Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 12-05-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 12-05-2021


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  1. Indian Economy - Urban unemployment jumps as states announce lockdowns - Urban joblessness in India touched 11.72% by May 10th, the highest in over 10 months, as many states announced localised lockdowns. The comparable number was 9.78% in April, as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The national unemployment rate rose to 8.67% in the week ended May 9 from 7.4% a fortnight ago. Urban joblessness is a serious issue, since before the 2020 pandemic. A solution suggested has been an urban version of the rural-focused MGNREGA work scheme. India's majority workers are employed in the informal sector, with the formal sector employing just about 10%. Pandemic is hitting the informal sector very hard, just like demonetisation did in 2016 and GST since 2017.
  2. Indian Economy - Moody's slashes India's growth forecast - Moody's Investors Service has lowered India's growth forecast for financial year 2021-22 to 9.3% from its February 2021 estimate of 13.7%. It said that the second wave of COVID-19 infections hampers economic recovery and increases risk of longer-term scarring. The reimposition of lockdown measures will curb economic activity and could dampen market and consumer sentiment, Moody's added. India has had a frosty relationship with the major rating agencies - Moody's, Standard and Poor's, and Fitch. The Economic Survey 2021 had a chapter dedicated to proving that they have been unfair in their treatment of India. But with the ravages of the second Covid-19 wave, India will be hard-pressed to get its act in order to protect its just-above investment-grade rating.
  3. World Politics - The population of China - The population in China has increased over the past decade by 72 million to 1.41 billion in the year 2020, a growth of over 5%, as per its latest census. The birthrate in China, however, has shown a decline because of the aging population and shrinking workforce. This population growth to 2020 has slumped to the least in official records dating back to the 1950s, putting pressure on Beijing to give more incentives to couples to have more children and avert an irreversible decline. With growth having slowed ever since a one-child policy was introduced in the late 1970s, the 2020 results of the country’s once-a-decade census, showed the population of mainland China increased 5.38% to 1.41 billion. That compared with an increase of 5.84% to 1.34 billion in the 2010 census, and double-digit percentage rises in all of China’s previous six official population surveys dating back to 1953. If population growth is not maintained, China may lose its young workers swiftly. A professor at Peking University, Liang Jianzhang, has urged Chinese government to offer 1 million yuan (₹1.14 crore) to parents for each newborn child to boost the declining birth rate.
  4. Environment and Ecology - Kaziranga Animal Corridors - Authorities in Assam began probing cases of clearance of forest land, digging and construction activities on animal corridors within the eco-sensitive zone of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve. These activities violated the Supreme Court’s order in 2019, “No new construction shall be permitted on private lands which form part of the nine identified animal corridors.” Kaziranga Animal corridors are crucial for the rhinos, elephants, tigers, deer and other animals that escape a flooded Kaziranga during the monsoon months for the safety of the hills of Karbi Anglong district. A wildlife corridor, habitat corridor, or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures (such as roads, development, or logging).
  5. Governance and Institutions - Connected Commerce Report - NITI Aayog and Mastercard released a report titled ‘Connected Commerce: Creating a Roadmap for a Digitally Inclusive Bharat’. It identifies challenges in accelerating digital financial inclusion in India. The report highlights key issues and opportunities, with inferences and recommendations on policy and capacity building across agriculture, small business (MSMEs), urban mobility and cyber security. 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 MSMEs to ‘get paid, get capital and get digital’. 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. To make city transit accessible to all with minimal crowding and queues, leveraging existing smartphones and contactless cards, and aim for an inclusive, interoperable, and fully open system like London ‘Tube’.
  6. Environment and Ecology - IREDA Green Urja Award - The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. IREDA was conferred with “Green Urja Award” for being the Leading Public Institution in Financing Institution for Renewable Energy (RE) in 2020-21 by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The IREDA is a Mini Ratna (Category – I) Government of India Enterprise under the administrative control of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It is a Public Limited Government Company established as a Non-Banking Financial Institution in 1987, and notified as a “Public Financial Institution” under section 4 ‘A’ of the Companies Act, 1956 and registered as Non-Banking Financial Company (NFBC) with Reserve Bank of India (RBI). IREDA’s Motto is “Energy for Ever.” IREDA is the only dedicated institution for financing Renewable Energy (RE) & Energy Efficiency (EE) projects in India. Since, its inception the company has played a catalytic role in developing market for financing RE & EE projects. IREDA has over the years sanctioned loans aggregating to Rs. 96,601 crores, disbursed Rs. 63,492 cores and supported more than 17,586 MW of RE capacity in the country till date.
  7. Polity and Constitution - NHRC got a Chairman - Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant, a former Supreme Court judge, was appointed the Acting Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with effect from April 25, 2021. The NHRC was established in 1993, in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the protection of human rights held in Paris in 1991. It is a statutory organization established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993, and headquartered in New Delhi. The purpose of the NHRC is, suo motu or through the petition of a person, to investigate the violation of human rights or the failures of the state or other to prevent a human rights violation. The commissions may take on research about human rights, create awareness campaigns through various mediums, and encourage the work of NGOs. It consists of a Chairperson, four full-time Members and four deemed Members. The statute lays down qualifications for the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Commission. A Chairperson, should be retired Chief Justice of India.
