Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 11-05-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 11-05-2021


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  1. World Politics - US oil pipeline network hacked - The "Colonial Pipeline" of US learned on 07th May 2021 that it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack and took its systems offline "to contain the threat." Part of an online hacking group called DarkSide, the hackers took nearly 100 gigabytes of data from Colonial Pipeline and then locked the company's computers before demanding payment to prevent a data leak. Some experts called the attack the "biggest energy disruption" since drones (believed to have been sent by Iran) attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities in 2019, causing oil prices to briefly spike nearly 20%. Colonial shut down its entire system rather than run the risk of cyber-terrorists causing havoc with the system. According to Reuters the cloud storage system to which the hackers uploaded the stolen data was taken offline — presumably preventing Darkside from accessing it. Colonial was working with Fire Eye to root out the hackers, who according to their website are not terrorists, just “apolitical” opportunists. Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, is the largest U.S. refined products pipeline system.
  2. World Politics - Global Innovation Partnership - The Union Cabinet of India gave retrospective approval to an MoU between the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom on Global Innovation Partnership (GIP). Through this MoU, India and UK agree to launch the GIP. GIP will support Indian innovators to scale up their innovations in third countries thereby helping them explore new markets and become self-sustainable. It will also foster the innovative ecosystem in India. GIP innovations will focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) related sectors thereby assisting recipient countries achieve their SDGs. The innovations shall take place through seed funding, grants, investments and technical assistance. GIP will also develop an open and inclusive e-market place (E-BAAZAR) for cross border innovation transfer and will focus on results based impact assessment thereby promoting transparency and accountability.
  3. Environment and Ecology - Magnetoreception in Sharks - Several birds and animals have been known to use magnetoreception or the special sense to detect Earth’s magnetic field to perceive the location and also track the direction during migration. A new study found the first solid evidence that sharks also use Earth’s magnetic fields for their long-distance travel. Sharks undergo precise, long-distance migrations and make round-trips for over 20,000 kms. The team exposed 20 juvenile bonnethead sharks to artificial magnetic conditions which represented locations hundreds of kilometres away from their capture location. They found that the sharks orientated themselves according to the provided artificial magnetic field. Bonnethead sharks return to the same estuaries each year showing that they know where ‘home’ is and can navigate back to it from any distance.
  4. Indian Economy - Digital Financial Inclusion - NITI Aayog and Mastercard released a report titled ‘Connected Commerce: Creating a Roadmap for a Digitally Inclusive Bharat’. The report identifies challenges in accelerating digital financial inclusion in India and provides recommendations for making digital services accessible to its 1.3 billion citizens. Strengthening the payment infrastructure to promote a level playing field for NBFCs and banks. Digitizing registration and compliance processes and diversifying credit sources to enable growth opportunities for MSMEs. Building information sharing systems, including a ‘fraud repository’, and ensuring that online digital commerce platforms carry warnings to alert consumers to the risk of frauds. Enabling agricultural NBFCs to access low-cost capital and deploy a ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) model for achieving better long-term digital outcomes. Digitizing land records will also provide a major boost to the sector. To make city transit seamlessly accessible to all with minimal crowding and queues, leveraging existing smartphones and contactless cards, and aim for an inclusive, interoperable, and fully open system such as that of the London ‘Tube’.
  5. Environment and Ecology - Mount Sinabung - Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung, located in the North Sumatra province, erupted in May 2021 belching a massive column of volcanic ash and smoke 3,000 metres (3 km) into the sky. The volcano has been active since 2010 when it erupted after nearly 400 years of inactivity. Indonesia is home to many active volcanoes owing to its location in the “Ring of Fire” or the Circum-Pacific Belt — an area along the Pacific Ocean characterised by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The Ring of Fire is home to about 75 per cent of the world’s volcanoes and about 90 per cent of earthquakes also occur here.
  6. Healthcare and Medicine - Anti fungal medicines in short supply - Acute shortage of anti-fungal injection ‘amphotericin’ and other anti-fungal medicines used to treat mucormycosis, a life-threatening infection that follows Covid-19 in roughly 30% diabetics, is now adding to difficulties of patients. Amphotericin B injection is used to treat serious and potentially life-threatening fungal infections. This injection is in a class of medications called antifungals, and works by slowing the growth of fungi that cause infection. It is given by injection into a vein. Amphotericin B was isolated from Streptomyces nodosus in 1955 and came into medical use in 1958. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. The "black fungus" or mucormycosis disease has suddenly spiked in India after the second wave of Covid-19, in April-May 2021.
