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Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS: 19th February 2022

Today Current Affairs: 19th February 2022 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc

 

Caste Census:

 

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the All-India Quota seats for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test and reiterated that reservations for backward classes were not an exception but an extension of the principle of equality under Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

  • This is seen as a positive discrimination in the Indian Context.
  • Despite the underlying good intentions, positive discrimination has been a controversial topic. Many oppose affirmative actions like reservation; they believe that such provisions only perpetuate caste differences and they call for a “casteless society”.
  • But, as Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out, “castelessness” is a privilege that only the upper caste can afford because their caste privilege has already translated into social, political and economic capital.
  • On the other hand, individuals who belong to the lower castes must retain their caste identity in order to claim the benefits of measures such as reservation, which recognise historic harm.
  • The Union government had told the Supreme Court that the caste-based data enumerated in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 was “unusable”, but in 2016, the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India had informed the Standing Committee on Rural Development that 98.87% of the data on individual caste and religion was “error free”.
  • The government had said that the total number of castes surveyed in 1931 was 4,147, while the SECC figures show that there are more than 46 lakh different castes.
  • Assuming that some castes may bifurcate into sub-castes, the total number can not be exponentially high to this extent.
  • The entire exercise was corrupted because the enumerators had used different spellings for the same castes. In many cases the respondents, the government said, had refused to divulge their castes
  • In the Indra Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that the States must conclude the “backwardness” of a particular class of people only after proper assessment and objective evaluation.
  • It held that such a conclusion must be subject to periodic review by a permanent body of experts.
  • While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators.
  • The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.
  • So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization:

 

Russia has said it is pulling out its forces surrounding Ukraine. But, NATO and the U.S. have said that they are yet to be convinced the pullout was real.

  • Fears have been mounting of a major escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbas region since 2014. Crimean peninsula was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
  • Now, Russia has stationed its military across the border.
  • Russia has demanded that NATO guarantees Ukraine will never join the alliance.
  • Russia believes that NATO is “encircling” Russia and posing a threat.
  • It is also said that NATO missile defence threatens Russian security.
  • Above all, NATO is believed to be a U.S. geopolitical project and has always tried to isolate or marginalise Russia.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization:

  • It is an intergovernmental military alliance.
  • Established by Washington treaty.
  • Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.
  • Headquarters — Brussels, Belgium.
  • Headquarters of Allied Command Operations — Mons, Belgium.
  • It constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
  • Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30. The most recent member state to be added to NATO was North Macedonia on 27 March 2020.
  • NATO membership is open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.”

Green Hydrogen:

 

India, being a tropical country, has a significant edge in green hydrogen production due to its favourable geographic conditions and abundant natural resources.

  • Producing hydrogen from renewables in India is likely to be cheaper than producing it from natural gas.
  • The vast majority of industrial hydrogen, about 70 metric tonnes (MT), is currently produced from natural gas through a conventional process known as steam methane reforming (SMR) with large quantities of by product CO2.
  • The dependence on natural gas and coal means that hydrogen production today generates significant CO2 emissions.
  • With the world seeking ways to accelerate the pace of transformation in the energy sector, India with the right policy support is in a unique position to not only become self-sufficient in green hydrogen but also produce green hydrogen for export markets.
  • The focus on producing clean energy through green hydrogen is in line with the government’s goal of producing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and, in the process, achieve emission goals under the Paris Agreement and reduce import dependency on fossil fuels.
  • The Centre is planning to use the green hydrogen fuel from wastewater by using solar energy. It is possible by using electrolyzers.
  • By segregation of solid waste management using the rooftop solar, we can make green hydrogen with the help of electrolysers.
  • The power and water cost of producing it would be negligible. We can use this fuel even in railway engines along with cement and chemical companies instead of coal.

Green Hydrogen:

  • Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen which has no carbon footprint.
  • Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Targets and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.
  • Green Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.
  • In terms of mobility, for long distance mobilisations for either urban freight movement within cities and states or for passengers, Green Hydrogen can be used in railways, large ships, buses or trucks, etc.

AUKUS (Australia, U.K., U.S.):

 

China has equated the India, U.S., Australia, Japan Quad grouping with the AUKUS (Australia, U.K., U.S.) defence pact, calling both “exclusive cliques” part of the Biden administration’s “ill-intentioned” Indo-Pacific strategy.

