Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-06-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-06-2021


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  1. Defence and Military - Preventing a drone attack - The need for an anti-drone system shielding critical installations came under sharp focus after a drone attack on an IAF base in Jammu. Drones are increasingly used in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, by the US to carry out targeted assassinations. The only option now is to shoot down the drones, but it is tough as it needs sniper fire and the drone to be within range. Also, sighting drones, especially during night, is not easy. Countering the drone threat - Several private defence contractors are offering off-the-shelf anti-drone tech to counter hostile Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones. Companies, based out of Israel, US, have developed anti-drone systems using technologies such as radars, optic and thermal sensors etc. These systems stand apart when it comes down to the range and the manner in which the threat is assessed and neutralised. Some systems simply monitor and alert the presence of a drone, while others are equipped with ballistics and even lasers. Local solution from India includes the one from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) called an ‘Anti Drone System’. It can detect and jam drones up to 3km and uses a laser weapon to fire at targets that are 1 to 2.5km away.
  2. Social Issues - Religious Freedom in India report by Pew - Most Indians, cutting across religions, feel they enjoy religious freedom, value religious tolerance, and regard respect for all religions as central to what India is as a nation. But the majority in each of the major religious groups show a preference for religious segregation and “want to live separately”. This was the result of a nation-wide survey on religious attitudes, behaviours and beliefs conducted by Pew Research Center, a non-profit based in Washington DC. The report found that 91% of Hindus felt they have religious freedom, while 85% of them believed that respecting all religions was very important ‘to being truly Indian’. For most Hindus, religious tolerance was not just a civic virtue but also a religious value, with 80% of them stating that respecting other religions was an integral aspect of ‘being Hindu’. Other religions showed similar numbers for freedom of religion and religious tolerance. While 89% of Muslims and Christians said they felt free to practice their religion, the comparative figures for Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains were 82%, 93%, and 85% respectively. Hindu nationalist sentiments were less prevalent in the South. Among Hindus, those in the South (42%) were far less likely to say that being Hindu was very important to being truly Indian.
  3. World Politics - President-elect Ebrahim Raisi - Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi became Iran’s president, succeeding Hassan Rouhani. Iran’s 13th presidential elections were held in June, and as per rules, the president should be a Shiite Muslim. Over 90 per cent of Iran’s population is comprised of Shiite Muslims. Raisi first came to prominence when he became the Prosecutor General of Karaj in 1980, when he became the Prosecutor of Tehran and the First Deputy to the Head of Judiciary from 2004 to 204 after which he became the Prosecutor General of Iran from 2014 to 2016. In 2019, Raisi was appointed the head of Iran’s judiciary, an appointment that sparked concerns because of his involvement in the mass executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 after the Iran-Iraq war. Amnesty International has identified Raisi as a member of the “death commission” that carried out “enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions of several thousand political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran between late July and early September 1988. Victims’ bodies were mostly buried in unmarked mass graves.” Raisi also has ties to the paramilitary group Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  4. Environment and Ecology - India Bhutan environment cooperation - Friendly neighbours India and Bhutan signed an MoU for developing cooperation between the two in the area of environment. The MoU will open new vistas of bilateral co-operation in the area of climate change, waste management etc. The MoU is a platform to further enhance Indian and Bhutanese partnership and support, exchange best practices in areas like prevention of Air Pollution, Waste Management, Chemical Management, Climate Change, etc. Both nations are blessed with the Himalayas, which in turn are facing severe climate change issues.
  5. Environment and Ecology - Sea snot outbreak in Turkey reducing in intensity - After a month of research on the Marmara Sea, scientists aboard the Bilim-2 (Science-2) vessel announced in June end that the issue of the sea snot, or marine mucilage, blanketing the sea could soon be over. The sea snot (a massive cluster of microorganisms) was now stuck at a depth of 30 meters (98 feet) and its growth had partially stopped. A cleaning campaign was underway against the mucilage while strong winds occasionally emerge, helping with the disposal of sea snot. Currents at sea also affect the phenomenon. The Marmara has two major currents, with one hailing from the Black Sea in the north and another deeper one, a “static current.” But this also means trouble for other seas. Satellite data shows layers of mucilage drifting towards Aegean, through Çanakkale (Dardanelles Strait, in the southwest of Marmara). Still, having mucilage closer to the surface is “good news” as it is better than it reducing the oxygen level for flora and fauna living in deeper levels.
  6. Healthcare and Medicine - Covaxin effectively neutralises Alpha and Delta variants of COVID-19 - The COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech, effectively neutralises both Alpha and Delta strains of coronavirus, according to US National Institute of Health (NIH). Published results from a phase 2 trial of the vaccine indicate it is safe and well-tolerated, US' NIH said, adding that safety data from a phase 3 trial of Covaxin will become available later in 2021. This is indeed good news for the only indigenous vaccine from India, separately battling allegations of corruption in a huge deal done with Brazil, where payments were routed through a Singapore firm.
  7. Defence and Military - Germany's last troops out from Afghanistan, 20-year mission ends - German military concluded its withdrawal from Afghanistan after almost two decades in June end, finishing Germany's longest, most expensive and deadliest military mission since World War II. Germany had the second largest contingent of troops after the US in Afghanistan, with around 1,50,000 soldiers deployed over the past two decades. Fifty-nine German troops died in Afghanistan over the years. Afghanistan is now witnessing an intense power-struggle between the democratic government and the Taliban, and major changes are expected in coming months.
  8. Governance and Institutions - Rs.2,400 cr deal to buy India's Covaxin suspended by Brazil amid corruption allegations - Brazil's Health Ministry has suspended a Rs.2,400 crore deal to buy two crore doses of India's Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine amid corruption allegations. Brazilian federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into the deal over comparatively high prices, quick talks and pending regulatory approvals. However, the ministry claimed there are no irregularities in the deal. Bharat Biotech has refuted all charges. President Jair Bolsonaro's reputation has plunged over the past year due to his mishandling of the pandemic, and his involvement in this deal is not being ruled out.
  9. Science and Technology - Elon Musk updates - (a) Billionaire Elon Musk-led SpaceX was forced to call off its Transporter-2 mission after an aircraft entered the "keep out zone". A Falcon 9 rocket was just 11 seconds away from launching 88 small satellites into orbit before the mission was called off. Musk, in a tweet, called the aircraft "unreasonably gigantic", while adding, "The current regulatory system is broken." (b) A US-based YouTuber named Reid Williamson sent a tangible version of meme-inspired cryptocurrency Dogecoin to space to mark Tesla CEO Elon Musk's 50th birthday on Monday. In his YouTube video titled 'I Sent A LITERAL Dogecoin To Space', he showed how the Dogecoin was sent to space with a weather balloon. Dogecoin's co-creator Billy Markus shared Williamson's video on Twitter.
  10. Governance and Institutions - Government cracks down on media platforms - (a) Officials from Facebook and Google on Tuesday deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology. The panel, led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, directed the social media platforms to comply with new IT rules and follow the rules of the country, ANI reported. The officials were summoned to discuss certain issues including the prevention of social media platforms' misuse. (b) Delhi Police's Cyber Cell on Tuesday lodged an FIR against micro-blogging site Twitter over child pornographic content. The FIR has been lodged on a complaint by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The Cyber Cell has registered the case against Twitter under POCSO Act and IT Act.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
Food prices will eventually be hit by fuel prices
    • The story: The rising prices of international crude oil is ultimately being passed on to Indian consumers. This has given rise to the concern of a consequent increase in food prices in coming weeks. In light of the widespread pandemic-induced depression, this would be a double-whammy.
    • Global food prices: For many of the major agricultural commodities, prices are higher than their levels a year ago. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) world food price index (FPI) touched 127.1 points in May 2021, its highest value since September 2011.
    • Indian food prices: Unlike fuel, the increase in global food prices is not getting reflected in India. The annual consumer food price index (CFPI) inflation in India was 5% in May 2021, far lower than the 39.7% year-on-year rise in the FAO-FPI for the same month. Both the CFPI and FAO-FPI inflation rates moved more or less in tandem till about February 2020. The period thereafter has seen a divergence.
    • Explaining the divergence: The spike in international food prices from September-October 2020 has been due to demand resuming with economies unlocking. The demand rise has been further aided by Chinese stockpiling (for building strategic reserves, and in anticipation of fresh corona outbreaks.) There are also dry weather-induced production shortfalls in Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Thailand and even in the US. India, by contrast, has had good monsoons in 2019 and 2020. The forecast for 2021 too is benign, giving lot of confidence.
    • A good 2021: Food inflation started falling from December 2020 with a bumper post-monsoon kharif crop being harvested and arriving in the markets. Also, there is collapse of demand from successive Covid-triggered lockdowns. There is relatively low domestic inflation in food items other than edible oils and pulses that are imported. But international food prices will be one of the determinants for food inflation in India in the coming months. This should encourage plantings by farmers and, moreover, expand acreages under oilseeds and pulses. A third successive good monsoon should effectively control food inflation.
    • The future: Since it's unclear if the current surge in global food prices is a result of temporary supply-side disruptions or a sign of a larger "commodity super-cycle", the duration of the hike is unclear. A "commodity super-cycle" is a sustained period of abnormally strong demand growth that producers struggle to match. So prices rise sharply, and can last years or in some cases a decade or more. It was witnessed during 2007-2013.
    • Summary: In today’s demand-constrained environment, the govt. too won't be able to pass through all price hikes in fuel to consumers, indefinitely. When demand revives, there is a likelihood of processors, transporters and even farmers passing on the increase in fuel costs to consumers, which in turn may lead to inflation.