  7. Education - CBSE 'Dost for life' App - The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has launched a new mobile application for psycho social wellness of students and parents. The new app namely CBSE Dost for Life has been designed for students of classes 9 to 12 and it can be used for counselling sessions from 10th of this month. Making a departure from the existing practice of counselling through toll free number across the country, board has designed this facility for the ease, convenience and utility of students and parents with in the safe home environment. Through this app, live counselling sessions will be conducted free of cost on Monday, Wednesday and Friday by the trained counsellors. The app will also provide students information on suggestive course guides after ten plus two, tips on mental health and well-being, a corona guide and rap songs. India's education system has been hit very hard since April 2020, when schools and colleges shut down due to infection worries. Most were not open even in May 2021, creating a huge break in education continuity for crores of students.
  8. Science and Technology - Chinese rocket crashes into Ocean - Debris from a Chinese rocket made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean, with pieces falling at a location to the west of Maldives. The debris came from the upper stage of a "Long March 5B rocket", China’s largest, launched into space on April 29 for putting into orbit a core module of the new Tianhe space station, expected to become operational in 2022. There was speculation on whether the debris would hit a populated area, leading NASA to criticise China over lack of transparency and for “failing to meet responsible standards”. When a rocket is launched, its discarded booster stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after liftoff and harmlessly fall into the ocean– a standard practice. In this case, however, a 10-floor large vehicle of the rocket weighing 18 metric tonnes went into orbit along with the section of the under-construction space station that it was carrying. While in orbit, this vehicle kept rubbing against the air at the top of the atmosphere, and the resulting friction caused it to start losing altitude. The piece hurtled through a low-Earth orbit at roughly 25,490 km/hr. An “uncontrolled re-entry” thus became inevitable, but China did not admit this until 09th May, when it said the debris had entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Mediterranean, flown over the Arabian peninsula and crashed near the Maldives at 72.47° East and 2.65° North. Most of it burned up in the atmosphere, and as large parts of the Earth are covered by oceans and massive land areas lie uninhabited, harm to humans was anyway least expected.
  9. World Politics - Israel Palestine clash over Al-Aqsa - Hour before the annual May 10 Jerusalem Day processions by Jewish groups through the Old City of East Jerusalem, the Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, leaving a reported 300 people injured. This marked the fourth day of clashes at one of the most revered and the most contested sites of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Al-Aqsa is located on a plaza at Temple Mount, which is known in Islam as Haram-e-Sharif. The Mount is also Judaism’s holiest site. The most imposing structure on the compound is the Dome of the Rock, with its golden dome. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall sacred to Jews, is one side of the retaining wall of the Al-Aqsa compound. 10th May is the day the territory was captured by Israeli forces during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel had annexed it and incorporated it into West Jerusalem, captured earlier, in the 1947 war. Al-Aqsa is central to the rival claims over Jerusalem. Both Israel and Palestine have declared it their capital. In July 1980, the Israeli Parliament passed the Jerusalem Law declaring it the country’s capital. Palestinians declared Jerusalem the capital of the putative state of Palestine by a law passed by the Palestinian Authority in 2000. The 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence also declared Jerusalem as the capital. For the present, the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters in Ramallah. Soon after the 1967 Six-Day War ended, Israel gave back to Jordan the administration and management of the Al-Aqsa compound. While non-Muslims have not been allowed to worship at Al-Aqsa, Jewish individuals and groups have made repeated attempts to gain entry to the Mount Temple plaza. Since the late 1990s, around the time of the first intifada, such attempts began occurring with a regularity as Jewish settlers began claiming land in East Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It has led to repeated clashes and tensions at Al-Aqsa.
  10. Indian Politics - Covid update - India reported 3.29 lakh fresh Covid cases, and 3,876 deaths in last 24 hours. The govt. claimed that there is a trend of decreasing cases and deaths now. The WHO declared the Indian Covid variant a 'variant of concern'. Based on what WHO knows so far as per discussions with experts globally, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics continue to be effective against B.1.617 variant (of Covid-19), classified as a variant of concern. The Ministry of Health informed that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Bihar ad Gujarat also showing continuous decrease in daily new Covid-19 cases. ICMR said that Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will be allowed at all government and private health facilities, no accreditation required. Various states have imposed lockdowns and restrictions now. The WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Monday termed the rate of infections and deaths in India as "worrying" and called on governments to boost exercises on reporting actual numbers. NUMBERS - INDIA - Total cases: 22,991,927; New cases: 329,517; Total deaths: 250,025; New deaths: 3,879; Total recovered: 19,021,207; Active cases: 3,720,695.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
India's protectionism and FTA with European Union
  • The story:  India and the European Union have agreed to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), pending since years. The road ahead may not be smooth, as growing protectionism across countries due to the pandemic creates new problems.
