Daily Current Affairs

8TH FEBRUARY,2021 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS

Index

  1. A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  2. Uttarakhand disaster and the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) (TH)
  3. B) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  4. Arab world’s first probe nears Mars (TH)
  5. C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues
  6. “Kiran” mental health rehabilitation helpline (TH)
  7. D) Economic Developments: India and World
  8. What is Non-Tax Revenue?
  9. What is Non-Debt Capital Receipts? (TH)
  10. European Union-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) (TH)

 

A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment, and Biodiversity

  1. Uttarakhand disaster and the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) (TH)

  • Context: Seven persons were killed and over 125 reported missing after a “glacial burst” on Nanda Devi triggered an avalanche and caused flash floods in Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on Sunday (7th Feb 2021).
  • The event has been described as a “glacial burst” by the Centre’s National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by Cabinet Secretary.

Analysis

  • Environmental experts attributed the Nanda Devi glacial melt to global warming.
  • Glacier retreat and permafrost thaw are projected to decrease the stability of the mountain slopes and increase the number and area of glacier lakes, according to the latest assessment reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Originating from Vasudhara Tal, perhaps the largest glacial lake in Uttarakhand, the Dhauliganga flows in a meandering course, which takes it through the Nanda Devi National Park.
  • Known for its spectacularly beautiful route and white-water rafting, the river turned into a deathly torrent on Sunday after a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off and collapsed into it.
  • The Dhauliganga, which merges with the Alaknanda, is one of the several tributaries of the Ganga, as the river flows down from the Himalayas and snakes its way through the plains.

Reminder of Gya glacial lake that outburst in 2014

  • Recently, using remote sensing data, researchers from Germany mapped the evolution of Gya glacial lake that outburst in 2014 and note the cause of the flood.
  • Most interesting was finding the cause of the flood —here the flooding did not happen due to the spillovers due to an avalanche or landslide, rather there was a thawing of the ice cores in the moraine [a field of dirt and rocks that have been pushed along by the glacier as it moves] which drained through the subsurface tunnels.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF)

  • As glaciers retreat, the formation of glacial lakes takes place behind moraine (glacial debris left behind after the ice has retreated), rock or ice dam.
  • In particular moraine dams, which is the most common dam type in the Himalayan region, are potentially weak and can breach suddenly, leading to a discharge up to millions of cubic meters of water and debris.
  • Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) is a term used to describe a sudden release of water retained in a glacial lake that can be located in front, at the side, underneath, within, or on top of a glacier.
  • Large lakes located in front of the glacier are mainly dammed by loose moraine and these lakes are generally considered to be potential flood sources.
  • Different types of lakes may have different levels of hazard potential.
  • For instance, moraine-dammed lakes located at the snout of a glacier have a high probability of breaching and thus may have high hazard potential, whereas rock dam’s lakes have little chances of breaching and thus have a lower hazard potential.
  • Much of the damage caused during GLOF events are associated with large amounts of debris/boulders that accompany the floodwaters.
  • Continued climate change is expected to alter and potentially increase the likelihood of lake outbursts in the future, as:
  • glacial lakes grow in size and number,
  • stability of steep slopes is weakened due to changes in thermal and mechanical conditions, and
  • heavy rainfall increases landslide activity.
  • In total, there are about 9,575 glaciers in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), spread across 6 states and union territories i.e., Jammu-Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In some cases, cloudbursts can also trigger glacial lake outburst flood events like in the Kedarnath disaster in 2013.
  • While these events have been regarded as a major risk in the central Himalayan region including Sikkim, the arid Trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh have received attention only recently.
  • Here the glaciers are located at high altitudes not lower than 5,200 m and most glaciers are of small size. Likewise, the glacial lakes are quite small in size.
  • GLOFs are recognized in the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) 2019 of India as a potential climatological disaster.
  • Early Warning Systems (EWS) has a prominent role in the international policy agenda and is aligned directly with Priority 4 of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 on Climate Action.
  • Four key elements of Early Warning Systems, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR formerly UNISDR) are:
  • i) Risk Knowledge;
  • ii) Monitoring and Warning Service;
  • iii) Dissemination and Communication; and
  • iv) Response Capability.