    Grain of hope - Indian agritech firms
    • The story: Agriculture now is not just about farmers toiling in fields to produce record levels of foodgrains and horticulture products. It is also about something more modern - agritech.
    • Agritech growing: As a result of regulatory changes and Covid-19’s impact, agritech will see more investment and will grow to a $30 b – $35 b market by 2025. At least that's what Bain & Company believes. India, which ranks third globally in agritech funding, has received $ 1 billion in agritech funding in 3 years from 2017 to 2020.
    • New areas opening up: Growth of new food products is happening, and use-cases like vertical farming/controlled environment agriculture, regenerative agriculture, sustainability services, carbon trading are arriving.
    1. The top recent deals in agriculture were investments into companies like Ninjacart, AgroStar, Mahyco Grow, Husk, WayCool Foods and Products, Jumbotail, Vahdam, and DeHaat (Green AgRevolution).
    2. Investments in Indian agritech have increased over the past few years – from $ 91 million in 2017 to $ 329 million in 2020 at a CAGR of 53%. This trend may continue.
    3. Online grocery buyers are expected to increase five fold from 30 million in 2019 to 150 million in 2025, while the online farm input sale market is expected to double in size during the same period from $ 85 billion in 2019 to $ 150 billion in 2025.
    • Future projections: These technological changes, capabilities, and investment on the anvil will fundamentally change the productivity and landscape of Indian agriculture. In fact, estimates indicate that approximately $30 billion to $35 billion of value pool will be created in agri-logistics, offtake, and agri-input delivery by 2025. Precision agriculture, agritech services, biotech, marketplaces, farmer services platforms, monitoring and analytics, farm management, new farming models and sustainability will disrupt traditional agriculture.
    1. Alternative proteins, alternative feed, ocean farming, cell-based food/ingredients, green ammonia/hydrogen will arrive (Firms like Air Protein, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats)
    2. Companies in the agriculture sector could build an integrated agritech platform, and could digitally transform internal business processes to adapt to regulatory and technological changes. Companies in other sectors could exploit the rapidly developing agritech ecosystem through a corporate venture capital centre of excellence (CoE)
    3. Digital disruptions - Even though technology is in its early stages in the industry, it is driving innovations in a variety of ways throughout the agricultural value chain. Large farms have adopted automation and mechanisation of operations, and data-backed services across the value chain are leading to positive outcomes. For example, insurance, credit rating, and loans are contributing to increased funding for this sector.
    • Technology directly: In farming activities, weather prediction and smart crop management are leading to higher output while sensors and the Internet of Things are enabling better tracking and visibility of farming activities. Direct sourcing, demand forecasting, and inventory management are fuelling agricultural produce sales. Digital engagement is promoting the ‘uberisation’ of services, creating online communities and marketplaces and even driving e-commerce. Vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture are leading to regenerative agriculture, sustainability services, and carbon trading. The consumption pattern is also changing to alternative proteins, alternative feed, ocean farming, cell-based food and ingredients, and the use of green ammonia and hydrogen. Additionally, firms can save 5% to 10% or more on procurement costs of food items through a concerted national strategy.
    • Reforms are good: Corportes feel that the APMC reforms will enable corporates to buy directly from the farmer. The ECA reform incentivises investment in storage and transportation infrastructure, resulting in supply chain efficiencies. All of the above indicates that we are at the cusp of a massive disruption in the food and agriculture ecosystem.