  • Reducing tariffs: Reducing tariffs and negotiations could be complex as the markets have changed over the past few years. Growing protectionism around the world has resulted in countries, including India, imposing higher tariffs on items. Market access issues in the goods sector will see challenges. Since the India-EU talks remained in a stalemate, tariffs went up.
  1. The government announced the Aatmanirbhar policy in 2020, to protect the industry and to allow the manufacturing sector to grow in India. So cutting tariffs could be a challenge.
  2. Formal negotiations between India and the EU were stalled eight years ago over differences on a range of issues, as the bloc insisted on cutting import duty on automobiles and wine. The negotiations were launched in 2007.
  3. Since 2013, average tariff has gone up by 3 per cent. The sentiment now is to protect the industry.
  • May movement: In May 2021, both India and the EU agreed to resume negotiations for balanced and comprehensive free trade and investment agreements. Negotiations on both the trade and investment agreements will be pursued on parallel tracks to conclude them together at an early date.
  1. To diversify economic engagement, India and the EU also agreed to have dedicated dialogues on WTO issues, market access issues, and supply chain resilience.
  2. The development assumes significance as EU nations collectively were India’s largest trading partner in goods 2019-20, ahead of China and the US. The total trade was close to $90 billion.
  3. Resuming the trade deal will give fresh impetus to the relationship between India and the EU, especially after Brexit.
  • Word of caution: While entering into a trade agreement with an export market such as the EU will be a good move, it is important for negotiators to have sound knowledge of the market as a lot has changed since 2013. FTAs are negotiated in terms of market access, regulatory transparency and consistency. In market access, one faces tariff and non-tariff barriers both, so negotiators have to be totally updated.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. FTA - A free trade agreement (FTA) is a pact between two or more nations to reduce various barriers to trade (imports and exports) among them. Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with almost zero tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange. The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism. India has ten operational FTAs as on date, and six operational Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) as on date.
  2. EU - The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states, with a combined area of 4,233,255.3 km² and an estimated total population of about 44.7 crore. The EU's purpose is to promote peace, establish a unified economic and monetary system, promote inclusion and combat discrimination, break down barriers to trade and borders, encourage technological and scientific developments, champion environmental protection.
42% more paid to wheat farmers
  •  The story: Government of India has disbursed 42% more money in direct payment to wheat farmers in 2021 as compared with 2020 due to higher procurement, pumping more liquidity into rural markets amid the second Covid-19 wave which has disrupted the economy.
  • Target: The government has set a target of procuring 42.7 million tonne of wheat, of which around 80% purchase has already been made with still more than a month to go before the procurement season ends on June 30. Officials said that Govt. had disbursed Rs.49,965 crore among wheat farmers against procurement of 33.7 million tonnes of wheat. In 2020, procurement was 28 million tonnes during this period, with a disbursement of Rs.35,000 crore. The number of beneficiary farmers has increased to over 3.4 million from 2.81 million in 2020.
  • DBT: All these farmers are paid directly in their bank accounts, and it takes 48-72 hours to transfer the payment after the purchase. Out of the total disbursement of Rs.49,965 cr, more than 66% was given to farmers in Punjab and Haryana. They contributed more than 62% to the central pool. Wheat procurement was progressing smoothly with Haryana exceeding the target. Haryana with a procurement of 8.07 million tonnes, has exceeded its target of 8 million tonnes, while Punjab with procurement of 12.86 million tonnes will go past its target of 13 million tonnes. Other major procuring states Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh will also reach their targets easily.
  • Summary: The government has set a target of procuring 42.7 million tonne of wheat, of which around 80% purchase has already been made with still more than a month to go before the procurement season ends on June 30. The government has also opened its godowns for flour millers and private traders at subsidised rates so that grains are easily available in markets.
Knowledge centre:
  1. FCI - The Food Corporation of India (FCI) was established under Food Corporations Act, 1964. Its role in ensuring food security includes (i) Maintaining a reasonable price to ensure people from all classes are able to buy foodgrains, (ii) Purchasing grains from farmers who have surplus at a standardized price in order to avoid mismanagement, and (iii) Ensuring supplies to PDS across India.
  2. MSP - The MSP is a minimum price guarantee that acts as a safety net or insurance for farmers when they sell particular crops. The MSP system was started in 1966-67 for wheat and was expanded further to include other essential food crops, which was then sold to the poor under subsidised rates under the public distribution system (PDS). In 1966, wheat's MSP was Rs 54 per quintal. Currently, it is at Rs 1,975 per quintal.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
India's windmills - hit by climate change
  • The story: In the year 2020, a bountiful monsoon saved the day. Rainfall in the June-to-September southeast monsoon period—at 109% of the long-period average—was above the 50-year mean for the second year in a row. But the wind energy sector suffered in 2020.
