminal. Over the past years, Indian government has invested much time and resources Sri Lanka- new credit line, currency swap agreement, COVID-19 assistance and vaccines. The NSA Ajit Doval and EAM S. Jaishankar have visited Colombo more than once and Mr. Modi has hosted President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda. A compromise formula to restore a deal needs to be arrived because this project has far-reaching consequences for the region.

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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

India needs a robust healthcare system

  • A shock: The COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed the weaknesses of India's public health system, and brought focus on to the need for upgradation.
  • Structure of public health system: The public health system (in any country) can be judged based on certain health parameters - Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR). These are recorded through annual surveys which are conducted by the Sample Registration System (SRS) which reveal that northern States perform very poor in the above parameters.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births is as high as 48 compared to 7 in Kerala and in U.P. MMR is 197 compared to Kerala’s 42 and Tamil Nadu’s 63.
  • The percentage of deliveries by untrained personnel is very high in Bihar, 190 times that of Kerala.
  • The TFR is very high in Bihar (3.2) against the stabilisation rate of 2.1 & Tamil Nadu and Kerala have done so well that their population will decline over the years. Overall, for India, the TFR has touched 2.1 already.
  • The Bihar TFR is despite Finance Commissions pouring non-Plan funds into these States in addition to substantial Plan allocation from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for these states.
  • Why variations: Since health is a state subject, the primary onus lies with the State governments to improve public health. Southern states have performed well because their effective Maternal and Child Health and Family Welfare services, whereas other states perform poorly because they have many skewed priorities on social-cultural issues. The Government of India is just looking at the average performance & is satisfied with these numbers, and poorly performing states are not held responsible and accountable for their performance.
  • Tamil Nadu a front runner: It is so because of enlightened political leadership who focussed on the health and well-being of the people. In the 1970s, innumerable family planning drives and camps to eradicate cataract were organised and district administration was spearheading these health initiatives. The state government also encouraged a healthy competition among the districts by giving prizes to the well-performing ones. The result is that the TFR of Tamil Nadu is among the lowest in the country (1.6) comparable to that of Germany (1.57) & Japan (1.43). Hence by 1990s, family planning drives were no longer necessary and fine-tuning of the Maternal and Child Health programme was only required. In addition, due to clear focus by the political executive, Tamil Nadu had the advantage of a public and preventive health structure.
  • Road ahead: It is doubtful whether India will be able to achieve Goal 3 (good health and well-being) as it failed to achieve the earlier MDGs because of the poor performance of northern States. The governments - Centre and the Empowered Action Group States — should realise that public health & preventive care needs to be given priority & close monitoring needs to be done. It should take steps to bring northern states on a par with the southern states within three to five years & held accountable to the SDGs
The Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2021
  • New changes: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has published The Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2021 to further amend the Companies (CSR Policy) Rules, 2014.
  • What is CSR: It is a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. CSR projects are taken up to promote positive social and environmental change. Currently, the CSR rules apply to the companies with any of the following criteria: (a) a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, (b) a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, and (c) net profit of Rs 5 crore or more. These companies are required to spend 2% of their average profits of the previous 3 years on CSR activities every year.
  • What are the key changes:
  1. Registration - The Amendment substitutes Rule 4 which implements CSR in the companies.
  2. Every entity, which intends to undertake any CSR activity, shall register itself with the Central Government.
  3. This is to be done by filing the form CSR-1 electronically with the Registrar, with effect from the 1st day of April 2021.
  4. Form CSR-1 shall be signed and submitted electronically by the entity.
  5. It shall be verified digitally by a Chartered Accountant in practice or a Company Secretary in practice or a Cost Accountant in practice.
  6. Action plan - Under Rule 5, the CSR Committee shall formulate and recommend to the Board, an annual action plan in pursuance of its CSR policy.
  7. Impact assessment - Under Rule 8, any corporation with a CSR obligation of Rs 10 crore or more for the 3 preceding financial years would be required to hire an independent agency.
  8. Companies will be allowed to count 5% of the CSR expenditure for the year up to Rs 50 lakh on impact assessment towards CSR expenditure.    