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      • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
    Thunderstorms and climage change
    • The story: Scientists suspect there is a link between large thunderstorms in the Great Plains of southern United States and climate change. Scientists from Texas A&M University, who published some new findings in Nature Geosciences, claimed their findings could help predict storms and understand climatic variations.
    • They analysed oxygen isotopes — some as old as 50,000 years — present in stalactites in Texas caves to understand the connection between past thunderstorms and their duration. Accordingly, the scientists claimed storms coincided with abrupt global climate shifts during the last glacial period even as they shifted from being organised weakly to strongly.
    1. They found a similar pattern between recent thunderstorms in the US and climate change.
    2. In recent years, thunderstorms in the Southern Great Plains of the US have intensified and increased in terms of frequency.
    3. Understanding the trends and correlation may help in understanding past thunderstorms, their duration and climate variability. These can be used to predict future thunderstorms as well.
    • Future predictions: Data also suggest that thunderstorms in the Southern Great Plains of the US are strongly related to changes in the large-scale wind and moisture patterns. These changes in the large-scale circulation can be used to assess future predictions.
    • Knowledge centre: Thunderstorm are violent short-lived weather disturbances that are associated with lightning, thunder, dense clouds, heavy rain or hail, and strong gusty winds. Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air rises into cold air. The warm air becomes cooler, which causes moisture (water vapour) to form small water droplets - a process called condensation. If this happens with large amounts of air and moisture, a thunderstorm can form. Tornadoes are the most dangerous and damaging aspect of severe thunderstorms. Wind speeds of tornadoes can reach to near 480 kmph and cause an average of 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries per year in the U.S. Most fatalities from tornadoes occur in mobile homes and in automobiles.
    Coffee's new species - 'Pyrostria laljii' from Andaman
    • The story: Pyrostria laljii, a new species belonging to the genus of the coffee family, was discovered from the Andaman Islands. A new species of pokeweed named Rivina andamanensis was also discovered. The Andaman and Nicobar chain is a group of 572 islands and islets that are rich and unique in terms of plant diversity in India.
    • Points to note: It is the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India. It is a 15-meter-tall tree. Plants belonging to genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar but the recently discovered species is new to science. While the genus Pyrostria is not found in India, there are several genera from the family Rubiaceae that are common in India. These plants, including cinchona, coffee, adina, hamelia, ixora, gallium, gardenia, mussaenda, rubia, morinda, have high potential for economic value. It is named Pyrostria laljii after Lal Ji Singh, Joint Director, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Botanical Survey of India, and assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria.
    • Features: It is distinguished by a long stem with a whitish coating on the trunk, and oblong-ovate leaves with a cuneate base. Another physical feature that distinguishes the tree from other species of the genus is its umbellate inflorescence with eight to 12 flowers. First reported from South Andaman’s Wandoor forest. Other places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the tree could be located are the Tirur forest near the Jarawa Reserve Forest and the Chidiya Tapu (Munda Pahar) forest.
    • Rivina andamanensis: Another species of pokeweed named Rivina andamanensis was also discovered. It was found growing under large trees, shaded and rocky areas, along with herbs and shrubby plants. The pokeweed is a strong-smelling plant with a poisonous root. The berries contain a red dye used to colour wine, candies, cloth, and paper. This discovery of new species, representing the first record of the pokeweed family Petiveriaceae in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, adds one more family to the islands’ flora.