  • Wind energy: The monsoon usually brings along with it wind speeds that range between 23 kilometres and 29 kilometres per hour, giving boost to the turbines that harness this force of nature, to generate electricity. In the 2020 rains, the average wind speed was just 20-27 kmph, the slowest on record. Since two-thirds of wind energy in India is generated during the four months ending September, the average capacity utilization factor (CUF) of wind turbines declined. (CUF is a measure of efficiency that indicates the extent to which installed capacity is deployed) At the end of the financial year in March 2021, CUF was 17% compared with 20% in the previous two years.
  • Wind speed and business: Even a slight variation in wind speeds has a significant impact on the wind energy sector. It has now transitioned from a feed-in tariff regime (in which fixed prices are paid to renewable power producers for each unit of electricity produced and fed into the grid), to tariff-based competitive auctions. Wind power tariffs have tumbled to a record Rs.2.43 per kilowatt hour. So risk profile in wind sector investment has significantly changed. To remain competitive, use of 2 MW plus turbines (to maximise output) and aggressive assumption on capacity utilisation factor means a bad wind season will be really bad.
  • What experts feel: Climate change is happening, and wind patterns are changing. hese are cyclical changes that are happening globally and in India also—be it wind speeds or solar irradiance. But it cannot be set as a standard, as it may average out over a period of time.
  1. (a) In this flip-flop, what is at stake is India’s renewable energy transition and its global climate obligations. Under the Paris agreement on climate change adopted in 2015 and signed in 2016, India pledged that by 2030, 40% of its installed power production capacity would come from solar, wind, biomass and hydropower. The consequent reduction in carbon emissions would be up to 35%.
  2. (b) As part of the plan, the central government set a target of building 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022, including 60 GW of wind power.
  3. (c) At the end of March 2021, India had the capacity to produce 38.78 GW of wind power. Capacity addition had already slowed due to the pandemic and procedural red tape, with the monsoon winds throwing down another challenge.
  4. (d) For the slow wind speeds during the last monsoon, experts are blaming climate change catalysed by global warming and erratic rainfall patterns. The irony is that alternative forms of energy such as wind power were supposed to lower global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Climate volatility: Research suggests that based on long-term data, the wind potential has declined by 10-12%, with the decline most prominent in the northern and western parts of the country. If climate change continues, and one of its effects is the warming of the Indian Ocean, one might expect a further decline in wind potential, but with the volatility in global climate patterns, there may be a return of the wind potential to earlier higher levels, as part of ‘reverting to the mean’.
  • Impact on business: Investors in green energy projects haven’t missed the trend, which is visible across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Goa, apart from the southern states.
  1. Wind turbine makers like Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S have even introduced a new turbine targeted at low- and ultra-low wind speed conditions.
  2. Climate change is a factor for low wind speed. Last year, intense heat waves during May and June over central India were missing, which drive up wind speed. Even in 2021, as the pre-monsoon activities started, the temperature is seen subsiding over Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and interior parts of Maharashtra.
  3. Weather-prediction firm Skymet has projected a normal June-to-September monsoon for 2021, with the rainfall likely to be 103% of the 50-year average.
  4. Only if temperatures rise again, will we see a higher wind speed.
  • Economy's constraints: India’s clean energy developers are already being squeezed by curtailed power procurement, delayed payments and tariff shopping by distribution companies (Discoms), and difficulties in procuring land and connectivity. Wind-speed deceleration, if it emerges as a trend, may force upward prices of power at project auctions. If lower wind patterns become a trend, the bidding prices for PPAs (power purchase agreements) may change.
  1. At play is a projected investment requirement of around $80 billion by 2022 and $300 billion till 2030 across India’s clean energy space.
  2. The space has attracted investment of Rs.4.7 trillion over the past six years, and it is estimated to generate a Rs.1 trillion investment opportunity yearly until 2030.
  3. Wind energy is a key constituent of achieving India's low carbon goals.
  • When in doubt, seek the coast: India is exploring plans to harness the wind power potential along its 7,600 km coastline. It already has the world’s fourth largest wind power generation capacity with a mature industry ecosystem, and an estimated wind power potential of 302 GW at 100 metres above ground level. That potential has already drawn the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds and private equity investors to bet on India. But the Indian green energy deal space is still abuzz. The latest case being ReNew Power’s proposed merger with Nasdaq-listed special purpose vehicle RMG Acquisition Corp at an enterprise value of around $8 billion. Greenko recently raised $940 million for refinancing through its latest dollar bond sale, and Actis plans to invest $850 million in India to build two green energy platforms, including one that will focus on setting up grid-connected solar and wind power parks.
  • Summary: Firms may need to follow a portfolio approach to wind assets. Wind will vary from site to site, and year to year and the only way to mitigate this risk may be to own a portfolio that is across the country.