  8. Indian Economy - Innovators Growth Platform - With an aim to boost listing of start-ups, markets regulator SEBI has notified a slew of relaxations to norms, including reducing holding period for pre-issue capital and allowing discretionary allotment to eligible investors. The changes have been made to the framework for listing on the Innovators Growth Platform (IGP). This comes after the board of SEBI approved a proposal in March 2021. Other relaxations include easing delisting requirements and relaxation in guidelines for migrating to the main board. This is aimed at making the platform more accessible to companies in view of the evolving start-up ecosystem. The regulator has reduced the period of holding of 25 per cent of pre-issue capital of the issuer company by eligible investors to one year from the current requirement of two years. The term 'Accredited Investor' for the purpose of IGP is renamed as 'Innovators Growth Platform Investors'. Such investor's pre-issue shareholding would be considered for entire 25 per cent of the pre-issue capital of the issuer company against the present limit of only 10 per cent.
  9. World Economy - Movement in crypto markets - SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has said about Bitcoin that there is a lot of discussion over if it's a good thing or a bad thing, and he really did not know! However, Son added that the popularity of Bitcoin has made it into a platform that "can't be ignored", like diamonds or bonds. He also said that there was no need to reject Bitcoin. Meanwhile, it emerged that a trading platform "Coinseed" moved its clients' assets into Dogecoin without consent. New York's Attorney General Coinseed of this. Coinseed converted investors' assets into Bitcoin in April and later traded Bitcoin for "an extremely volatile virtual currency named Dogecoin". Doge is what Elon Musk has been associated with, in public statements.
  10. Indian Politics - Covid Update - India's Covid tally reached 2,33,40,938 with 3,48,421 fresh cases reported in 24 hours. At 4,205, India records its highest Covid deaths taking the death toll to 2,54,197. It emerged that a parliamentary standing committee had in March 2021 suggested ramping up of production capacity of the two COVID vaccines manufactured in India for availability to a wider population as soon as possible after it was informed that there could be a "shortage". India needs around 1.9 billion doses (190 crore) to fully vaccinate all adults. It was clear to the Standing Committee from the data presented by the government that the current production capacity is inadequate to meet that demand, as per chairperson Jairam Ramesh of Congress. The Bombay High Court said if the Union government had started door-to- door vaccination programme for senior citizens a few months back, then lives of many of them, including prominent persons, could have been saved. The court noted that many foreign countries have already started door-to-door vaccination facilities. An expert panel faulted countries worldwide for their sluggish response to COVID-19, saying most waited to see how the virus was spreading until it was too late to contain it, leading to catastrophic results. The group also slammed the lack of global leadership and restrictive international health laws that “hindered” WHO's response to the pandemic. NUMBERS - INDIA - Total cases: 23,340,426; New cases: 348,499; Total deaths: 254,225; New deaths: 4,200; Total recovered: 19,376,650; Active cases: 3,709,551.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
Rising metal prices and Indian economy
  • The story: Globally, demand for metals has recently outpaced supply due to economic recovery. with improving manufacturing and better demand forecast for electric vehicles (EVs) where copper is a key ingredient. Its prices have gained 34% on the London Metal Exchange (LME). Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals have risen in prices. But domestic steel prices are at a discount to both landed price of imports from China (20%) and export price (11%). Global crude steel production grew 15% year-on-year in March 2021, mainly due to a low base. Iron ore supply is unable to keep up with demand for high- grade iron ore in China.
  • Inflation impact: It is expected that a strong operating environment for metals to sustain for at least another two to three months, higher metal prices will lead to higher WPI (wholesale price index) inflation. India is not a big importer of metals and Indian companies follow world metal prices, the price rise will push the input cost for Indian companies, pushing WPI up, as companies may not want to absorb the cost given the covid-19 pandemic-induced stress on their balance sheets. Domestic iron ore price is still at a discount of 48% to international price.
  • Impact on various sectors: Auto, real estate and infrastructure companies are likely to bear the maximum brunt. Bajaj Auto’s commodity input costs rose 4-5% in the March quarter, while the company has made hikes of 4%. Maruti Suzuki is raising prices of its products. Tata Motors has increased the prices of its passenger vehicles by 1.8% average.
  • Impact on infrastructure development: An across-the-board rise in prices is leading to input cost pressures, impacting the cost of infrastructure development. Metal prices are getting a push from the recovery in China and the US, and analysts expect this bull run in commodities to extend. Steel, the most common metal used across sectors, is at a record high and is expected to continue its trajectory. The spike in metal prices is worrying for the construction/infrastructure industry as India is spending big on infrastructure development.
