Monthly Compilation of Current Affairs

One stop Solution for Daily Current Affairs for IAS Prelims and Mains Target 2021

Daily Analysis: 23nd September 2020

The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Index

A) International Relations

1. New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)

2. Palestinians quit Arab League role in protest (TH, pg 13)

B) Economy

3. Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill 2020

4. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 (TH)

C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

5. Schemes for the Welfare of Minorities (PIB)

6. Development of Powerloom Sector in the Country (PIB)

7. Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) (PIB)

8. YuWaah (PIB)

9. Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs) Scheme (PIB)

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

10. Parliamentary Select Committee (IE)

11. Registered but unrecognised political parties (TH, pg 1)

12. The People’s Movement (TH, pg 1)

E) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

13. Stubble Burning: causes, consequences, remedies (TH, pg 1)

F) Miscellaneous

14. Exercise Indra 2020 (IE)

15. TRAI recommends body to monitor net neutrality (TH, pg 14)

16. Muli Bamboo (TH, pg 12)

A) International Relations

1. New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)

Context: Russia has said it sees minimal chances of extending the New START treaty with the United States – their last major nuclear arms pact – as it does not accept conditions set out by Washington.

Analysis

New START

  • The New START accord, signed in 2010, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States can deploy and due to lapse in February 2021.
  • It is a bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.
  • Recently, the U.S. and Russia terminated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty that had limited the United States and Russia from fielding land-based missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, both conventional and nuclear.
  • The INF Treaty was the first pact to include intensive verification measures, including on-site inspections.
  • Now only one major bilateral agreement, New START, limits the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

2. Palestinians quit Arab League role in protest (TH, pg 13)

Context: Palestinian resigned from the rotating presidency of the Council of the Arab League in protest at the regional bloc’s failure to take a stand against Israeli-Arab deals.

Analysis

  • Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington recently as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
  • The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
  • In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey.
  • Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.

Arab League

  • Arab League, also called League of Arab States (LAS), is a regional organization of Arab states in the Middle East and parts of Africa, formed in Cairo in1945, as an outgrowth of Pan-Arabism.
  • The founding member states were Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
  • Other members are Libya (1953); Sudan (1956); Tunisia and Morocco (1958); Kuwait (1961); Algeria (1962); Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (1971); Mauritania (1973); Somalia (1974); the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO; 1976); Djibouti (1977); and Comoros (1993).
  • Each member has one vote on the League Council, decisions being binding only on those states that have voted for them.
  • The aims of the league in 1945 were to strengthen and coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members and to mediate disputes among them or between them and third parties.
  • The signing in 1950 of an agreement on joint defense and economic cooperation also committed the signatories to coordination of military defense measures.
  • Amid reports that the Syrian forces had continued to kill peaceful protesters, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria’s participation.

B) Economy

3. Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill 2020

Context: The Lok Sabha passed the Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill 2020 that seeks to further develop the financial market in India and provide an unambiguous legal framework for enforceability of netting of a qualified financial contract.

  • This Bill is significant as India currently does not have a legal framework for bilateral netting.

Analysis

  • Netting enables two counterparties in a bilateral financial contract to offset claims against each other to determine a single net payment obligation due from one counterparty to others in the event of default.
  • It is not only in India that such a legal framework is being introduced, as many as 50 countries in the world already have a similar legal framework.
  • India has factored in the International Swap and Derivative Association (ISDA) model Act on netting while framing the Bill.
  • This Bill would help Banks and financial institutions save capital.
  • The proposed law on bilateral netting will be a significant enabler for efficient margining, and the capital saving would enable banks to provide efficiency in offering hedging instruments to businesses in India. It would also help catalyse the corporate bond market by developing the credit default swap market.