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

Israel-Palestine clash over Al-Asqa in Jerusalem
    • The story: Serious violence broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians, at the Al-Aqsa mosque site in May. On 08th of May, an estimated 90,000 people gathered for nighttime Laylat al-Qadr prayers at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam. The Laylat al-Qadr or the “Night of Destiny”, prayers are considered the most sacred.
    • Events:
    1. There had been a “repeated cycle of clashes and calm” in the area between Palestinian protesters throwing plastic bottles and Israeli security forces deploying stun grenades and foul-smelling skunk water.
    2. An Arab Israeli NGO called on senior Israeli officials to order security forces to halt their “violent incursions” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and refrain from using excessive force against Palestinian worshippers and medical personnel.
    3. Tensions mounted in the city, the occupied West Bank and Gaza throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger about the potential eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
    4. On 10th of May (Jerusalem Day), Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, leaving hundreds injured. It marked the fourth day of clashes at one of the most revered and the most contested sites of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That led to a reaction from Hamas, that fired rockets into Israel.
    5. Israeli Air Force attacked the region after Hamas fired several rockets at Israel, following the expiration of the group’s ultimatum demanding Israel stand down forces from the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Israel’s army said it had hit 130 “military targets” in Gaza, killing 15 “Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives” in retaliatory strikes after Palestinian groups launched a flurry of rockets towards Israel.
    6. US lawmaker Ilhan Omar said that "Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism. Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians.:
    7. The four members of the Middle East Quartet – the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Jerusalem. The Envoys noted with concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations, and opposed the unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment. They called upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.
    • Various aspects:
    1. Six Day War - The 1967 Arab–Israeli War (or Third Arab–Israeli War) was fought between 5 and 10 June 1967 between Israel and Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Relations between Israel and its neighbours were not normalised after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In 1956 Israel invaded the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, to reopen the Straits of Tiran that Egypt had blocked to Israeli shipping since 1950. Israel was eventually forced to withdraw, but was guaranteed that the Straits of Tiran would remain open. A United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was deployed along the border, but there was no demilitarisation agreement.
    2. Al-Aqsa - The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, and is the third holiest site in Islam. It was built on top of the Temple Mount, known as the Al Aqsa Compound or Haram esh-Sharif in Islam. Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Great Mosque of Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards this site until the 16th or 17th month after his migration from Mecca to Medina, when Allah directed him to turn towards the Kaaba in Mecca. Since 1967, the Jordanian Islamic Waqf has been in charge of the holy site, while Israel oversees external security. Non-Muslims are only allowed to visit the compound during specified hours and are not allowed to pray there.
    3. Al-Haram al-Sharif - The Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif is the most contentious religious site in Jerusalem. It is revered by Jews at the location of two biblical temples and is the holiest site in Judaism. The compound houses the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam.
    4. Jerusalem - It is a city in Western Asia, on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities, considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Al-Aqsa is central to the rival claims over Jerusalem. Both Israel and Palestine have declared it their capital. In July 1980, the Israeli Parliament passed the Jerusalem Law declaring it the country’s capital. Palestinians declared Jerusalem the capital of the putative state of Palestine by a law passed by the Palestinian Authority in 2000.
    5. History of the region - In 1947, the United Nations drew up a plan to divide Palestine between Jews and Palestinians, leading to the creation of Israel. Since then, the Al-Aqsa compound has been under UN administration. Palestinians decry the increasing Israeli encroachment over the site, which intensified after the 1967 war, which resulted in an Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, where the Old City and the Mosque are located. While non-Muslims have not been allowed to worship at Al-Aqsa, Jewish individuals and groups have made repeated attempts to gain entry to the Mount Temple plaza.
    • World reactions: The UAE had recently recognised Israel as a state and sealed a historic peace agreement to normalise relations with it, but has now “strongly condemned” the clashes and the planned evictions in Jerusalem. It has asked Israel to protect the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa. Saudi Arabia, which has given its tacit blessings to the “Abraham Accords” by not opposing Israel’s recognition by UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, has said it “rejects Israel’s plans and measures to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem”. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he condemns Israel for “violating all norms of humanity and international law". Israel, meanwhile, remained firm and said it was only maintaining law and order.
    • The Trump angle: As President, Trump stoked the fire by giving a new plan - the eighth-century site, regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and important for all three Abrahamic faiths, would be under Israeli control. Thousands of Palestinians had gathered urgently at the holy site to show that the city, where the al-Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary is located, would remain the “undivided capital” of Israel. They said that the deal was humiliating and unacceptable, and Trump wanted to deny access to Al-Aqsa. “Even if it requires sacrificing all our blood, Palestine’s capital will always be Jerusalem,” said the protestors in 2020.

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

    Bharat Biotech starts direct supply to States
    • The story: Amid a slowed down pan-India vaccination drive, the Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech started supplying Covaxin — its Covid-19 vaccine — directly to 14 states beginning May 1, 2021. It has been supplying Covaxin to Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
    • Developments: The company said that it confirmed direct supplies of COVAXIN to the following state govt’s since 1/5/21, based on the allocations received by the GoI. Requests have been received from other states, and will be processed for distribution based on availability of stocks 24x7. The company is now getting requests from other state governments as well, and will be processing them for distribution based on availability of the vaccine.
    • Pricing: Bharat Biotech had earlier announced a price cut in Covaxin for states to Rs 400 per dose in the last week of April, from the earlier announced price of Rs 600 per dose. The Centre had announced expansion of the Covid-19 vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 years of age to get a jab.
    • Policy: The Centre will continue to procure and distribute vaccines for free for those above 45 years. The states, on the other hand, will procure vaccines directly from vaccine makers based on their plans for inoculation of all above 18 years. Private sector hospitals, too, are allowed to procure vaccines directly from vaccine manufacturers now. Both Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have announced prices of vaccines for state governments and for the private hospitals. While Serum Institute has priced it at Rs 300 per dose for state governments.

    Pakistan and FATF demands

    • Pak's FATF problem: Pakistan, keen to exit from the grey list of the FATF, is set to introduce new rules relating to anti-money laundering cases and change the prosecution process to meet its remaining tough conditions.
    • The events: Pakistan was put on the grey list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing in June 2018 and the country has been struggling to come out of it.
    1. New changes being made include the transfer of investigations and prosecution of anti-money laundering (AML) cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies.
    2. This is part of two sets of rules including the AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021 under the National Policy Statement on Follow the Money approved by the federal Cabinet.
    3. These rules and related notifications for certain changes in the existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 would come into force immediately to be followed by the appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.
    4. Based on these measures, the FATF would conclude if Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the grey list in February 2021.
    • What next: Review meetings of the FATF are scheduled in June 2021, culminating in the next FATF plenary on June 21-25. The three outstanding action points (out of a total of 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities. Demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.
    • Summary: The Pak government has decided to appoint dozens of administrators with the powers to confiscate, receive, manage, rent out, auction, transfer or dispose of or take all other measures to preserve the value of the properties and perishable or non-perishable assets to be confiscated under the AML 2010 rules or court orders.