  • It said, this ‘strategy’ resurrects the Cold War mentality and will only bring division and turbulence to the Asia-Pacific.
  • The UK, US and Australia, in 2021, announced a historic security pact in the Asia-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter China. It is called the AUKUS pact and AUKUS alliance.
  • Under the AUKUS alliance, the three nations have agreed to enhance the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing, foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.
  • Under the first major initiative of AUKUS, Australia would build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and the UK, a capability aimed at promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • China has condemned the agreement as “extremely irresponsible”.
  • Concerns raised by China:
    • The Alliance undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.
    • It shall reinvent a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
  • The new partnership was announced in a joint virtual press conference. And while China was not mentioned directly, the three leaders referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had “grown significantly”.
  • In recent years, Beijing has been accused of raising tensions in disputed territories such as the South China Sea.
  • Western nations have been wary of China’s infrastructure investment on Pacific islands, and have also criticised China’s trade sanctions against countries like Australia.

Banning Chinese Apps:

 

The Ministry of Home Affairs has recommended a ban on 54 Chinese mobile applications, including the popular game Garena Free Fire over concerns related to privacy and national security.

  • In 2020, the government also banned TikTok and other popular short video apps from China.
  • The decision to ban such apps in India is not only a geopolitical move but also a strategic trade manoeuvre that can have significant economic impact.
  • Earlier, it was found that India’s trade with China in 2021 crossed USD125 billion with imports from China nearing a record USD100 billion, underlining continued demand for a range of Chinese goods, particularly machinery.
  • Banning these Chinese websites and applications to the Indian public effectively allows our home-grown IT talent to focus on the newly arrived Internet user.
  • Big tech firms from Silicon Valley (US) and China in both hardware and software have been in a tussle over the Indian consumer, but India’s focus remains on exporting IT services while paying little attention to servicing our own nation’s tech market.
  • Banning these apps also sends a clear message from India that it will no longer be a victim of China’s Nibble and Negotiate policy and will review the norms of engagement.
  • The ban may affect one of China’s most ambitious goals, namely to become the digital superpower of the 21st century.
  • In its attempt to dominate the rest of the world, the Chinese Internet industry needs India’s 500-plus million netizens to continue to act as a training ground for the Artificial Intelligence algorithms they put together.
  • India’s app ban, and consideration of related restrictions on telecom hardware and mobile handsets, is based on the recognition that data streams and digital technology are a new currency of global power.

Climate Change:

 

A new study by the University of California, Davis published in the journal Nature suggests that the difference between a scenario where the Earth will be warmed by upto 1.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century and a scenario where the Earth will be warmed by upto 3.6 degrees Celsius depends on the social system.

  • In other words, public perceptions of climate change, the future cost and effectiveness of climate mitigation and technologies, and how political institutions respond to public pressure are important determinants of the degree to which the climate will change over the 21st century.
  • The study says that there is a “strong probability” of warming between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius at the end of the century.
  • The key drivers of how climate change will shape up include people’s perceptions and social groups, the improvements in mitigation technology over time and the responsiveness of political institutions. These key drivers trump individual actions.
  • When it comes to global warming, one of the most prominent temperature-control goals is the figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the target set out by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement that was signed by 195 countries in 2015.
  • Net-zero, also referred to as carbon-neutrality, is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

Vacancies In Tribunals:

 

The Supreme Court assured lawyers that it will take up the issue of vacancies in key tribunals soon, while indicating that it is a problem that cannot be simplistically resolved by sending those responsible for the appointments to jail for contempt.

  • In September last year, a Special Bench of the Supreme Court led by the CJI had said it was “not interested in a confrontation” with the government but the court was running out of patience.
  • The Bench had said tribunals across the country were on the verge of collapse. Cases had been adjourned by a year.
  • The court had even said the only three options were to
    • close the tribunals,
    • make the appointments itself or
    • initiate contempt action.
  • Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976: Based on the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee, Part XIV-A was added by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, titled as ‘Tribunals’ which provided for the establishment of
    • Administrative Tribunals’ under Article 323-A: It gives exclusive power to the Parliament for establishing tribunals.
    • Tribunals for other matters’ under Article 323-B: It gives power to the concerned State Legislature to constitute Tribunals for the respective subjects specified therein.
    • Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985: It provides for the establishment of three kinds of administrative Tribunals: (a) The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), State Administrative Tribunals (SAT) and Joint Administrative Tribunals (JAT).