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

    Far-right is rising in Italy
    • France and Italy: National Rally, the party of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, suffered a defeat in regional elections, losing a key southern region that it seemed well positioned to win. But in Italy, Giorgia Meloni, a far-right leader who copies Le Pen’s style, is gaining popularity. She is poised to become the standard-bearer of the Italian right, despite her party’s historical roots in postwar neofascism.
    • Why out of the alliacen: The far-right party Brothers of Italy was the only one in Italy that refused to join the broad government coalition led by Mario Draghi, ex-boss of the ECB. Giorgia Meloni, the party leader, had then explained the decision by indicating her party’s staunch opposition to the former European Central Bank president, a technocrat despised by her electoral base. Now she is talking about leading the government when Italy holds its next general election, in 2023 at the latest.
    • Brothers of Italy: This party has been growing at an impressive pace. The party is currently polling above 20 percent, virtually matching Matteo Salvini’s League, the leading party of the center-right coalition, and is on track to become the second-largest political force in Italy. Brothers of Italy has even matched the center-left Democratic Party, deeply embroiled in its own internal struggles. Meloni is indicated by conservative voters as the most popular leader among the country’s right-wing voters.
    • Post-war constitution was anti-fascist: Italy is the original place of fascism, the land of Benito Mussolini. The rise of Brothers of Italy’s shows it could reach a broader electorate compared to the parties that in postwar Italy took the inheritance of the post-fascist tradition. Despite accepting strong anti-fascist principles in the postwar constitution, Italy still has a relationship with its fascist past, and several political parties and groups have been tied to that tradition. Strange, but true.
    • The road ahead: Meloni’s party is the contemporary heir of the Italian Social Movement, an originally neofascist party that went through a long, multiphase process of repudiation of its roots, something similar to the “dédiabolisation,” or de-demonization, of the National Front—now renamed National Rally—that was seen in France with the rise of Marine Le Pen. Brothers of Italy still sports the flame symbol used by the Italian Social Movement in its logo. Meloni now has to make a choice: she can double down on the nationalistic, far-right ethos of her party, galvanizing her loyal base, or she could broaden her political horizon, slowly turning Brothers of Italy into a big-tent party hosting conservatives of different persuasions.
    • Knowledge centre:
    1. Fascism - It was a political ideology dominating parts of central, southern, and eastern Europe from 1919 to 1945. Europe’s first fascist leader was Italy's Benito Mussolini, who took the name of his party from the Latin word "fasces", a bundle of elm or birch rods (usually containing an ax) used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome. Fascist parties had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, etc. At the end of World War II, the major European fascist parties were broken up, and in some countries (Italy and West Germany) they were officially banned.
    2. Right wing nationalism in Europe - Nationalism was always a feature across Europe's political spectrum but a recent boom in voter support for right-wing and populist parties is surprising. It is visible from Germany, where the AfD became the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag, to Spain, where Vox  became the third largest force in parliament. Voters, frustrated with the political establishment, and with concerns about globalisation, immigration, a dilution of national identity and the European Union, are voting these right-wingers into power. In the European Parliament, nine far-right parties have formed a new bloc, called Identity and Democracy (ID).

    Heat records set across the world in June 2021
    • The story: Global warming's tightening grip made itself visible yet again, as June came to a close, and countries across the northern hemisphere experienced their hottest days ever recorded. For North America, in Seattle and Portland (usually temperate cities in America’s northwest), temperatures spiked to 108 and 116 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2-46.6 degrees Celsius), respectively, breaking records both cities had set in 2009.
    • Europe: In Europe and the Middle East, June was a time of extreme heat. Sweihan, a town in the United Arab Emirates posted a national June record of 52 degrees Celsius as the region endured a historically intense heat wave compared to normal June levels. Cities across Eastern Europe joined Moscow and St. Petersburg in setting record high June temperatures.
    • Wildfire risks: This kind of heat always raises immediate worries in the USA of more wildfires this season, to add to the 48 already raging, and an even worse drought, already labelled “exceptional,” the highest designation, in much of the western United States. Wary of another devastating wildfire season, U.S. President Joe Biden convened western state governors to discuss preparation and response at the White House.
    • AC droughts: The record heat highlights how ill-prepared some countries are to survive the extreme heat that climate change will bring in the years to come. Air conditioning units are an uncommon sight in many northern European countries as well as (traditionally) colder U.S. states. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects the amount of air-conditioning units to shoot up in the next 30 years, going from 1.6 billion units today to 5.6 billion—posing problems for zero carbon initiatives if new demand is not taken into account.
    • Hotter and hotter: While the unseasonably warm temperatures may be written off as a relatively rare “heat dome” phenomenon, the fact of a rapidly heating world is harder to wave away; 2020 was the world’s hottest year on record, just beating out a record set in 2016, according to NASA calculations, while the past seven years have been the hottest since record keeping began in the late 19th century.
    • Knowledge centre: A "heat dome" is a mountain of warm air built into a very wavy jet stream, with extreme undulations. When the jet stream — a band of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere — becomes very wavy and elongated, pressure systems can pinch off and become stalled or stuck in places they typically would not be. In June 2021, a ridge of high pressure, which is the heat dome, became lodged in the Pacific Northwest of the US. It is acting as a block in the atmosphere, not allowing the weather to move. The specific type of block is called an Omega block, because it looks like the greek letter Omega, and the hot air is pooling inside. Areas of high pressure, like heat domes, have sinking air. This compresses the air on the ground and through compression it heats the air column. In addition, winds are moving downslope from the mountains downward into cities like Seattle and Portland; that downward motion causes heating as well. These local effects combined with the background warming of climate change, which has warmed the Pacific Northwest by about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times, adds intensity to an already strong heat wave.

