Current Affairs Analysis

1st July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Israel’s illegal annexation plans for Palestine; Section 69A of the IT Act of 2000; Excess Female Mortality; State of World population Report 2020; United Nations Population Fund; India’s marine fish production; Gangotri National Park; Namami Gange; National Ganga Council; Waste to Energy Plant technology; Refuse Derived Fuel; Gasification Technology; West Bank; Zealandia; Matsya Sampada; Online B.Sc. Degree in Programming and Data Science; Loan Agreement between GoI and World Bank; MyGov Corona Helpdesk; Advanced Virology Lab; Benzimidazole gas leakage; Dimorphos; Ranbir Singh Committee; How snakes glide through the air?
By IASToppers
July 02, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Section 69A of the IT Act of 2000

Social Issues

  • 46 million girls went missing in India: UNFPA

Economy

  • Marginal increase in India’s marine fish production

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Uttarakhand clears forest land transfer to build roads
  • World Bank approves fresh funds for Ganga cleaning mission
  • MoU signed for Waste to Energy plant in Delhi

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Israel’s illegal annexation plans for Palestine

Geophysical Phenomena

  • Zealandia

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Matsya Sampada
  • Online B.Sc. Degree in Programming and Data Science
  • Loan Agreement between GoI and the World Bank
  • MyGov Corona Helpdesk
  • Advanced Virology Lab
  • Benzimidazole gas leakage
  • Dimorphos
  • Ranbir Singh Committee
  • How snakes glide through the air?

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Polity & Governance

Section 69A of the IT Act of 2000

The central government has banned 59 mainly Chinese mobile applications such as Tik-Tok invoking its powers under section 69A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 and provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules of 2009 to block the apps.

Why this move?

  • The step was taken because the Centre had information that the app companies are engaged in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.

Section 69A of the IT Act:

  • Section 69A of the IT Act 2000, provides for the central government to issue directions for blocking public access to any information through any computer resource.
  • This provision has been relied on by government agencies in the past to take down online content.
  • The grounds on which such a step can be taken are: in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the country, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any offence relating to above.

Procedure:

  • The procedure to be followed for blocking such objectionable content is laid down in the IT rules of 2009:

1. First Method:

  • The intermediary or person who has hosted the information is given a hearing before the content is blocked (Rules 6, 7 and 8).
  • The procedure is initiated by a complaint sent by any person to a nodal officer, who is an officer appointed by the concerned ministry or department of the central government or the state government/ union territory.
  • If after examining a complaint received by the nodal officer, the concerned ministry or department is satisfied that the grounds provided under section 69A exist, the complaint is sent to a government committee through a designated officer.
  • The committee which comprises the designated officer and officials of the law ministry then gives a hearing to the originator of the information or intermediary before giving the green signal to block the objectionable content.

2. Second Method:

  • The second method is to deal with emergency cases in which the designated officer can issue an interim order blocking the content without giving a hearing to the originator or intermediary (rule 9).
  • The hearing will have to be held subsequently after which the interim order passed by the designated officer is confirmed or revoked.

Recent order blocking the apps:

  • No details have been made available in the public domain on the ban except what has been stated in the government statement
  • So it cannot be said whether a ban is under rules 6, 7 and 8 or under rule 9.
  • Rule 16 of the 2009 rules mandate that strict confidentiality has to be maintained when it comes to complaints received and action taken regarding such a ban.

How will the blocking be implemented?

  • The government will ask Apple and Google to take down these apps from their online stores so that nobody can download the apps from now on.
  • It can ask Internet Service Providers to block traffic to the apps to ensure that continued use of the App is not possible.

Controversy:

  • Concerns have been raised that such a ban affects freedom of speech of people who use such apps to voice their opinion or showcase their creativity and it restrains access to information.
  • A ban on the Apps could be construed as affecting the right of users under article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression)

Significance:

  • Data from these apps could put the Chinese regime to great geopolitical advantage.
  • It can have a real-time picture of various strategic and tactical initiatives undertaken by the other country for its defence and combat preparedness.
  • Apart from the data gathered in due course of business, deliberate vulnerabilities left in the software and hardware of cheap Chinese smartphones can lead to severe compromise of individuals as well as organisational information.
  • Ill-protected and insecure coding of Chinese operating systems and apps can also allow for further targeted attacks by providing an initial foothold into the victims’ devices.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Social Issues

46 million girls went missing in India: UNFPA

According to the UNFPA’s State of the World Population 2020 report, India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million missing females over the past 50 years.