More on Bilateral Netting from the Economic Survey 2019-20

  • The Economic Survey 2019-20 had also argued in favour of ‘bilateral netting’ as a way to release bank capital. “…Let’s assume you and I are banks — I have ?100 exposure to you and you have ?90 exposure to me. In the current environment, both of us have to keep ?190 capital aside to cover this. But the risk in the system is only ?10 — which is my net position vis-a-vis you. So actually, we should only be keeping ?10 capital aside…”
  • Bilateral netting allows two parties involved in a swap agreement to net-off their swap positions.
  • According to the survey, Indian financial contract laws do not permit bilateral netting, however, they do allow multi-lateral netting where parties can offset claims against each other through a central counterparty.
  • Global regulatory bodies such as the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision have supported the use of such netting.
  • Without bilateral netting, Indian banks have had to set aside higher capital against their trades in the over-the-counter market, which impacts their ability to participate in the market. Moreover, it also increases the systemic risk during defaults.
  • According to RBI estimates, bilateral netting arrangements could have helped 31 major banks participating in India’s OTC derivatives market save about Rs 2,258 crore in regulatory capital during FY2017-18.
  • Bilateral netting would also help reduce hedging costs and liquidity needs for banks, primary dealers and other market-makers, thereby encouraging participation in the over-the-counter derivatives market.
  • It would also help develop the corporate default swaps market, which, in turn, would provide support to the development of the corporate bond market.
  • The Credit Default Swaps (CDS) market doesn’t exist in India because we don’t have bilateral netting. If you don’t have a CDS market, you cannot have a corporate bond market. 
  • Bilateral netting has been an idea suggested by the regulator for many years, since it helps banks in capital conservation.
  • The idea was part of the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, which was eventually pulled back in 2018, owing to concerns over a bail-in clause for distressed banks.

4. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 (TH)

Context: The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 has been passed by the Lok Sabha.

Analysis

  • The Bill amends the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 which regulates the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution by individuals, associations and companies. 

Prohibition to accept foreign contribution

  • Under the Act, certain persons are prohibited to accept any foreign contribution.  These include: election candidates, editor or publisher of a newspaper, judges, government servants, members of any legislature, and political parties, among others. 
  • The Bill adds public servants (as defined under the Indian Penal Code) to this list. 

Transfer of foreign contribution

  • Under the Act, foreign contribution cannot be transferred to any other person unless such person is also registered to accept foreign contribution (or has obtained prior permission under the Act to obtain foreign contribution). 
  • The Bill amends this to prohibit the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person. 
  • The term ‘person’ under the Act includes an individual, an association, or a registered company. 

Aadhaar for registration

  • The Bill adds that any person seeking prior permission, registration or renewal of registration must provide the Aadhaar number of all its office bearers, directors or key functionaries, as an identification document. 
  • Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes to 20% from 50% earlier.

C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

5. Schemes for the Welfare of Minorities (PIB)

Context: Ministry of Minority Affairs implements various programmes/schemes across the country for the welfare and development of the six (6) centrally notified minority communities namely, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis and Sikhs as under:

Analysis

(1) Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship Scheme

  • For educational empowerment of students, through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode.

(2) Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme

  • Provides financial assistance to students from notified minority communities, to pursue higher education such as M. Phil and Ph. D.

(3) NayaSavera – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme 

  • The Scheme aims to provide free coaching to students/candidates belonging to economically weaker sections of minority communities for preparation of entrance examinations of technical/ professional courses and competitive examinations.

(4) Padho Pardesh

  • Scheme of interest subsidy to students of economically weaker sections of minority communities on educational loans for overseas higher studies.

(5) Nai Udaan

  • Support for students clearing Prelims conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), State Public Service Commission (SPSC) and Staff Selection Commission (SSC) etc.

(6) Nai Roshni

  • Leadership development of women belonging to minority communities.

(7) Seekho Aur Kamao

  • Skill development scheme for youth of 14 – 35 years age group and aiming at improving the employability of existing workers, school dropouts etc.

