Daily Current Affairs

16TH FEBRUARY,2021 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS 

Index

  1. A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  2. Uranium deposits of India (TH)
  3. Giant leatherback turtle (TH)
  4. B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  5. Biotech URJIT clusters (PIB)
  6. National Translation Mission (NTM) and National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) (PIB)
  7. GrapeNet (PIB)
  8. C) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
  9. World Trade Organization (WTO) (TH)

A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Uranium deposits of India (TH)

  • Context: The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has confirmed that “small deposits” of uranium were found at Kasha Kaladi in Shimla and Tileli in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The largest deposit in the state is at Rajpura in Una district.
  • The size of the find has put Himachal Pradesh at the 10th position among 11 states in the country where uranium has been traced.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Meghalaya occupy the top three positions, respectively.

Analysis

Uranium deposits of India

  • Jaduguda in Singhbhum Thrust Belt (in the state of Jharkhand) is the first uranium deposit to be discovered in the country in 1951.
  • Jaduguda is the first mine in the country to produce uranium ore in a commercial scale.
  • Bhatin, Narwapahar and Turamdih are well known uranium mines of the country.
  • Apart from discoveries in the Singhbhum Thrust Belt, several uranium occurrences have also been found in Cuddapah/Kadapa basin of Andhra Pradesh.
  • In the Mahadek basin of Meghalaya in North-eastern part of the country, sandstone type uranium deposits provide near-surface flat ore bodies amenable to commercial operations.
  • The Tummulpalli deposit (in Andhra Pradesh) is considered to be one of the largest deposits of uranium in the world.
  • India currently imports uranium from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Canada and plans to also purchase the fuel from Australia.

Nuclear Energy Resources (From NCERT)

  • Important minerals used for the generation of nuclear energy are uranium and thorium.
  • Uranium deposits occur in the Dharwar rocks.
  • Geographically, uranium ores are known to occur in several locations along the Singbhum Copper belt.
  • It is also found in Udaipur, Alwar and Jhunjhunu districts of Rajasthan, Durg district of Chhattisgarh, Bhandara district of Maharashtra and Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Thorium is mainly obtained from monazite and ilmenite in the beach sands along the coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • World’s richest monazite deposits occur in Palakkad and Kollam districts of Kerala, near Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mahanadi river delta in Odisha.
  1. Giant leatherback turtle (TH)

  • Context: Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.

Analysis

  • Giant leatherback turtle is the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
  • Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
  • Leatherback – named for its unique shell, which is leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
  • Leatherbacks have delicate, scissor-like jaws.
  • Their jaws would be damaged by anything other than a diet of soft-bodied animals, so they feed almost exclusively on jellyfish.

Habitat

  • They are primarily found in the open ocean, as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern tip of Africa.
  • They are the largest sea turtle species and also one of the most migratory, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • Globally, leatherback status according to IUCN is listed as Vulnerable
  • Known to be active in water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they are the only reptile known to remain active at such a low temperature.
  • Leatherbacks are able to maintain warm body temperatures in cold water by using a unique set of adaptations that allows them to both generate and retain body heat.
  • These adaptations include large body size, changes in swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat.

Threats

  • Many leatherbacks meet an early end due to human activity.
  • Eggs are often taken by humans from nests to be consumed for subsistence or as aphrodisiacs. Many leatherbacks fall victim to fishing lines and nets, or are struck by boats.
  • Leatherbacks also can die if they ingest floating plastic debris mistaken for jellyfish.

Do you know?

  • Five out of the total seven species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. These are:
  • Olive Ridley (Vulnerable),
  • Green (Endangered),
  • Hawksbill (Critically Endangered),
  • Loggerhead (Vulnerable) and
  • Leatherback (Vulnerable).
  • Except the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast.
  • In India, sea turtles are protected under the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • The eastern coastline is the feeding area for Olive Ridley, juvenile Hawksbills and Green turtles.

Role in marine ecosystem

  • Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
  • The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
  • The Hawksbill feeds on sponges in the reef ecosystem and opens up crevices for other marine life to live in.

 B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

3.Biotech URJIT clusters (PIB)

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, is implementing the Biotech URJIT clusters (University Research Joint Industry Translation Clusters) in the country to synergize resources between institutions, Universities research laboratories, industries and SMEs for technology & product development and building enterprises.
  • The purpose of Biotech URJIT Cluster scheme is to complement and enhance the translational and commercialization potential of inventions & innovations coming out of academic research activities.
  • Each Biotech URJIT Cluster will be anchored at a certain geography or region. All partners of the Biotech URJIT Cluster should be in close geographical proximity to allow easy collaborations.
  1. National Translation Mission (NTM) and National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) (PIB)

