Daily Current Affairs for IAS & UPSC Preparation

All current affairs available date-wise and month-wise. Watchout for Back2basics and Notes4students.


February 2017
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Solar Energy: The Emerging Sector Conservation & Mitigation

[op-ed snap] Shining bright

Context:

  1. The clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for a plan to double the capacity of solar power installed in dedicated solar parks to 40 gigawatts by 2020
  2. The will be facilitated with partial government fiscal assistance and is in line with the goal of creating a base of 100 gigawatts by 2022

Advantages:

  1. Expansion of solar power capacity is among the more efficient means to meet the commitment to keep carbon emissions in check under the Paris Agreement on climate change
  2. It can provide the multiplier effect of creating additional employment, with overall economic dividends

Solar energy sector:

  1. The International Renewable Energy Agency notes in its report titled REthinking Energy 2017: Accelerating the Global Energy Transformation, globally, jobs in solar energy have witnessed the fastest growth since 2011 among various renewable energy sectors
  2. Asia has harnessed the potential the most, providing 60% of all renewable energy employment
  3. China enjoys the bulk of this with a thriving solar photovoltaic and thermal manufacturing industry, besides installations

Steps ahead:

  1. Apart from measures to scale up generating capacity, India should take a close look at competitive manufacturing of the full chain of photovoltaics
  2. It should open training facilities to produce the human resources the industry will need in the years ahead
  3. Renewables and new energy storage technologies are on course to overshadow traditional fossil fuel-based sources of power as the costs decline
  4. Low-cost financing channels hold the key to quick augmentation of solar generating capacity
  5. Besides promoting phase two of the solar parks plan, and powering public facilities such as railway stations and stadia using solar power, the Centre should put in place arrangements that make it easier for every citizen and small business to adopt rooftop solar
  6. This is crucial to achieving the overall goal of 100 GW from this plentiful source of energy by 2022, and to raise the share of renewables in the total energy mix to 40% in the next decade

Indian scenario:

  1. The trend in some emerging economies, including India, has been a reduction in public financing of renewable energy projects over the last five years
  2. This has implications for equity in the long run, and electricity regulators should fix tariffs taking into account the reduction in the levelised cost of electricity (the average break-even price over a project’s lifetime)
  3. Yet, recourse to other funding options, including regulated debt instruments such as green bonds, would be necessary to achieve early, ambitious targets
  4. Without realistic purchase prices, utilities could resort to curtailment of renewable power sources on non-technical considerations, affecting investments
  5. Tamil Nadu, a solar leader in the country, resorted to curtailments last year, a phenomenon that has perhaps muted industry interest in its recent 500 MW tender
  6. The funding mix for renewables, therefore, should give climate financing an important role
  7. At the Paris UN Climate Change Conference, developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 for mitigation, and more in later years, a promise that needs to be vigorously pursued

Note4Students:

The op-ed is important for both Prelims and Mains.

Higher Education Policies Health, Education & Human Resources

[op-ed snap] Moral economy of a university

Context:

  1. Indians are poor at institution-building
  2. We treat institutions cosmetically, applying the latest management gloss or creating a fetish of numbers like the ritual of rankings
  3. Today an institution such as the university is in crisis and yet there is no systematic response, no reflexivity and no sense of loss
  4. The university reflects both a failure of sociological analysis and of storytelling
  5. Death by neglect, death by illiteracy seems to be the quiet chorus

Like a plaything:

  1. S.R. Subramanian Committee report is an effort to understand the university as a bureaucracy
  2. It has no sense of the university as a knowledge system, or as a community of scholars producing ideas
  3. The university has become a plaything, either in the hands of politicians who see in it a reservoir of electoral politics or in the hands of bureaucrats
  4. What we need today is a report of the university by university teachers, people who nurture students, people who understand what it means to be a Third World academic in a populist era where the Indian university is expected to be instantly world class on a zero-cost system

Recent struggle:

