Magazine

English Hindi

Index

Prelims bits

Prelims Bits (3rd Week)

Environment and Ecology:

Jammu & Kashmir to declare 6 sites as Protected Wetlands 

  • Context: Srinagar Dal lake along with other famous ones in J&K are to be declared protected wetlands
  • About: The other lakes which are to be declared protected wetlands include Purmandal lake, also called Chotta Kashi, located in Samba district
  • Wular, Dal, Nigeen lakes in the Kashmir region and Sanasar, Manasbal and Purmandal lakes in the Jammu region are declared as protected wetlands
  • Dal Lake among several others in J&K to be declared protected wetlands
  • The meeting was held to chalk out a strategy for the conservation and management of wetlands
  • Forest Department which is the nodal department for the preparation of digital inventory, documentation and development of a geo-spatial database on wetlands, to profile various wetlands of Jammu and Kashmir and recommend their notification under the Environment Protection Act and Wetland (Conversation & Management) rules.
  • In a bid to preserve the ecosystem of the lakes, the new policy aims to regulate the functioning of houseboats docked at Dal and Nageen lakes by adopting the models of sustainable and responsible tourism.
  • Wetlands help in flood control by acting as natural sponges. They temporarily storing and gradually releasing stormwater. Also, roots of wetland vegetation hold soils in place, thus stabilizing the banks of rivers and streams
  • It is an international treaty for “the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands”. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands.
  • It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran. The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Geography:

Chilika Lake Odisha was once part of the Bay of Bengal

  • Context: According to a study by the marine archaeology department of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa the Chilika lake in Odisha, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, was once part of the Bay of Bengal. The Chilika is 64 kilometres long in the north-south direction and 13.5 km wide in the east-west direction
  • About: According to National Institute of Oceanography, the process of the formation of the Chilika might have begun in the later part of the Pleistocene epoch, around 20,000 years ago.
  • India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta.
  • As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sand bars were formed near its mouth.
  • These created a backflow of the sea water into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary, resulting in the huge brackish water lake.
  • The Bay of Bengal is connected with the lake near Satapada through a shallow and narrow channel.
  • The connecting channel was obstructed by shoals, sand spits and sandbars, thus restricting the outflow of water and also checking the tidal flow into the lake.
  • The lake become shallower with the passage of time due to the deposition of sediments brought by the Mahanadi as outflow from the lake was restricted
  • Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state.
  • In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • Chilika hosts over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. 45 percent of the birds are terrestrial in nature, 32 percent are waterfowl, and 23 percent are waders.
  • Chilika Lake was the first Indian site to be placed on Montreux Record in 1993 due to siltation, which was choking the mouth of the lake. This resulted in a drop in salinity of the lake. In 2002, Chilika was taken out of the Montreux Record, in light of the improved conditions of the lake.

Economy:

What is Global Minimum Tax proposed by USA to G20 group? Impact of Developed Nation Policy on India

  • Context: In a declaration of war on low-tax jurisdictions around the globe, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, has urged the world’s 20 advanced nations to move in the direction of adopting a minimum global corporate income tax
  • About: The US proposal envisages a 21% minimum corporate tax rate, coupled with cancelling exemptions on income from countries that do not legislate a minimum tax to discourage the shifting of multinational operations and profits overseas.
  • One of the reasons the US is pushing for this is purely domestic.
  • It aims to somewhat offset any disadvantages that might arise from the Biden administration’s proposed increase in the US corporate tax rate.
  • The proposed increase to 28% from 21% would partially reverse the previous Trump administration’s cut in tax rates on companies from 35% to 21% by way of a 2017 tax legislation
  • This increase comes at a time when the pandemic is costing governments across the world, and is also timed with the US’s push for a $2.3 trillion infrastructure upgrade proposal.
  • The plan to peg a minimum tax on overseas corporate income seeks to potentially make it difficult for corporations to shift earnings offshore.
  • A global compact on this issue, as enunciated by Yellen, works well for the US government at this time.
  • The same holds true for most other countries in western Europe, Even as some low-tax European jurisdictions such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg and some in the Caribbean rely largely on tax rate arbitrage to attract MNCs.
  • Apart from low-tax jurisdictions, the proposal for a minimum corporate tax are tailored to address the low effective rates of tax shelled out by some of the world’s biggest corporations, Including digital giants such as Apple, Alphabet and Facebook, as well as major corporations such as Nike and Starbucks.
  • These companies typically rely on complex webs of subsidiaries to hoover profits out of major markets into low-tax countries such as Ireland or Caribbean nations.
  • The US Treasury loses nearly $50 billion a year to tax cheats, according to the Tax Justice Network report, with Germany and France also among the top losers.
  • India’s annual tax loss due to corporate tax abuse is estimated at over $10 billion, according to the report.
  • European Commission backed the call, but said the global minimum rate should be decided after discussions in the OECD—a group of 37 developed nations.
  • The proposal also has some degree of support from the IMF. While China is not likely to have a serious objection with the US call, an area of concern for Beijing would be the impact of such a tax stipulation on Hong Kong — the seventh-largest tax haven in the world.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code – What is Pre Pack Insolvency Resolution for MSMEs?

