DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS

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DAILY CURRENT

AFFAIRS

Time: 45 Min.

Date: 12-06-2021

Social Issues

Bru Rehabilitation in Tripura

Syllabus: GS 1/ Social Issues

In News: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has received a complaint that Bru refugees from adjoining Mizoram were being resettled in a forest.

About

● The complainant pointed out that construction was being carried out for resettling the Brus in a 250-hectare green belt.

● It was pointed out that this would be in violation of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.

● NGT has sought a report from the Forest Department and a district administration in Tripura on the rehabilitation of the Bru refugees.

About Brus or Reangs

● The Brus or Reangs is a community indigenous to the Northeast, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam.

● In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTGs). ○ It is a classification by the Government for more vulnerable tribes among the

tribal groups.

● The tribe has a declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.

● They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.

Bru-Reang Refugee Crisis

● More than 40,000 Brus have been living in six refugee camps in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division since 1997 when they escaped ethnic violence in adjoining Mizoram.

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○ Only about 7,000 refugees returned to Mizoram after nine phases of repatriation till November 30, 2019.

● Most of the Brus declined the Centre’s rehabilitation packages citing insecurity and poor living conditions in Mizoram and had demanded the creation of an autonomous council for the community as a precondition for vacating the relief camps.

○ The displaced Brus who returned to Mizoram have already begun demanding a package equivalent to the one those who stayed behind in the Tripura relief camps would be getting.

■ And conflicts between the Brus and the local Bengali non-tribal people have started taking place in Tripura.

○ In Mizoram, they were targeted by ethnic organisations who demanded that the Brus be excluded from electoral rolls.

■ Clashes in 1995 with the majority Mizos led to the demand for the removal of the Brus, perceived to be non-indigenous, from Mizoram’s electoral rolls.

■ This led to an armed movement by a Bru outfit, which killed a Mizo forest official in October 1997.

Steps For Their Rehabilitation

● The Government has made multiple attempts to resettle the Brus in Mizoram.

● The first was in November 2010 when 1,622 Bru families with 8,573 members went back. ○ Protests by Mizo NGOs, primarily the Young Mizo Association, stalled the process

in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

● Meanwhile, the Brus began demanding relief on a par with the relief given to Kashmiri Pandits and Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

● The Centre spent close to ₹500 crore for relief and rehabilitation until the last peace deal was brokered over three years since 2015.

○ A final package of ₹435 crore was arrived at in July 2018 and it involved Mizo NGOs besides the governments concerned.

● In January 2020 , the agreement of Bru settlement in Tripura was signed by Tripura, Mizoram and the Centre with Bru organizations to resolve the impasse of about 40,000 Brus.

○ This agreement will allow the displaced refugees to permanently settle in Tripura. National Green Tribunal (NGT)

● It has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

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● Intent: It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.

○ The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice. ● Jurisdiction: The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving a substantial

question relating to the environment and the question.

○ The Tribunal's dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters provides speedy environmental justice and helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

● Composition: It is headed by the Chairperson who sits in the Principal Bench and has at least ten but not more than twenty judicial members and at least ten but not more than twenty expert members.

● Sittings: New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.

● Disposal: The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

Source : TH

Social Justice

Child Labour: Tends and the Road Forward

Syllabus: GS2/ Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

In News: "Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward", a report by ILO and the UNICEF, has stated that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years.

About

● It is released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour (12th June) in the United Nations International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour (2021).

● The Report warns that progress is reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.

Findings of the Report

● Child labour: It compromises children’s education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, and leads to vicious inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labour.

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● Global Rise: The latest global estimates indicate that the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years. In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures have led to an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the past four years.

● Recent Reasons: This rise is due to two years of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions and shrinking national budgets, due to job and income losses etc. ● Sector-wise Data: The agriculture sector accounts for 70 percent of children in child

labour (112 million) followed by 20 percent in services (31.4 million) and 10 percent in the industry (16.5 million). The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent).

● Additional Risks: Globally, nine million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school.

● Decreasing Safety: The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.

● More male Child Labour: Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. 63 million girls and 97 million boys were in child labour globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide.

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5 Challenges

● The 2020 ILO-UNICEF global estimates indicate a critical juncture in the worldwide effort against child labour.