Major Highlights:

  • India accounts for one in three girls,missing globally due to sex selection, both pre- and post-natal.
  • The figure shows that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970.

Excess Female Mortality:

  • Excess female mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood.
  • The report examines the issue of missing women by studying sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased sex selection as well as excess female mortality due to deliberate neglect of girls because of a culture of son preference.
  • India has the highest rate of excess female deaths at 13.5 per 1,000 female births or one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 due to postnatal sex selection.
  • The excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan was under 3 %.

State of the World Population 2020 report

  • The State of World Population 2020 report was released recently by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
  • It is an annual report from UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

Key facts about India:

  • Life expectancy at birth (years), 2020: 70 years
  • Sex ratio at birth, per female birth, 2017: 1.098
  • Total fertility rate, per woman, 2020: 2.2
  • Maternal mortality ratio (deaths per 100,000 live births) 2017: 145

United Nations Population Fund:

  • The United Nations Population Fund is a UN organization.
  • It is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
  • Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including the creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services.
  • It is known for the worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

Marginal increase in India’s marine fish production

India’s marine fish production registered a marginal increase of 2.1% in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Major Highlights:

  • According to the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), the country recorded 3.56 million tonnes in total landings during the year.
  • Tamil Nadu took the first position in landings with 7.75 lakh tonnes, followed by Gujarat (7.49 lakh tonnes) and Kerala (5.44 lakh tonnes).
  • Indian mackerel, which was in the first spot in 2018, suffered a setback with the landings declining by 43% during last year.
  • While States such as West Bengal (55%), Andhra Pradesh (34%), Odisha (14.5%), Karnataka (11%) and Tamil Nadu (10.4%) recorded an increase in landings, the fish catch decreased in Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala compared to the previous year.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Uttarakhand clears forest land transfer to build roads

The Uttarakhand government has cleared diversion of about 70 hectares of forest land in the Gangotri National Park for construction of three strategically important roads to China border.

Major Highlights:

  • The wildlife clearance proposal has been given for three roads passing through Gangotri National Park which includes an 11.85 km long road from Sumla to Thangla for which transfer of 30.39 hectares of forest land was approved.
  • The second road is a 6.21 km long road from Tripani to Rangmachagar for which transfer of 11.218 hectares of forest land was approved.
  • The third road is a 17.60 km long road from Mandi to Sangchokla for which transfer of 31.76 hectares of forest land was approved.
  • The road proposals include preserving the Gartang Gali road in the Uttarkashi district, an ancient road between India and Tibet.
  • These proposals will now be sent to National Board for Wildlife for final approval.

Significance:

  • These roads are important from the national security point of view as they connect the base camps of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police set up near China border in Uttarkashi district.
  • The roads will have a slight impact on the environment, but this region is important from the national security point of view.
  • The construction of the roads will improve the supply of food, ration, weapons for our soldiers, and won’t be used by the common man.
  • Only some grasses grow in that area and as there are almost no trees, they would not have to be cut.

Concerns:

  • As per the state government, the area where the roads will be constructed is at a height of 15,000 feet from sea level and have complete barren lands with no trees.
  • But experts fear that for the construction of roads, agencies might have to opt for blasting, which will disturb the mountains and can trigger tremendous landslides.
  • If motorable roads are made at such places without giving importance to the ecological effect and a landslide occurs, then the road will be blocked.
  • These areas are part of the catchment area for the Indo-Gangetic plains, which is home to 40% of India’s population.
  • If the ecology of such an area is disturbed, then the impact percolates down to other states also.

Gangotri National Park:

  • Gangotri National Park is located in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
  • It covers about 2,390 km2 and its habitat consists of coniferous forests, alpine meadows and glaciers.
  • The park is located in the upper catchment of Bhagirathi river. The northeastern park boundary is located along the international boundary with China.
  • The Gaumukh glacier, the origin of river Ganges is located inside the park.
  • The park area forms a viable continuity between Govind National Park and Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It is home to the snow leopard, various mammal species and 150 bird species including Asian black bear, brown bear, musk deer, blue sheep, Himalayan Tahr etc. 
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

World Bank approves fresh funds for Ganga cleaning mission

The World Bank has approved a five-year loan to the Namami Gange project worth ₹3,000 crores to develop and improve infrastructure projects to abate pollution in the river basin.