  9. Transparency - Under rule 9, the Board of Directors of the Company shall mandatorily disclose the composition of the CSR Committee.
  • Changes required for implementing agencies: A large number of companies conduct CSR expenditure through implementing agencies. But the new amendment mandates that the companies authorise either a Section 8 company or a registered public charitable trust to conduct CSR projects on their behalf. A Section 8 company is a company – that is registered with the purpose of promoting charitable causes; that applies profits to promoting its objectives; that is prohibited from distributing dividends to shareholders.
  • Likely impact: It is felt that the change would impact CSR programmes of a number of large Indian companies that conduct projects through private trusts. A sizeable amount of CSR is being contributed through their private trusts by many companies, including blue-chip companies. So, the change would mean such private trusts would either have to be converted to registered public trusts, or stop acting as CSR implementing agencies.
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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
Questions on freedom and rights
  • Protests, protests, protests: Thousands of farmers protesting on the borders of New Delhi and the Union Government were engaged in a tussle regarding three farms laws for many months. After a part of the protest turned into chaos on Republic day, the government tightened the security, and its stance too. The strict level of barricading done was instantly questioned by civil society nationally and internationally. And at the same time, active efforts by the government to deter critical reporting attracted attention.
  • Sedition charges: Nine senior journalists were charged under the law of sedition, a freelance journalist was arrested (later released under pressure), a number of social media pages run by newspapers were blocked and executive order stating that employees of the social media company, Twitter, could face arrest for failure to comply. That raised heckles in American media circles! Many feel that these steps as an assault on the “rights to freedom” granted under Article 19 of the Constitution.
  • The Rights to Freedom: Debate over the extent and depth of such freedoms has raged for seven decades.
  1. Non-Obstante Clause: Like several other articles in the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Indian Constitution, Article 19 includes a non-obstante clause, so these rights are qualified by reasonable restrictions like law & order, sovereignty & security of the country, etc.
  2. These clauses under article 19(2) were for the most part inserted by the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution.
  3. When the government has to balance out the fine line between freedom of citizens and reasonable restrictions, it results in a conflicting condition and compromise on the rights to freedom.
  4. Broad-Terms & Negligence: Often the dichotomy between freedom of citizens and reasonable restrictions, result in misuse of power by the government, through Sedition law under section 124A of IPC.
  5. The Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh vs State Of Bihar, 1962 held that sedition will be applicable only to activities intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence”. However, due to vague terms, it leads to often misuse of sedition law and neglect of Supreme Court guidelines.
  6. Dis-Proportionate Judicial Remedy: In recent years, critics allege that the judicial system is accessible to the rich and influential media houses & journalists who may get bail quickly, but bail gets delayed or denied to independent journalists and smaller media houses.
  7. New Legal Weapon: Apart from being charged with sedition and other offenses, the free press now has to deal with more stringent the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019 which could potentially result in indefinite detention.
  8. Religion: Even if religion finds no specific mention as reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2), the politics of religious offense constitute another clear threat to freedom of speech and expression. This can be reflected in the recent case of the web series, whose producers and cast face charges despite multiple apologies.
  • The road ahead: The higher judiciary should use its supervisory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech. The definition of sedition should be narrowed down, to include only the issues pertaining to the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country. Regarding media's responsibility, it is important that the media stick to the core principles like truth and accuracy, transparency, independence, fairness and impartiality, responsibility, and fair play. News regulatory bodies (the Press Council of India & News Broadcasters Association), should be empowered to put effective checks & balances over media.
  • India's image: India is regarded as a beacon of human rights, in the West, given its stage of development. Its soft power owes much to this image. There is now a need to maintain a balance between free expression of individual rights and collective security of the society and state; this responsibility should not be borne by the government alone, but by all those who enjoy these rights. Dissent must be welcome, as the Supreme Court itself said.