  • India's steel firms: Rising metal prices are helping Indian steel companies deleverage their balance sheet and repay debt at a quicker pace. Tata Steel’s net debt declined to Rs.75,389 crore at the end of March 2021. During 2020-21, it made a repayment of Rs.29,390 crore, with Rs.10,781 crore in the March quarter. SAIL reduced gross debt by Rs.16,150 crore. Jindal Steel and Power has reduced debt from a peak of Rs.46,500 crore in December 2016 to Rs.25,600 crore in December 2020.
Moody's slashes FY22 GDP forecast
  • The story: The unexpected second Covid wave has changed all estimates for the India GDP path, for fiscal 2021-22. Moody’s Investors Service joined other rating agencies in slashing its FY22 economic growth forecast, from 13.7% earlier to 9.3%. It cited negative impact of the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, and cautioned that risks from deeper stresses could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength. That will further put pressure on the credit profile of India (Asia’s third largest economy).
  • How the chain works: The reimposition of lockdown measures are curbing economic activity and dampening market and consumer sentiment. But many do not expect impact to be as severe as during the first wave, where lockdowns were applied nationwide for several months. The second wave is witnessing “micro-containment zone" measures, that are targeted and likely of shorter duration. Businesses and consumers have also grown more accustomed to operating under pandemic conditions.
  • Overwhelmed: Escalating Covid cases overwhelmed India’s health system starting April. Many states were forced to announce localized lockdowns and night curfews. The earlier presumption of a V-shaped economic recovery was hence unlikely, as the deadly second wave brought an abrupt halt to India’s nascent economic recovery. S&P Global Ratings had said it expected India’s GDP growth at 9.8% under its moderate scenario and to 8.2% under the severe scenario based on when the current infection wave peaks.
  • Upgrade not now: Moody’s has assigned the lowest investment grade with negative outlook for India. It has already said that persistent obstacles to growth include weak infrastructure, rigidities in labour, land and product markets, and rising financial sector risks. So a rating upgrade was unlikely in the near future. Commensurate action to halt and reverse the rise in the debt trajectory, even slowly, would also promote a stable outlook.
  • April report: The finance ministry in its monthly economic report said with the second wave of Covid-19 infections forcing localized or state-wide restrictions, there is a downside risk to growth in the first quarter of FY22. There are also reasons to expect a muted economic impact as compared to the first wave. The experience from other countries suggests a lower correlation between falling mobility and growth as economic activity has learnt to operate ‘with covid-19’.
  • How much lost: Finance Ministry feels that this wave may lead to just around 1 percentage point loss of GDP compared with starting estimates. While the Economic Survey has assumed 11% GDP growth in FY22, the budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February 2021 factored in 10.5% GDP growth. The finance ministry’s fresh estimate seems to indicate growth may remain within 9.5-10% range for this fiscal.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Kaziranga Animal Corridor
  • The story: Animal corridors provide continuity to animals, between various habitats. In 2021, there were multiple cases of clearance of forest land, digging and construction activities on at least three animal corridors within the eco-sensitive zone of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
  • SC order: The Supreme Court of India in its 2019 order had said that “No new construction shall be permitted on private lands which form part of the nine identified animal corridors.”
  • Animal Corridor: Wildlife corridors, or animal corridors, are meant to ensure safe passage for animals between two isolated habitats. In wildlife parlance, corridors are mainly of two types: functional and structural.
  1. Functional corridors are defined in terms of functionality from the perspective of the animal (basically areas where there have been recorded movement of wildlife).
  2. Structural corridors are contiguous strips of forested areas and structurally connect the otherwise fragmented blocks of the landscape. When structural corridors are affected by human anthropogenic activities, functional corridors automatically widen because of animal use.
  • Kaziranga Animal Corridor: A special committee formed by the Supreme Court in its report had recommended the delineation of nine animal corridors in Kaziranga National Park (KNP). The nine identified animal corridors are: Amguri, Bagori, Chirang, Deosur, Harmati, Hatidandi and Kanchanjuri are in Nagaon district and Haldibari and Panbari corridors are in Golaghat district of Assam.
  1. The nine corridors that already exist behave as functional corridors, but according to the new recommendation, the corridors will act as both structural and functional, on the basis of need.
  2. The report suggested that structural corridors should be made free of all human induced disturbances except for the forestry and wildlife management practices. But functional corridors (which might become important when structural corridors are disturbed), can have regulated multi-use with restrictions on land use change.
  • Significance of Animal Corridors: These are crucial for the rhinos, elephants, tigers, deer and other animals that escape a flooded Kaziranga during the monsoon months for the safety of the hills of Karbi Anglong district beyond the highway skirting the southern boundary of the tiger reserve. Once the rain clear, the animals make their way back to the grasslands.
  • Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve: It is located in the State of Assam and covers 42,996 Hectare (ha), and is the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain. It was declared as a National Park in 1974, and has been declared a tiger reserve since 2007. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. It is the home to the world's most number of one-horned rhinos. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has the highest density of one-horned rhinos in the world and second highest number of Rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park. The National Highway 37 passes through the park area.