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      • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
    Nepal PM Oli loses vote of confidence
    • The story: Nepal's Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli lost a trust vote in the House of Representatives, pushing the country into deeper political turmoil just as there was a record surge in Covid-19 cases.
    • The events: PM Oli lost the vote of confidence motion, days after the Nepal Communist Party Maoist Centre led by Pushpakamal Dahal ‘Prachanda' withdrew its support, reducing the government to a minority. Oli had decided to seek the trust of the 275-member House on his government, but managed to garner only 93 votes, falling short of 43 votes to reach the 136-mark to win the vote of confidence during a special session of the lower house.
    1. A total of 124 members voted against the confidence motion while 15 members stayed neutral, as per Speaker Agni Sapkota.
    2. The session was attended by 232 lawmakers. With this, Prime Minister Oli was automatically relieved from his post as per Article 100 (3) of the Constitution.
    3. After Oli lost the trust vote and became a caretaker prime minister, President Bidya Devi Bhandari called on political parties to form a majority government within next three days.
    4. The Office of the President said the President has decided to call on parties to form a majority government as per Article 76 (2) of the Constitution. According to the provision two or more parties can form a majority government.
    5. During the voting, some 28 lawmakers belonging to Oli's rival faction led by Madhav Nepal-Jhala Nath Khanal abstained.
    6. The main Opposition Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), which control 61 and 49 votes, respectively, voted against Oli's trust motion.
    7. With Oli failing the trust vote, the President needs to invoke Article 76 (2) to form a new government. It says in cases where no party has a clear majority in the House, the President shall appoint as the prime minister a member of the House who can command majority with the support of two or more parties in the House of Representatives.
    8. That could provide the Nepali Congress an opportunity to form a government with the backing of the Maoist Centre. But the two parties fall short of around 26 seats to form a new government, The Kathmandu Post reported.
    • Status: Oli currently is the leader of a party that has the highest number of members in the House. If Oli is appointed under the Constitution, he also needs to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of the appointment. The prime minister appointed in this manner also needs to secure a vote of confidence within 30 days. Failure to do so would lead to House dissolution.
    • Crisis: Nepal had plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival 'Prachanda'. In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was then preparing for snap polls.
    • Pro-China: Known for his pro-China stance, Oli had earlier served as the country's prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016 during which Kathmandu's ties with New Delhi had strained. Oli lost the confidence vote on a day when Nepal recorded the highest single day COVID-19 death tally of 139 in the past 24 hours. According to the latest data released by the Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal also recorded as many as 9,271 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Both new infections and deaths have risen sharply after Nepal logged Covid-19 cases in four digits on April 18.

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      • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
    DoT says 5G and COVID not linked
    • The story: India's telecom department asserted that there was absolutely no link between 5G technology and the spread of COVID, and urged the public not to be misguided by baseless and false messages being circulated. The claim that 5G trials or networks are causing coronavirus in India is "false" and without any scientific basis.
    • What it said: The DoT said that the testing of the 5G network had not actually started anywhere in India, so the claim that 5G trials or networks was causing coronavirus in India was "baseless". Mobile towers emit non-ionizing Radio frequencies having very minuscule power and are incapable of causing any kind of damage to living cells including human beings. DoT has prescribed norms for exposure limit for the Radio Frequency Field (i.e. Base Station Emissions) which are 10 times more stringent than the safe limits prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and recommended by WHO (World Health Organization).
    • Citizen complaint: Outlining the initiatives already taken, the DoT said it has a well-structured process so that operators strictly adhere to these prescribed norms. But if any citizen had any apprehension about any mobile tower emitting radio waves beyond the safe limit prescribed by the department, a request for EMF measurements/testing could be made on Tarang Sanchar portal at https://tarangsanchar.gov.in/emfportal.
    1. Industry body COAI had expressed concern over false information and rumours linking 5G technology with the spread of COVID-19 and had dismissed the unsubstantiated and unverified claims in this regard.
    2. Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) said it came across multiple messages on social media platforms mentioning 5G spectrum trials as the probable cause of rising cases of COVID-19.
    • Worldwide: Many nations have already rolled out 5G networks and people are using these services safely. COAI - whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea - had urged the public not to fall for fake messages in this regard. The association had highlighted that telecom services are the lifeline for the nation, especially in the current times.
    WHO classifies triple-mutant Covid variant from India as global health risk
    • The story: WHO said that it had reclassified the highly contagious triple-mutant Covid variant spreading in India as a “variant of concern” at the global level. So the VOC now was a global health threat.
    • Details: The variant, known as B.1.617, has been found in preliminary studies to spread more easily than the original virus and there is some evidence it may able to evade some of the protections provided by vaccines. The shots, however, are still considered effective. Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, the WHO said it needed more information about this virus variant in this lineage in all of the sub lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”
    1. The WHO said last week it was closely following at least 10 coronavirus variants across the world, including the B.1.617. The variant was previously labeled a “variant of interest” as more studies were needed to completely understand its significance.
    2. WHO said that “What it means for anybody at home is any of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating can infect you and spread and everything in that sense is of concern”.
    • VOC: A variant can be labeled as “of concern” if it has been shown to be more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, according to the WHO. The group issued a clarification to their earlier remarks, saying that current data shows the existing Covid-19 vaccines “remain effective at preventing disease and death in people infected with this variant.”
    1. The international organization has already designated three other variants with the classification: B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the U.K. and is the most prevalent variant currently circulating throughout the U.S.; B.1.351, first detected in South Africa, and the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.
    2. B.1.617 has three sublineages, Van Kerkhove said, that will be described in the latest situation report. The variant is believed by some to be behind the latest wave of infections in India.
    • Status: India was averaging about 3,879 Covid deaths per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, though media reports indicate the official figure is being understated. It has reported an average of about 391,000 new cases per day over the past seven days — up about 4% from a week ago, Johns Hopkins University data shows. The variant has since spread to other countries, including the United States.