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

    Brazil suspends $324 mn Covaxin deal on corruption charges
      • The story: In a shocking news, it emerged that India's Bharat Biotech's deal with Brazil was getting mired in serious corruption charges, something the company denied outright. Brazil was to suspend a $324 million Indian COVID-19 vaccine contract which ensnared President Jair Bolsonaro in accusations of irregularities.
      • What was the deal: The deal to buy 20 million doses of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin became a headache for Bolsonaro after whistleblowers went public with alleged irregularities.
      1. President Bolsonaro's popularity has faded as Brazil's COVID-19 death toll climbed past 5,00,000. He denied any wrongdoing, saying he was not aware of any irregularities.
      2. The Health Ministry said there were no irregularities in the contract but, for compliance, the contract was being suspended.
      • Suspicion: Brazilian federal prosecutors cited comparatively high prices, quick talks and pending regulatory approvals as the red flags. One Health Ministry official said he faced pressure to greenlight the import of Indian pharmaceutical Bharat Biotech's Covaxin vaccine and that there were irregularities in the invoices - particularly a $45 million upfront payment to a Singapore-based company.
      • What BB says: Bharat Biotech denied all allegations of wrongdoing with respect to vaccine supply, saying it adheres to the highest standards of compliance. In the case of procurement of COVAXIN by Brazil, a step-by-step approach followed towards contracts, regulatory approvals, during 8-month-long process. The pricing of COVAXIN has been clearly established between $15-20 per dose for supplies to Governments outside India. The pricing for Brazil has also been indicated at $ 5 per dose.
      Supreme Court gets tough on feeding migrants
      • The story: The Supreme Court of India reminded the government that it cannot “abdicate” its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards.
      • Ration cards missing: The SC observed that there was a large number of such migrants who do not possess any card, the disability being due to their poverty and lack of education. The State cannot abdicate its duty towards such persons, especially in the wake of the pandemic where large numbers of migrant workers are not able to get jobs which may satisfy their basic needs. The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah observed this.
      • Deadline set: The court set July 31 as the deadline for the Centre and the States to ensure their “bounden duty” that none among the estimated 38 crore migrant workers, who form one-fourth the country’s population, goes hungry during the pandemic. These workers too have made “considerable contributions” to the country’s growth and economic development.
      1. It ordered the State governments to frame schemes to distribute dry ration to migrant workers by July 31.
      2. “The States/Union Territories have to make extra efforts to reach migrant labourers so that no migrant labourer is denied two meals a day”
      3. The Centre has to supply whatever additional quantity of food grains a State demanded. The allocation of additional food grains and running of community kitchens in prominent places to feed workers should continue throughout the pandemic.
      • The right to food: It is one of the “bare necessities of life”, was an intrinsic part of the right to live with dignity. The SC ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) by July 31. The scheme allows migrant labourers covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with his or her ration card in any part of the country.
      • ‘Unpardonable apathy’: The court also slammed the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” in not completing the work of the Rs.45.39-crore National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganised labourers to ensure their rights, welfare and food security. The court had ordered the Ministry to finalise the NDUW module way back in 2018. The Centre has blamed the delay on “software” problems. The court ordered the Centre to get its act together and complete the work on the portal by July 31. The Labour Secretary has to file a report in a month thereafter. The Centre should complete the registration of workers by December 31 this year or all their “welfare schemes” would be considered “tall claims on paper”.
      • Register them: The Bench directed the States/Union Territories to register establishments and license contractors under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and ensure that they provided the authorities complete details of the workers employed with them.
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        • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
      Polity updates
      • Residents versus Administrator: The Lakshadweep residents protested against the administration’s order to impose fines if coconut and palm leaves, shells or trunks were found in and around their homes. They urged the administration to come up with a proper waste management system instead of imposing fines. The residents of Lakshadweep have been up in arms against new draft laws being pushed by the new administrator. Many new rules have ruffled feathers in the otherwise calm archipelago.
      • Covid's second wave 40% more fatal: The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic witnessed a more than 40% higher level of hospital fatality in India, according to a study across nine Max hospitals, which found that the maximum death rate happened among those aged less than 45. More patients had secondary bacterial and fungal infections in Wave-2. Mortality increased by almost 40%, particularly in the younger patients of age less than 45 years. Higher mortality was observed in those admitted in wards and ICUs, with or without ventilator support, and those who received convalescent plasma. The hospital fatality rate in the first wave among 14,398 patients at these hospitals in five northern states was compared with that of 5,454 persons hospitalised in the second wave. This specific example is a glimpse of what might have happened on a larger scale.
      • CM versus the Governor: In a long running saga, the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee upped the ante against Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar by terming him a “corrupt man”. She said he was charged in the 1996 Jain hawala case, in which politicians who had allegedly received kickbacks were named. Many reputations were lost at the time. Dhankar termed it an “unfortunate allegation.” The Trinamool Congress won the 2021 assembly elections handsomely, post which there were allegations of widespread engineered violence, something the Governor took to investigating personally.