● The recent trends suggest we are falling far behind on the collective commitment to end child labour in all its forms by 2025.

● The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has clearly heightened the risk of child labour, above all through a sharp rise in poverty that may increase families’ reliance on child labour. ● The school closures are forcing vulnerable families to send their children to work. ● The governments are grappling with restricted fiscal space due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Thus, sound policy choices and resource allocation decisions would be critical. Child Labours in India

● Developing countries like India contribute maximum towards child labour.

● According to the census of 2011, 259.64 million children belonged to the age group of 5-14 years of which 10.1 million were child labourers.

● According to UNICEF, it amounts to approximately 13% of our workforce, or in other words, 1 in every 10 workers in India is a child.

● In India, children from unfortunate sections are forced to be involved in manufacturing of firecrackers, bangle making industry, roadside eateries and restaurants, construction sites or even the house help.

● Children in poor and disadvantaged households in India are now at a greater risk of negative coping mechanisms such as dropping out of school and being forced into labour, marriage and even falling victim to trafficking.

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6 Child Labour Laws/ Policies in India

● Indian Constitution

○ Article 21 A (Right to Education): The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State, by law, may determine.

○ Article 23: Any type of forced labour is prohibited.

○ Article 24: It states that a child under 14 years cannot be employed to perform any hazardous work in any factory or mine.

○ Article 39: It states that “the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused”.

● Child Labour Act (Prohibition and Regulation) 1986 - It prohibits children under the age of 14 years to be working in hazardous industries and processes.

● National Policy on Child Labour, 1987 - It contains the action plan for tackling the problem of child labour. It envisages:

○ A legislative action plan

○ Focusing and convergence of general development programmes for benefiting children wherever possible, and

○ Project-based action plan of action for launching of projects for the welfare of working children in areas of high concentration of child labour.

● National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme:

○ Government had initiated it in 1988 to rehabilitate working children in 12 child labour endemic districts of the country and expanded with time.

○ This is the major Central Sector Scheme for the rehabilitation of child labour. ● Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour (PENCIL)- It is an electronic

platform that aims at involving Centre, State, District, Governments, civil society and the general public in achieving the target of child labour free society.

Suggestions

● Social Protection: Extending social protection for children and their families to mitigate the poverty and economic uncertainty that underpin child labour.

● Good-quality Schooling: Ensuring free and good-quality schooling at least up to the minimum age for entering employment to provide a viable alternative to child labour and afford children a chance at a better future.

● Promoting Decent Work: It would deliver a fair income for young people (of legal working age) and adults, with a particular emphasis on workers in the informal economy, in order for families to escape poverty-driven child labour.

● Rural Livelihoods: Promoting adequate rural livelihoods and resilience, including through supporting economic diversification, investing in basic services infrastructure, extending social protection and devising agricultural extension policies for crop diversification.

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● Register Child’s Birth: Guaranteeing that every child’s birth is registered so that children have a legal identity and can enjoy their rights from birth.

● Laws and Regulations: Ensuring that necessary laws and regulations are in place to protect children, backed by enforcement machinery and child protection systems. ● Eliminate Discrimination: Addressing gender norms and discrimination that increase

child labour risks, particularly for girls, related to domestic work and unpaid household chores.

● Investment in agricultural development, rural public services and infrastructure should also come through.

Conclusion

● To reverse the upward trend in child labour, the ILO and UNICEF are calling for adequate social protection for all, including universal child benefits.

● They have also called for increased spending on free and good-quality schooling and getting all children back into school, including those who dropped out before Covid-19. ● In this United Nations International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, all

stakeholders must act with renewed urgency to put progress back on track. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

It is a special programme of the United Nations (UN), guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.

It was established in 1946 as the UN International Children's Emergency Fund to meet the emergency needs of children in post-war Europe and China.

UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations system in 1953, when its name was shortened to the United Nations Children's Fund.

Objectives

○ To aid national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education and general welfare of children.

○ To establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.

It works in more than 190 countries and territories and in the world’s toughest places to reach the children and young people in greatest need.

● It is the world’s largest provider of vaccines.

UNICEF headquarters are in New York, the US. International Labour Organization (ILO)

● It is a specialised agency of the United Nations. ● It is the only tripartite U.N. agency since 1919.

● The unique tripartite structure brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

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● The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.