  1. One has to begin by challenging the current assault on the university
  2. In fact, one has to rewrite the contract between the university and society
  3. The recent battles at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the talk fests, the debates showed that the public university has the resilience to fight back, to defend the moral economy of the university
  4. What was impressive about the JNU struggle was the solidarity between faculty and students, a shared vision of the university as a critical space for the democratic imagination
  5. Yet, the JNU struggle opened the raw wounds of the university
  6. Today, the state believes that the universities should be starved, and in that impoverished status, it encourages a few acts to be conspicuous consumption
  7. Accountability and responsibility are extremely important
  8. The broader vision of a modern university is lost as we convert them to tutorial colleges of the mind

An element of craft:

  1. Teaching and research have a craft element, where the ritual of learning has to be internalised in tacit ways
  2. It has to be emphasised that the university is a rite of passage, an initiation into a way of learning
  3. The experts of today do not understand the care, the nurturance, the rigour and the gestation period this requires: Writing a research paper is literally rewriting a research paper many times
  4. Learning a craft is not a downloaded act. It requires a sense of heuristics, of alternatives
  5. Acquiring a skill is an art form, not a job for prefabricated educationists
  6. Craft needs a face-to-face encounter, a sense of love, a skill, technique that demands time
  7. The university is the last of the craft systems and to destroy teaching and research as crafts is to destroy a university

Questions of renewal:

  1. Knowledge should be free but education is not and our politicians with their populism think education is zero cost, where hostels are treated as langars
  2. No one talks about maintenance, the renewal, the sustainability of the university
  3. Its richness as a commons demands that we sustain it as a commons, and no commons can survive without diversity, dissent and marginality
  4. A university is a nursery for the availability of eccentricity, for dissenting imaginations
  5. To punish it for what it naturally produces is an act of political misunderstanding the future will not condone

Indian education:

  1. One realises that the Indian state, after hiring a quick consultant reproducing the latest fad abroad, has little interest in education
  2. Its understanding of values as something ancient or revivalist is even more lethal
  3. The university as an institution of civil society, as a defining core of craft and professionalism must now produce its own report, a restatement of its charging condition and its changing self

Note4Students:

The op-ed focuses on the educational institutes and universities of India and is important for Essay writing. The op-ed is also just another “opinion” and you need to be selective on what to pick up from here for your mains content.

Wildlife- species & conservation issues Biodiversity

[op-ed snap] Cat lessons

Context:

  1. In October last year, a leopard suspected of being a man-eater was captured in the Sariska National Park and transferred to a zoo in Jaipur
  2. A month later, the zoo acquired another leopard from the same protected area which too was suspected of being a man-eater
  3. The two big cats were released in early February
  4. That they are back to their old ways is a sorry commentary on the state of wildlife management in the country
  5. At the Jaipur zoo, the two leopards were castrated

The leopard story:

  1. This is perplexing since there is scarcely any study that associates the sexual drive of the big cats with man-eating tendencies
  2. That the leopards were released barely three months after they were captured is even more difficult to fathom

The human contact:

  1. Studies warn of the dangers of releasing predators after captivity since the animal has lived through a period of stress
  2. In a trap cage, the leopard does not need to hunt for food
  3. In fact, in captivity it comes into contact with people who feed it
  4. Wildlife biologists point out that keeping a leopard in captivity for months with frequent contact with humans is not correct if the animal is to be released later
  5. In any case, among the big cats, the leopard is the most familiar with the ways of humans
  6. It is scared of humans, though, and prefers avoiding them
  7. A suspected man-eater whose familiarity with the ways of humans has increased during captivity is, however, a different creature
  8. It’s anybody’s guess what this highly stressed territorial animal is likely do in an unfamiliar environment

It’s not just Sariska. Parks in Rajasthan and other parts of the country are rife with animal-human conflict. That these conflicts have increased even when there is a lot of research on the behaviour of big cats shows that park managers are either unaware of these studies or are constrained by other reasons to not pay heed to them.

Note4Students:

The points here and the incident can be a part of the answer on protection of wildlife. Find out more about Sariska Tiger Reserve from b2b.

