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Prelims bits

Prelims Bits (4th Week)

Environment and Ecology:

World Air Quality Report 2020 – Delhi most polluted capital city in world:

  • Context: New Delhi becomes world’s most polluted capital, IQAir study
  • About: Twenty-two of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India, with Delhi being ranked as the most polluted capital city globally.
  • The report is prepared by Swiss organisation, IQAir, in the form of the ‘World Air Quality Report, 2020’, which has released globally.
  • The report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries and uses ground-based monitoring stations,
  • Operated by governmental agencies, local residents, non-profit organisations and companies.
  • Delhi remained the most polluted capital city in the world but India, on the whole, had improved its average annual PM 2.5 levels higher in 2020 than in 2019.
  • Delhi’s concentration level, based primarily on data from the Central Pollution Control Board, was 84.1 µg/m³ in 2020, A 15% improvement from the 98.6 µg/m³ recorded in 2019 —a consequence of the lockdown.
  • Air quality improved in India last year as compared to the previous year’s owing to the coronavirus induced lockdown. But 22 cities featured among the top 30 most polluted cities in the world
  • Average pollution levels were 51.9 µg/m³ in 2020 compared with 58.1 µg/m³ in 2019, making India only the third most polluted country in 2020, unlike in 2019, when its air was the fifth most noxious.
  • Major sources of India’s air pollution include Transportation, biomass burning for cooking, electricity generation, industry, construction, waste burning and episodic agricultural burning.
  • In 2020, all Indian cities which were monitored observed air quality improvements of 63% compared to 2019. Air quality in 84% of all the monitored countries improved largely due to the measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • South Asia remained the most polluted region of the world with Bangladesh, India and Pakistan sharing 42 of the 50 most polluted cities worldwide.
  • In 2020, 86% of the cities in China experienced cleaner air. Half of all European cities in 2020 exceeded the WHO’s target of annual PM2.5 pollution. In the United States, average particle pollution increased by 6.7% despite the coronavirus pandemic due to wildfires in US cities.
  • The report highlights the urgent action is necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world’s greatest environmental health threat
  • It is pertinent that governments prioritise sustainable and clean energy sources, as well as the cities, need to encourage low cost, active and carbon-neutral mobility choices such as walking, cycling, and accessible public transport.

Discovery of new Alpine Plant Species in Arunachal Pradesh – Facts about Cremanthodium indicum:

  •  Context: A new species of alpine plant in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang district according to a paper published in Biodiversitas: Journal of Biological Diversity. The new species belongs to the family of Himalayan sunflower. The plant is assessed as critically endangered according to the IUCN guidelines
  • About: It is named as Cremanthodium indicum, and the plant species which generally flowers from July to August, is endemic to Penga-Teng Tso Lake of Tawang district, where it was discovered.
  • It is a perennial herb and stands 16–24 cm tall. Cremanthodium indica grows in boggy soil among mosses along the banks of alpine lake
  • Tawang district holds one of the assemblages of flowering plants in the northeastern state, which attracts botanists across the world.
  • Alpine plants are plants that grow in an alpine climate, which occurs at high elevation and above the tree line. There are many different plant species and taxon that grow as a plant community in these alpine tundra.
  • These include perennial grasses, sedges, forbs, cushion plants, mosses, and lichens.
  • Alpine plants are adapted to the harsh conditions of the alpine environment, which include low temperatures, dryness, ultraviolet radiation, wind, drought, poor nutritional soil, and a short growing season.

Human Elephant Conflict mitigation – What is Project REHAB? How Bee Fences work? 

  • Context: An initiative of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) intends to create “bee fences” to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honeybees.
  • About: KVIC has roped in the College of Forestry under the University of Agriculture and Horticultural Sciences, Ponnampet, for impact assessment of the project.
  • Kodagu to have ‘bee fences’ to ward off wild elephants
  • Pitting the largest animal on land against a minute insect. That is how the authorities intend to mitigate human-elephant conflict that seems to continue unabated in Kodagu and other parts of south Karnataka region.
  • KVIC is a statutory body established under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act, 1956.
  • The KVIC is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programmes for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • The KVIC has launched the Honey Mission to provide awareness, training and ‘Bee Boxes’ along with Bee Colonies to the farmers.
  • The mission was launched in August 2017 in line with the ‘Sweet Revolution’.
  • The ‘Sweet Revolution’ was launched in 2016 to promote beekeeping and associated activities.
  • Nagarhole National Park Also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park.
  • It was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and was upgraded into a national park in 1988. It was declared as the 37th Tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1999.There are 51 Tiger reserves in India.
  • The latest addition in this list is Srivilliputhur Meghamalai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu, which got approval in 2021.

