Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 30, 2021

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What is “Earth Hour”?

What is the News?

Earth Hour Day has been observed all over the world on March 27, 2021.

About Earth Hour

  • Earth Hour is a global movement for environmental conservation. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) started it in 2007.
  • It is an annual event, that takes place on the last Saturday of March. Millions of people in over 180 countries and territories participate in it by turning off their lights.
  • Aim: To call attention to global warming, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.
  • During the Earth Hour, people turn off their lights for an hour as a sign of global solidarity.
  • Significance: This hour showcases the need to take action on the pressing issue of global climate change. Further, it promotes awareness about environmental issues on a public platform.
  • Theme for 2021: “Climate Change to Save Earth”

About World Wildlife Fund for Nature(WWF):

  • World Wildlife Fund for Nature(WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961.
  • It is the world’s largest conservation organization.
  • Aim: It aims to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment. Furthermore, it also aims to build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.
  • Headquarters: Gland, Switzerland.

Source: NDTV

“African Forest Elephants” declared Critically Endangered

What is the news?

The IUCN declares African Forest elephants as ‘critically endangered’ and Savanna (or bush) elephants as ‘endangered’.

Note: Previously IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) listed both African elephants as “vulnerable”. But now it has opted to list them separately. It is after genetic evidence proved that both are different species.

About African Elephants

  • African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than Asian Elephants and can be identified by their larger ears (Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears.)
  • Elephants are matriarchal, meaning they live in female-led groups. The matriarch is usually the biggest and oldest.
  • Keystone Species: African elephants are keystone species meaning they play a critical role in their ecosystem. They are also known as “ecosystem engineers” as they shape their habitat in many ways.
  • Range: African elephants are distributed throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and the rainforests of Central and West Africa.
  • Types: There are two subspecies of African elephants
    • African Savanna (or bush) elephant: They are larger animals that roam the plains of sub-Saharan Africa. It is listed as endangered under the IUCN Red List.
    • African Forest Elephants: They are smaller animals that live in the forests of Central and West Africa. It is listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List.

About Asian Elephants:

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered 
  • CITES: Appendix I.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
  • The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal on the Asian continent. They inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 range countries spanning South and Southeast Asia.
  • Significance: Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of six to seven related females that are led by the oldest female, the matriarch.
  • Subspecies: There are three subspecies of Asian elephants – the Indian, Sumatran, and Sri Lankan. The Indian has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
  • In India, the Asian elephant is found in four fragmented populations, in the south, north, central and north-east India.

Source: The Hindu

India and US Agrees to Resolve key Trade Issues

What is the news?

India and the United States agreed to work constructively to resolve key outstanding trade issues. Further, they also aim to take a comprehensive look at ways to expand the trade relationship.

What are the major India-US trade issues?

  1. Generalised System of Preferences(GSP): In 2019, the US removed India from the GSP programme. This move adversely affected India’s exports to the US.
    • GSP: It is a preferential tariff system that allows concessional low/zero-tariff imports from developing countries.
  2. Tariffs: High Tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from India.
  3. Services: India has concerns over US visa policies. It has affected Indian nationals working in the United States
  4. Agriculture: The Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers in India limit US agricultural exports.
  5. Forced Localisation: The US has opposed India’s “forced” localisation practices such as in-country data storage, domestic content, and domestic testing requirements.
  6. E-commerce rules: The US has concerns regarding India’s e-commerce rules. As the new E-commerce rule imposed restrictions on how e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Walmart owned Flipkart conduct business.
  7. Intellectual Property(IP): India remains on the “Special 301” Priority Watch List based on concerns such as its treatment of patents, infringement rates and protection of trade secrets.

Organizations involved in India-US trade issues

There are two major trade organisations involved in trade-related matters in the US. They are,

Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)

  1. Office of the United States Trade Representative(USTR) is a government agency. It is responsible for developing and recommending international trade policy to the US president.
  2. Significance: The USTR directly negotiates trade agreements and resolving trade disputes with foreign governments. Apart from that they also participate in global trade policy organizations.
  3. Powers: The US Trade Act gives the USTR broad authority to investigate and respond to a foreign country’s action. These actions include unfair or discriminatory practices as well as policies that negatively affect US commerce.
  4. Reports: The USTR publishes few major annual reports. Such as
    • National Trade Estimate Report
    • The Special 301 Report – identifies trade barriers to United States companies and products.

India-US Trade Policy Forum:

  • Setup in: India US Trade Policy Forum (TPF) was set up in 2005 and reconstituted in 2014.
  • Purpose: It is primarily designed to work for expanding bilateral trade and investment between India and the US.
  • Nodal Agencies: Minister of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, and Office of the US Trade Representative are the nodal agencies.
  • Chaired by: It is co-Chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister on the Indian side and USTR on the US side.