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

UK's Indo-Pacific tilt
    • The story: The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried twice to come to India, but could not due to prevailing Covid situation. A virtual summit was conducted instead, between PMs Modi and Johnson. It generated a new momentum in a relationship that was failing to live up to its inherent potential. The two leaders unveiled an ambitious 10-year roadmap to boost cooperation in key areas, including defence, security and healthcare, in an attempt to elevate ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership over the next decade.
    • Centre of it: At the centre of this ambition is an economic relationship, an enhanced trade partnership, which is aiming for a doubling of bilateral trade by 2030 and features a determination to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement that would involve an interim trade deal by mid-2022.
    1. Ahead of the virtual summit, new trade and investment pacts worth £1 billion were announced, which includes around £ 533 million of new investment from India in the UK.
    2. The Pune-based vaccine maker Serum Institute of India will also be investing £240 million in the UK.
    3. Both have also concluded a deal allowing thousands of young professionals to work and live in each other’s countries for two years.
    • Indo-Pacific: India is at the heart of the UK’s Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’, which has generated considerable interest around the world. PM Johnson came to office promising one of the deepest and broadest British foreign, security, development and defence reviews since the end of the Cold War. It is clear now that UK will deepen engagement in the Indo-Pacific, establishing a greater and more persistent presence than any other European country.
    1. With the centre of gravity of global politics and economics shifting to the Indo-Pacific, it ambitiously aims at positioning the UK as the most engaged European power in the region by 2030
    2. The Brexit decision to leave Europe’s single market has forced the UK to look for strong trade relationships with partners beyond the EU, and to target the most dynamic economies, of which a considerable number are located in the Indo-Pacific region.
    3. For the UK, this Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ will entail close diplomatic cooperation with like-minded nations, the most important of which is the US. It would  involve reinvigorating the so-called Five Power Defence Arrangements involving Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
    4. Beyond its traditional partners, the UK seems cognizant of the reality of engaging with other major regional players, including Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and India.
    5. At the G-7 meeting of foreign ministers in 2021, the UK took the lead to galvanize the platform in support of rules-based open seas and navigation.
    • Details: Economically, the UK is seeking a new role for itself within the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) framework, and has opened negotiations with the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The G-7 ministerial gathering last week also saw the UK reinforcing the need to build reliable supply chains and technologies, so that no single country can exercise a veto in times of crisis. Militarily, in an attempt to convince a sceptical world about the UK’s hard power capabilities, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the British Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, will lead an allied task force into the region in 2021.
    • Summary: It is clear that the UK is trying to adapt to changing strategic realities and is seeking a greater balance in its ends, ways and means. This ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific is still a tilt, and there is a long way ahead.

    Should Somaliland be internationally recognised now?
    • Trying to be free: Somaliland's first attempt at independence lasted less than a week, marking the end of British colonial rule in June 1960. A day later, however, Somaliland’s parliament passed an act of union with Somalia, a former Italian colony to its south, and Somaliland officially was no more.
    • A big mistake: It was a catastrophic mistake, as within a decade the new Somali Republic had collapsed. Its president was assassinated by his bodyguards. A Marxist junta seized power (led by Siad Barre) a general-turned-dictator. He abolished democracy and wrecked the economy by nationalising nearly everything except camel herds. He then launched a disastrous war against Ethiopia. When the northerners rebelled, he bombed Hargeisa, killing thousands of civilians. As Somalia disintegrated into clan warfare, Barre refused to negotiate. By the time he fled, in 1991, the country had plunged into chaos from which it has yet to emerge.
    • Next move: Somaliland wanted out. Its elders agreed to break away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 at a “Grand Shir”, or gathering of clans, held in a small town in the desert. Since then, Somaliland has become a functioning state in all but name, with 4.5 million people on an area bigger than Florida. It has been largely peaceful. It controls its borders and its territory, unlike Somalia’s government, which controls little more than its capital city, and that only thanks to 20,000 foreign peacekeepers. Whereas Somalia has not held a direct election since the 1960s, Somaliland periodically votes for its president and lawmakers, even if polls are marred by attacks on the press and take place less often than they should.
    • Wake up, world: In the eyes of the world Somaliland still remains part of Somalia. For longer than most of its people have been alive, its pleas for recognition as an independent state have been ignored. The world defers on this to the African Union, the continental arbiter, which argues that Somaliland can win independence only with the consent of Somalia, which says no. The obvious objection to recognising Somaliland is that redrawing maps is perilous. This is especially so in Africa, where borders thoughtlessly imposed in colonial times separate countless clans and ethnic groups from their kin. Untangling this mess would be so tricky that a consensus long ago emerged: leave the map as it is.