India’s first Forest Healing Centre inaugurated in Uttarakhand – Connecting people with nature 

  • Context: The first forest healing centre of India has been inaugurated at Ranikhet in Kalika Uttarakhand. Developed by the Research Wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department
  • About: Inspired from Japanese technique of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku)and ancient Indian traditions and that basic theme is, “be silent, go slow, think less and feel more.”
  • It involves many activities like forest walking, tree-hugging, forest meditation and sky gazing.

Polity:

Anti-Defection Law explained – Nominated member Swapan Dasgupta resigns from Rajya Sabha seat 

  • Context: Nominated MP resign from Rajya Sabha Anti-defection law
  • About: Nominated MP Swapan Dasgupta resigned from Rajya Sabha, a year before completion of his term.
  • Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra had raised the issue of his disqualification from Rajya Sabha under the anti-defection law,
  • After the BJP had fielded Dasgupta as its candidate for Tarakeswar constituency in the West Bengal Assembly elections
  • During the making of the Constitution, members of the Constituent Assembly felt that Rajya Sabha should have members who might not win elections
  • But will bring knowledge and expertise to discussions in the Upper House.
  • It led to Rajya Sabha having 12 nominated members from different walks of life.
  • The broad criterion for their nomination is that they should have distinguished themselves in fields like literature, science, art, and social service.
  • The President nominates such individuals as recommended by the Centre.
  • Nominated members have the same rights and privileges as elected members, with one notable difference — they cannot vote in the election of the President.
  • Anti-defection: In 1985 the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution. But its enactment was catalysed by the political instability after the general elections of 1967. This was the time when multiple state governments were toppled after MLAs changed their political loyalties.
  • The purpose of the 1985 Constitution Amendment was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political parties on whose ticket they were elected.
  • The penalty for shifting political loyalties is the loss of parliamentary membership and a bar on becoming a minister.
  • When the 1985 law was made, its statement of objects and reasons stated: “The evil of political defections has been a matter of national concern. If it is not combated, it is likely to undermine the very foundations of our democracy and the principles which sustain it
  • The law specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by MPs invite action under the law.
  • The law covers 3 types of scenarios with respect to an MP switching parties.

Economy:

Development Finance Institution approved by Cabinet – Rs 20000 crore bank to fund infrastructure

  • Context: Cabinet approves Development Bank with 20,000 crore
  • About: Union Cabinet has cleared the setting up of a Development Finance Institution (DFI) for financing long term infrastructure and development projects of the country.
  • During Budget 2021, it was mentioned that a national bank will be set up to fund infrastructure and developmental activities.
  • Past attempts to have alternative investment funds were taken up, but for various reasons, we ended up with no bank which could take up long-term risk (which is very high) and fund development
  • They are financial institutions that provide long-term credit for the industrial growth of the country.
  • These banks lend at low and stable rates of interest to promote long-term investments. They provide financial assistance for both public and private sector industries.
  • Objectives Of Development Banks
  • Promote industrial growth
  • Development of backward areas
  • Generate employment opportunities
  • More exports and import substitution
  • Modernization and improvement in technology
  • Reduce regional imbalance. There are many uncertainties associated with development banks. (NPAs)Hence, they need to be supported by government or international institutions. Like in the form of tax incentives, more relaxed norms.
  • Development banks in India?
  • Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) set up in 1949, was probably India’s first development bank for financing industrial investments.
  • In 1955, the World Bank prompted the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) —to finance modern and relatively large private corporate enterprises.
  • In 1964, IDBI was set up as an apex body of all development finance institutions.
  • Problems started to mount in these banks due to rising NPAs, allegedly caused by politically motivated lending and inadequate professionalism.
  • Narasimham Committee reports after 1991, development finance institutions were disbanded and got converted to commercial banks.
  • This led to steep fall in long-term credit from a tenure of 10-15 years to just 5 years
  • FM said capital infusion will be of about Rs 20,000 crore this year; Initial grant will be Rs 5,000 crore, additional increments of grant will be made within limit of Rs 5,000 crore