(8) Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK)

  • It aims at improving the socio-economic conditions of minorities and providing basic amenities so as to improve their quality of life and reduce imbalances in the identified Minority Concentration Areas.
  • It will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.

(9) Jiyo Parsi

  • Scheme for containing population decline of Parsis in India.

(10) USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development)

  • Launched in May 2015 aims to preserve rich heritage of traditional skills of indigenous artisans/craftsmen.
  • Under this scheme Hunnar Haats are also held all over the country to provide nation-wide marketing platform to Minority artisans & entrepreneurs and to create employment opportunities.

(11) Nai Manzil

  • A scheme for formal school education & skilling of school dropouts

(12) Hamari Dharohar

  • A scheme to preserve rich heritage of minority communities of India.

(13) Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) implements education and employment oriented related programmes as follows:

  • (a) Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for Meritorious Girls belonging to the economically weaker sections of Minorities under which scholarship is awarded to minority girl students;
  • (b) Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme started in 2017-18 for providing short term job-oriented skill development training to youth;
  • (c) Bridge Course for madarsa students & school dropouts.

(14) Equity to National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) for providing concessional loans to minorities for self-employment and income generating ventures.

  • In addition to the above, the Ministry also implements schemes for strengthening State Waqf Boards and coordinates arrangements for annual Haj pilgrimage.

6. Development of Powerloom Sector in the Country (PIB)

Context: The Ministry of Textiles is implementing the Venture Capital Fund for Powerloom and Allied Products and Services (TEX-Fund), as a component under PowerTex India scheme.

Analysis

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) Venture Capital Limited (SVCL) is the Investment Manager of the TEX-Fund.
  • The TEX-Fund is aimed at providing equity investment to micro and small enterprises in the powerloom sector to boost innovation in the industry by creation of brands and generation of intellectual property and enable development of the Powerloom Sector and allied activities. 

7. Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) (PIB)

Context: Ministry of Tribal Affairs has been implementing the Central Sector Scheme ‘Eklavya Model Residential Schools’ (EMRSs).

Analysis

  • In the context of establishing quality residential schools for the promotion of education, Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) for ST students are set up in States/UTs with provisioning of funds through “Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution”. 
  • The objective of EMRS is to provide quality upper primary, secondary and senior secondary level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students to enable them to access the best opportunities in education and to bring them at par with the general population.
  • The establishing of EMRSs are based on demand of the concerned States/UTs with availability of land as an essential attribute. 
  • As per the budget 2018-19, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an Eklavya Model Residential School by the year 2022.
  • These schools will be on par with Navodaya Vidyalayas and will have special facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development.
  • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs as a Central Sector Scheme.
  • The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high-level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas.
  • Admission to these schools will be through selection/competition with suitable provision for preference to children belonging to Primitive Tribal Groups, first generation students, etc.
  • The number of seats for boys and girls will be equal.
  • In these schools, education is entirely free.
  • As per Census 2011, literacy rate of Scheduled Tribes (STs) was 59% whereas the overall literacy rate was 73% at all India level.
  • As per Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report 2018-19 published by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, literacy rate for STs is 69.4% and corresponding figure over all is 78.1%.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs)

  • These are residential schools from class VI to XII for girls belonging to disadvantaged groups such as SC, ST, OBC, Minority and Below Poverty Line (BPL).
  • The objective behind establishing KGBVs is to ensure access to quality education to girls from disadvantaged groups by setting up residential schools and to reduce gender gaps at all levels of school education.

8. YuWaah (PIB)

Context: Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports signed a Statement of Intent with YuWaah (a multi-stakeholder platform formed by the UNICEF) to work in partnership to promote volunteerism among the youth of India.

  • The partnership will leverage both the Ministry and UN efforts to work with young people to co-create and implement solutions at scale tackling education, skilling and unemployment challenges.