● India is a founder member of the ILO.

● The Headquarter of ILO is in Geneva, Switzerland. ● Flagship Reports of ILO are:

○ Global Wage Report

○ World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) ○ World Employment and Social Outlook

○ World Social Protection Report ○ World of Work Report

World Day Against Child Labour

● The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.

● Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.

● The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour. Specifically, target 8.7 of the SDGs.

● The UN has made 2021 the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, calling urgent action needed to meet a goal of ending the practice by 2025.

ALLIANCE 8.7

● It is an inclusive global partnership committed to achieving Target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

● It works for eradicating forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour around the world.

● The Alliance brings together actors at all levels to collaborate, strategize, share knowledge and ultimately accelerate progress so it can deliver on this commitment by 2030.

● Partnership is open to countries, international and regional organizations, workers’ organizations, employer and business membership organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions and other relevant stakeholders and networks. ● The Global Coordinating Group is a group of active Alliance 8.7 partners across sectors

that meet regularly to set goals and assess progress.

● The International Labour Organization (ILO) currently serves as Secretariat for Alliance 8.7.

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Indian Economy

Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)

Syllabus: GS3 /Growth & Development

In News: Recently, the Government of India has released funds for various activities of Farm Mechanization to empower the farmers through the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) scheme.

Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)

● The Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM) was launched in the year 2014-15 under the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology.

● Under the scheme, the Government of India releases funds for Farm Mechanization like Establishment of Custom Hiring Centres, Farm Machinery Bank, High-tech Hubs to different states.

Aims and Objectives

● To boost up mechanization in the agriculture sector, improving agricultural implements and machinery that are essential inputs for modern agriculture.

○ This will enhance the productivity of crops besides reducing human drudgery and cost of cultivation.

● To offset the adverse economies of scale arising due to small and fragmented landholding and high cost of individual ownership; creating awareness among stakeholders through demonstration and capacity building activities and ensuring performance testing and certification of agricultural machines at designated testing centres located all over the country.

● It will boost income of farmers and growth of the agricultural economy. Components of SMAM

● Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanization through Training, Testing and Demonstration: Aims to ensure performance testing of agricultural machinery and equipment, capacity building of farmers and end users and promoting farm mechanization through demonstrations.

● Demonstration, Training and Distribution of Post-Harvest Technology and Management (PHTM): Aims at popularizing technology for primary processing, value addition, low cost scientific storage/transport and the crop by-product management. ● Financial Assistance for Procurement of Agriculture Machinery and Equipment:

Promotes ownership of various agricultural machinery & equipment as per norms of assistance.

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10 Farm mechanisation

● It refers to the development and use of machines that can take the place of human and animal power in agricultural processes.

● The mechanization of agriculture that took place during the 20th century led to major changes in how farmers plant, irrigate and harvest crops.

○ Combines, tractors, harvesters and other machinery have enabled farmers to increase their production while relying less upon an extended labor force.

Source : TH

● The mechanisation helped in the overall increase of 17.9 per cent in productivity and 14.1 per cent in seed germination.

● Mechanisation also helped in saving nearly one-third of the time of operations, 11 per cent reduction in seed rate, 26.6 percent reduction in weed instances, 22.4 per cent reduction in diesel consumption and 12.7 per cent reduction in fertiliser requirements.

Advantages of Farm Mechanization

● It plays a vital role in optimizing the use of land, water energy resources, manpower and other inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc.

● It maximizes the productivity of the available cultivable area and makes agriculture a more profitable and attractive profession for rural youth.

● It is one of the key drivers for the sustainable development of the agriculture sector. ● It also helps in improving the utilization efficiency of other inputs therefore considered to

be one of the most important segments of the agriculture sector to boost the income of farmers and growth of the agricultural economy.

● Apart from SMAM, farm mechanisation is also promoted through various other schemes and programmes of the ministry such as RKVY, NFSM, NHM, NMOOP etc.

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11 Disadvantages of Farm Mechanization

● Not fruitful for small farms: For proper and efficient utilization of agricultural machinery, large farm holdings are essential.

● Surplus Workers: A surplus unemployed workforce may emerge as machines can work more efficiently.

● It has also been associated with the problem of stubble burning in areas of Punjab and Haryana.