Back2Basics:

Sariska Tiger Reserve:

  1. It is a national park and tiger reserve located in the Alwar district of the state of Rajasthan, India
  2. The topography of the protected area comprises scrub-thorn arid forests, rocky landscapes, dry deciduous forests, rocks, grasses and hilly cliffs
  3. This area was a hunting preserve of the Alwar state and it was declared a wildlife reserve in 1955
  4. It was given the status of a tiger reserve making it a part of India’s Project Tiger in 1978
  5. The Sariska Tiger Reserve is a part of the Aravalli Range
  6. A notable feature of this reserve are its Bengal tigers
  7. It is the first tiger reserve in the world to have successfully relocated tigers
Labour Reforms In India Industrial Economics

Plan to allow larger firms to shut shop sans govt. nod

  1. The Labour Ministry has proposed that factories with up to 500 workers be allowed to lay off workers or shut shop without seeking government permission
  2. Aim: To give firms flexibility in hiring and firing employees
  3. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: At present, factories with up to 100 workers are allowed to go in for retrenchment, lay-off or closure without seeking government permission
  4. There has been demand from the industry to increase the threshold limit for factories to seek permission for retrenchment from 100 workers to 500 workers
  5. Sixth Economic Census: Around 99% of a total of 4.53 crore non-agricultural establishments employed less than 100 workers in 2013-14 and were allowed to retrench workers or close shut shop without government permission
  6. Earlier attempts: Till 1975, the requirement for prior permission was only for establishments with 1,000 workers that was decreased to 300 workers in 1976 during the Emergency and later brought down to 100 workers in 1982
  7. NDA government in 2002 had also proposed allowing factories with up to 1,000 workers to lay off workers without government permission
  8. In 2005, the Centre had released a discussion paper titled ‘Making Labour Market Flexible’ for stakeholder discussions proposing an increase in the threshold limit for seeking permission for retrenchment or closure under the Act to 300 from 100 workers
  9. However, subsequent governments couldn’t take the proposal forward due to central trade union opposition
  10. Investors hampered: It is incontestable that the law on prior permission has a chilling effect on new investors, particularly in a situation in which there are many other unfavourable factors inhibiting investment
  11. New investors are daunted by the requirement of permission as they fear that they would be burdened by the need to continue employing the work force even after it has become unprofitable for them to run the business

Labour Code on Industrial Relations

  1. The Labour Ministry is set to discuss the proposed Labour Code on Industrial Relations
  2. The code: In May 2015, the Labour Ministry had proposed integrating three labour laws — the Trade Unions Act, the Industrial Disputes Act and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act — into a single code for industrial relations
  3. It had then also proposed allowing factories with up to 300 workers to retrench workers or close down without seeking official sanction
  4. However, the Centre had put the proposals on the back-burner after series of protests from the central trade unions on the proposed labour law reforms

Note4students:

Note important points for prelims like proposed labour code, the act that incorporates provisions for retrenching workers etc. The issue as a whole, labour reforms, is important for mains. Lack of freedom in firing prevents firms from growing beyond 100 employees. This keeps companies small and prevents economies of scale. Click on the Labour Reforms in India story to read the background.

Child Protection & Child Rights in India Indian Society

Hurdles hurting adoption of infants

  1. Taking cognisance of the fresh instances of infant smuggling in West Bengal, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and its State counterpart have emphasised that the slow rate of adoption along with hurdles in the formal adoption system could lead to a rise in such cases
  2. Financial incentive: The financial gains from smuggling babies were probably more than putting babies for adoption through the Specialised Adoption Agency (SAA)
  3. Market and demand: There cannot be a market without demand- hurdles in the formal adoption system results in parents adopting babies through other means

Note4students:

Note points 2 & 3- important reasons for infant smuggling. There can also be an ethics question asking ethical issues involved in it.