    • The logic: Once borders are changed, or new states created for this or that group, others will demand their own homelands, too, and blood will surely flow. Witness Africa’s two newest breakaway countries, Eritrea and South Sudan, which have become a gulag state and a war zone. Were Somaliland to win independence, people in other bits of Somalia might try to break away, too, as would ethnic groups in Ethiopia, the regional power. For all these reasons, Somaliland’s case will not prevail soon. Yet it deserves a hearing. It is not seeking to redraw borders from scratch, but to revert to old ones. Some 97% of its people supported independence in a referendum in 2001.
    • Summary: Denying them recognition imposes severe human costs. Somalilanders cannot travel freely, since few countries accept Somaliland passports. They are poorer than they should be, since their government does not have the status to make trade deals or borrow directly from the World Bank or the IMF. Statehood would help fix some of these problems.

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

    Declining trend in fresh Covid-19 cases
    • May hopes: After nearly two months, the recoveries in a single day from Covid outnumbered the daily new cases with more than 3,56,082 recoveries on 11-May 2021, against 3,29,942 new infections. While Covid-19 cases were showing an increasing trend in 16 states in the country, another 18 have been showing early signs of decline or plateauing. That is a good indicator.
    • Data: Between April 27 and May 11, the number of daily new Covid cases has nearly doubled in states such as Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, J&K, and Goa.
    1. Southern states, including Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, have been on a constant incline for over two weeks along with West Bengal, Odisha, and Punjab.
    2. There was a decline in cases in states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, and Gujarat. In UP’s Lucknow, Kanpur, and Varanasi, cases are down by almost half in the last two weeks.
    3. A declining trend was noticeable in Pune, Nagpur, Nasik, and Palghar in Maharashtra. Southern districts, including Ernakulam and Mallapuram, in Kerala, Kolkata in West Bengal, Bengaluru Urban and Mysuru in Karnataka are of concern with cases seeing a sharp rise.
    4. There are 533 districts in the country with a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent and maximum of these are in Madhya Pradesh, UP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar. Positivity is over 15 per cent in 26 states, with Goa reporting the highest test positivity rate in the country of over 49 per cent followed by Puducherry at 43 per cent. Only four states have less than 5 per cent positivity. National positivity rate is 21 per cent.
    • New guidelines: The health ministry had revised its testing guidelines to rationalise the use of RT-PCR tests, demand for which have outpaced supply. The steps included greater use of rapid antigen tests, no testing for recovered individuals or asymptomatic people who are travelling.
    • Waves, compared: The comparison of the first and second wave data has shown that there was not much age difference in the patients getting infected and those above 40 were more vulnerable, ICMR has said. The mortality rate for hospitalised patients has also been in the range of 9.6 to 9.7 per cent in both waves. Authorities said that younger people were getting more involved because they have suddenly gone out. Variants were also prevalent which may be affecting the younger people as well.
    • O2 supply: There was a sevenfold increase in the supply of liquid medical oxygen in the country from 1,320 mt in March 2021 to 8,943 mt on May 9, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said. The number of cryogenic tanks storing oxygen at hospitals increased to 900 in May from 600 a year ago and almost a threefold increase in the number of oxygen cylinders in the same period. Jumbo Hospitals with a capacity of around 12,400 beds is also being set up with gaseous oxygen from refineries and power and steel plants.
    • Summary: It would be at least till July end that the worst phase of second wave would be over fully. India has to prepare for what lies ahead, in terms of vaccinating the most people at the earliest, and ramping up infrastructure for a potential third wave.

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      • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
    Internet and national sovereignty
    • The story: The concept of national sovereignty originated at the end of Europe’s Thirty Years War, with the Treaty of Westphalia, in which, for the first time, the absolute authority of a nation-state over its territory was recognized. Until then, rulers could only claim dominion over the territory they controlled, meaning that sovereign power diminished the further you were from its centre.
    • Westphalian reality: According to the Westphalian notions of sovereignty, citizens owed allegiance to the territory, regardless of how far away they were from its capital, and through the territory, to the sovereign authority.
    1. Even though the treaty was signed in 1648, it wasn’t till a couple of centuries later, with the Industrial Revolution, that the territorial underpinnings of sovereignty began to bear fruit.
    2. Technologies like the steam engine, railways and telegraph compressed distances within countries, allowing rulers to access far-flung territories with greater ease and efficiency.
    3. This territorial rescaling significantly enhanced national prosperity, letting greater value be extracted from the land and its people than was previously possible.
    • Keep it safe: Nation-states now had every incentive to preserve the sanctity of their territory. They hastened to articulate a universal public law under which sovereign states would have exclusive jurisdiction over all property and persons who happened to be located within their territory, but, at the same time, would not be allowed to exercise jurisdiction over property and persons outside that territory. This symmetrical doctrine is the fundamental basis for modern international relations.
    1. It supports the sovereign right of nations to establish their own laws, and acknowledges that anyone who chooses to enter the jurisdiction of a foreign state must abide by its rules, no matter how different they are from the place they came from.