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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
  1. A beautiful picture: The latest NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Picture of the Week (Feb 2021) featured an impressive portrait of M1-63, a beautifully captured example of a bipolar planetary nebula located in the constellation of Scutum (the Shield). A nebula like this one is formed when the star at its center sheds huge quantities of material from its outer layers, leaving behind a spectacular cloud of gas and dust.
  2. Unique shapes: It is believed that a binary system of stars at the center of the bipolar nebula is capable of creating hourglass or butterfly-like shapes like the one in this image. This is because the material from the shedding star is funneled towards its poles, with the help of the companion, creating the distinctive double-lobed structure seen in nebulae such as M1-63.
  3. HST: The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) in 1990 and remains in operation. It is one of the largest and most versatile, renowned both as a vital research tool and as a public relations boon for astronomy. Hubble is a Cassegrain reflector telescope.

Square Kilometre Array Telescope
  1. New giant coming up: The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) Council held its inaugural meeting and approved the establishment of the world’s largest radio telescope. The new venture will be important following the collapse of one of the most prolific radio telescopes in the world, the Arecibo in Puerto Rico, in December 2020.
  2. What is SKAO: The SKAO is a new intergovernmental organisation dedicated to radio astronomy and is headquartered in the UK. At the moment, organisations from ten countries are a part of the SKAO. These include Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.
  3. Radio Telescopes: These are astronomical instruments consisting of a radio receiver and an antenna system that is used to detect radio-frequency radiation between wavelengths of about 10 metres (30 megahertz [MHz]) and 1 mm (300 gigahertz [GHz]) emitted by extraterrestrial sources, such as stars, galaxies, and quasars. Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can detect invisible gas and, therefore, they can reveal areas of space that may be obscured by cosmic dust. Cosmic dust consists of tiny particles of solid material floating around in the space between the stars. Since the first radio signals were detected in the 1930s, astronomers have used radio telescopes to detect radio waves emitted by different objects in the universe and explore it.
  4. History: The field of radio astronomy evolved after World War II and became one of the most important tools for making astronomical observations.
  5. The Arecibo Telescope: It was located in Puerto Rico, and was the second-largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, but structurally collapsed in December 2020. Now China’s Sky Eye is the world's largest single-dish radio telescope. The telescope was built in 1963. Because of its powerful radar, scientists employed it to observe planets, asteroids and the ionosphere, making several discoveries over the decades, including finding prebiotic molecules in distant galaxies, the first exoplanets, and the first-millisecond pulsar.
  6. Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Telescope: The telescope, proposed to be the largest radio telescope in the world, will be located in Africa and Australia.The development of SKA will use the results of various surveys undertaken using another powerful telescope called the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP).
  7. ASKAP: The ASKAP is developed and operated by the Australia’s science agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). This telescope, which has been fully operational since February 2019 mapped over three million galaxies in a record 300 hours during its first all-sky survey conducted late last year. ASKAP surveys are designed to map the structure and evolution of the Universe, which it does by observing galaxies and the hydrogen gas that they contain.
  8. Research: Some questions that scientists hope to address using this telescope include - the beginning of the universe; How and when the first stars were born; the life-cycle of a galaxy; exploring the possibility of detecting technologically-active civilisations elsewhere in our galaxy etc.
  9. Functioning: The telescope will accomplish its scientific goals by measuring neutral hydrogen over cosmic time, accurately timing the signals from pulsars in the Milky Way, and detecting millions of galaxies out to high redshifts.
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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
Jal Jeevan Mission (URBAN)
  • Urabn and Rural JJM: In the Budget 2021-22, Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) has been announced under the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all statutory towns in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal- 6. It complements the Jal Jeevan Mission (Rural) which envisages supply of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by 2024.
  • Key features: The objectives of Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) are
  1. Securing tap and sewer connections: To bridge the estimated gap of 2.68 crore urban household functional water tap connections. To provide 2.64 crore sewer connections/septage in 500 AMRUT cities.
  2. Rejuvenation of water bodies: To augment sustainable fresh water supply and create green spaces and sponge cities to reduce floods and enhance amenity value through an Urban Aquifer Management plan. Sponge city is a city that has the capacity to mainstream urban water management into the urban planning policies and designs.
  3. Creating circular water economy: To promote circular economy of water through development of the city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycle/reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation.
  4. Deploying Latest Technology: A Technology Sub-Mission for water is proposed to leverage latest global technologies in the field of water.
  5. Spreading Mass Awareness: Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign is proposed to spread awareness among masses about conservation of water. JJM looks to create a jan andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority.
  6. Survey for equitable distribution: Jal Survekshan will be conducted in cities to ascertain equitable distribution of water, reuse of wastewater and mapping of water bodies with respect to quantity and quality of water through a challenge process.
  7. Focus on strengthening urban local bodies: By reducing non-revenue water to below 20%. Non-revenue water is the difference between the volume of water put into a water distribution system and the volume that is billed to customers. Recycling used water to meet at least 20% of total city water demand and 40% for industrial water demand at State level.
  8. Promoting dual piping systems.
  9. Raising funds through issuance of municipal bonds.
  10. Promoting PPP Model: In order to promote Public private partnership, it has been mandated for cities having millions plus population to take up PPP projects worth minimum of 10% of their total project fund allocation.
  • Funding: For Union Territories, there will be 100% central funding. For North Eastern and Hill States, central funding for projects will be 90%. Central funding will be 50% for cities with less than 1 lakh population, one third for cities with 1 lakh to 10 lakh population and 25% for cities with million plus population.
  1. Outcome based Funding: Funding from the Government for projects will be in three tranches of 20:40:40.
  2. Third instalment onwards will be released based on outcomes achieved and credible exclusion will be exercised while funding.