Way Forward

● Proper awareness campaigns must be held in order to educate the farmers about the advantages of farm mechanization. Most of the farmers are not educated to use the latest technology.

● Farm mechanization should be appropriate for the areas where manual labour is not very fruitful.

Source : PIB

Environment & Biodiversity

India's Ethanol Roadmap

Syllabus: GS3/ Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc./ Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation.

In News: The Government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.

Ethanol Blending ● Ethanol

○ It is a biofuel, that is, a fuel produced by processing organic matter.

○ Ethanol in India is obtained primarily from sugarcane via a fermentation process. ○ Ethanol is high in oxygen content, which therefore allows an engine to more

thoroughly combust fuel.

○ Also, since it is plant-based, it is considered to be a renewable fuel. ● Blending Target

○ The Central Government instituted an Expert Committee under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).

○ It has come out with a report called Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025.

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○ The roadmap proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.

○ In order to introduce vehicles that are compatible, the committee recommends roll out of E20 material-compliant and E10 engine-tuned vehicles from April 2023. ○ Vehicles with E20-tuned engines can be rolled out all across the country from

April 2025.

○ These vehicles can tolerate 10 to 20 percent of ethanol blended petrol and also deliver optimal performance with E10 fuel.

○ Currently, 8.5 percent of ethanol is blended with petrol in India. Benefits

● Energy Security: It will improve energy security and self-sufficiency measures.

● Reduces Imports: The Union government has emphasised that increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at $551 billion in 2020-21. It is estimated that the E20 program can save the country $4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.

● Decreasing pollution: Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Higher reductions in CO emissions were observed with E20 fuel - 50 percent lower in two-wheelers and 30 percent lower in four-wheelers.

● Farmer’s income: It provides for farmers to earn extra income if they grow produce that helps in ethanol production like sugarcane and its byproducts.

● Water Saving Crops: The government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

● Employment: It is creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain.

● Swachh Bharat Mission: Contributing to Swachh Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of non-food biofuel feedstocks such as waste biomass and urban waste. Challenges

● Making efficient vehicles: There is an estimated loss of six-seven per cent fuel efficiency for four wheelers and three-four per cent for two wheelers when using E20. These vehicles are originally designed for E20 and calibrated for E10.

● Unregulated emissions: The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. No reduction in NOx is seen even after the use of ethanol blended fuel.

● Expensive: These fuels although are cleaner and complete combustion takes place in them but have higher evaporative emissions from fuel tanks and dispensing equipment. Thereby making them costly.

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● Regulatory clearance: This procedure takes time and delays the implementation of the Policy. At present, Ethanol production plants/distilleries fall under the “Red category” and require environmental clearance under the Air and Water Acts for new and expansion projects.

● Feedstock availability: Availability of sufficient feedstock on a sustainable basis viz., sugarcane, food grains are a major challenge. States like Chattisgarh have raised the issue of permitting rice procured by the state government to be allowed for production of ethanol. The list of feedstocks allowed for production of ethanol needs to be expanded. ● Inter-state movement of ethanol: While an amendment has been made to the Industries

(Development and Regulation) Act which legislates exclusive control of denatured ethanol by the central government for smooth movement of ethanol across the country, the same has not been implemented by states thereby restricting this movement of ethanol.

● Capacity Expansion: A majority of the ethanol units are concentrated in 4 to 5 states where sugar production is high but food grain-based distilleries should be increased in number and be set up across India along with modern tech-based plants to make ethanol from agricultural waste.

Way Forward

● Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augurs well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development. ● It offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling Farmers

Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.

● Biofuels programme in India has been largely impacted due to the sustained and quantum non-availability of domestic feedstock for biofuel production which needs to be addressed.

● Oil Marketing Companies need to up themselves for the requirement of ethanol storage, handling, blending and dispensing infrastructure.

● A system for single window clearances may be formulated by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to accord speedy clearances for new and expansion projects for ethanol production. This should include all clearances by Central and State agencies, including by PESO.

● As we progress towards higher blending of ethanol, careful monitoring and assessment of emissions changes will be needed to make sure that emission reduction potential can be enhanced both for regulated and unregulated pollutants.

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14 Indian Initiatives in this Regard

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN Yojana

● Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana aims to provide financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects using lignocellulosic biomass and other renewable feedstock.