Innovation in Sciences and Technology Explorations in S&T

India building a supercomputer juggernaut

  1. India will likely unveil its most powerful supercomputer in June
  2. Top 10: If its processors operate at the full capacity of 10 petaflops, it could earn a place among the world’s top 10 fastest supercomputers
  3. 10 petaflops: (1 followed by 15 zeroes of floating point operations per second) a clock speed a million times faster than the fastest consumer laptops
  4. EKA: Though India has built or hosted supercomputers since the 1990s, it held a ‘top 10’ spot only once, in 2007, with the EKA built by the Computational Research Laboratories, which is part of the Tata group
  5. This position was lost, though several ultra-fast machines exist in Indian academic institutions; they feature in the 100s or 200s in global rankings
  6. The as-yet-unnamed machine will be jointly hosted at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Noida in Uttar Pradesh
  7. For the first time, colleges and other research institutions can log in and harness its power to address problems, ranging from weather modelling to understanding how proteins fold
  8. The processing speed of supercomputers is only one of the factors that determine its worth, with power usage and arrangement of processors, being other key metrics that determine the worth of a system

Note4students:

Very important for prelims. What is the worlds most powerful supercomputer? Click here.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh India & Neighbours

Delhi allows Dhaka use of border roads

  1. In a rare gesture, India has decided to throw open its border roads to help Bangladesh construct border outposts in Chittagong hill tracts, known for its inhospitable terrain
  2. Some areas in Chittagong, bordering Tripura and Mizoram, have no motorable roads and India has decided to allow the Border Guard Bangladesh to construct 13 border outposts using the road connectivity available in the two States
  3. The Border Security Force, deployed along the Bangladesh border, will monitor the construction activities
  4. India has on multiple occasions handed over details of insurgent camps operating from the Bangladesh soil, particularly in the dense Chittagong Hill Tract area
  5. Following the leads, the neighbouring country has acted against these camps and demolished them

Note4students:

See which states share a boundary with Bangladesh in an atlas. See all boundary states and which countries they share a border with.

FDI in Indian economy Economic Planning

FDI inflow zooms 18% to USD 46 billion in 2016: DIPP

  1. Source: Data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP)
  2. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India grew 18 per cent during 2016 to touch $46 billion
  3. The country attracted FDI of $39.32 billion in 2015
  4. The main sectors which attracted the highest foreign inflows include services, telecom, trading, computer hardware and software and automobile
  5. Bulk of the FDI came in from Singapore, Mauritius, the Netherlands and Japan
  6. Steps taken: The government has announced several steps to attract foreign inflows
  7. The measures includes liberalisation of FDI policy and improvement in business climate
  8. The Finance Minister had announced in the Budget 2017-18 to further relax foreign investment norms and also phase out the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)
  9. Significance: Foreign investments are considered crucial for India, which needs around $1 trillion for overhauling its infrastructure sector such as ports, airports and highways to boost growth
  10. A strong inflow of foreign investments will help improve the country’s balance of payments situation and strengthen the rupee value against other global currencies, especially the U.S. dollar

Note4students:

Know the sectors where and countries from where most FDI flows, for prelims. The steps taken and its significance are needed for both mains and prelims.

Wildlife- species & conservation issues Biodiversity

Invasive trees being removed

  1. Work to clear ‘seemai karuvelam’ trees on a private land at Old Katpadi in Tamil Nadu is underway
  2. On February 10, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court ordered removal of the invasive tree species across the State in 15 days and submit a report

Note4students:

Important thing here is karuvelam tree, an invasive species.