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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

First women team of CoBRA commando unit
  1. A first: The maiden contingent of 34 CRPF women personnel were inducted into the specialized jungle warfare commando force called CoBRA. The contingent would now be deployed in the anti-naxal operations grid of India.
  2. Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA): This is a special operation unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) of India. The operation unit is skilled in the guerrilla tactics and jungle warfare. It was established in the year 2009 to counter the Naxalite problem, and is deployed to tackle the insurgent groups who are engaged in asymmetrical warfare. Currently, there are ten battalions of CoBRA, and are the most experienced and successful law enforcement units. Till now, the battalions were an all-male unit. First time, a contingent of women personnel has been inducted into it.
  3. Conditions: The commandos of the CoBRA are required to be mentally and physically tough. They are mostly deployed in the Maoist violence-affected states of the country. They are also deployed for the insurgency operations.
  4. First Women CoBRA Unit: The induction of the first women CoBRA Unit was marked by a ceremony that was held in Kadarpur village. In the ceremony, the chosen women personnel performed the combat drills. A member of 34 CRPF women personnel contingent have been selected from 6 all-women battalions of CRPF. They will now undergo pre-induction training for 3 months. After that, they will be deployed with the units in Naxal violence-affected districts in the state of Chhattisgarh.
  5. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF): It is largest Central Armed Police Force in India. The force works under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It assists the State or Union Territories in the police operations to maintain the law & order and counter insurgency. It was established as the Crown Representative’s Police in July 1939. After Indian Independence, it was renamed as CRPF in accordance with the CRPF Act.

PMFBY: Govt allocates Rs.16000 crore for 2021-22
  1. Insurance: The Central government has allocated Rupees 16,000 crores for the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) for the upcoming fiscal year 2021-22.
  2. Key facts: This allocation was done in order to boost the safety of farmers’ crops, and the amount will also ensure that maximum benefit of crop insurance reaches to the farmers. The budgetary amount has increased this year by around ?305 crore as compared to the fiscal year 2020-21. The government is committed towards the growth of agriculture sector in the country.
  3. Pradhan Manti Fasal Bima Yojana: The flagship crop insurance scheme was approved by the central government on January 13, 2016. It was launched in order to provide a comprehensive risk solution at the lowest uniform premium for the farmers in India. It provides the coverage for the entire cropping cycle including from the pre-sowing to post-harvest. It also provides coverage for the losses caused due to prevented sowing and mid-season adversities. This scheme has become the largest crop insurance scheme with respect to farmer participation.
  4. Details: The scheme also comprises of Crop Insurance App, Common Service Centres or the nearest agriculture officer. Thus, it has further simplified the process for farmer to report crop loss within 72 hours of the occurrence of any event. The Integration of land records with the PMFBY portal, Crop Insurance mobile-app it is easy for the enrolment of farmers. Other key features of the scheme included remote-sensing technology, drones, Satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and machine learning. These features help to assess crop losses electronically.