● Centre for High Technology (CHT), a technical body under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG), will be the implementation Agency for the scheme.

● Under this Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 demonstration scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol Projects will be provided a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases:

○ Phase-I (2018-19 to 2022-23): wherein six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.

○ Phase-II (2020-21 to 2023-24): wherein remaining six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.

GOBAR-DHAN scheme

● The Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation has launched the GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) - DHAN scheme.

● The scheme is being implemented as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). ● Aim: The scheme aims to positively impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and

energy from cattle and organic waste. The scheme also aims at creating new rural livelihood opportunities and enhancing income for farmers and other rural people. ● The Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) comprises two main components for creating

clean villages –

a. creating open defecation free (ODF) villages and b. managing solid and liquid waste in villages.

● The GOBAR-DHAN scheme, with its focus on keeping villages clean, increasing the income of rural households, and generation of energy from cattle waste, is an important element of the ODF-plus strategy.

National Policy on Biofuels 2018

● In order to promote biofuels in the country, a National Policy on Biofuels was made by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.

● The National Policy on Biofuels–2018, provides an indicative target of 20% ethanol blending under the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme by 2030.

Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)

● The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched this initiative that will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.

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Science & Technology

US Innovation and Competition Act

Syllabus: GS 2, Science & Technology, Developments, Applications & Effects on Everyday Life, Computers, Robotics.

In News: Recently, the US Senate has approved a bill titled the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

About the Bill

● Aim: The bill aims to boost US semiconductor production and the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technology.

● Background

○ It builds off a previous proposal called the Endless Frontier Act, which was lauded as one of the first big bipartisan bills to come from the Biden administration.

■ It was originally intended to provide USD 100 billion in funding for a new science directorate at the National Science Foundation to promote research in emerging tech fields.

■ It would support and finance new tech hubs and encourage tech companies to find homes outside of Silicon Valley.

● Reasons for USA's Decline

○ For years, the US has been a leader in the development of new chip products like GPUs and microprocessors, however, from a chip manufacturing standpoint, the US is losing ground in two critical areas.

■ Intel and US foundries are lagging in process technology against their Asian rivals in TSMC and Samsung. China is also closing the gap.

■ The US has seen a sharp decline in new fabs and capacity.

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○ USD 50 billion emergency allotment to the Commerce Department to stand up semiconductor development and manufacturing through research and incentive programmes.

○ A 30 per cent boost in funding for the National Science Foundation.

○ USD 29 billion for a new science directorate to focus on applied sciences and an additional USD 52 billion for its programmes.

○ USD 10 billion to reshape cities and regions across the US into technology hubs. ○ Overall cost would increase spending by about USD 250 billion with most of the

spending occurring in the first five years.

○ The funds will go to the Commerce Department and cities will be able to pitch the government on why it should be on the receiving end of these funds.

● Significance

○ It will lead to increased focus on research and development into cutting-edge industries and creating new, well-paying tech jobs outside of the coasts.

○ It has been described as the biggest investment in scientific research that the US has seen in decades.

■ It comes as the US’s share of semiconductor manufacturing globally has steadily eroded from 37 per cent in 1990 to about 12 per cent now.

■ Also, a chip shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the US supply chain. ○ It will also bring the US face-to-face with China in growing international competition in the sector. It becomes even more significant as whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to be the global economic leader with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security.

○ It marks the next step in achieving parts of the US administration’s infrastructure goals.

■ In March 2021, the US President rolled out the American Jobs Plan. ■ The original USD 2 trillion plan contained funding for broadband

expansion, roads, highways, and called for USD 50 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

Semiconductors

● Semiconductor is any of a class of crystalline solids intermediate in electrical conductivity between a conductor and an insulator.

● Semiconductor Materials

○ Solid-state materials are commonly grouped into three classes: insulators, semiconductors, and conductors. (At low temperatures some conductors, semiconductors and insulators may become superconductors).

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Image Courtesy: Britannica ● Applications

○ They are employed in the manufacture of various kinds of electronic devices, including diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.

○ Such devices have found wide application because of their compactness, reliability, power efficiency and low cost.

○ As discrete components, they have found use in power devices, optical sensors, and light emitters, including solid-state lasers.

● Features

○ They have a wide range of current- and voltage-handling capabilities and, more importantly, lend themselves to integration into complex but readily manufacturable microelectronic circuits.