Analysis

About YuWaah

  • Generation Unlimited (GenU), called YuWaah in India, is a global multisector and multi-stakeholder alliance created to meet the need of expanded education, skill development and employment opportunities for young people aged 10-24.
  • It brings together partners from government, multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector and young people from around the world.
  • YuWaah intends to create platforms to guide youth to market opportunities (career guidance, mentorship, internships, apprenticeships) and facilitate the integration of career guidance in school education.

The objectives of this project are:

  • Support young people by providing entrepreneurship classes (online and offline) with successful entrepreneurs and experts, towards establishing entrepreneurial mindset among young people.
  • Upskilling of young people on 21st century skills, life skills, digital skills through online and offline channels and support them through self-learning, for their productive lives and the future of work.
  • Create linkages with aspirational economic opportunities to connect young people with employment opportunities, including building pathways to connect them with jobs or self-employment. For this, innovative solutions and technology platforms will be engaged to take maximize the scale and reach.
  • Providing career guidance support to young people through career portal as well as through job-readiness and self-exploration sessions to make young people career-ready.
  • The role of Department of Youth Affairs in this project is to provide relevant experts to participate on the YuWaah Technical Working Groups/ Task Forces.

9. Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs) Scheme (PIB)

Context: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) released operational guidelines for the implementation the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs) scheme.

Analysis

  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has launched the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs) scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U) as a part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
  • This initiative has been taken up to provide dignified and affordable living spaces for urban migrants/ poor in need.
  • ARHCs will be Implemented through two Models:
  1. Model-1: Utilizing existing Government funded vacant houses to convert into ARHCs through Public Private Partnership or by public agencies for a period of 25 years.
  2. Model-2: Construction, Operation and Maintenance of ARHCs by Public/ Private Entities on their own available vacant land for a period of 25 years. 

Incentives/Benefits proposed for Private/Public Entities

  • To make this a lucrative and viable business opportunity for Entities, Central Govt. will provide:
  • Concessional Project finance under Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) & Priority Sector Lending (PSL),
  • Exemption in Income Tax and GST and
  • Technology Innovation Grant for promotion of innovative technologies in ARHCs.
  • Further, State/UT Govt. will provide, among others, Municipal charges at par with residential property.

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

10. Parliament Select Committee (IE)

Context: Government pushed through two crucial agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha, rejecting Opposition demands that they be referred to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha.

  •  Proceedings were disrupted as the Opposition protested against the fact that neither Bill had been scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

Analysis

What is a parliamentary committee’s role in passage of a Bill?

  • Parliament scrutinises legislative proposals (Bills) in two ways.
  • The first is by discussing it on the floor of the two Houses.
  1. This is a legislative requirement; all Bills have to be taken up for debate.
  2. The time spent debating the bills can vary. They can be passed in a matter of minutes, or debate and voting on them can run late into the night.
  • The second mechanism is by referring a Bill to a parliamentary committee.
  • Since Parliament meets for 70 to 80 days in a year, there is not enough time to discuss every Bill in detail on the floor of the House. 
  • Plus, debate in the house is mostly political and does not go into the technical details of a legislative proposal. It takes care of the legislative infirmity of debate on the floor of the House.
  • But referring of Bills to parliamentary committees is not mandatory.

And what is a Select Committee?

  • India’s Parliament has multiple types of committees. They can be differentiated on the basis of their work, their membership and the length of their tenure.
  • First are committees that examine bills, budgets and policies of ministries. These are called departmentally related Standing Committees.
  1. There are 24 such committees and between them, they focus on the working of different ministries.
  2. Each committee has 31 MPs, 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  3. Departmentally related Standing Committees have a tenure of one year, then they are reconstituted and their work continues throughout the term of a Lok Sabha.
  4. Ministers are not members; key committees like those related to Finance, Defence, Home etc are usually chaired by Opposition MPs.
  • Then there are committees constituted for a specific purpose, with MPs from both Houses. These are Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC).
  • The specific purpose could be detailed scrutiny of a subject matter or a Bill.
  • In 2011 the issue of telecom licences and spectrum was examined by a JPC. In 2016, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was sent to JPC etc.
  • And finally, there is a Select Committee on a Bill.
  • This is formed for examining a particular Bill and its membership is limited to MPs from that House only.
  • Last year Rajya Sabha referred the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 to a Select Committee of 23 of its MPs from different parties (all from Rajya Sabha).
  • Since both the JPCs and Select Committees are constituted for a specific purpose, they are disbanded after their report.
  • Both these types of committees are chaired by MPs from the ruling party.
  • A minister cannot be a member of this committee.

