Current Affairs Analysis

11th August 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Mount Sinabung volcanic eruption; 4% mandatory reservation under Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016; Union Public Service Commission (UPSC); Lok Adalat; World Biofuel day; Biofuels; Generations of Biofuel; EnviStats India 2020 report; Heat waves; Cold waves; UN arms embargo on Iran; Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Modernization of Defence facilities; Himalayan Geothermal Springs release CO2; Hot Springs; Sunspots; India-Canada IC-IMPACTS Annual Research Conference; Indian Council for Fertilizers and Fertilizer Technology Research; Gandagi Mukt Bharat campaign; etc.
By IASToppers
August 11, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Delhi HC issues notice to UPSC on disability Quota
  • Lok Adalat held online

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • World Biofuel Day
  • EnviStats India 2020 report

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Gulf countries back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

Defence & Security Issues

  • Defence Minister launches modernization of facilities

Geophysical Phenomena

  • Himalayan Geothermal Springs release CO2 in atmosphere

Science & Technology

  • Why Sunspots occasionally spark worry?
  • India-Canada IC-IMPACTS Annual Research Conference

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Indian Council for Fertilizers and Fertilizer Technology Research
  • Gandagi Mukt Bharat campaign
  • Mount Sinabung volcanic eruption

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Polity & Governance

Delhi HC issues notice to UPSC on disability Quota

The Delhi High Court issued notice to UPSC on a plea challenging this year’s preliminary examination notice for direct recruitment to civil services.

What is the issue?

  • The plea is on the ground that it neglects the minimum reservation to be provided to disabled persons.
  • The petition is filed by Sambhavana, a registered society of the disabled for the disabled.
  • It claims that the Union Public Service Commission’s notice reserves only 24 vacancies for persons with disabilities out of a total 796 expected approximate vacancies.
  • The number of vacancies were below the 4 % mandatory reservation under section 34 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.

4% mandatory reservation under section 34 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016:

  • Section 34(1) mandates a minimum 4% reservation for the benchmark disabled of the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength in each group of posts meant to be filled with such disabled.
  • It mandates equal distribution of one (20% each) among the disabled classes of the blind, deaf, locomotor plus the combined class of autism, etc. with those having multiple disabilities.

Union Public Service Commission:

  • Article 315 of the Indian Constitution deals with Public Service Commissions for the Union and for the States.
  • The first Public Service Commission was set up on October 1st, 1926.
  • The Federal Public Service Commission was set up under the Government of India Act 1935.
  • Under this Act, for the first time, provision was also made for the formation of Public Service Commission at the provincial level.
  • On 26th January, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission was accorded a constitutional status as an autonomous entity and given the title – Union Public Service Commission.
  • UPSC is a constitutional body and a central agency which is authorized to conduct various exams in the country including the Civil Services Exam to recruit IAS, IPS, IFS among others.

Key features:

  • UPSC consists of a Chairman and Ten members.
  • The terms and conditions of service of the chairman and members of the Commission are governed by the Union Public Service Commission (Members) Regulations, 1969.
  • Each member holds office for a term of 6 years or until he attains the age of 65 years.
  • President can exclude posts, services and matters from the purview of the UPSC.
  • The President in respect to All-India Services and Central services and posts may make regulations which shall not be necessary for UPSC to be consulted.
  • All such regulations made by the President shall be laid before each House of Parliament for at least 14 days. The Parliament can amend or repeal them.

Key Facts:

  • Pradeep Kumar Joshi has been appointed as the chairman of UPSC on 7th August 2020.
  • He will remain in the UPSC office as the chairman till 12th May 2021.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Lok Adalat held online

The Delhi State Legal Services Authority recently organized e-lok Adalat in all the District Courts Complexes of Delhi.

Major Highlights:

  • It was aimed to facilitate mediation between the parties, who are willing to get their matters settled amicably.
  • In this e-Lok Adalat, cases pertaining to Motor Accident and Claims Tribunal (MACT) disputes, Civil recovery matters, cases of Electricity Act were taken up and settled, by providing technical support from SAMA – an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform recognized by Department of Justice for resolving disputes through video conferencing.

What is Lok Adalat?

  • Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.
  • It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably.
  • National Legal Services Authority along with other Legal Services Institutions conducts Lok Adalats.

Jurisdiction:

  • The Lok Adalats can deal with all Civil Cases, Matrimonial Disputes, Land Disputes, Partition/Property Disputes, Labour Disputes etc., and compoundable criminal Cases (the casesthat can be compromised by the victim and the offender, with or without permission of the court).