● Significance

○ They are, and will be in the foreseeable future, the key elements for the majority of electronic systems, serving communications, signal processing, computing, and control applications in both the consumer and industrial markets.

● Global Semiconductor Market

○ According to a report, the global semiconductor market size is expected to grow by USD 90.80 billion during 2020-2024, progressing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 4 per cent during the forecast period.

○ About 76 per cent of market growth is expected to come from Asia-Pacific during the forecast period.

■ China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are the key markets for semiconductors in the Asia-Pacific.

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Image Courtesy: SS Artificial Intelligence

● It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making.

○ Simply, it makes a computer, a computer-controlled robot, or software performing human-like tasks.

● The term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy. ● There are two subsets under AI

○ Machine Learning: It involves the use of algorithms to parse data and learn from it. This enables making a determination or prediction.

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Image Courtesy: AQ

Image Courtesy: EU Source: TH

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Biodiversity and Environment

Glacier Melting in Hindu Kush

Syllabus: GS 1, Physical Geography, Distribution of Natural Resources, Changes in Geographical Features, GS 3, Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

In News: According to a recent United Nations-backed research, up to two billion people in southeast Asia can face food and water shortages even as the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain ranges lose up to two-thirds of its ice by 2100.

About Hindu Kush Himalayan Region

● It is often referred to as the ‘Third Pole’ and is spread over 3,500 square kilometres across eight countries including India, Nepal and China.

● It contains the world’s third-largest storage of frozen water after Antarctica and the Arctic. ● Over 240 million people live in the region’s mountains and 1.7 billion live in the river basins

downstream, while food grown in these basins reaches three billion people.

● Its glaciers feed at least 10 major river systems, which have bearings on agricultural activities, drinking water and hydroelectricity production in the region.

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Image Courtesy: ET Glacier

● It is a big body of ice that is created from falling and accumulated snow over a period of time.

○ They get created in areas where the temperatures are exceedingly low, including areas that are at sea level and mostly in high altitude areas like the mountain tops. ● Reasons for Melting

○ Climate change, which is altering the patterns of temperature and precipitation and larger anthropogenic modifications of the atmosphere.

○ Deposits of anthropogenic Black Carbon (BC), which increase the glaciers’ absorption of solar radiation and raise air temperatures.

■ Recent evidence suggests that it is responsible for more than 50 per cent of the accelerating glacier and snow melt.

○ The HKH region lies downwind from some of the most heavily polluted places on Earth, which threatens agriculture, climate as well as monsoon patterns. Concerns Highlighted

● The HKH region continues to warm through the 21st century even if the world was able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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○ In the future, even if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrialisation levels, warming in the HKH region is likely to be at least 0.3 degrees Celsius higher and in the northwest Himalaya and Karakoram at least 0.7 degrees Celsius higher.

● On the ice thickness of glaciers, it was estimated that glaciers in the HKH may contain 27 per cent less ice than previously suggested.

● In the best-case scenarios, High Mountain Asia (the Asian mountain ranges surrounding the Tibetan Plateau) will lose a substantial part of its cryosphere in the next decades and thus a substantial part of its water storage abilities, which will lead to increased water stress in high mountain areas.

○ Cryosphere: It comprises portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, etc. ● Melting glaciers and the loss of seasonal snow pose significant risks to the stability of

water resources in South Asia.

● The glacier melt contributes to disasters such as flash floods, landslides, soil erosion and Glacial bursts, with mountain communities especially vulnerable to such disasters.

○ Flash Floods: These are highly localized events of short duration with a very high peak and usually have less than six hours between the occurrence of the rainfall and peak flood.

■ The flood situation worsens in the presence of choked drainage lines or encroachments obstructing the natural flow of water.

○ Glacial Burst: When glaciers retreat, they leave a space which becomes a glacial lake being filled with water. When such a lake breaches, it is known as Glacial Burst or Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF).

● The melting and thinning of glaciers may also affect hydropower production, which is a key source of renewable energy for the region.

● Potential damage to other sectors including the infrastructure and adversely affect the larger tourism industry.

Recommendations/Suggestions

● The report recommended shifting away from fossil fuel use in energy, transport, and other sectors.