National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)

  • For effective implementation of relief measures in the wake of a natural calamity, the Cabinet may set up a committee.
  • On the constitution of such a committee of the Cabinet, the Agriculture Secretary shall provide all necessary information to and seek directions if any, of the Cabinet Committee in all matters concerning relief in the wake of natural calamity and take steps for effective implementation of its directions.
  • In the absence of such a Cabinet Committee, all matter relating to relief shall be reported to the Cabinet Secretary.
  • A National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) has been constituted in the Cabinet Secretariat under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary.

B) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

2.Arab world’s first probe nears Mars (TH)

  • Context: The first Arab interplanetary mission is expected to reach Mars’ orbit on Tuesday (8 Feb 2021) in what is considered the most critical part of the journey to unravel the secrets of weather on the Red Planet.

Analysis

  • The unmanned space probe — named “Al-Amal”, Arabic for “Hope” — blasted off from Japan last year, marking the next step in the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious space programme.
  • The UAE has plans to launch an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024 and is also eyeing future mining projects beyond Earth, as well as space tourism.
  • The launch of the probe, known as “Al-Amal” in Arabic, had twice been delayed because of bad weather.
  • Only the United States, India, the former Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency have successfully sent missions to orbit the fourth planet from the sun, while China is preparing to launch its first Mars rover later this month.
  • The Emirati project is one of three racing to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 (Perseverance rover) from the United States, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.
  • Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different rates and are aligned at their closest points only once every two years.
  • “Hope” is expected to enter Mars orbit by February 2021, marking the year of the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates.
  • Unlike the two other Mars ventures scheduled for this year, it will not land on the Red Planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days.

Emirates Mars Mission – Hope Probe

  • In July 2014, the UAE announced the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission project.
  • This initiated work on developing the first Arabic-Islamic probe to be sent to Mars by 2020.
  • The probe will be built by an Emirati team of engineers and experts and will be sent on a scientific voyage of discovery to the Red Planet.
  • The Emirates Mars Mission called “Hope” was announced in 2015 with the aim of creating mankind’s first integrated model of the Red planet’s atmosphere.

Scientific Objectives of the Probe Voyage

  • Specifically, the Emirates Mars Mission will be:
  • the first probe to study climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles – previous probes took snapshots only at a certain time of day;
  • Mars’s first true weather satellite;
  • the first to study the effects that events in the lower atmosphere, such as changes in temperature and dust storms, can have in the upper atmosphere days or weeks later;
  • the first to examine the interaction between climate and geography, such as links and differences between weather on the peaks of Mars’s massive volcanoes and in the depths of its canyons.
  • The Mars science community will gain new insights about the weather on Mars, such as its famous dust storms.
  • On Earth, dust storms are brief and localised. On Mars, massive storms of red dust are known to engulf the entire planet.
  • It will have a digital camera that will send back high-resolution colour images and an infra-red spectrometer, which will examine temperature patterns, ice, water vapour and dust in the atmosphere.
  • It also will have an ultraviolet spectrometer which will study the upper atmosphere and traces of oxygen and hydrogen further out into space.

 C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

3.“Kiran” mental health rehabilitation helpline (TH)

  • Citing the prevalence of mental health issues and the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has said it will launch a toll-free helpline to enable access to mental health resources.
  • The “Kiran” mental health rehabilitation helpline number, 1800-599-0019, will offer services in 13 languages.

D) Economic Developments: India and World

4.What is Non-Tax Revenue?

  • Context: Terms used in editorials.