When does a committee examine a Bill?

  • Bills are not automatically sent to committees for examination.
  • There are three broad paths by which a Bill can reach any committee.
  • The first is when the minister piloting the Bill recommends to the House that his Bill be examined by a Select Committee of the House or a joint committee of both Houses.
  • Last year Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved a motion in Lok Sabha referring the Personal Data Protection Bill to a Joint Committee.
  • If the minister makes no such motion, it is up to the presiding officer of the House to decide whether to send a Bill to a departmentally related Standing Committee.
  • Also, a Bill passed by one House can be sent by the other House to its Select Committee on demand from any member of that house.(protests in Rajya Sabha because deputy chairman denied this on flimsy grounds)
  • Under Rule 125 of the Rajya Sabha Rules and Procedures, any member may move as an amendment that a bill be referred to a select committee and, if the motion is carried, the bill shall be referred to such a committee.
  • In such cases The House decides on a motion moved by a member that who will comprise the select committee.
  • In 2011, the Lokpal Bill passed by Lok Sabha was sent by Rajya Sabha to its Select Committee.
  • In the last Lok Sabha, multiple Bills were sent to Rajya Sabha select committees.

What happens after sending a Bill to any committee?

  • First, the committee undertakes a detailed examination of the Bill.
  • It invites comments and suggestions from experts, stakeholders and citizens.
  • The government also appears before the committee to present its viewpoint.
  • All this results in a report that makes suggestions for strengthening the Bill.
  • While the committee is deliberating on a Bill, there is a pause in its legislative journey.
  • It can only progress in Parliament after the committee has submitted its report. Usually, parliamentary committees are supposed to submit their reports in three months, but sometimes it can take longer.

What happens after the report?

  • The report of the committee is of a recommendatory nature.
  • The government can choose to accept or reject its recommendations.
  • Very often the government incorporates suggestions made by committees.
  • Select Committees and JPCs have an added advantage. In their report, they can also include their version of the Bill. If they do so, the minister in charge of that particular Bill can move for the committee’s version of the Bill to be discussed and passed in the House.

11. Registered but Unrecognised Political Parties (TH, pg 1)

Context: Shiromani Akali Dal rebels have approached the Election Commission to register their new political outfit.

Analysis

  • Political parties in India are governed by The Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RPA).
  • Any association of Indian citizens or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party need to make an application to the Election Commission to get itself registered under Section 29A as a political party in order to take part in elections and for other provisions of RPA.
  • RPA also allows political parties to receive voluntary contributions from anyone including corporate companies (but not government companies).
  • At the end of 2019, the numbers stood at seven national parties, 64 state parties and over 2,500 registered unrecognised parties.
  • The candidates set up by a political party registered with the Election Commission of India gets preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates. 
  • These registered but unrecognised political parties do not have the privilege of contesting elections on a fixed symbol of their own.
  • They have to choose from a list of ‘free symbols’ issued by the poll panel.
  • To become a recognised political party either at the state or national level, a party has to secure certain minimum percentage of polled valid votes or certain number of seats in the state legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha during the last election.
  • Fearing misuse of the provisions for financial contributions to political parties, the Election Commission had in 2016 asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes to look into the finances of 255 registered but unrecognised political parties it had “unlisted” that year for not contesting polls in the last one decade between 2005 and 2015.
  • There have been fears that most of such parties are used to ’round trip’ the black money into white.
  • Under existing laws, the EC has the authority to register a political party but there is no provision to allow it to deregister any party that has been given recognition.
  • With its demand to get power to deregister a party being pending with the Law Ministry, the Commission had used its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to “delist” parties for being dormant and not contesting elections for a long time.
  • Delisting merely implies that the parties won’t receive tax exemption.