  • Context: The central government has promulgated an ordinance allowing the use of pre-packs as an insolvency resolution mechanism, for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with defaults up to Rs 1 crore, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
  • About: The move comes soon after the end of a one-year suspension of insolvency initiation imposed by the government in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A pre-pack is the resolution of the debt of a distressed company through an agreement between secured creditors and investors instead of a public bidding process.
  • This system of insolvency proceedings has become an increasingly popular mechanism for insolvency resolution in the UK and Europe over the past decade.
  • Under the pre-pack system, financial creditors will agree to terms with a potential investor and seek approval of the resolution plan from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • The approval of a minimum of 66% of financial creditors that are unrelated to the corporate debtor would be required before a resolution plan is submitted to the NCLT.
  • Further NCLTs are also required to either accept or reject any application for a pre-pack insolvency proceeding before considering a petition for a CIRP.
  • One of the key criticisms of the CIRP has been the time taken for resolution. At the end of December 2020, over 86% of the 1717 ongoing insolvency resolution proceedings had crossed the 270-day threshold.
  • One of the key reasons behind delays in the CIRPs are prolonged litigations by erstwhile promoters and potential bidders.

Chandigarh Axis Bank Theft – What is a Currency Chest?

  • Context: The theft to the tune of Rs 4.04 crore by a private security guard from the currency chest of Axis Bank in Chandigarh’s Sector 34 has put the affairs of currency chests in the spotlight
  • About: Currency chest is a place where the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stocks the money meant for banks and ATMs. These chests are usually situated on the premises of different banks but administrated by the RBI.
  • The money present in the currency chest belongs to the RBI and the money, kept in the strong room outside the currency chest belongs to the bank.
  • In the case of Axis Bank, Sector 34, the stolen amount of Rs 4.04 crore was the property of the RBI.
  • Before sanctioning the currency chests, the RBI personnel inspect the premises of the applicant banks.
  • “As per the set guidelines, the bank, in which the currency chest is situated is liable to fulfill the loss of the currency chest.
  • In the present case, Axis Bank will have to fulfill the loss. There are certain categories of the loss. But in the cases of thefts, robberies and fraud from the currency chests situated within the bank premises, the bank is considered to be responsible.
  • The security of currency chests is the subject of the bank in which chests are situated.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reimburses the security expenses to the bank as per the set norms.

Security:

Indian Coast Guard Ship VAJRA commissioned into ICG

  • Context: Vajra is the sixth in the series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels which has been benefitted with the high communication and navigation systems.
  • About: The Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Vajra’ was formally commissioned on March 24, 2021, into the service in Chennai. It will be the sixth offshore vessel which will aim at enhancing coastal security.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, to mark the commissioning of the ship, formally unveiled a plaque and the ship’s board name ‘Vajra’ at the Chennai Port Trust. The name Vajra means ‘Thunderbolt’.
  • The ship has been indigenously designed and developed by Larsen and Toubro Shipbuilding Limited. Vajra is the sixth in the series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels which has benefitted with the high communication and navigation systems.
  • The ship has been designed to carry one twin-engine helicopter with night flying capabilities as well as four high-speed boats. It will also be able to carry two rigid hull inflatable boats to take up maritime patrolling, law enforcement, and search and rescue.
  • The ICG ship has a 30 mm gun as the main armament. It is also equipped with two FCS-controlled 12.7 mm SRCG for enhanced fighting efficiency.
  • A pollution response equipment for containing oil spills at sea has been fitted in the ship. The equipment is propelled by twin MTU 8000series engines which are capable of achieving 26 knots of top speed as well as the endurance of 5,000 nautical miles.

International Relations:

India Bangladesh new train MITALI EXPRESS launched

  • Context: PM Modi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurate passenger train between Dhaka, New Jalpaiguri
  • About: The Foreign Secretary of India mentioned that for strengthening the people-to-people connectivity, the two countries have agreed to start a new passenger train service ‘Mitali Express’ between Dhaka cantonment and New Jalpaiguri on the Chilhati-Haldibari train link
  • The Chilhati-Haldibari train link is a significant one as it connects north Bangladesh with north Bengal.
  • Starting of the passenger service is also a recreation of what used to happen in 1965. The latest train services will commence once the normal train services resume between India and Bangladesh.