      • Twitter under fire: The new IT rules have created turbulence. Amid the standoff between Twitter and the government of India over the new IT rules, the UP Police booked India managing director Manish Maheshwari for hosting an incorrect map of India, on the complaint of a Bajrang Dal member. The map showed Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as distinct from India, and was taken down on the weekend after a social media uproar. A BJP MP who committed the same offence last year was never charged.
      • CJI urged to release prisoners on bail: The pandemic has dented basic services across India severely, and has affected human rights too. Now, the Forum for Medical Ethics Society and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan “on behalf of health care workers and public health professionals, in solidarity with inmates of prisons in India to safeguard their health and health rights during the Covid-19 pandemic, based upon public health and human rights principles” have initiated a letter to the Chief Justice of India to revise the criteria to release prisoners on bail and parole during the pandemic. Forty-five NGOs and 187 healthcare professionals wrote to the CJI, the chief justices of all High Courts and other legal authorities, urging them to decongest prisons.
      • Uttar Pradesh's local body elections: The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was accused of rigging the elections for district panchayat chairpersons. They are to be elected from among the elected members of zila panchayats of various districts, whose elections were won by the Samajwadi Party. Former CM Akhilesh Yadav said that the CM crossed all limits in rigging the district panchayat chairperson elections, and that his conduct has posed a threat to the constitutional institutions in the state. Yadav says that by “hijacking the mandate, the state administration forcibly prevented candidates of Samajwadi Party and other Opposition parties from filing nominations.”
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        • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3)
      5G telecom arriving in India - An analysis
      • The story: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) finally gave permissions to Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) for conducting trials for use and applications of 5G technology. The TSPs were told to conduct 5G trials in rural & semi urban areas as well. The 5G technology is expected to deliver a greater spectrum efficiency and better download speeds, ushering in a new era of different applications.
      • Points to note: The 5G rollout is witnessing the coming together of giants.
      1. Bharti Airtel has joined forces with TATA Group to develop a 5G network, Reliance Jio has also tied up with Google Cloud for its 5G solutions.
      2. Jio began 5G trials in Mumbai using its indigenously developed equipment. The 5G network of Airtel was able to deliver a throughput of over 1 Gbps speed.
      3. 5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave. Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability.
      • Auctions by TRAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will hold auctions for the 5G spectrum in India, something now delayed by a long margin. As for 5G technology rollout, the Standing Committee on Information Technology was informed that 5G will roll out in India to some extent for specific uses, by the end of the calendar year 2021 or beginning of 2022. But 4G internet service will continue in India for at least another 5-6 years.
      • What 5G is: This technology will deliver improved user experience via higher data download rates (10 times that of 4G), up to three times greater spectrum efficiency, and ultra-low latency. Applications such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc. will be tested now. The data generated during the trials will be stored in India.
      • Fifth Generation (5G) Technology: Starting with 1G, telecom moved through its evolution of 2G, 3G, and 4G. Now 5G is the fifth generation cellular technology that will increase the downloading and uploading speeds over the mobile network. In the high-band spectrum of 5G, internet speeds have been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second) as compared to the maximum internet data speed in 4G recorded at 1 Gbps. The 5G will also reduce the latency i.e. the time taken by a network to respond.
      1. Machine-to-Machine Interaction - 5G will be the first technology to facilitate machine-to-machine communication, the foundation of Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is where billions of machines talk to each other, and that requires huge data transfer abilities.
      2. Combined with IoT, cloud, big data, AI, and edge computing, 5G could be a critical enabler of the fourth industrial revolution.
      • Boost: This change of technology platform may create an overall economic impact of USD 1 trillion in India by 2035, as per various reports. It will increase the connectivity between machines and various sectors which will in turn increase efficiency. Production will rise which would lead to huge revenue collections.
      • Collaborative deployment: 5G will lead to the business verticals and technical verticals coming together for network deployment. So far, telecom firms would discuss internally and deploy networks but now, businesses, technology companies and cyber experts are coming together for deploying networks. This is because it's not just higher speeds that matter but actual use-cases that do.
      • Various problems: Countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including India, Bangladesh and Indonesia are late adopters of 5G technology. The 5G mobile service revenues may not be significant over the next 12-18 months. A low likelihood of government subsidies is expected, given the history of high reserve prices set by the governments for spectrum auctions amid ongoing fiscal deficits. Then there is the digital divide among the rural and urban areas, which will likely increase. 5G will be a niche service unlike 3G and 4G which were pervasive services. 5G will get deeply embedded only over a comparatively longer period of time. Indian consumers are still grappling with basic network issues like call drops and interrupted data services. 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system. The major flaw of data transfer using 5G is that it can't carry data over longer distances. Hence, even 5G technology needs to be augmented to enable infrastructure.
      • Summary: 5G can be deployed at different band spectrums and at the low band spectrum, the range being longer which will helpf the rural areas. The government has complete control over the inputs, including the band spectrum. By managing the design of the spectrums, the government can control the price to be paid by the users. The government has had two failed auctions. The latter failed to attract any bids in the 5G spectrum. But the current proposals for the reserve price clearly suggest the need to change the prices in order to conduct a successful auction. And as 5G starts taking shape in India, it is important to strengthen the domestic telecommunication manufacturing market so that manufacturers will be able to benefit too.