    2. This is the reason why anyone who commits a criminal act within the territory of one state can escape prosecution by simply crossing a border to another state and why that other state cannot prosecute the fugitive for a crime committed beyond its borders.
    • Internet the smasher: The internet is the world’s latest space-compression technology. It just shrunk distances like nothing that came before it. Not only has it compressed distances within countries, it has shrunk distances between them and created the deeply interconnected world that we inhabit today. The internet pays no heed to national boundaries or the different laws that each sovereign nation enforces within its borders. It is completely unmoored from the notion of Westphalian sovereignty, and allows the actions of individuals and corporations situated in one country to affect those in another without ever crossing physical borders.
    • Issues of digital jurisdictions: This fundamental feature of the internet has, since its very inception, forced engagement with issues of jurisdiction differently when it comes to the digital realm.
    1. In the early days of the internet, it was just ignored, sweeping jurisdictional challenges under the carpet of web exceptionalism.
    2. That approach is increasingly failing, now that the internet is essential infrastructure. Governments around the world are less and less inclined to allow private corporations to control what transpires on it or have exclusive access to the data that traverses through it.
    • Indian case: In 2018, when the Justice Srikrishna Committee released a draft data protection law for India, it included, for the first time in a data protection law, explicit localization provisions that required certain kinds of personal data to be processed only in India.
    1. Some protested, stating that the globalized world needed to let data flow freely wherever it is needed. There are many benefits that flow because there are no restrictions on data flows.
    2. Best example is part of the speed of mankind's pandemic response, where internet allowed getting genomic data on the novel coronavirus to scientists around the world in a short time, giving them a head start in vaccine development.
    3. Had scientific information not been able to flow from one corner of the world to the other, we would simply not have been able to develop not one, but five major covid vaccines in such record time.
    • The die is being cast: Regardless, governments around the world have grown increasingly interested in asserting greater sovereign authority over the data of their citizens, with a view to curbing the power of private corporations that operate as gateways to our internet access as well as ensuring that the manner in which this data gets used conforms to national law. Despite the initial opposition globally to India’s data localization policy, digital borders have hardened everywhere since then. In May 2021, Microsoft announced the launch of its new European Union Data Boundary service, which makes a hard commitment to all the companies that sign up for this service that their data will never move out of the EU. It seems that at least one big technology company is willing to regionalize its cloud offerings, choosing to capitulate to the European demand for regional sovereignty instead of placing all its eggs in the ‘safe harbour’ basket.

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      • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
    India's B.1.617 variant of coronavirus becomes a global concern
    • The story: As the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified B.1.617 variant of coronavirus that was firstly reported from India, as a variant of concern VOC, India has aggressively initiated clinical studies to ascertain if the strain is behind the exponential surge of fresh covid-19 cases.
    • Details: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that variant is highly transmissible but if it its virulent enough to cause a rapid surge in covid-19 cases is not sure. The variant was firstly reported from India but it was simultaneously also reported in other parts of the world. It may be highly transmissible, but there is no clinical data to show that it highly virulent. Epidemiological studies show that it is transmissible but we need to conduct more studies to prove its virulence and causative of the rise in covid-19 numbers.
    1. The WHO said there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility and it was closely following the strain.
    2. A number of investigations were on, for the B1617 variant looking at the transmissibility, the clinical severity and also the response of the virus to antibodies that have been generated in people who've been vaccinated with the different vaccines, especially the Covaxin and the Covisheild and also the Sputnik vaccine.
    3. Genomics alone doesn't mean much, as it only tells the story when we know the complete information both on the clinical profile, on how it's spreading, the transmission as well as on how it's behaving in the community in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
    • The team: Maria Van Kerkove, the WHO’s lead on Covid-19 said WHO’s epidemiological team and lab team has been discussing with the virus evolution working group B1617 variant in terms of transmissibility and any studies that are being done in India as well as in other countries. It will be added to the list containing three other variants of Covid-19 - those first detected in UK (B.1.1.7), Brazil (P.1) and South Africa (B.1.351) - which the WHO has classified as being “of concern". They are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus by being more transmissible, deadly, or able to get past vaccine protections.
    • Globally: Many countries reported the first cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus, also known as B.1.617, as India battles a vicious second wave of Covid-19 infections. The WHO had said that the Indian strain of the coronavirus has been found in at least 17 countries, including the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore.
    Satellite-navigation systems & jamming
    • Infrastructurally speaking: The term “critical infrastructure” bring to mind solidly earthbound images: road and rail networks, water and sewage pipes, electricity grids, the internet, and so on. Such stuff is so crucial, it is taken for granted. One piece of infrastructure which has become critical over recent decades, is the various constellations of satellites, the most familiar of which is probably America’s Global Positioning System (GPS), that orbit about 20,000 km above Earth, broadcasting to the world precisely where they are and exactly what time it is.
    • Why was it made: The original purpose of the GPS and its European (Galileo), Russian (GLONASS) and Chinese (BeiDou) counterparts was to enable suitably programmed receivers on or near the ground to calculate their whereabouts to within a few centimetres, by comparing signals from several satellites.