Functioning:

  • Lok Adalat is a non-adversarial system (system where the complete power of the proceedings rests with the judge).
  • They are held periodically for exercising such jurisdiction as they determine.
  • These are usually presided over by retired judges, social activists, or other members of the legal profession.
  • The Lok Adalat shall not decide the matter so referred at its own instance, instead the same would be decided on the basis of the compromise or settlement between the parties.
  • The members shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner in their attempt to reach amicable settlement of their dispute.

Key facts about Lok Adalats:

  • Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • The award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law.
  • If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award.
  • However, the parties are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure, in exercise of their right to litigate.

 [Ref: Hindustan Times]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

World Biofuel Day

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas organised a webinar on the occasion of the World Biofuel day on 10th August.

About World Biofuel Day:

  • It is observed every year on 10th August.
  • This day honors the research experiments by Sir Rudolf Diesel who ran an engine with peanut oil in the year 1893.
  • His research experiment had predicted that vegetable oil is going to replace fossil fuels in the next century to fuel different mechanical engines.
  • Theme: Biofuels towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat.

Objective:

  • To create awareness about importance of non-fossil fuels as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels.
  • To highlight various efforts made by the Government in the Biofuel sector.

What are Biofuels?

  • Biofuels are a renewable energy source, made from organic matter or wastes.
  • They can play a valuable role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Biofuels are one of the largest sources of renewable energy in use today.

Generations of Biofuels:

Potential of Biofuel in India:

  • India is a large agricultural economy with a large amount of agricultural residues available.
  • There are three major areas of Biofuels- Ethanol, Bio-diesel and Biogas.
  • If these three are exploited, India can reduce dependence on import of crude to a very large extent and import of gas also.
  • This needs appropriate technologies, skilled and professional manpower, and financial institutions to provide funding.

Benefits of Biofuel:

  • Reduction on import dependence.
  • Ensuring a cleaner environment.
  • Generating additional income for farmers.
  • Employment generation.

Advantages:

  • Cost: Biofuels prices are falling and have potential to be significantly less expensive than gasoline and other fossil fuels.
  • Source material: Oil is a limited resource that comes from specific materials, biofuels can be manufactured from a wide range of materials including crop waste, manure, and other byproducts.
  • Renewability: Biofuels are much more easily renewable as new crops are grown and waste material is collected.
  • Security: Biofuels can be produced locally, which decreases the nation’s dependence upon foreign energy.
  • Lower carbon emissions: When biofuels are burned, they produce significantly less carbon output and fewer toxins, making them a safer alternative to preserve atmospheric quality and lower air pollution.

Disadvantages:

  • Energy output: Biofuels have a lower energy output than traditional fuels and require greater quantities to be consumed in order to produce the same energy level.
  • Production carbon emissions: While they are cleaner to burn, the process to produce the biofuel has hefty carbon emissions. Cutting forests to grow crops for biofuels adds to carbon emissions.
  • High cost: To refine biofuels to more efficient energy outputs, a high initial investment is often required, making its production currently more expensive than other fuels.
  • Food prices: As demand for food crops such as corn grows for biofuel production, it raises prices for necessary staple food crops.
  • Food shortages: Using valuable cropland to grow fuel crops could have an impact on the cost of food and could possibly lead to food shortages.
  • Water use: Massive quantities of water is required for proper irrigation of biofuel crops as well as to manufacture the fuel, which could strain local and regional water resources.
[Ref: PIB]

EnviStats India 2020 report

The National Statistical Office (NSO) has released the EnviStats India 2020 report recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The highest number of heat wave days were recorded in Rajasthan with 20 days, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand with 13 days each.
  • The average number of heat wave days in 2019 rose by 82.6 % year-on-year to 157.
  • 2019 recorded the third-highest number of heat wave days in the decade after 254 days in 2010 and 189 days in 2012.
  • The heat waves resulted in 373 deaths in the country in 2019, compared to 26 in 2018.
  • Meanwhile, the number of average cold wave days also reported an increase.
  • 2018 saw a rise of 55.2 % with 45 cold wave days, compared to 29 in 2017.

Heat waves:

  • Heat wave is defined as a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
  • Heat Waves occur over India between March and June.
  • Meteorologists declare a heatwave event when the maximum day temperature for a locationin the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.
  • When the day temperature jumps by 4 to 5 degrees above the normal maximum temperature of a location, it is declared as a heatwave.