      • Knowledge centre: There have been five generations of telecom technology.
      1. First generation - 1G - 1980s: 1G delivered analog voice
      2. Second generation - 2G - Early 1990s: 2G introduced digital voice (e.g. CDMA- Code Division Multiple Access)
      3. Third generation - 3G - Early 2000s: 3G brought mobile data (e.g. CDMA2000)
      4. Fourth generation - 4G LTE - 2010s: 4G LTE ushered in the era of mobile broadband
      5. 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G all led to 5G, which is designed to provide more connectivity than was ever available before. 5G is a unified, more capable air interface. It has been designed with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models and deliver new services.
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        • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
      One Nation, One Ration Card - struggling but on the way
      • The story: In June 2021, India's Supreme Court directed all states and UTs to implement the One Nation, One Ration Card system rigorously without any excuses. It allows for inter- and intra-state portability, and must be done by July 31, 2021, at the latest.
      • The idea: this ONORC scheme was launched with the goal of enabling migrant workers and their family members buy subsidised ration from any fair price shop anywhere in the country under the National Food Security Act, 2013. Today, they are unable to do so.
      1. A migrant worker from, say, Aurangabad district of Bihar will be able to access PDS benefits in Chennai, where he or she may have gone in search of work. This migrant can buy foodgrains as per his or her entitlement under the NFSA at the place where he or she is based, members of his or her family can still go to their ration dealer back home.
      2. To promote this reform in the existing Public Distribution System (PDS), the government provided incentives to states. The Centre set the implementation of ONORC as a precondition for additional borrowing by states during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. At least 17 states, which implemented the ONORC reform, were allowed to borrow an additional Rs 37,600 crores in 2020-21.
      • Functioning of ONORC: It uses the details of beneficiaries’ ration card, Aadhaar number, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS). The system identifies a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops (FPS). Two portals are involved - the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) (impds.nic.in) and Annavitran (annavitran.nic.in), which host all the relevant data. When a ration card holder goes to a fair price shop, he identifies himself through biometric authentication on ePoS, which is matched real time with details on the Annavitaran portal. Once verified, the dealer hands out the beneficiary’s entitlements. While the Annavitaran portal maintains a record of intra-state transactions — inter-district and intra-district — the IM-PDS portal records the inter-state transactions.
      • Scale of ONORC: Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, (NFSA) about 81 crore people are entitled to buy subsidised foodgrains — rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grains at Re 1/kg – from designated fair price shops. As on 28 June 2021, there are about 5.46 lakh fair price shops and 23.63 crore ration card holders across the country. Each NFSA ration card holder is assigned to a fair price shop near the place where his ration card is registered. Full coverage will be possible after 100% Aadhaar seeding of ration cards has been achieved, and all fair price shops are covered by ePoS devices (there are currently 4.74 lakh devices installed across India).
      • Coverage today: Till date, 32 states and Union Territories have joined the ONORC, covering about 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries. Four states are yet to join the scheme — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal. About 1.35 crore portability transactions every month are being recorded under ONORC on an average. A total of more than 27.83 Crore portability transactions (including intra-state transactions) have taken place all across these States/UTs since the inception of ONORC in August 2019.
      US Moderna's Covid vaccine approved for use in India
      • The story: India approved the import of US pharmaceutical major Moderna’s mRNA technology-based coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine. This is the first international vaccine against the infectious disease approved by India.
      • Cipla in picture: On behalf of Moderna, Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla Ltd applied to the country’s drugs regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), for grant of approval to import the vaccine to India. This is the first internationally developed vaccine for which now such permission exists today. Moderna is donating an unspecified number of doses to India through the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi’s COVAX mechanism; Cipla is facilitating this, and the approvals are part of the process.
      • Not just donations: The approval was not limited to donations, but Cipla has been given a licence to import, and it is applicable to the Moderna vaccine import in general, under which they are also allowed to distribute it here; since it is still under emergency use authorization retail sale of the product is not allowed.
      • Indemnity: Cipla was considering spending up to $1 billion to import 50 million doses of the vaccine. Cipla has also sought indemnity for the Moderna vaccine, much like other international vaccine makers negotiating their entry into India. The government is yet to take a call on indemnity for any foreign vaccine maker.
      • Format: Moderna is coming in the ready-to-inject form. There is no manufacturing base as of now, like in case of Sputnik V, but it is hoped that in the future, Moderna will produce this vaccine on Indian soil. The vaccine, mRNA-1273, manufactured by Moderna TX, Inc., is a two-dose vaccine with the shots to be given 28 days apart.
      • mRNA magic: The messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, are a new vaccine technology platform. The vaccine can be stored for up to seven months between -25 and -15 degrees Celsius; and its medium-term storage temperature is -20 degrees. In normal cold chains, where the temperature is between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, an unopened vial can stay effective for 30 days. The mRNA vaccines teach human cells how to make a protein, or even just a piece of a protein of the virus, triggering an immune response inside human bodies. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is that those vaccinated gain protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with Covid-19.