Art and culture: 

Famous Handicrafts of Jammu & Kashmir – What is a Handicraft? J&K Art and Craft:

  • Context: Jammu and Kashmir have a rich heritage of art and craft. The valley of Kashmir is known as the place for culture lovers. Many arts and crafts witness the rich culture in the state.
  • About: A glimpse of the state’s art and craft heritage can also be seen in locals, from their utensils to clothes to furniture to jewelry. It reflects the master skills and dedication of the locals towards the traditional art and craft.
  • The Kashmir has a decade-old rich tradition of creativity and art.
  • Kashmir’s most famous handcrafted specialties include silk and Wool Carpets, Papier-mache Products, Pashminas, Silverware, Copperware, Embroidered shawls, and Wood.
  • The city is considered as a treasure of art and crafts.
  • Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool the wool comes from a number of different breeds of the cashmere goat; such as the changthangi or Kashmir pashmina goat from the Changthang Plateau in Tibet and part of the Ladakh region and few parts of Himachal Pradesh.
  • These shawls are hand spun and woven from the very fine cashmere fibre.
  • Traditional producers of pashmina wool are people known as the Changpa.

International Relations:

Kenya vs Somalia – Indian Ocean maritime boundary dispute between Kenya and Somalia

  • Context: Kenya vs Somalia Indian Ocean border dispute 
  • About: In a move that is set to further undermine stability in East Africa, Kenya has said that it will not take part in proceedings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over its maritime border dispute with neighboring Somalia.
  • Nairobi has accused the top UN body of bias.
  • The move comes after Somalia’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with Kenya in December, after it accused Nairobi of meddling in its internal affairs.
  • The maritime dispute is said to form a crucial part of the diplomatic quarrel between the two countries.
  • What is the dispute?
  • The main point of disagreement between the two neighbours is the direction in which their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean should extend.
  • According to Somalia, the sea border should be an extension of the same direction in which their land border runs as it approaches the Indian Ocean, i.e. towards the southeast.
  • Kenya, on the other hand, argues that the territorial southeast border should take a 45 degree turn as it reaches the sea, and then run in a latitudinal direction, i.e. parallel to the equator.
  • Such an arrangement would be advantageous for Kenya, whose coastline of 536 km is more than 6 times smaller than Somalia’s (3,333 km).
  • Why is this area important?
  • The triangular area thus created by the dispute is around 1.6 lakh sq. km large, and boasts of rich marine reserves.
  • It is also believed to have oil and gas deposits.
  • Both Somalia and Kenya have accused each other of auctioning off blocks from this area.
  • How they tried to solve the dispute?
  • After negotiations to resolve the issue bilaterally failed,  Somalia in 2014 asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to adjudicate.
  • Kenya resisted, arguing that the world court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case,
  • Based on a 2009 argument between the two neighbours that Kenya said amounted to a commitment to settle the dispute out of court.
  • However, in February 2017, the ICJ ruled that it did have the right to rule in the case, and in June 2019 said that it would begin public hearings.
  • These hearings never took place, as Kenya successfully applied to have them postponed thrice– the last one being in June 2020, when it cited difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The latest hearing
  • The latest date scheduled for the hearing announced by the ICJ was March this year, but Kenya asked for a postponement for the fourth time in January.
  • After protests from Somalia, the ICJ agreed to hold hearings from March 15.
  • ICJ rulings are considered binding, although the international tribunal has no powers to ensure enforcement, and many countries are known to ignore its verdicts.
  • What bearing would this have on bilateral relations?
  • In recent years, relations between Somalia and Kenya have sharply deteriorated.
  • In 2019, Somalia criticised Kenya after the latter blocked the entry of two Somalian legislators and a minister after they landed at Nairobi airport, and proceeded to deport them.
  • Last year, Kenya accused Somalia of an “unwarranted attack” on its territory during a conflict between Somalia and regional forces. Somalia refuted the accusation.
  • In December, Kenya hosted the leader of Somaliland, an entity that has declared independence from Somalia since 1991.
  • Somalia responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Kenya, accusing it of interfering in its domestic affairs– claims that Kenya denied.