Major Highlights:

  • The Namami Ganga or the National Mission for Clean Ganga has already received ₹4,535 crores ($600 million) from the World Bank until December 2021 as part of the first phase of the National Ganga River Basin project.
  • So far, 313 projects worth ₹25,000 crores have been sanctioned under the mission.
  • The projects to be undertaken under the second phase of the mission include spillover projects from the first phase of the mission as well as cleaning projects in tributaries such as the Yamuna and Kali rivers.
  • In the second phase, the loan would fund ₹1,134 crores ($150 million) for three new Hybrid Annuity Projects in Agra, Meerut and Saharanpur for the tributaries of the Ganga.

Significance:

  • The government’s Namami Gange Programme has revitalised India’s efforts in rejuvenating the Ganga.
  • The first World Bank project helped build critical sewage infrastructure in 20 pollution hotspots along the river, and this project will help scale this up to the tributaries.
  • It will also help the government strengthen the institutions needed to manage a river basin as large and complex as the Ganga Basin.

Government initiatives to clean Ganga:

  • Initiatives to clean the Ganga began with the Ganga Action Plan I in 1986.
  • In 2014, the government launched the Namami Gange Project being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
  • The National Ganga Council (NGC) was created in 2016 by replacing the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
  • The Prime Minister is the head of NGC.
  • NGC has chief ministers of five Ganga basin states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Namami Gange:

  • Namami Gange Programme is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as Flagship Programme by Government in June 2014 with a budget outlay of 20,000 Crore.
  • It has been made 100% central sector scheme to ensure sufficient availability of funds to the state government, reduction in time loss for collection of state share thereby faster approval of contracts and effective implementation of the projects.
  • Twin objectives: i) Effective abatement of pollution, conservation and ii) Rejuvenation of National River Ganga.

Pillars of the Namami Gange Programme:

  • Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure
  • River-Front Development
  • River-Surface Cleaning
  • Bio-Diversity
  • Afforestation
  • Public Awareness
  • Industrial Effluent Monitoring
  • Ganga Gram

Salient features:

  • The prime focus is on involving people living on the river’s banks in this project.
  • Over 1,600-gram panchayats on the banks of Ganga to be made open defecation-free by 2022.
  • The setting river-centric urban planning process to facilitate better citizen connects, through interventions at Ghats and Riverfronts.
  • Expansion of coverage of sewerage infrastructure in urban habitations on banks of Ganga.
  • Development of rational agricultural practices & efficient irrigation methods.
  • Establishment of the Ganga Knowledge Centre.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

MoU signed for Waste to Energy plant in Delhi

An MoU was signed on Waste to Energy plant at Okhla, Delhi, between Indian Oil, NTPC Ltd and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC).

Major Highlights:

  • Under the MoU, a demonstration Waste-to-energy Plant at Okhla landfill site in Delhi, using Gasification technology will be made.
  • This Plant will process 17500 tons per annum of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) produced from combustible components of Municipal Waste to generate syngas which shall be used to generate electricity.

Waste to Energy Plant technology:

  • Waste-to-Energy (WTE) technology utilizes Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) to create electric and heat energy through various complex conversion methods.
  • The methods of transforming MSW to energy consists of the processes of incineration, anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis etc.
  • MSW has a low calorific value and directly incinerating it will not generate adequate thermal energy. So, pre-treating MSW into refuse-derived fuel (RDF) is more effective.

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF):

  • RDF stands for Refuse Derived Fuel. This fuel is produced from combustible components called the Municipal Solid Waste.
  • This waste taken from industrial or commercial sites is shredded, dried, baled and then finally burned to produce electricity.
  • Refuse Derived Fuel is a renewable energy source that ensures waste simply isn’t thrown into a landfill and instead, put to good use.