● It also suggests changing diets and agricultural practices to move to net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

● The countries in the region need to reduce emissions of black carbon and other air pollutants as well.

● Farmers will need support to design and invest in locally-appropriate water storage solutions, or to shift to agricultural practices that consume less water.

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● Designs of new hydropower plants and grids will need to take into account the changing climate and water availability.

● Improvement in the data and information, capacity-building and early warning systems and infrastructure design, which calls for sufficient funding and large-scale coordination. Source: DTE

Facts in News

Index of Industrial Production (IIP)

● Recently, India's Index of Industrial Production (IIP) rose by a sharp 134.44% in April 2021.

● Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index that shows the growth rates and performance of different sectors of industry in the economy.

● Broadly it is a composite indicator of the general level of industrial activity.

● It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme every month.

● It measures the growth rate of industry groups classified under: ○ Broad sectors: Mining, Manufacturing and Electricity. ○ The relative weights of these sectors are 77.6%

(manufacturing), 14.4% (mining) and 8% (electricity). ○ Use-based sectors: Basic Goods, Capital Goods and

Intermediate Goods.

● The Base Year of the Index of Eight Core Industries has been revised from the year 2004-05 to 2011-12 from April 2017.

Initiatives to support various Art & Handicraft projects

● Recently, the Petroleum Secretary inaugurated an initiative by Oil PSUs to support various Art and Crafts in the country in line with the government’s commemoration of 75 years of Indian Independence – Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav.

○ He also launched the Bamboo Craft project of Madhya Pradesh supported by ONGC.

● Central public enterprises under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas will take up 75 projects in different districts across the country.

● ONGC, in association with local NGOs and forums, is initially undertaking five projects across the country to support the handicraft sector, with an outlay of around 1.3 crore rupees.

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● The following five (5) projects are being supported by ONGC in the first phase:

○ Bamboo Cottage: ONGC has joined hands with Shivganga, a voluntary non-profit venture of young tribal entrepreneurs, to make the artisans of Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, who are struggling to keep the age-old art of crafting decorative items with bamboo alive, thus becoming self-dependent.

○ Dhokra: In association with Anwesha Tribal Arts and Crafts in Odisha’s Dhenkanal.

■ This project will create new opportunities for the artisans of ancient metal casting craft Dhokra and lost wax technique Cire Perdue by forming clusters, impart training and create market linkages.

○ Lac: In association with CINI, ONGC aims to make the communities in Khunthi and Ghumla districts of Jharkhand aware of their forest resources and revive the forgotten Lac culture.

■ The project will train the tribal women and local youth in scientific lac cultivation.

○ Bhotia: To promote the traditional craft of wool dyeing in Uttarakhand, ONGC with the support of SEWA International, will create platforms and marketing opportunities to showcase talent by combining their style of costume with modern clothing trends and exhibit their craftsmanship to a wider consumer base.

○ Assam Silk: ONGC, along with the North East Development Forum, will facilitate the sustainable development of handloom weavers located in and outside identified handloom clusters of Sivasagar district (Upper Assam) into a cohesive, self-managing and competitive socio-economic unit.

● Significance

○ These projects along with other flagship initiatives planned as a part of Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav will significantly contribute to a resurgent Atma Nirbhar Bharat.

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○ The initiatives will revive the struggling handicraft projects and empower the local artisans.

● It will address the challenges faced by the artisans and the art and handicraft forms, thereby improving the rural livelihoods associated with the handicrafts and handloom sectors.

Padma Awards-2022

● Recently, the government opened online nominations and recommendations for Padma Awards 2022.

● The Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day.

● The Awards are given in three categories:

○ Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service) ○ Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) ○ Padma Shri (distinguished service).

● The awards are presented by the President of India usually in the month of March/April every year where the awardees are presented a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion.

● The recipients are also given a small replica of the medallion, which they can wear during any ceremonial/State functions etc., if the awardees so desire.

● The names of the awardees are published in the Gazette of India on the day of the presentation ceremony.

● The award does not amount to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the awardees’ name

● Process

○ The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year.

○ The nomination process is open to the public. Even self-nomination can be made.

○ All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards.

○ However, Government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these Awards.

○ The award is normally not conferred posthumously. However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously.

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● The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.

History and Relevance

● The Government of India instituted two civilian awards-Bharat Ratna & Padma Vibhushan in 1954.