Cold Waves:

  • A cold wave takes place when the minimum temperature of a location or the night temperature drops by at least 4.4 degrees below normal or goes below the 4-degree Celsius mark.
[Ref: The Logical Indian]

Bilateral & International Relations

Gulf countries back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

Gulf Cooperation Council endorsed an extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, just two months before it is set to expire.

Major Highlights:

  • GCC in a letter to U.N. Security Council backed an extension of an arms embargo that’s kept Iran from purchasing foreign-made weapons like fighter jets, tanks and warships.
  • The GCC alleged that Iran had not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran.

Accusations on Iran:

  • Iran is accused to supply arms to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • Iran arms Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria.
  • It allegedly provides weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq and terrorist groups in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Arms Embargo on Iran:

  • The U.N. has banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program.
  • That blocked Iran from replacing its aging equipment, much of which had been purchased by the shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
  • Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal saw the U.N. agree to sunset the arms embargo in October 2020.
  • However, U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018, and Iran withdrew in 2020.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC):

  • GCC is a political and economic alliance of six countries in Arabian Peninsula: Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Defence & Security Issues

Defence Minister launches modernization of facilities

Defence Minister launched modernization/up-gradation of facilities and new infrastructure creation of Defence PSUs and OFB recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The facilities were upgraded to meet enhanced requirement of Pinaka and other rockets along with the Assembly and testing facility for Stabilized Remote Control Gun Systems at Ordnance Factory Trichy, Tamil Nadu.
  • Modernization of facilities at Opo-Electronic Factory Dehradun (OLF) will serve purpose of manufacturing of high-end Optoelectronic products for T-90 Tanks.
  • Bharat Electronics Limited has launched fully indigenised Maareech Integration facility for manufacturing, integration and testing of Anti Torpedo Defence System Maareech, designed by DRDO.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has handed over 500th AL-31FP overhauled engine to the IAF, mounted on its most lethal frontline fighter aircraft Su-30MKI.
  • Bharat Earth Movers Limited has set up Industrial Design Centre at Bengaluru as part of its new infrastructure creation.

Significance:

  • These upgradation/ modernisation/new set-ups will give tremendous benefit in terms of reducing dependency on foreign resources for production.
  • It will also reduce dependency on maintenance, upgradation and life time support.
  • It is in lines with Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan and his 5-I formula of Intent, Inclusion, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation.
[Ref: PIB]

Geophysical Phenomena

Himalayan Geothermal Springs release CO2 in atmosphere

As per the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Himalaya hosts about 600 geothermal springs having varied temperature and chemical conditions and release huge amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Major Highlights:

  • Carbon outflux from Earth’s interior to the exosphere through volcanic eruptions, fault zones, and geothermal systems contribute to the global carbon cycle.
  • Thiseffects short and long term climate of the Earth.
  • The Himalayan geothermal springs which cover about 10,000 square km in the Garhwal region of Himalaya, show a significant discharge of Carbon dioxide (CO2) rich water.
  • The estimated carbon dioxide degassing (removal of dissolved gases from liquids) flux is nearly 7.2 ×106 mol/year to the atmosphere.

Figure 1 Schematic model for geogenic CO2 degassing.

Outcome:

  • The study suggested that CO2 in these thermal springs are sourced from metamorphic decarbonation of carbonate rocks present deep in the Himalayan core along with magmatism and oxidation of graphite.
  • Most of the geothermal water is dominated by evaporation followed by weathering of silicate rocks.
  • Such CO2 degassing should be taken into account to assess global carbon outflux in the earth’s atmosphere.

Hot spring:

  • Hot spring or a thermal spring is a spring with water at temperatures substantially higher than the air temperature of the surrounding region.
  • Most hot springs discharge groundwater that is heated by shallow intrusions of magma (molten rock) in volcanic areas.
  • Some thermal springs are not related to volcanic activity.
  • In such cases, the water is heated by convective circulation.
  • This means that the groundwater percolating downward reaches depths of a kilometer or more where the temperature of rocks is high because of the normal temperature gradient of the Earth’s crust—about 30 °C (54 °F) per kilometer in the first 10 km (6 miles).

Major hot springs in India:

  • Panamik in Nubra valley, Ladakh.
  • Kheer Ganga hot water spring, Himachal Pradesh
  • Gaurikund, Kedarnath, Uttarakhand.
[Ref: PIB; Britannica]

Science & Technology

Why Sunspots occasionally spark worry?

A Sunspot is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than surrounding parts.