Gasification Technology:

  • Gasification is a technology that converts carbon-containing materials, including coal, waste and biomass, into synthetic gas which in turn can be used to produce electricity and other valuable products, such as chemicals, fuels, and fertilizers.
  • Gasification does not involve combustion but instead uses little or no oxygen or air in a closed reactor to convert carbon-based materials directly into a synthetic gas, or syngas.
  • Gasification can recover the energy locked in biomass and municipal solid waste, converting those materials into valuable products and eliminating the need for incineration or landfilling.
  • Syngas is the primary product of the gasification plants, marketable products obtained from syngas include chemicals (45%), liquid fuels (28%), gaseous fuels (8%), and electric power (19%).
[Ref: Hindustan Times; Student Energy]

Bilateral & International Relations

Israel’s illegal annexation plans for Palestine

According to news reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set 1 July as the potential date to unilaterally annex the parts of the occupied West Bank and Palestinians warn of a return to resistance, even violence.

Concerns:

  • The move would not only seriously damage peace efforts but may also entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations.
  • The population centres will become enclaves, in addition to restricting movement, significant tracts of private land could be illegally expropriated or become inaccessible for Palestinians to cultivate the land they legally own.
  • The Palestinians living within the annexed zone would experience greater difficulty accessing essential services like education and health, and humanitarian access may also be hindered.
  • Palestinians would come under even heavier pressure to move out of the annexed zone, and entire communities that are currently not recognized under Israel’s planning regime would be at high risk of forcible transfer.
  • Meanwhile, settlements, which are already a clear violation of international law, will almost certainly expand, increasing the existing friction between the two communities.

Location of West Bank:

  • The West Bank is a landlocked territory, which is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel in the north, south and west.
  • West Bank was captured by Jordan from Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • However, Israel captured it back during the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.

What is the issue?

  • As per the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice, the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War).
  • The Fourth Geneva Convention says that an occupying nation (Israel here) shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies (West bank here).
  • The International Criminal Court classifies such transfers as war crimes.
  • Israelis should not enter in the West Bank even though West Bank is part of Israel.
  • Jordan’s rule over West Bank (1948 to 1967) was never recognized by most of the world, hence there was no legal sovereign power in West Bank and therefore the prohibition on transferring people from one Israel to West bank does not apply.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004, ruled that the settlements violated international law.

The argument of Israel:

  • Israel argues that a Jewish presence has existed on the West Bank for thousands of years and was recognized by the League of Nations in 1922.
  • Israel has built formal settlements in the West Bank since 1967 and more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in West Bank.
  • Some of the settlements are home to religious Zionists who believe that the West Bank is their biblical birthright.
  • Some settlements were strategically located in line with Israel’s security interests.
[Ref: UN News; Indian Express]

Geophysical Phenomena

Zealandia

New research suggests that the Zealandia landmass fits all the criteria for a continental mass and would have been labelled as such if it weren’t submerged underwater.

About the continent:

  • Zealandia’s area is nearly 2 million square miles, about half the size of Australia.
  • The submerged continent of Zealandia broke away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland about 80 million years ago.
  • Only 6% of the continent is above sea level.

Zealandia’s 85 million-year-old origins:

  • Gondwana formed when Earth’s ancient supercontinent, Pangea, split into two fragments.
  • Laurasia in the north became Europe, Asia, and North America.
  • Gondwana in the south dispersed to form modern-day Africa, Antarctica, South America, and Australia.
  • Geologic forces continued to rearrange these landmasses, and Zealandia was forced under the waves about 30 million to 50 million years after it broke off Gondwana as the largest tectonic plate — the Pacific Plate — slowly subducted beneath it.
  • Until 2017, Zealandia was classified as a microcontinent, like the island of Madagascar.
  • But Zealandia ticks all the boxes for continent status: It has clearly defined boundaries, occupies an area greater than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometres), is elevated above the surrounding ocean crust, and has a continental crust thicker than that oceanic crust.
  • The new maps offer further evidence that the underwater landmass should be considered the eighth continent.

 [Ref: TOI, Bussiness Insider]

Key Facts for Prelims

Matsya Sampada

  • The first edition of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Newsletter “MATSYA SAMPADA” published by the Department of Fisheries, Ministry for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has been launched recently.
  • The Newsletter is an outcome of the endeavours of the Department of Fisheries to reach out to the stakeholders especially fishers and fish farmers through various means of communication.
  • It would inform and educate them about the latest developments in the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
  • It would be published quarterly starting from the first quarter of the year 2020-21.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) is a flagship scheme of GoI launched in May 2020, for the sustainable and responsible development of the fisheries sector at an investment of Rs. 20,050 crore.