    • [message]
      • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
    India's vanishing demographic dividend
    • The story: India has been shown as a big future economic growth story after China, largely due to potential its young population has. The idea is that as the young Indian population enters the working age, it will lead to higher economic growth – a demographic dividend (DD).
    • When it started: The DD window began in 2018 when the working age population began to grow larger than its dependent population – children aged 14 years or below and people above 65 years of age. It is expected to last for 37 years until 2055. But will India manage to gain through this bulging working population? That's the big question.
    • Bare truth today: The ‘pandemic generation’ is joining the workforce in an economy that is failing to provide adequate employment opportunities to its current strength, and India’s chances of levering upon its demographic dividend are soon becoming obscure. There is little to no hope that things will be any different moving forward. Miracles don't happen in real world.
    1. Since the end of the Second World War, global population has more than doubled and the per capita GDP of the world has risen by over five times. The rapid technological progress in the post-Malthusian world has made population an asset rather than a burden.
    2. Many Asian economies — including Japan, South Korea, and China — were able to benefit from the rise in their working population. This has been possible in the modern world due to fall in fertility rates through contraceptive usage and increase in life expectancy through scientific advancements in modern medicine. And these Asian economies managed to engage their population in productive employment, which enabled sustained periods of high growth. So, the expectations from India have been immense to reap similar demographic dividends.
    3. But only technology doesn'e help; there are two further prerequisites: ample availability of productive employment and the capability to make use of available technologies. India is lacking on both fronts.
    • Stark numbers: Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, unemployment levels in India had hit a 45-year high. As of 2017-18, only half of the people in the working age were actually working. In 2004-05, the same proportion was 63.7 per cent. Moreover, the troubled scenario of education and skills is evident from the Pratham surveys that are released each year. In 2018, it showed that just half of the children in the 5th standard could read a text from the 2nd standard. The pandemic just worsened the situation.
    • Kids hit badly: The latest State of India’s Environment report released by the Centre for Science and Environment finds that an astounding 375 million children may suffer long-lasting impacts due to the pandemic including being underweight and stunted, which will lead to losses in education and economic productivity. Government programmes like mid-day meal schemes, which encouraged school enrolment have taken a hit during the pandemic. Even those students who managed to remain enrolled have face difficulties in accessing education due to the vast digital divides across income groups.
    • Summary: The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has shocked India badly. Even now, it's now too late. India needs to start focusing hard on what matters most now - education, health and social equality. If right investments over this decade can be made, then by 2030, we surely will see a substantial payoff from the huge youth bulge of India. If not, then we will simply miss out on India's biggest blessing.

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

      China population growth
      • The story: The annual population growth of China has slowed during the decade. This has put the demographic dividend of the country at risk, and there were concerns that China was 'running out of young people'.
      • Census learning: The annual population growth of China was at 0.53% in 2020 census, while it was 0.57% in 2010 census. The rate of population increase was the slowest since the first census. The first Census of the country was conducted in 1953. The fastest growth rate of the country was reported in 1982. The growth rate was 2.09%. The number of births that occurred in China in 2020 was 12 million. This has decreased by 20% as compared to the previous year.
      • Produce more kids: China scrapped its “One-Child Policy” in 2016. The policy was introduced in 1979. Now the limit has been increased to two children per couple. The population in the age of 60 years and above grew at 18.27% in 2020 Census. It grew at 13.26% in 2010 census. The average age of China is 38.8 years. Chinese are rich and strong as compared to that of the US citizens. The average age of US population is 38 years. The life expectancy of China has been increasing. Recently, the Government of China increased the retired age of women to 55 years and that of men to 60 years. The urban population in China has increased from 49.68% to 63.89%.
      • Working Age Population: The working age population in China has decreased from 70.14% to 63.35%.  The concern of declining working population in the country has been raised by several experts. In April 2021, the Central Bank of China released a report on Demographics. It said that the demographic dividend in China is fading. And on the other hand, the demographic dividend of India is increasing. This wider force will help India grow at faster rate. According to the United Nations, India will overtake China to become the most populous country in the world by 2025.