Sunspots:

  • These spots may be as large as 50,000 km in diameter.
  • They are visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field, which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.
  • The spots are a temporary phenomenon that appear on Sun’s photosphere– the outer surface which radiates heat and light.
  • These are the areas where the star’s magnetic field is the strongest; around 2,500 times more than the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Most Sunspots appear in groups that have their own magnetic field, whose polarity reverses during every solar cycle, which takes around 11 years.
  • The current solar cycle, which began in 2008, is in its solar minimum phase, when the number of Sunspots and solar flares is at a routine low.

Why Sunspots appear dark?

  • Because Sunspots have high magnetic pressures, the atmospheric pressure in the surrounding photosphere reduces, inhibiting the flow of hot gases from inside the Sun to the surface.
  • Due to this, the temperatures of Sunspots are thousands of degrees lower than the surrounding photosphere, which has a temperature of 5,800 degrees Kelvin.
  • Sunspots temperatures are around 3,800 degrees Kelvin.
  • Because they stop the convective flow of heat and light, Sunspots appear dark.
  • They typically consist of a dark region called umbra which is surrounded by a lighter region called penumbra.

Solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections:

  • When a Sunspot reaches up to 50,000 km in diameter, it may release a huge amount of energy that can lead to solar flares.
  • The flares are caused by explosions triggered due to the twisting, crossing or reorganising of magnetic field lines near Sunspots.
  • At times, solar flares are accompanied by Coronal Mass Ejections (CME)– large bubbles of radiation and particles emitted by the Sun that explode into space at high speed.
  • CMEs can trigger intense light in the sky on Earth called auroras.

Damage caused by solar flares:

  • Solar flares can have a major effect on radio communications, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) connectivity, power grids, and satellites.
[Ref: Indian Express]

India-Canada IC-IMPACTS Annual Research Conference

The India-Canada IC-IMPACTS Annual Research Conference was organised virtually by the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnership on 6 August 2020.

Aim:

  • To Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability.
  • To develop community-based solutions for the most urgent needs.

Major Highlights:

  • The Conference discussed ways of taking the cooperation between the countries to the next level.
  • This is to done by strengthening existing international connects, sharing best practices in multiple areas, and initiating new collaborations in government and institutions.
  • The practices in the areas of women in science, technology deployment, diversity in science, and STEM at schools could be shared between them, besides exploring new research in Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Sciences, and Electric Mobility.

IC-IMPACTS:

  • IC-IMPACTS (India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability) is the Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence.
  • It was established through the Canadian Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) as a new Centre dedicated to the development of research collaborations between Canada and India.
  • Department of Science and Technology has been working with IC-IMPACTS for research partnerships since 2013.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Fact for Prelims:

Indian Council for Fertilizers and Fertilizer Technology Research

Central Public Sector Enterprises under Department of Fertilizers formed a separate think tank body called Indian Council for Fertilizers and Fertilizer Technology Research.

  • The Council has been registered as society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 on 19th August 2019.

Aim:

  • To encourage research and innovation in fertilizer and fertilizer technology.

Functions:

  • It will undertake / promote R&D and research work in the area of fertilizer and fertilizer manufacturing technology, use of raw materials.
  • It will promote innovation in products through partnership and collaboration with various research institutions, fertilizer industry and other stakeholders.

Fertilizer Application Awareness Programme:

  • The Department of Fertilizers, Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers Welfare and Department of Agricultural Research and Education have jointly organized Fertilizer Application Awareness Programme for farmers.

Aim:

  • To disseminate knowledge on optimum usage of fertilizer nutrients.
  • To sustain the agriculture productivity.
  • To make farmers aware of new developments in the field of fertilizer usage.

 [Ref: PIB]

Gandagi Mukt Bharat campaign

PM Modi launched Gandagi Mukt Bharat recently on 8 August 2020.

  • It is a week-long campaign for Swachhata (cleanliness) in the run-up to Independence Day, an initiative of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • Under this initiative, there will be special cleanliness drives in urban and rural areas of the country, till August 15.
  • The campaign was launched while inaugurating the Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra (an interactive experience centre on the Swachh Bharat Mission) at Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti at Rajghat in New Delhi.
  • It is an awareness drive to discourage open defecation and inform the public on the importance of cleanliness, social distancing, swearing masks among others.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Mount Sinabung volcanic eruption

  • The Mount Sinabung volcano in Indonesia has recently erupted on August 10, 2020.
  • It is a stratovolcano in the North Sumatra, Indonesia, 40 kilometres from the Lake Toba super volcano.
  • Mount Sinabung erupted in 2010 after a 400-year-long interval and has been continuously active since September 2013.

 [Ref: DownToEarth]

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