● The latter had three classes namely Pahela Varg, Dusra Varg and Tisra Varg. These were subsequently renamed as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri vide Presidential Notification issued on January 8, 1955.

Bharat Ratna

● Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the country.

● It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.

● It is treated on a different footing from Padma Award.

● The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President of India.

○ No formal recommendations for Bharat Ratna are necessary.

○ The number of Bharat Ratna Awards is restricted to a maximum of three in a particular year. Government has conferred Bharat Ratna Award on 45 persons till date Woolly Flying

Squirrels Species

● Scientists have discovered two new species of woolly flying squirrel, whose scientific name is Eupetaurus cinereus.

● They live thousands of miles apart at some of the highest altitudes in the Himalayas.

● The study used morphological examinations and molecular phylogenetic analyses to differentiate between the newly discovered species.

○ Scientists have known of the woolly flying squirrel which is among the rarest and least studied mammals in the world, for a long time.

○ For much of the 20th century, it was thought to be extinct, until it was rediscovered in 1994 in northern Pakistan. ● Characteristics

○ The woolly squirrel is usually found in the rugged Himalayan habitat that is situated at an altitude of 16,000 feet.

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○ It is because of the remote and uninhabited region where they thrive, that very few scientists have even seen the animal in the wild.

○ Woolly squirrels are nocturnal in nature and have grayish-brown fur, which helps them camouflage with their surroundings.

○ This makes it even more difficult to spot. Zoologist Oldfield Thomas identified the wooly squirrel in 1888. ● Discovered species

○ The two new species discovered are named the Tibetan woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus tibetensis) and the Yunnan woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus nivamons). ○ Tibetan woolly flying squirrel lives in the Himalayan

region that intersects India, Bhutan, and Tibet, whereas the Yunnan woolly flying squirrel is a native of the Yunnan Province of southwestern China.

Tibetan woolly flying squirrel. Image Courtesy: HT

Heritage Trees Recently, the Maharashtra government has decided to make amendments to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act of 1975, to introduce provisions for the protection of ‘heritage trees’.

● There are a range of criteria that designate a tree as a heritage tree. These attributes, both material and non-material, make the tree stand out.

○ The material attributes could be the age or size of the tree. It could also be the result of the form or shape of the tree. Further, it could be that the tree is a rare species or a tree at risk of being lost.

○ The non-material criteria relate to cultural and aesthetic aspects. It could be that the tree has a historical or cultural association either with a person, an event or a place. It could also be a tree associated with myth or folklore.

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● In Maharashtra, a tree with an estimated age of 50 years or more shall be defined as a heritage tree. It may belong to specific species, which will be notified from time to time.

○ The most common method of determining the age of the tree is Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating).

○ Each year, roughly a tree adds to its girth, the new growth is called a tree ring. By counting the rings of a tree, the age can be determined.

○ However, the process is invasive as core samples are extracted using a borer that’s screwed into the tree and pulled out, bringing with it a straw-size sample.

● A heritage tree gets special protection.

○ The local Tree Authority has to ensure tree census every five years.

○ Rules under compensatory plantation include planting trees on a one-to-one basis or in equal numbers to the age of a heritage tree.

○ In case compensatory plantation is not possible, the tree feller has to pay compensation for the economic valuation of the trees being felled.

Global

Liveability Index 2021

Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released the Global Liveability Index 2021.

● EIU is the research and analysis division of Economist Group providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis. It was founded in 1946 and is headquartered at London, UK.

● The Index examines 140 cities worldwide to quantify the challenges presented to an individual’s lifestyle in the past year, for the first time taking into account the disrupting global event of Covid-19 pandemic.

● Each city is assigned a livability score for more than 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

○ Due to the pandemic, the EIU added new indicators such as stress on health-care resources as well as restrictions around local sporting events, theatres, music concerts, restaurants and schools.

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● The data for the latest survey was collected from February 2020 to March 2021, the period that witnessed multiple waves of pandemic.

○ The overall global average liveability fell by seven points as compared with the pre-pandemic score.

○ Asia-Pacific cities dominated the top 10 rankings even as the pandemic caused overall livability around the world to decline.

○ However, on a regional average, Asia ranked well below North America and Western Europe.

Image Courtesy: Bloomberg 

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