Chamoli tragedy: Glacial breach triggered floods
  1. The accident: An avalanche and flash floods triggered in Alaknanda river in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand following a glacial breach.
  2. Key points: Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) is investigating the matter. SASE works under the nodal head Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Exact reason for the flooding is not yet known. Experts say the avalanche was caused probably due to glacial breach. The glacial breach also breached a lake in the Raini village in Chamoli district. The Raini village is situated on the boundary of Nanda Devi biosphere reserve.
  3. Alaknanda River: It is a Himalayan river in Uttarakhand, one of the two headstreams of River Ganga. The other is the Bhagirathi. River Alaknanda is also called as the source stream of the Ganges because of its greater length and discharge. But in Hindu mythology and culture, Bhagirathi is called as the source stream of Ganga. There are five main tributaries of Alaknanda in order namely the River Dhauliganga, River Nandakini, River Pindar, River Mandakini and River Bhagirathi. All of them rise in the northern mountainous regions of Uttarakhand. It is one of the best river for river rafting in the world because of its high rafting grade.
  4. Holy confluence of rivers: At Vishnuprayag, Dhauliganga River meets Alaknanda river. At Nandaprayag, Nandakini River meets Alaknanda. At Karnaprayag, Pindar River meets Alaknanda. At Rudraprayag, Mandakini River meets Alaknanda. At Devprayag, Bhagirathi River meets alaknanda and it officially becomes River Ganges.
  5. Dhauliganga: It is among the six source streams of the River Ganges river. The river meets the river Alaknanda at Vishnuprayag in Joshimath.

Ladakh to get India’s first Geothermal Power Project
  1. Heat from the Earth: The first geothermal power project of India will be established at Puga village of eastern Ladakh. This decision was taken as the Puga village was identified as the hotspot of geothermal energy by the scientists.
  2. Agreement: A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish and implement the first phase was signed on 6th February, 2021 between ONGC Energy; LAHDC, Leh and the Power Department of UT Ladakh. This geothermal project is known as Geothermal Field Development Project. It will be commission by the end of 2022.
  3. First phase: The first phase of the project will result into the generation of one megawatt (MW) power. ONGC-OEC will explore within the depth of 500 metres. It was planned that 24 hours free power supply would be given to 10 neighbouring villages which are not connected with the northern grid to get the power.
  4. Second phase: Deeper and lateral exploration of geothermal reservoirs will be done by drilling the optimal number of wells. Under this phase, higher capacity demo plant will also be set up in Ladakh. It will be the Research and Development stage or demonstration of the project.
  5. Third phase: Joint ventures and commercial projects will be promoted.
  6. Puga Village: Scientists have discovered a potential of more than 100 mw of geothermal energies. It lies in the south-eastern part of Ladakh. The village is a part of the Himalayan geothermal belt. The region has shown the evidence of geothermal activity in various form including the mud pools, hot springs, sulphur deposits and borax deposits. The talk of the potential geothermal project in the Puja Village has been into news since 2008. The region has the potential to produce about 40% of the energy requirements.

9.1 Today's best editorials to read
  • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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    • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

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01-01-2020,1,04-08-2021,1,05-08-2021,1,06-08-2021,1,28-06-2021,1,Abrahamic religions,6,Afganistan,1,Afghanistan,35,Afghanitan,1,Afghansitan,1,Africa,2,Agri tech,2,Agriculture,150,Ancient and Medieval History,51,Ancient History,4,Ancient sciences,1,April 2020,25,April 2021,22,Architecture and Literature of India,11,Armed forces,1,Art Culture and Literature,1,Art Culture Entertainment,2,Art Culture Languages,3,Art Culture Literature,10,Art Literature Entertainment,1,Artforms and Artists,1,Article 370,1,Arts,11,Athletes and Sportspersons,2,August 2020,24,August 2021,239,August-2021,3,Authorities and Commissions,4,Aviation,3,Awards and Honours,26,Awards and HonoursHuman Rights,1,Banking,1,Banking credit finance,13,Banking-credit-finance,19,Basic of Comprehension,2,Best Editorials,4,Biodiversity,46,Biotechnology,47,Biotechology,1,Centre State relations,19,CentreState relations,1,China,81,Citizenship and immigration,24,Civils Tapasya - English,92,Climage Change,3,Climate and 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PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 08-02-2021
Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 08-02-2021
Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 08-02-2021
PT's IAS Academy
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