  • The National Translation Mission (NTM) (Ministry of Education) is a scheme launched in 2008 which is being implemented through the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore to establish translation as an industry in general and to facilitate higher education by making knowledge texts accessible to students and academics in Indian languages.
  • Under the scheme, the books of knowledge texts mostly text books of various subjects prescribed in Universities and Colleges are being translated in all Languages of the 8thSchedule of the Constitution of India.
  • A National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, (MeitY)) was announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22, to enable the translation of the wealth of governance-and-policy related knowledge on the internet to major Indian languages, both in the form of speech and text, using technologies such as AI based Machine Translation together with traditional methods.
  • The announcement comes in the backdrop of growing demand for accessing online services in local Indian languages.
  • Under the Mission, it is also envisaged to build a digital platform serving machine translation system, which can be used to translate text and speech content from one language to another with minimal human involvement.
  • It is also aimed to create and nurture an ecosystem involving start-ups and Central and State Government institutions working together to develop and deploy innovative solutions in Indian languages and stimulate massive public participation.
  1. GrapeNet (PIB)

  • Context: APEDA has adopted next generation Blockchain and Cloud migration enabled GrapeNet System which would ensure a secured, scalable and cost effective interface for all the stakeholders in the exports value chain.

Analysis

  • GrapeNet is an internet based Residue traceability software system, for monitoring fresh grapes exported from India to the European Union.
  • GrapeNet is a first of its kind initiative in India that has put in place an end-to-end system for monitoring pesticide residue, achieve product standardization and facilitate tracing back from retail shelves to the farm of the Indian grower, through the various stages of sampling, testing, certification and packing.
  • Finally and most importantly, APEDA can trace details of the consignment right up to the plot level.
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act passed by the Parliament in December, 1985.
  • It is under administrative control of Ministry of Commerce and Industry

C) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

6.World Trade Organization (WTO) (TH)

  • Context: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as the first female and first African head of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Analysis

Structure

  • The WTO has 164 members, accounting for 98% of world trade.
  • Decisions are made by the entire membership. This is typically by consensus.
  • The WTO’s agreements have to be ratified by all members’ parliaments.
  • The WTO’s top-level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets usually every two years.
  • Below this is the General Council (normally ambassadors and heads of delegation based in Geneva but sometimes officials sent from members’ capitals) which meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters.
  • The General Council also meets as the Trade Policy Review Body and the Dispute Settlement Body.
  • At the next level, the Goods Council, Services Council and Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council report to the General Council.
  • The WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism is designed to improve transparency, to create a greater understanding of the trade policies adopted by WTO members and to assess their impact.
  • Many members see the reviews as constructive feedback on their policies.
  • All WTO members must undergo periodic scrutiny, each review containing reports by the member concerned and the WTO Secretariat.
  • The WTO Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland and is headed by a Director- General.
  • Since decisions are taken by the WTO’s members, the Secretariat does not itself have a decision-making role.
  • The Secretariat’s main duties are to supply technical support for the various councils/ committees and the ministerial conferences, to provide legal assistance in the dispute settlement process, to provide technical assistance for developing economies, to analyse world trade and advises governments wishing to become members of the WTO.

Functions

  • The WTO’s objective is to help trade flow smoothly, freely and predictably. It does this by:
  • administering trade agreements
  • acting as a forum for trade negotiations
  • settling trade disputes
  • reviewing national trade policies
  • building the trade capacity of developing economies
  • cooperating with other international organizations

Important Landmarks in recent times

  • At the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, WTO members struck the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, which aims to reduce border delays by slashing red tape.
  • When fully implemented, this Agreement – the first multilateral accord reached at the WTO – will cut trade costs by more than 14% and will lift global exports by as much as US$ 1 trillion per year.
  • The expansion of the Information Technology Agreement – concluded at the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in 2015 – eliminated tariffs on an additional 200 IT products valued at over US$ 1.3 trillion per year.
  • Another outcome of the Conference was a decision to abolish agricultural export subsidies, fulfilling one of the key targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goal on “Zero hunger”.
  • Most recently, an amendment to the WTO’s Intellectual Property Agreement entered into force in 2017, easing poor economies’ access to affordable medicines.
  • The same year saw the Trade Facilitation Agreement enter into force.
  • Next Ministerial Conference i.e. 12th MC will take place in June 2021 at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. the last one (MC11) was organized in Buenos Aires in 2017.

Other Initiatives at WTO

  • The Aid for Trade initiative, launched by WTO members in 2005, is designed to help developing economies build trade capacity, enhance their infrastructure and improve their ability to benefit from trade- opening opportunities.
  • The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) is the only multilateral partnership dedicated exclusively to assist least developed countries (LDCs) in their use of trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.
  • The EIF partnership of 51 countries, 24 donors and eight partner agencies, including the WTO, works closely with governments, development organizations, civil society and academia.
  • Another partnership supported by the WTO is the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), set up to help developing economies meet international standards for food safety, plant and animal health and access global markets. The WTO houses the Secretariat and manages the STDF trust fund, which has provided financing of over US$ 40 million to support projects in low-income economies.

Least-developed Countries

  • The WTO recognizes as least-developed countries (LDCs) those countries which have been designated as such by the United Nations.
  • There are currently 47 least-developed countries on the UN list, 36 of which to date have become WTO members.
  • There are no WTO definitions of “developed” or “developing” countries.
  • Developing countries in the WTO are designated on the basis of self-selection although this is not necessarily automatically accepted in all WTO bodies.

 

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