    1. In this role they have become ubiquitous, running everything from the navigation systems of planes, ships and automobiles, both military and civilian, to guiding the application of water and fertiliser in precision agriculture. But global-navigation satellite systems (GNSS), to give their collective name, now do much more than that.
    2. By acting as clocks that broadcast the time accurate to within a few dozen nanoseconds, they are crucial to jobs ranging from co-ordinating electricity grids and mobile-phone networks to time-stamping financial transactions and regulating the flow of information in and out of data centres.
    • Weak spot: The GNSS networks have a weak spot. The satellites’ transmitters broadcast with the wattage of a refrigerator lightbulb. Their signals are so vanishingly faint that they arrive “beneath the noise floor” of ambient electromagnetic radiation. This makes them vulnerable to interference, both accidental and deliberate. The more uses which GNSS constellations are put to, the more this matters. So those engineers are looking at ways to harden and back up the whole idea.
    • Jamming: It sometimes happens accidentally. In January 21, it emerged that GPS failures which had been plaguing aircraft near Wilmington International Airport, in North Carolina, were caused by wireless equipment at an unnamed nearby utility. GNSS networks are also vulnerable to “natural” jamming by the arrival from the sun of coronal-mass ejections of electrically charged particles. Most often jamming is deliberate too!
    • Local problems can be caused by personal privacy jammers (PPJs). These are devices—widely available for sale even though generally illegal to use—which scramble GPS signals to stop vehicles being tracked by nosy employers or suspicious spouses. Thieves also find them useful. They are, for example, involved in 85% of vehicle thefts in Mexico.
    • Further up the commercially available scale are wide-area jammers. These devices, which are about the size of suitcases, do have legitimate quasi-civilian uses, such as protecting potential targets, public or private, from attack by GNSS-guided drones or missiles. But misused, whether deliberately or accidentally, they can disrupt GNSS across an area the size of a city.
    • In this context it is notable that the northern Black Sea, where many Russian bigwigs, supposedly including the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, have country estates, is a hot-spot for GNSS outages that affect shipping in the area.
    • At the high end of GNSS disruptors are military systems, which can muddle signals for hundreds of kilometres around. Collateral effects from these are a growing problem. In 2019 the number of recorded incidents reached 3,564—nearly 22 times more than had been noted two years previously. Most hotspots were near war zones. South Korea’s capital, Seoul, for instance, often experiences GNSS outages for which the only plausible explanation is jamming from North Korea, the border with which is only about 40km away.
    • Alternates needed: In America this search has been reinforced by the National Defence Authorisation Act, which became law on January 1st. This obliges the country’s armed forces to generate “resilient and survivable” positioning and timing capabilities by 2023. One approach to doing so is to upgrade the satellites themselves. America’s air force, for example, has begun launching a generation of new “GPS III” satellites built by Lockheed Martin, a defence giant. GPS III offers somewhat stronger signals than its predecessor. But its main advantage is an encryption system, the details of which remain classified. Satelles, a firm in Virginia, is using Iridium, a constellation of 66 satellites orbiting at an altitude of just 800km, to re-broadcast encrypted time data sent from a network of high-precision clocks on the ground, together with data about the satellites’ locations (thus mimicking the functions of a GNSS network), to clients including telecommunication firms, data centres, stock exchanges and banks.
    • Summary: Some people are trying to revive the idea of land-based navigation beacons similar to the Loran (long-range navigation) towers used by the American and British navies during the second world war. Many countries are now constructing enhanced “eLoran” networks. These include China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

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      • 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)

      International Nurses Day: May 12
      • The story: Every year, the International Nurses Day is celebrated on May 12, which is the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. The day marks the contributions made by the nurses to the society. In 2021, the International Nurses Day was celebrated under the following theme: "Nursing the World to Health".
      • More: The International Nurses Day has been celebrated by the International Council of Nurses since 1965. Every year, on International Nurses Day, the International Council of Nurses distributes educational and public information materials to be used by nurses everywhere.
      • Florence Nightingale: She was an English social reformer and also was the founder of modern nursing. She trained and managed nurses during the Crimean War. She took care of wounded soldiers at Constantinople. Also, reputation for nurses in the Victorian culture began to increase because of her. Known as “The Lady with the Lamp”, she used to carry a lamp while making rounds of wounded soldiers at night. She was the first person to lay foundation of professional nursing. She established Nursing school at St Thomas hospital in London. It was the first nursing school in the world. It is now a part of the King’s college of London.
      • Award: The Florence Nightingale Medal is the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve. It is awarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

      Commodity Super Cycle
      • The story: The prices of commodities from corn to crude oil to rubber, rhodium, copper, soy bean has been increasing since the beginning of 2021. This is referred to as Commodity Super Cycle.