New Biotechnology Policy: Gujarat

 

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has announced New Biotechnology Policy for the year 2022-27.

  • Under this policy, the strategic projects and mega and large projects are eligible for special packages.
  • This will attract new investment through anchor units and existing industries and create new employment opportunities in the state.
  • to this new policy, the MSMEs with a capital investment of less than 200 crore rupees will be given maximum assistance of 40 crore rupees.
  • Similarly, the mega and large projects with a capital investment of more than 200 crore rupees and special projects like ecosystem empowerment, emerging technologies in challenging areas and strategic importance will be assisted up to 25 percent of the total capital expenditure up to a maximum limit of 200 crore rupees.
  • This assistance will be provided in the form of 20 quarterly installments over five years. MSME units with a capital investment of less than 200 crore rupees will be assisted with a maximum of 5 crore rupees per annum.
  • Mega and large projects with a capital investment of more than 200 crore rupees and special projects like ecosystem empowerment will be given an assistance of up to 15 percent of the total operating cost up to a maximum of 25 crore rupees per annum.

Refugee:

 

Model laws on asylum and refugees that were drafted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) decades ago but not implemented by the government could be revised by an expert committee, according to Commission member Justice M.M. Kumar’s suggestion at a recent meeting.

  • Though India has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, 1951, Justice Kumar said the refugees and asylum seekers were entitled to the rights in Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • He highlighted the lack of a specific legislation governing refugees and asylum seekers.
  • The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention or the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
  • The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
  • The Refugee Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.

Human Trafficking:

 

The conviction rate in cases of human trafficking has been on the decline, government data show.

  • Details of cases shared in Parliament earlier this month showed that the conviction rate has been declining over the past four years although the number of anti-human-trafficking units (AHTU) in the country has increased to 696.
  • The conviction rate of cases related to human trafficking dropped from 27.8% in 2016 to 10.6% in 2020. Between 2018 and 2019 the conviction rate in such cases increased from 19.4% to 22.5%.
  • The data has been sourced from a reply by Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra to a question in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month.

Falkland Islands:

 

Four decades after the Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina ended bitterly for Buenos Aires, a statement from China on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, that affirmed Beijing’s support for Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands.

  • The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf.
  • As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, and the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs.
  • The capital and largest settlement is Stanley on East Falkland.
  • Argentina has maintained that the Falklands were illegally taken from it in 1833 and invaded the British colony in 1982.
  • That incident resulted in what later came to be known as the Falklands War that lasted a little over three months, ending in victory for the United Kingdom.
  • China’s President Xi Jinping and Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez issued a joint statement last week that said China “reaffirms its support for Argentina’s demand for the full exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands,”, with the statement using the Argentine name for the territory.

Accreditation Of Higher Educational Institutions:

 

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has relaxed the eligibility criteria for accreditation of higher educational institutions.

  • The new guidelines drawn up by the NAAC, which is an autonomous body under the UGC, allow newer institutions — those with one academic year or more — to apply for provisional accreditation.
  • So far, colleges and universities needed to be at least six years old in order to apply. The purpose of the change, according to the guidelines, is to “widen the horizon of accreditation”.
  • There are 1,043 universities and 42,343 colleges listed on the portal of the All India Survey on Higher Education.
  • As of February 8, there were 392 universities and 8,483 colleges that were NAAC-accredited.
  • Among the states, Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of accredited colleges at 1,796, which is more than twice as many as the Karnataka’s 864, the next highest.
  • Tamil Nadu has the most accredited universities at 43.
  • Pondicherry University is among the oldest accredited universities.

Labharthiyon Se Rubaroo:

 

Secretary, Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) chaired the ‘Labharthiyon Se Rubaroo’ initiative of Ministry

  • Labharthiyon Se Rubaroo’ is an initiative of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs under Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
  • The virtual/online campaign aims to
    • monitor the progress of PMAY (U) projects
    • bring about able governance and transparency by direct interaction with beneficiaries
    • create a platform for officials from MoHUA and respective SLNA of States/UTs to facilitate and expedite the construction of houses in their respective cities.
  • The entire programme shall be for 25-30 minutes, wherein interactions would be done with five beneficiaries in five ULBs.
  • Labharthiyon Se Rubaroo’ will be hosted virtually. The interaction is planned to be hosted with selected beneficiaries whose houses are under construction.
  • Bottlenecks and challenges will be addressed resulting in achieving ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.

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