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

      Amitabh Kant to continue at NITI
      • The story: The Central government extended the tenure of NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Amitabh Kant, by one year, till June 2022. The order was issued by Department of Personnel and Training after it approval by Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by the PM.
      • Amitabh Kant: He is a 1980 batch retired IAS officer of Kerala cadre, at the helm of policy think tank of government since 2016. Before joining NITI Aayog, he was Secretary in Government of India, handling industrial policy and promotion. Following his superannuation, he was appointed CEO and he will continue till 2022. He is a key player involved at top level in policy related matters like industrial development, technology and investment.
      • NITI Aayog: The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) is a public policy think tank of Government of India established in 2015 by replacing the erstwhile Planning Commission (established by former PM Nehru in 1950), with the aim of achieving sustainable development goals with cooperative federalism by involving State Governments in economic policy-making process.
      • Who recommended: The Independent Evaluation Office submitted a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with recommendation to replace Planning Commission with a “control commission” on 29 May 2014. Following the recommendations, Union Cabinet scrapped Planning Commission in August 2014. A Cabinet resolution was passed on January 1, 2015 to replace Planning Commission NITI Aayog which stands for National Institution for Transforming India. 

      Tax on import of Crude Palm Oil down

      • The story: India has cut import tax on crude palm oil from 15 % to 10% for three months, effective June 30, 2021. India is world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils but has struggled to bring down edible oils prices.  
      • The financials: After the tax reduction, palm oil imports will account for 30.25% tax in total. It will include 10% base import duty and other taxes. Overall tax rate on palm oil imports was 35.75% earlier. This tax cut will make palm oil more attractive than the soy oil and sunflower oil for Indian refiners. It will boost imports of tropical oil in next three months and will support benchmark Malaysian prices. Duty cut will provide a necessary respite to consumers from high edible oil prices.
      • Domestic prices: Prices for domestic soy oil and palm oil were doubled in 2020 which hit hard the consumers who were already stung by high fuel prices and reduced incomes because of lockdowns amid COVID-19 pandemic. India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. India will buy 5,00,000 tonnes of additional palm oil in these three months. Average monthly imports will be around 8,50,000 tonnes.
      • Palm oil: It is the most widely used and imported oil in India, mainly used by bulk buyers like food processors and for use in restaurants. Households in India usually prefer soy oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. However, palm oil is not environment-friendly. Oil palms grow well in low-lying, tropical regions, which tend to house rainforests and peatlands. They are home to an array of endangered species including orangutans, rhinos and tigers. Burning of forests to make way for palm pollutes the environment, and deforestation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union (EU) initially banned palm oil for use in biofuels out of a concern that oil palm cultivation accelerated deforestation and global warming. Additionally, Palm oil is bad for health, as it's very high in saturated fat causing heart disease, liver dysfunction, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Burning rainforests not only causes greenhouse gas emissions but fills the air with dense smoke, causing respiratory problems.
      Aadhaar can be ID proof for GRE, TOEFL
      • The story: The Education Testing Service (ETS) has allowed use of Aadhar card for GRE and TOFEL Exams. Indian students writing GRE or TOEFL examinations will be allowed to use their Aadhaar cards as identification proof from July 1, 2021. This decision was taken as many students have faced difficulties in getting passports amid the COVID-19 induced lockdowns.
      • Educational Testing Service (ETS): The ETS conducts the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). These are standardised tests which are required to be passed to get admission in many universities in United States and elsewhere. Earlier, passport was the only accepted identification proof so far for those taking tests in India. Aadhar card will be applicable for TOEFL and GRE General home-based tests which have gained popularity during pandemic. These Internet-based tests conducted at designated centres. It will also be applicable to the new TOEFL Essentials Test which will start from August 2021 and on GRE Subject Tests which will start in October 2021.
      • Aadhaar: It is a 12-digit unique identity number which can be obtained voluntarily by residents or passport holders of India. It is based on biometric and demographic data, collected by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is a statutory authority established in January 2009.

      US House clears Bills to boost competitiveness with China
      • The story: The US House has passed two Bills expected to form the core of legislation in the chamber designed to boost US research and development in response to China’s challenge to U.S. economic supremacy.
      • Bipartisan support: In a nation divided vertically along partisan lines, China is a great unifier. By wide bipartisan margins, the House authorised more funding for the National Science Foundation and additional money for the Department of Energy, following a similar effort in the Senate that saw the passage of a comprehensive $250 billion measure that included more than $52 billion in incentives and grants for domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
      • The sentiment: Leaders said that US had long been a beacon of excellence in science and engineering, and while it should be cognizant of increasing global competition, it must not be constrained by it. To continue to lead, the US must chart its own course. While the Senate pulled separate pieces of legislation into a single bill intended to bolster US competitiveness with China, the House is taking a more piecemeal approach. Some lawmakers and industry groups are pressing for the House to include the incentives for chipmakers in whatever package eventually emerges.
      • Focus areas: Congress was urged to include $52 billion to fund the critical semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing initiatives included in previous congressional legislation.

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

      • [message]
        • 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 - 30-06-2021
      Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-06-2021
      Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-06-2021
      PT's IAS Academy
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