Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 17, 2021

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“World Air Quality Report, 2020” Released

What is the News?

IQ Air, a Swiss air quality technology company released a report titled “World Air Quality Report, 2020”.

About World Air Quality Report:

  • World Air Quality is an annual report. The report is based on PM2.5 data. It is from 106 countries based on data from ground-based monitoring stations. The report is handled by government agencies mostly.

Key Findings Related to India

  • India is home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities in the World.
  • Delhi has gotten listed as the 10th most polluted city and the top polluted capital city in the world in 2020. However, Delhi’s air quality improved by approximately 15% from 2019 to 2020.
  • India ranked as the world’s 3rd most polluted country in 2020 after Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, India has improved its average annual PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in 2020 than in 2019.
  • Further, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was particularly severe for stubble burning in India. Farm fires in Punjab have increased by 46.5% over 2019.

Other Key Global Findings:

  • The topmost polluted city in the world is Xinjiang in China, followed by Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.
  • In 2020, 84% of all monitored countries observed air quality improvements. However, of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met the World Health Organization annual guidelines for PM 2.5.

Source: The Hindu

Cabinet Clears Proposal for Setting up of “Development Finance Institution (DFI)”

What is the news?

The Union Cabinet approved a bill to set up a Development Finance Institution(DFI). It will be called National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID).

About National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID):

  • Owned by: Initially, the Government of India will own it with a 100% stake. They will gradually bring it down down to 26% in a few years.
  • Purpose: It will provide finance for social and economic infrastructure projects identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline(NIP).
  • Managed by: A professional board with at least 50 percent of the members as non-official directors.
  • Capital Infusion: The capital infusion by the Government will be Rs 20,000 crore with an initial grant of Rs 5,000 crore. It is later expected to raise around Rs 3 lakh crore in the next few years by Market funds.
  • Tax Exemption: The government will provide a 10-year tax exemption to funds invested in the DFI. It will attract long-term players such as insurance and pension funds.

What is a Development Finance Institution(DFI)?

  • DFI is an agency that finances infrastructure projects of national importance.
  • In most cases, these agencies are government-owned. Their borrowings enjoy the government guarantees which help bring down the cost of funding.
  • DFI in India: The first DFI in India was the Industrial Financial Corporation of India(IFC). It got launched in 1948. The IDBI, UTI, NABARD, EXIM Bank, SIDBI, NHB were the other major DFIs. Most later converted into banks.

Source: The Hindu

SC orders Info. on Rule Curve for “Mullaperiyar Dam”

What is the News?

The Supreme Court orders the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary to give information on the ‘rule curve’ for the Mullaperiyar dam. It also directed the Supervisory Committee to issue directions or take steps to address the three core safety issues.

What is Rule Curve?

The ‘rule curve’ in a dam decides the fluctuating storage levels in a reservoir. The gate opening schedule of a dam is based on the ‘rule curve’. It is part of the “core safety” mechanism in a dam. Rules curves are used to guarantee the safety of the reservoir as well as water security.

About Mullaperiyar Dam:

  • First, the Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district. The dam is located on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats.
  • Second, it is operated and maintained by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Even though, the dam is located in Kerala.
  • Third, the dam is operated by Tamil Nadu following an 1886 lease agreement for 999 years. It was signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India during British Rule.
  • Fourth, In the 1970s, the lease agreement was renewed by Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It gave the former, rights to the water from the dam, besides the authority to develop hydropower projects at the site. In return, Kerala receives rent from Tamil Nadu.

Why Controversy over Mullaperiyar dam then?

  • In 1979, problems erupted over the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam. It was claimed that a minor earthquake had resulted in the cracks in the dam.
  • Consequently, the Central Water Commission decided that water level in the dam be brought down from the full reservoir level of 152 ft to 136 ft. It will enable Tamil Nadu to carry out dam strengthening works.
  • By the 1990s, Tamil Nadu started demanding restoration of the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam as it completed the task assigned to it. They approached the Supreme Court when no consensus was reached through negotiations.
  • In 2014 as per directions of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Jal Shakti constituted a three-member Supervisory Committee.
  • The committee has been asked to address three core safety issues:
    • Monitoring and performance of the instrumentation of the dam,
    • Finalising the ‘rule curve’ and
    • Fixing the gate operating schedule — and submit a compliance report in four weeks.