Back2basics:

The Karuvelam tree:

  1. Known biologically as prosopis juliflora
  2. Native to: Mexico, South America and the Caribbean (also native to West Africa according to some sources)
  3. It has become established as an invasive weed in Africa, Asia, Australia and elsewhere
  4. It was brought to Tamil Nadu in 1960s as fuelwood
  5. Slowly, these seeds started drifting into dams and rivers, causing problems
  6. Apparently, the plant is such that no other species can co-exist with it, and it has already caused drying up of several water bodies in the state, adding to the woes of the water-starved state
  7. Biological nightmare: Karuvelam tree absorbs more than four litres of water to obtain one kilogram of biomass
  8. It cannot even shelter birds as it produces less oxygen and more carbon dioxide
  9. If it does not have sufficient water it begins absorbing groundwater
    And if there is no groundwater, it starts absorbing humidity from the surroundings
  10. It can also turn the groundwater poisonous

Rare butterflies point to rich bio-diversity at Ayyanarkoil Falls

  1. Ayyanarkoil Falls: Situated within the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary in Srivilliputhoor, Tamil Nadu
  2. It is a habitat for very rare butterfly species & 220 species of butterflies have been indentified here
  3. Species: The highly uncommon Silver Royal and Fluffy Tit, which were recently spotted again, as well as the Plain Blue Royal, Nilgiri Tit, Peacock Royal and Painted Sawtooth

Note4students:

Such facts are not very important but you should know about the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary from prelims PoV.

Back2basics:

The Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary:

  1. It is also known as Srivilliputhur Wildlife Sanctuary
  2. It was established in 1988 to protect the vulnerable grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura)
  3. Occupying an area of 485.2 km2, it is bordered on the southwest by the Periyar Tiger Reserve and is one of the best preserved forests south of the Palghat Gap
  4. The sanctuary covers 485 square kilometres (187 sq mi) in western Tamil Nadu, South India in the eastern water-shed of the Western Ghats and consists of high hills and valleys, with a number of peaks reaching up to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft)

Fauna:

  1. In addition to grizzled giant squirrels, other animals seen here are barking deer, bonnet macaque, common langur, elephants, flying squirrels, gaur, Indian giant squirrel, leopard, lion-tailed macaques, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri Tahrs, palm civets, porcupine, sambar, slender lorris, sloth bear, spotted deer, tree shrews, wild boar and wild cats
  2. Resident and migrating elephants are common
  3. Recognised as an Important Bird Area: Over 200 species of birds are seen in this sanctuary including 14 species of birds endemic to the Western Ghats

Flora:

  1. The sanctuary is a mix of tropical evergreen forests and semi-evergreen forests, dry deciduous forests and moist mixed deciduous forests, grassland and cultivated.
  2. The sanctuary has one Medicinal Plant Conservation Area (MPCA) located at Thaniparai
  3. 69 plant species belonging to 58 taxa and 42 families are used by the Paliyar tribal people, living in the sanctuary, to treat 15 ailments

Conservation:

  1. The conservation problems affecting the sanctuary are human-elephant conflict, human encroachment, cattle grazing and forest fire
  2. Within the sanctuary, there are 7 to 10 temples which attract thousands of pilgrims every year
  3. Water scarcity is a major problem during dry season due to lack of perennial water source
  4. Measures have been taken to conserve the wildlife in the sanctuary
  5. The entry of cattle into the sanctuary is prevented, particularly in Kottamalai and Watrap
  6. Leases for collection of fruits and minor forest produce have been stopped to increase the food sources
  7. Tree planting, soil conservation and water harvesting have been undertaken to improve the habitat
  8. The possibility of an elephant corridor could be studied by tracking elephants using radio collars

The grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura):


  1. It is a large tree squirrel in the genus Ratufa
  2. Found in the highlands of the Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, and in patches of riparian forest along the Kaveri River and in the hill forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of southern India
  3. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as near threatened due to habitat loss and hunting
  4. It is the national animal of Sri Lanka
  5. There are three subspecies, all of which are found in Sri Lanka
  6. The subspecies R. m. dandolena (taken from the Sinhalese language name for the grizzled giant squirrel) is also found in India
Climate Change: Building For Paris Conference Climate Change

Spring coming sooner to Arctic due to climate change

  1. Due to diminishing sea ice cover, spring is coming sooner to some plant species in the low Arctic of Greenland, while other species are delaying their emergence amid warming winters
  2. The timing of seasonal events, such as first spring growth, flower bud formation and blooming make up a plant’s phenology
  3. Phenology: The window of time it has to grow, produce offspring, and express its life history. It can be called “nature’s clock”
  4. Such changes in the Arctic carry implications for the ecological structure of the region for years to come

Note4students:

Important for prelims. This can also be quoted as an instance of climate change.