      • Commodity Super cycle: Since the beginning of nineteenth century there has been four Commodity Super Cycle. The first started in the late 1890s as the United States entered into rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. The second Commodity Super Cycle started when the weapon demand due to first world war increased exponentially. It peaked in 1917. The third started as Europe and its allies got involved in the Second World War completely. The resources required for the war were huge. Th cycle peaked in 1951. As it took time for the post-war growth, the cycle lasted a while and peaked in 1951. The third cycle started in early 1970s. As economic growth has been constantly increasing post world war II, the demand increased. However, supply was disrupted as countries nationalised extraction industries. The recent cycle started when China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2000. The rapid industrialisation in China forced mass migration of workers to the cities. As China started to spend more and more on infrastructure, it started to become the top consumer of most of the commodities. This fourth cycle was interrupted by the 2008 Financial Crisis. After this, the prices again started increasing. Now, COVID crisis is accelerating this.
      • Current scenario: Steel prices have increased by 265% in 2020-21 as compared to that of 2019-20. The prices of copper have hit an all-time high since 2011. Also, the prices of palm oil, coffee, soy bean oil has been increasing.
      • Impact on India: India currently has taken up huge infrastructural plan. The sharp rise in prices of steel and cement at this point of time will affect plans of India. Apart from this, as India is marching towards self-sufficiency, the rest of the price rise will not affect India. However, oil price rise will of course be of huge concern! In 2021, the recovery in global demand, supply side constraints and loose Monetary policy of global central banks is causing it.
      • Impact: It will increase input cost pressures, and the US Dollar has been steadily depreciating and aiding to the Commodity Super Cycle. The USD has been on depreciating path since 2001. It touched to the lowest levels in 2008 when the oil prices hit all-time high. The raw materials are usually priced in USD. Thus, a depreciating USD means a producer has to adjust prices upwards to balance the higher production cost in local currency.

      Five Deeps Expedition
      • The story: The Five Deeps Expedition has provided data on the deepest points of five oceans in the world. They are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Southern Oceans.
      • What did it find: The Java Trench is the deepest point in Indian Ocean. There were competing claims for the deepest point in Indian Ocean. This was between Java Trench off coast of Indonesia and Fracture Zone to the Southwest of Australia. Java Trench turned out to be the winner! The Factorian Trench is the deepest point in Southern Ocean. Southern Ocean is also called the Antarctic Ocean. The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest in Atlantic Ocean. The Molloy Hole is the deepest point in Arctic Ocean.
      1. The second deepest trench in the world is the Horizon Deep in the Tonga Trench. This is after the Challenger Deep located in Mariana Trench. The expedition has found that some major animals can survive in great depths. Jelly fish at 10,000 metres; Squid at 6,500 metres; Octopus at 2,000 metres
      2. Though some of the above findings were already made, the expedition confirmed them, found new lives, corrected erratic data and also updated some.
      3. Mariana Trench
      4. Though Mariana Trench, the deepest point on the earth, located in the Western Pacific has been surveyed several times, the Five Deeps Expedition removed several uncertainties. According to the expedition, there is surprising amount of life in Mariana Trench.
      • About the Expedition: It was the brainchild of Explorer Victor Vescovo. He has completed the “Explorers Grand Slam”. The Five Deeps Expedition was organised by a company called Caladan Oceanic LLC. It was founded by Victor himself. The company aims to support expeditions that increase ocean understanding.
      • Why do it: Such projects are important as 80% of world oceans are still unexplored. And countries are aggressively competing with each other to take hold of unexplored resources. China is one amongst them who is aggressively exploring South China Sea defying International Sea laws.

      IEA: Renewable Energy Market Update
      • The story: The International Energy Agency recently released the “2021 Renewable Energy Market Update”. The Agency has increased its forecast for the global growth of solar energy and wind energy by 25%. The report reveals that 280 GW of the renewable energy was installed in 2020. This is 45% increase as compared to that of 2019.
      • Key findings: The 45% increase that occurred in 2020 is the highest in last three decades, and wind power increased by 90% and the solar power (Photo Voltaic) increased by 50%. The Biofuel demand in 2020 decreased. The year-on-year decrease in production by volume was 8%.
      • Predictions: The IEA predicts that the growth in wind power is to slow down in 2021. However, it will remain higher as compared to that of 2017-19. The growth of Photo Voltaic is to continue to increase as China and US have come forward to update their climate targets. The demand of biofuels is to rebound in 2021 to the levels of 2019. And will further grow by 7% in 2022.
      • On China, US, India: The report says that the renewable energy in China is to grow by 45%. It is to grow from 150 GW to 230 GW. However, this new forecast is lower than that predicted in 2020. The forecasts for renewable energy in the US was increased by 20%. However, this did not include Biden’s new emission targets. The solar auction volumes in India increased. However, the ongoing COVID-19 surge in the country has created a short-term uncertainty. Record Breaking renewable energy levels in India and China

      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 - 12-05-2021
      Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 12-05-2021
      Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 12-05-2021
      PT's IAS Academy
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