Source: The Hindu

Genome mapping of Indian Ocean by NIO

What is the News?
National Institute of Oceanography(NIO) has launched its first-of-its-kind project of Genome Mapping in the Indian Ocean.

About the Genome Mapping in the Indian Ocean Project:

  • Aim of the Project:
    • To reveal the internal working of the body of the ocean at a cellular level.
    • To understand the biochemistry and the response of the ocean to climate change, nutrient stress and increasing pollution.
  • Duration of the Project: The project will take three years to complete.

How will the Project get conducted?

  • The NIO research team onboard its research vessel Sindhu Sadhana will travel from India’s east coast, all the way to Australia, then onward towards Port Louis in Mauritius and up to the border of Pakistan.
  • During this journey, they will gather samples for genome mapping of microorganisms at an average depth of 5 km.
  • They will then map the DNA and RNA of these microorganisms just like gene mapping on human blood samples.

Significance of the Project:

  • The genome mapping will enable scientists to identify the factors controlling the changes in RNA, DNA in the oceans and various stressors impacting them.
  • Next, the project will also help in identifying which part of the ocean has a greater concentration of which mineral or element. Scientists will then use these as tracers to tackle the causative factors for excess or lack of a certain mineral or element and suggest possible solutions for their mitigation.
  • Further, the genome mapping of oceans will enable commercial biotechnology applications from anticancer treatments and industrial enzymes to antiviral molecules.

What is Genome Mapping?

  • Genome refers to an organism’s complete set of DNA that includes all its genes. And mapping these genes simply means finding out the location of these genes in a chromosome.
  • Therefore, Genome mapping essentially means figuring out the location of a specific gene on a particular region of the chromosome. It also means to determine the location of and relative distances between other genes on that chromosome.

About National Institute of Oceanography(NIO):

  • NIO is an autonomous research organization established in 1966.It is one of the 37 constituent laboratories of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi.
  • Focus: The principal focus of research has been on observing and understanding special oceanographic characteristics of the Indian Ocean.
  • Headquarters: Goa

Source: Indian Express

“UK’s Post-Brexit Foreign Policy” Focusses on Indo-Pacific

What is the news?

The United Kingdom(UK) has released a document laying out its post-Brexit foreign and defence policy priorities.

What are the key features of the Post-Brexit Foreign Policy?

  • Expand Influence in Indo-Pacific:
    • The document calls Indo-Pacific the geopolitical centre of the world.
    • The document says that the UK is planning to expand its influence among the Indo-Pacific region countries. It will try to moderate China’s global dominance.
    • Further, a planned British aircraft carrier will also get deployed to the region.
  • Increase in Nuclear Warheads: The document plans an increase of Britain’s nuclear warhead stockpile by more than 40%. It is due to the evolving global security threats.
  • Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre: The document confirms the launch of cross-government hubs – a Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre. It aims to significantly improve the UK’s ability to thwart terrorists.
  • India: The document categorizes India as an international actor of growing importance. The UK aims to achieve an Enhanced Trade Partnership with India as a roadmap to a potential comprehensive trade deal.
  • China: China and the U.K. both benefit from their bilateral trade and investment. However, China also presents the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security.
  • Russia and US: The document underlines the importance of strong ties with the U.S. while naming Russia as the top regional threat.

Source: The Hindu

Himachal Pradesh to start “Seabuckthorn plantations”

What is the News?

The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to start Sea Buckthorn Plantation in the cold desert areas.

About Sea buckthorn:

  • It is a shrub that produces an orange-yellow coloured edible berry.
  • In India, one can find it above the tree line in the Himalayan region. It is generally in dry areas such as the cold deserts of Ladakh and Spiti.
  • In Himachal Pradesh, it is locally called Himalayan chharma and grows in the wild in Lahaul and Spiti and parts of Kinnaur.

Benefits of Seabuckthorn Plantation:

Medicinal Benefits:

  • It is used as a medicine for treating stomach, heart, and skin problems.
  • It is rich in vitamins, carotenoids, and omega fatty acids. Moreover, it can help troops in acclimatizing to high-altitude.