Agricultural Sector Indian Society

Arctic vault receives new seed deposits

  1. Some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world, including India, have been deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault at an Arctic island
  2. The newly deposited samples are from seed collections in Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, the US, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus and Britain
  3. It brought the total deposits in the snow-covered vault with a capacity of 4.5 million to 940,000

Note4students:

Important for prelims.

Back2basics:

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  1. It is a gene bank built underground on the isolated island in a permafrost zone some 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole
  2. It was opened in 2008 as a master backup to the world’s other seed banks, in case their deposits are lost
  3. It is the world’s largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops
  4. The vault has opened nearly 10 years after a “doomsday”

Target 120+ in GS1 this year’s IAS Mains


  1. GS papers are generally considered to be low scoring and very few people are able to score above 80/250
  2. This makes students place heavy bets on optional subjects and we all know that optionals are very unpredictable
  3. What students generally miss out is the fact that a dedicated approach to GS subjects can maximise their marks and offset a possible set back from the optionals!
  4. It is possible to score ~120 and with correct approach, you can replicate the success of top rankers

K Siddharth Sir’s experience makes him standout and he hand picked 6 topical themes during IAS Mains 2016 which appeared in the IAS Mains paper!

Here is a list of articles by sir which he had written before mains alongwith questions on similar lines which came in the 2016 mains (Links to question papers – GS1GS3) –

1. Smart Cities – Q4 in GS3 and Q11 in GS1 – Link to article
2. South China Sea – Q16 in GS1 – Link to article
3. Urban drainage – Q15 in GS3 and Q17 GS1 – Link to first article, Second article, Third article, 4th article
4. Cloudburts – Q16 in GS3 – Link to article
The APSIP Course launching tomorrow is a dedicated module to extend the same practicality towards appraoching GS 1 papers for IAS 2017.

Click to read this detailed planner and enroll for the EXAM

To Join, Pay at this link

Agricultural Sector Indian Society

Israeli expertise to develop agriculture

  1. Israel is in the process of setting Centres of Excellence in agriculture development, one or two in Telangana and two in Andhra Pradesh
  2. Already, the country is helping in the implementation of the third phase of the Indo-Israeli Agriculture Cooperation Project where farmers are trained in water management, best farm practices and post-harvest management in different States
  3. Desalination plants: Israel has specialised in desalination plants and though eight such plants are operational in different parts in India, more could be started with the technology provided for because water availability is always in shortage here

Note4students: Important for prelims.

Person In News

An extraordinary economist

Who was Kenneth Arrow?

  1. Kenneth J. Arrow passed away recently, at the age of 95
  2. He was an intellectual giant whose contributions to economics have underpinned and transformed much of the discipline
  3. Professor Arrow was associated with several universities and institutions but mostly with Stanford University, where he was an emeritus professor at the time of his death

Youngest Economics Nobel laureate:

  1. At the age of 51, he was the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize in economics
  2. He won it jointly with John Hicks

Social Choice and Individual Freedoms

  1. In 1951, while still a student at Columbia University, Professor Arrow wrote Social Choice and Individual Values, which contained what is known as Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem (ironically called the General Possibility Theorem by Arrow himself)
  2. His contribution is considered the foundation of modern social choice theory, for which he is best known

What is Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem?

  1. When voters rank three or more choices, there is no way to aggregate their choices for a society as a whole, in a logically consistent manner, without violating some basic principles, one of which is not having one person’s preferences overrule the others’
  2. This has often been interpreted as voting systems based on ranking one outcome against another as being logically flawed, unless one individual has dictator-type rights in choosing societal preferences

Note4students:

Few such persons in news are becoming important for prelims. Know about his book, Nobel Prize, important theory.

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