Heart of Asia Istanbul Process explained, Ashraf Ghani’s 3 Step Peace Plan 

  • Context: Recently, Indian EAM S Jaishankar attended the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
  • About: Addressing the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani described a three-step process for “making, building and sustaining peace” that he said should result in a “sovereign, democratic, united, neutral and connected Afghanistan”
  • Phase I-The first phase of Ashraf Ghani’s plan would involve coming to a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban that is endorsed by a Loya Jirga. (Grand Assembly)
  • Phase II-Second phase will include a cease-fire as well as reaching consensus on the principles of forming a “government of peace-building within the framework of the constitution”.
  • Phase III-Third phase will begin with elections under international supervision. It will pave the way for the phase of sustaining peace through “national reconciliation, reintegration of combatants and refugees, defining our new security, development and governance priorities.”
  • The president of the host country Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, spoke to the gathering about the civil war in Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union that lasted five years and killed almost 160,000 people.
  • Incidentally, the first meeting between the warring factions of Tajikistan, the government officials and the rebels, was held in Kabul in the 1990s through the mediation efforts of former president of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani.
  • Now, Tajikistan is supporting the end of war in Afghanistan through reconciliation. Emomali Rahmon said his country supported the intra-Afghan negotiations to reach a political settlement

Science and Technology:

NASA Mars Helicopter INGENUITY prepares for 1st flight – Science and Technology

  • context: NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter, which was sent to Mars strapped to the Perseverance rover, will take its first experimental flight on the Red Planet on or after April 14, the space agency has announced
  • About: NASA had unlocked the rotor blades of its Ingenuity helicopter, thereby allowing them to spin freely, on April 7.
  • If things go as planned, Ingenuity, a 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft, will become the first helicopter to fly on another planet
  • The helicopter was carried along with the Perseverance rover last year on July 30 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and landed at the Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18 this year
  • The helicopter’s mission is experimental in nature and completely independent of the rover’s science mission, which is searching for signs of ancient life and collecting samples of rock and sediment in tubes for potential return to Earth by later missions.
  • Scientists believe that if life ever flourished on Mars, it would have happened 3 billion to 4 billion years ago, when water still flowed on the planet.
  • The primary objective of Perseverance’s two-year, $2.7 billion endeavor is to search for signs of microbes that may have flourished on Mars some 3 billion years ago, about the time life was emerging on Earth.
  • Ingenuity is able to fly using counter-rotating blades that spin at about 2,400 rpm.
  • It has a wireless communication system, and is equipped with computers, navigation sensors, and two cameras. It is solar-powered, able to charge on its own.
  • The helicopter project’s chief engineer is J (Bob) Balaram, a graduate of IIT Madras who later went on to work at NASA.
  • According to NASA, the helicopter was placed on the Martian surface to test — for the first time ever — powered flight in the planet’s thin air.
  • The flight is a true challenge because the air on Mars is so thin — less than 1% of the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere.
  • This means Ingenuity must spin its rotor blades much faster than a helicopter needs to do on Earth in order to fly.
  • After the flight, Ingenuity will send Perseverance technical data on what it has done, and that information will be transmitted back to Earth.
  • Its performance during these experimental test flights will help inform decisions about small helicopters for future Mars missions —where they can perform a support role as robotic scouts, surveying terrain from above, or as full standalone science craft carrying instrument payloads.
  • Taking to the air would give scientists a new perspective on a region’s geology and even allow them to peer into areas that are too steep or slippery to send a rover, a NASA fact sheet said.
  • In the distant future, they might even help astronauts explore Mars.
  • NASA will try and demonstrate rotorcraft flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars with this helicopter, which is why the mission is so crucial.
  • The mission is be the equivalent on Mars of the first powered flight on Earth — by the Wright brothers in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • A piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked inside Ingenuity in honor of that feat.

World’s Largest Solar Power Park in Gujarat near Pakistan border, Climate change & renewable energy

  • Context: Gujarat is building ‘world’s largest’ solar power park, close to its border with Pakistan
  • About: Approximately 30 kilometres from the last point accessible to civilians in the Rann of Kutch, an area roughly the size of Singapore — 72,600 hectares or 726 square kilometres — has been set aside for what is being touted as the world’s largest hybrid solar-wind power park.
  • In this remote desert area, where no human resides, the sun beats down relentlessly and temperatures soar to 35 degrees Celsius during the day. Gusts of wind flow uninterrupted across the bare landscape, making it ideal for the kind of set-up the government has in mind
  • The Gujarat government has been a key player in the race to increase solar power generation. In December 2020, the government announced a new policy lifting restrictions on the capacity for solar power generation as part of its target of producing 30,000 MW by 2022.

Government scheme and Initiative:

AIM PRIME Initiative launched by NITI Aayog:

  • Context: In a major push towards deep technology and driving the country to become a digitally transformed nation, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog today launched AIM-PRIME (Program for Researchers on Innovations, Market-Readiness & Entrepreneurship), an initiative to promote and support science-based deep-tech startups & ventures across India.
  • About: In this regard, AIM has joined hands with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to launch this nationwide program.
  • It will be implemented by Venture Center – a non-profit technology business incubator.
  • The first cohort of the program is open to technology developers with strong science-based deep tech business ideas.
  • It is also open to CEOs and Senior incubation managers of AIM Funded Atal Incubation Centers that are supporting deep tech entrepreneurs.