Source: The Hindu

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launches “Tribal TB Initiative”

What is the News?

Union Health Minister launches the Tribal TB Initiative to achieve the goal of  TB Mukt Bharat.

About Tribal TB Initiative:

  • Aim: Tribal TB Initiative aims to address the problem of Tuberculosis in Tribal Population.
  • Initially, the initiative will focus on 161 districts across 18 identified States. It will focus on vulnerability mapping, active case finding & promote behavioral change at the ground level.
  • TB Mukt Bharat initiative aims at the elimination of TB by 2025.

Why was this initiative launched?

  • Over 104 million tribal populations live in India. It spreads across 705 tribes and accounts for 8.6 % of India’s population.
  • This tribal population is highly vulnerable to TB due to physical remoteness, malnutrition, poor living conditions, and lack of awareness. Hence, the initiative was launched to focus on these areas.


  • Lakshadweep and the district of Badgam in Jammu and Kashmir have been declared TB Free on World TB Day 2021.
  • The Government of India has increased the Budget allocation for TB in India four-fold in the last 5 years.

Other Tribal Health-Related Initiatives:

  • ALEKH: It is an e-newsletter that is to be released on a quarterly basis. It will showcase the works of different stakeholders involved in improving the health and nutrition of tribals.
  • Swasthya Portal: It aims to provide health and nutrition-related information to the tribal population of India.

Source: AIR

Only 5.4% of houses under “PM Awas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G)” completed this year

What is the News?

The Ministry of Rural Development has informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee about the progress of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin.

Progress under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G):

  • PMAY-G Scheme has a target of providing Housing for All by March 2022. However, only 55% of the construction target was completed. Although, money was sanctioned for almost 85% of beneficiaries.

Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on the Scheme:

  • In 2020-21, less than 6% of houses sanctioned under the PMAY-G reached the completion stage due to COVID-19.
  • Reasons for Delay: In 2019, it used to take an average of 114 days to construct a house under the scheme. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused long delays at every stage in 2020-21.
  • However, some states such as Odisha and Jharkhand have completed around 10% of the houses sanctioned in 2020-21. It has also used the scheme to provide employment opportunities for migrant workers who returned to their villages during the crisis.
  • But a number of other States such as Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka did not see completed construction of even a single house sanctioned during 2020-21.

About Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin:

  • Launched by: Ministry of Rural Development in 2016.
  • Aim: To provide a pucca house with basic amenities to all rural families by end of March 2022. People who are homeless or living in kutcha or dilapidated houses are eligible for benefits.

Key Features of the Scheme:

  • Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are identified as per the housing deprivation parameters and exclusion criteria prescribed under Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011. Gram Sabha verifies the eligible beneficiaries.
  • Target: The scheme had a target of construction of 2.95 crore pucca houses for eligible rural households by March, 2022.
  • Fund sharing pattern -The grants under the scheme are shared between the Centre and States in the ratio of:
    • 90:10 in case of NE States, Himalayan States & Himalayan UTs.
    • For all other States, funds are shared in the ratio of 60:40 by the Centre and the States.
    • In cases of other UTs, entire funds are provided by the Centre.
  • Monitoring: The programme implementation is monitored not only electronically but also through community participation (Social Audit), Member of Parliament (DISHA Committee), Central and State Government officials, National Level Monitors, etc.

Source: The Hindu

“NISAR Satellite” for Observing Earth’s Surface

What is the News?

NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing the NISAR Satellite.

About NISAR Satellite:

  1. NISAR is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
  2. This satellite will be able to detect the earth’s surface movement as small as 0.4 inches over an area.
  3. It will be a three-year mission. It will scan the globe including Earth’s land, ice sheets, and sea ice, every 12 days during its mission.
  4. Full-Form: The name NISAR is short for NASA-ISRO-SAR. SAR here refers to the Synthetic Aperture Radar.
    • SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images. Because of the precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness. It means, it can collect data day and night in any weather.
  5. Launched Year: The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India into a near-polar orbit.

Objectives of the Mission: The primary goals of the mission includes:

  • Tracking subtle changes in the Earth’s surface
  • Spotting warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions
  • Helping to monitor groundwater supplies and
  • Tracking the rate at which ice sheets are melting.

Contributions from NASA and ISRO:

The partnership agreement for this mission was signed in 2014. According to the agreement:

  • NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.
  • On the other hand, ISRO will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

Significance of this mission:

  • The images from the satellite will allow scientists to track changes in croplands, hazard sites. It will also help to monitor crises such as volcanic eruptions.
  • The images will also be able to capture changes in the Earth caused by certain activities. For instance, drawing drinking water from an underground aquifer can leave signs on the surface. If too much of it is drawn out, the ground begins to sink which is what scientists believe the images will be able to show them.

Source: Indian Express

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