      Assam-UNICEF Online Flood Reporting System
      • The story: The Assam State Disaster Management Agency and the UNICEF has jointly developed an Online Flood Reporting System. With this, Assam becomes the first state to adopt digital reporting system to find out impact indicators during floods.
      • The System: It will report flood levels in Assam on a daily basis. Earlier, the flood managing system in the state involved multiple stake holders, was time consuming and required manual verification. The new system is completely digital, and driven by web-cum-mobile application technology.
      • System deliverables: It will facilitate tracking of damages to crops, loss of livestock and will also help to provide financial assistance during restoration, and will enable information feeding at the source. Also, the system will provide immediate alert-based verification at defined levels.
      • History: In Assam, it is mandatory to report about daily flood levels between May 15 and October 15 every year. Floods are very common in Assam, because of river Brahmaputra. The river is unstable and braided in its entire course in Assam. The main reason for this is steep slopes and high sedimentation. The reasons behind Assam flooding are both man-made and natural. Unregulated release of water from the dams in the region also cause flooding. The shape of Guwahati is like a bowl that makes the region susceptible to water logging. The state builds embankments to control the floods. However, these embankments are breached by the floods every year.

      Japan and Suez Canal alternatives
      • The story: In April 2021, a container ship called “Ever Given” blocked the Suez Canal, stopping more than 400 ships from transiting the canal. This caused a global trade loss of 9 billion USD. It was popularly called the Suez Canal Blockade.
      • The worry: The Ever Given Cargo ship was owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha. It was built by Imabari Ship Building. Both were Japanese companies. They are still locked in negotiations with the Egyptian Government. The blockade highlighted the vulnerabilities of Suez route for the Japanese. Thus, Japan is moving towards the potential alternatives.
      • Alternatives: The two potential alternatives for Japan are reliant on Russia. One is the Trans-Siberian Railway and the other is the Northern Sea Route. These goals were in fact promoted by Russia. In May 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the “Executive Order on National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation”. The melting of Arctic ice is making the Northern sea route a viable option. Between June and December these routes require ice breakers. In spite of this, Japan is increasing its ships through this region. In 2020 more than 133 Japanese ships traversed through this route. It was only 87 in 2019. Apart from the sea routes, Japan is trying to use the Trans Siberian Railways
      • Trans Siberian Railway: It is a network of Railways connecting western Russia to the Russian far east. It starts from Moscow and ends at Vladivostok. Vladivostok is close to North Korea-Russia border.

      EAC allows Great Nicobar Plan to advance
      • The story: The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) operating under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently recommended for grant of “Terms of Reference for Environmental Impact Assessment” studies. Earlier the committee had raised serious concerns against the project.
      • ToR for EIA: It is a document produced by the authority that is conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment. It is the most important document as it sets the guidelines for the study. It provides the following details:
      1. Description about the project
      2. Description about the existing environmental conditions in the site
      3. About stakeholders benefitted or harmed during the project
      4. Impacts the project will have on environmental and social aspects
      5. Description of the species endemic to the area
      6. Possible alternatives for the project
      7. Recommends mitigation strategies
      8. Budget of the study
      • Thus, the Terms of Reference document is highly important to make sure that the study is carried out effectively to ward off the environmental damages. Now a three months of baseline studies will be conducted.
      • The issue: In January 2021, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife allowed the construction of the port in Galathea Bay and the Expert Committee of Environment Ministry approved “Zero Extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone. This was done to allow the use of the land. Concerns were raised in allowing development in a fragile area.
      • “Zero Extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone: The ESZ acts as shock absorbers of protected areas. The extent of Eco Sensitive Zones range from 0 to 10 kilometres. When the extent ranges to 0 km then it is called Zero Extent Ecologically Sensitive Zone. In simple words, the ESZ does not exist in that place.
      • Why was Zero Extent ESZ tag approved? Justification given is that the major geographical areas of the Great Nicobar Island is covered under protected areas network and tribal reserves. There is hardly any area left for holistic development. The Zero Extent ESZ was proposed for the northern and western sides as it merges with Bay of Bengal. The Zero Extent ESZ for the coastal sides were proposed as they are protected under Coastal Regulation rules. The eastern side of the region is protected under the Forest Act as it is a tribal area. In this scenario, it is impossible to allocate land for developmental activities. Minimum sustainable development is required in the region.
      • The Great Nicobar Plan: The plan includes international container transhipment terminal, township complex, power plant spread over 166 square kilo metre. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 75,000 crores, and was proposed by NITI Aayog. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation is to act as the Nodal Agency.

      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)

      Solve the online quiz given, right now. Check scores, and relative performance!



      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 - 11-05-2021
      Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 11-05-2021
      Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 11-05-2021
      PT's IAS Academy
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