Online B.Sc. Degree in Programming and Data Science

  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development has virtually launched the World’s first-ever online B.Sc. degree in Programming and Data Science.
  • The programme has been prepared and offered by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, which is ranked No.1 in India Rankings 2020 by NIRF.
  • This programme is open to anyone who has passed Class XII, with English and Maths at the Class X level and enrolled in any on-campus UG course. Graduates and working professionals can also take up this programme.
  • Data Science is one of the fastest-growing sectors that is predicted to create 11.5 million jobs by 2026.
  • It is aimed to democratize quality education by removing age, geographical barriers and applicants can be from any discipline.

Loan Agreement between GoI and the World Bank

  • The Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank have recently signed legal agreements to help low-income groups in the state of Tamil Nadu get access to affordable housing.
  • The legal agreements were signed for two projects – $200 million First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Programme and $50 million Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development Project – to strengthen the state’s housing sector policies, institutions, and regulations.
  • It supports the government’s ongoing efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing by gradually shifting the role of the state from being the main provider to an enabler.
  • It will also aim to unlock regulatory barriers and incentivise private sector participation in affordable housing for low-income families.
  • Nearly half of Tamil Nadu’s population is urban, and this is expected to increase to 63 percent by 2030.
  • An estimated 6 million people are currently living in slums (representing 16.6 % of the state’s urban population).

MyGov Corona Helpdesk

  • AI-enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk bagged two awards under categories (1) Best Innovation for Covid-19 – Society and (2) People’s Choice Covid-19 Overall Winner, at the recently held prestigious Global Leadership Summit and Festival of AI & Emerging Technology in London.
  • MyGov is the world’s largest citizen engagement platform, which facilitates two-way communication between the Government and Citizen and facilitates participatory governance in India.
  • The helpdesk has been developed by JioHaptik Technologies Limited and WhatsApp team in the record time of 5 days.
  • It has received more than 76 million messages and processed over 41 million conversations and has helped/continues to help over 28 million Indians stay informed while providing a platform to get the latest information on COVID-19, curb rumours and misinformation.

Advanced Virology Lab

  • The National Botanical Research Institute has established Bio Safety Level (BSL) 3 level Advanced Virology Lab for testing COVID-19.
  • Biosafety levels are assigned to a facility depending on the pathogen it deals with.
  • According to ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), BSL2 level facility is recommended for COVID-19.
  • This lab has is an advanced version as it has a Negative Pressure, which means it has a suction facility that can suck any aerosol and pass it through filters.

National Botanical Research Institute:

  • The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) is a research institute of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Lucknow.
  • It is engaged in the field of taxonomy and modern biology.

Benzimidazole gas leakage

  • Two workers died following benzimidazole gas leakage at Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City (JNPC), Parawada in Visakhapatnam.
  • Benzimidazole has a variety of therapeutic uses including antitumor, antiparasitic, antidiabetic, anticancer, as well as use in cardiovascular disease, neurology, and ophthalmology.

Dimorphos

  • NASA recently named the moon of the near-Earth asteroid Didymos of its DART MISSION.
  • The target of the DART MISSION, the moon, has been given the name Dimorphos.
  • Dimorphos is a near-Earth object – a class of asteroids and comets whose orbits place them within 30 million miles of Earth.
  • Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission is a planetary defence-driven test for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid, by a kinetic impactor.

Ranbir Singh Committee

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a national level committee for reforms in criminal law.
  • It is chaired by Ranbir Singh, chairperson, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University (NLU).

How snakes glide through the air?

  • A new research throws details on how snakes glide through the air.
  • Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, fly from one tree branch to another and sometimes they fly in the air and glide down to get to the ground.
  • They undulate their serpentine bodies while gliding through the air.
  • Undulation is the ‘S’ motion snakes use to slither on the ground
  • It is these special movements that allow the flying snakes to make remarkable flights.
  • The snakes use two different wave motions: a large-amplitude horizontal wave and a smaller-amplitude vertical wave, both of which travel down the body from the head to the vent in a consistent manner.
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