Security:

MILAN 2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles – Indian army to get 4690 MILAN 2T ATGMs from Bharat Dynamics Ltd

  • Context: Indian Army to Get Deadly MILAN-2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
  • About: The Indian Defense Ministry on Friday (March 19) signed a deal with the state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited to provide 4,960 MILAN-2T anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) to the Army.
  • The missile deal, pegged at Rs 1,188 crore, will be a huge boost for the Indian Army, which has been looking to procure advanced weapons.
  • The induction of the home-grown ATGMs into the Indian Army will be completed in 3 years
  • The weapons deal, which is in sync with the federal government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, is a ‘repeat order’ of the contract signed in March of 2016.
  • The Defence Ministry issued a statement after inking the deal and said that it was a big opportunity for the Indian defense industry.
  • “This project is a big opportunity for the defense industry to showcase its capability and will be a step in the direction of  achieving the goal of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the defense sector,”
  • The MILAN-2T ATGM:
  • The Milan-2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) is produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited under license from MBDA Missile Systems, France.
  • It is a man-portable (Infantry) second-generation ATGM, which boasts the ability to destroy battle tanks fitted with explosive reactive armor, moving and stationary targets.
  • It is a Tandem Warhead ATGM that has a range of around 1,850 meters.
  • The missiles can be fired from the ground as well as vehicle-based launchers.
  • The system was developed for the French and German Armies and over 360,000 missiles and 10,000 launch units “have been produced since 1972
  • MILAN is in service in 41 countries.
  • MILAN 3, armed with a tandem warhead with a new firing post with jam-resistant pulsed-beacon infrared guidance, has been in production since 1996.
  • India ordered a 4,100 MILAN 2T missiles from Bharat Dynamics in December 2008.
  • The development of ammunition that can pierce the armours of tanks and the material that can withstand such ammo has been an ongoing race since World War I.
  • But it wasn’t until the next World War that armies across the world began to use the ATGMs, missile systems that can strike and neutralise armoured vehicles such as tanks.
  • While Indian Army mainly uses various imported anti-tank guided missiles, the DRDO has been working on ATGMs that can be launched from different platforms as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
  • The indigenously developed low weight, fire and forget Man Portable Anti Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) was successfully tested.
  • In February 2018, ATGM Nag was successfully tested in desert conditions.

Government scheme and Initiative:

Uttar Pradesh to export Buddha rice to Singapore – Facts about Kala Namak rice:

  • Context: In what appears to be a major boost to farm exports from Uttar Pradesh, the state is set to send a consignment of 20 tonnes of Buddha Rice, popularly known as “Kala Namak” Rice, one of the finest varieties of aromatic rice in India, to Singapore soon. The consignment will be sent to Singapore from Siddharth Nagar by the end of March this year.
  • About: The rice is being packaged in attractive glass jars with all its qualities clearly mentioned on it.
  • Also known as ‘Buddha ka Mahaprasad’ (an offering to Lord Buddha), the Kala Namak Rice has been rebranded as ‘Buddha Rice’, presenting it as an offering made to the Buddhist monks, in order to promote it in Buddhist countries.
  • The packaging of the rice carries a popular quote of Mahatma Buddha saying ‘The unique aroma of the rice will remind people about me’
  • The export of the rice is being seen as a morale booster for farmers cultivating Buddha Rice in Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabeer Nagar, Bahraich, Balrampur, Gonda, Shravasti, which according to the Geographical Indications (GI) share a similar climate.
  • The move to export this rice to Buddhist countries is being hailed by farmers, who feel that if a market for the rice is created in countries like Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, it will benefit them immensely.

Miscellaneous:

HELINA / Dhruvastra:

  • HELINA (Helicopter-launched Nag) is air-launched version of the Nag with extended range.
  • It is launched from twin-tube stub wing-mounted launchers on board HAL Rudra helicopters and HAL Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • SANT or Standoff Anti-tank Guided Missile is a fourth generation upgraded variant of HELINA missile