12. The People’s Movement (TH, pg 1)

  • The People’s Movement, a platform representing various politicians, religious and social organisations campaigning for the Sixth Schedule for Ladakh, recently announced a boycott of the upcoming elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh.
  • The elections to LAHDC-Leh, without extending the relevant provisions of the Sixth Schedule of our Constitution, which empowers the councils by vesting it with legislative powers, is meaningless,” the people associated with the movement said.
  • Ladakh was carved out as a Union Territory on August 5 last year, but it is without a legislature. Instead, two councils — LAHDC-Leh and LAHDC-Kargil — have been allowed to govern micro issues.

E) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

13. Stubble Burning: Causes, Consequences, Remedies (TH, pg 1)

Context: The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority wrote to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana stating that early burning of crop residue was taking place and urged them to address the issue “urgently”.

  • According to a SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research under the Central government) estimate, based on harmonising the INSAT-3, 3D and NASA satellite, the fire counts were around 42 on September 21, 2020.

Analysis

  • Agricultural fires, in which farmers set fire to their fields after harvesting paddy, tend to begin around late September and peak around the last week of October by which time farmers have harvested most of their paddy.
  • Punjab’s fires tend to worsen Delhi’s pollution as particulate matter floats into the city, affecting the already polluted winter air.
  • Stubble burning by farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh contributes anywhere from 17% to 78% to the particulate matter emission load in Delhi during winter.
  • With paddy harvesting picking up in Punjab, the Punjab government has ordered impounding of combine harvester machines operating without the Super Straw Management System (super SMS) in an attempt to curb stubble burning.
  • The use of super SMS with combine harvester helps to facilitate in situ management of crop residue, the super SMS attached to the rear of a combine harvester chops and uniformly spreads loose straw on the field. With this method, the farmers are not required to burn the straw before sowing the next crop.
  • Through the various efforts under the Central Sector Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the State of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh & NCT of Delhi’ the paddy residue burning events have reduced by 15% and 41% in 2018 as compared to that in 2017 and 2016, respectively in all these States as per the satellite data.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance @50% of the cost is provided to the farmers for purchase of in-situ crop residue management machines on individual ownership basis.
  • The financial assistance for establishment of Custom Hiring Centres of in-situ crop residue management machinery is @ 80% of the project cost.
  • Indian Council for Agricultural Research is implementing the scheme through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs).
  • Stubble burning can be monitored by the Global Positioning System.
  • Institutes like PAU (Punjab Agricultural University) have developed machines like happy seeder, and are involved making them more useful by attaching more equipment.

Causes of Stubble Burning

  • To prepare the field quickly for the sowing of winter (Rabi) wheat.
  • Because of its little economic value as animal feed and other general uses, farmers are prompted to burn it on the field instead of incurring a high cost of collecting it.
  • Equipment like Rotavator which helps cut the stubble and mixes it with the soil and Happy Seeder are expensive.
  • Less number of biomass power plants operating in India.
  • Farmers continue with this practice as it involves no cost.

Impact of Stubble Burning

  • Paddy stubble burning in neighboring Haryana and Punjab is a major reason for affecting air quality in Delhi during the onset of winter.
  • Burning of crop residues emits traces of carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates which affect human health.
  • Stubble burning leads to the loss of organic material for soil.

Happy Seeder

  • Happy seeder is a machine which does not require a stubble-free land to plant wheat. It is being made available to farmers at a subsidized cost so that farmers don’t resort to stubble burning.