Ecological Benefits:

  • It is an important source of fuelwood and fodder.
  • It is a soil-binding plant that prevents soil erosion. Furthermore, it checks siltation in rivers and helps preserve floral biodiversity.
    • Example: In the Lahaul valley, Seabuckthorn is a good alternative for protecting the local ecology. Willow trees are dying there in large numbers due to pest attacks.

Commercial Benefits:

  • It is used in making juices, jams, and nutritional capsules among others things.
  • It gets used in the manufacturing of cosmetics and anti-ageing products.

Source: Indian Express

Older IIMs lag behind in enforcing “Quota rules”

What is the News?

According to an RTI, older Indian Institutes of Management(IIMs) are lagging behind the newer IIMs in enforcing the quota rule.

Data on IIMs enforcing Quota Rule:

  • In older IIMs, less than 10% of the faculty are from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes communities.
  • However, in some newer Indian Institutes of Management(IIMs), there is some progress in hiring faculty members.

Institute wise Data:

Older Institutes:

  • IIM-Kolkata: It has no SC or ST faculty member, but it does have two OBC faculty members. It makes up less than 3% of its total strength of 77.
  • IIM-Bengaluru: It has 6% of its 103 faculty members from the reserved categories: 3 SC, 1 ST, and 2 OBC community members.
  • IIM-Ahmedabad: It has said that it does not maintain category-wise information for faculty.

Newer Institutes:

  • The Institute at Shillong has more than 30% of faculty members from the reserved categories.
  • Institute of Raipur has 25% and Institute of Jammu more than 22% from the reserved categories.
  • However, among newer IIMs, IIM-Nagpur does not have a single faculty member from any of the reserved categories.

Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act,2019:

  • Purpose: The act provides for the reservation of posts in appointments of Central educational institutions by direct recruitment of persons belonging to
    • Scheduled Castes (SCs) (15%)
    • Scheduled Tribes (STs) (7.5%)
    • Socially and Educationally Backward Classes(SEBCs) (27%) and
    • Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs) (10%).
  • Coverage: The act will apply to ‘central educational institutions’ that are:
    • universities set up by Acts of Parliament
    • institutions deemed to be a university
    • institutions of national importance and
    • institutions receiving aid from the central government.
  • Exception: The act excludes
    • certain institutions of excellence, research institutions, and institutions of national and strategic importance.
    • It also excludes minority education institutions.

Source: The Hindu

MHA introduced “NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021”

What is the News?

The Ministry of Home Affairs has introduced the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill,2021 in the Lok Sabha. The bill aims to change some important provisions concerning the National Capital.

About NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021:

  • It seeks to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act,1991.
  • The main objective is to give overarching powers to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) in the functioning of Delhi.

Key amendments of the proposed NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021

  • The ‘Government’ from now on will mean ‘Lieutenant Governor’: The Bill provides that the term “government” referred to any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (LG).
  • LG’s opinion for executive actions: The Bill mentions that on certain matters, as specified by the LG, the government has to obtain LG’s opinion before taking any executive actions.
  • Reservation of bills to President: The NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill requires the LG to reserve bills for the President. They are the bills that incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.
  • It limits the administrative powers of the Delhi Assembly: The bill provides that the rules made by the Delhi Assembly for regulating its procedure and conduct of business shall not be inconsistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.

About Delhi as a Union Territory:

  • Delhi is a Union Territory with a legislature. It came into existence in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution. This provision was inserted by the Sixty-ninth Amendment Act,1991.
  • As per the existing Act, the Delhi Legislative Assembly makes laws in all matters except public order, police, and land.

Supreme Court Judgement on Delhi Government vs Powers of LG: In 2018, the Government of NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India (2018) case the supreme court provided a guideline. This guideline aimed at reducing the power tussle between the government of Delhi and the Lieutenant Governor. They are, 

  • Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi is bound by the “aid and advice” of the elected Delhi government except for issues of public order, police and land.
  • Delhi Government needs to inform the LG of its well-deliberated decisions. The government need not obtain his “concurrence” in every day-to-day issue of governance.

Source: The Hindu

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