Paddy Residue Vs Wheat Residue

  • Farmers use wheat residue as fodder for cattle and it’s only the stalk that is set on fire.
  • The paddy residue is not used as fodder as it’s unfit and hence farmers burn both the paddy stalk and straw close to autumn every year which is a key contributing factor of pollution causing breathing problems in the northern region.

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)

  • Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) is the Supreme Court-empowered body.
  • In exercise of the powers conferred by section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and in pursuance of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, EPCA has been set up by the central government.
  • It was constituted with the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling environmental pollution in the National Capital Region
  • The EPCA is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in the city as per the pollution levels.
  • The EPCA also assists the apex court in various environment-related matters in the Delhi NCR.

SAFAR

  • Under the plan scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports and Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), has introduced a major national initiative, “System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research” known as “SAFAR” for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
  • The system, first of its kind in the country, was developed indigenously in record time by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF). and operationalized by India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • In addition to regular air quality parameters like PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, the system will also monitor the existence of Benzene, Toluene and Xylene.
  • This mission model project SAFAR is implemented in four cities of India – Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad as an operational service.
  • Through SAFAR we can know the air quality not only over all city pollution but also location specific air quality.
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
  • Recently, the government unveiled a state-of-the-art Air Quality and Weather Forecast System– SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting) at Chandni Chowk in Delhi.
  • The giant true colour LED display gives out real-time air quality index on 24×7 basis with colour coding along with 72-hour advance forecast.
  • SAFAR has been coming out with daily bulletins on Delhi’s air quality and it also has the percentage contribution of stubble burning in neighbouring States to Delhi’s air pollution. The contribution has ranged from 0% to 9% from October 9-16.
  • SAFAR takes into account the number of fires that is happening in Delhi’s neighbouring States from four different satellites (of which only two are Indian so that it will be more accurate) and calculates the amount of PM2.5 based on it.
  • This data is fed to a Chemistry Transport Forecast Model, which is basically a software, that will take into consideration different factors such as wind speed, temperature and rain among others to find how much of the PM2.5 generated would reach Delhi.

F) Miscellaneous

14. Exercise Indra 2020 (IE)

Context: Amid high operational alert by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) India and Russia are scheduled to hold the bilateral naval exercise, Indra 2020, in the Andaman Sea, close to the strategic Strait of Malacca

Analysis

  • Exercise Indra is a joint, tri-services exercise between India and Russia.
  • This series of exercise began in 2003 and the First joint Tri-Services Exercise was conducted in 2017.
  • Company sized mechanized contingents, fighter and transport aircraft, as well as ships of respective Army, Air Force and Navy, participate in this exercise of ten days duration.

15. TRAI recommends body to monitor net neutrality (TH, pg 14)

Context: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended the creation of a multi-stakeholder body (MSB) to ensure that Internet access providers adhere to the provisions of net neutrality.

Analysis

  • The MSB, which could include telecom service providers, Internet service providers, content providers, researchers, academic and technical community, civil society organisations, and the government, should be set up as a non-profit entity.
  • TRAI also suggested that the role of the MSB shall be:
  • To provide advice and support to DoT in the monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality principles.
  • To investigate complaints regarding the violation of net neutrality.
  • To help DoT in maintenance of a repository of reasonable traffic management practices.
  • The net neutrality principles adopted by DoT were technology neutral and would apply equally to 5G technology, the telecom regulator clarified.

Net Neutrality

  • The principle of net neutrality means that:
  • Telecom and Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application.
  • They cannot engage in practices such as blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content.
  • However, certain emerging and critical services can be kept out of the purview of these norms.
  • These may include autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare services or disaster management.

16. Muli Bamboo (TH, pg 12)

  • This bamboo (Melocanna baccifera) grows in abundance in the forests of Tripura, and is specific to Tripura alone.
  • Almost 80% of Tripura’s forest is covered with muli bamboo and this shoot is the least bitter, making it ideal to be used in cookies.

2020 Current Affairs Archive

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