Analysis

  • While taxation is a primary source of income for the government, it also earns some recurring income other than tax, which is called non-tax revenue.
  • While sources of tax revenue consist of few but bulk direct and indirect taxes, the number of sources of non-tax revenue are very large with wide variance in the quantum of collections per source.
  • Although there are large sources of non-tax revenue, the quantum of collection per source is much less than that of tax collections.

Difference between Tax Revenue and Non-Tax Revenue

  • Tax revenue is charged on income earned by an individual or an entity (direct tax) and on the value of the transaction of goods and services (indirect tax).
  • On the other hand, non-tax revenue is charged against services provided by the government.
  • It also includes interest charged on loans advanced by the government for various purposes.
  • Note that it is compulsory to pay a part of the income earned/generated and amount of goods and services consumed as tax.
  • However, non-tax revenue becomes payable only when services offered by the government are availed.

Components of Non-Tax Revenue

  • Interest:It comprises of interest of loans given to states and union territories for reasons like non-plan schemes (e.g. flood control) and planned schemes with maturity period of 20 years such as modernisation of police forces and also interest on loans advanced to Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs), Port Trusts and other statutory bodies etc.
  • Dividends and profits:This includes dividends and profits from PSEs as well as the transfer of surplus from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Petroleum license:This includes fees to get the exclusive right for exploration in a particular region. Such fees may be in the form of royalty, share of the profit earned from contact areas during a specific period, Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) fee or Production Level Payment (PLP).
  • Power supply fees:This includes fees received by Central Electricity Authority from the supply of power under the Electricity (Supply) Act.
  • Fees for Communication Services:This mainly includes the license fees from telecom operators on account of spectrum usage charges that licensed Telecom Service Providers pay to the Department of Telecom (DoT).
  • Broadcasting fees:It includes license fee paid by DTH operators, commercial TV services, commercial FM radio services etc.
  • Road, Bridges usage fees:This includes receipts through toll plazas on account of the usage of national highways, permanent bridges etc.
  • Examination fees:This includes fees paid by applicants of competitive examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and Staff Selection Commission (SSC) to fill up vacancies in government offices.
  • Fee for police services:This includes fee received for supplying central police forces to state governments and other parties like Central Industrial Police Force (CISF) to industries etc.
  • Sale of stationery, gazettes, government publications
  • Fee for Administrative Services:This includes fees received for providing services like audit services, issuance of passport, visa etc.
  • Receipts relating to Defence Services:This relates to services provided through Canteen Stores Department (CSD).

Importance of Non-Tax Revenue

  • Apart from a source of earning for the government, non-tax revenues also help in recovering the cost of services offered.
  1. What are Non-Debt Capital Receipts? (TH)

  • Context: Terms used in editorials.

Analysis

  • Non-debt capital receipts (NDCR) of the union government include:
  • Recoveries of loans and advances given to state governments, Union territories and foreign governments
  • Disinvestment proceeds
  • Money accrued to the Union government from listing of central government companies and issue of bonus shares
  • Nearly three-fourths of the central government’s receipts come from tax and non-tax revenues, while one-fourth comes from capital receipts that include non-debt capital receipts and borrowings.
  • Non-debt capital receipts account for just 3% of the central government’s total receipts.
  1. European Union-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) (TH)

  • Context: New Delhi plans to start negotiations on investment and trade agreements with the European Union (EU).
  • These are likely to run into the same problems as the discussions that began on a comprehensive free trade agreement in 2007 but were aborted due to differences on movement of professionals, labour, human rights and environmental issues and India’s high tariffs, inconsistent tax regime and non-payment of arbitral awards.

Other fodders from the editorial

  • After months of tortuous negotiation over Hungary and Poland’s objections, member States of EU finally agreed on a long-term budget and a COVID-19 recovery package of $2 trillion.
  • The two countries had opposed anti-COVID-19 support being linked to good governance, in particular, accusations of suppression of human rights and lack of independence in the judiciary.
  • There is relief that the U.S. may now be more predictable, Europe will resist taking sides in any U.S.-China tug of war. This is underlined by the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment concluded after minimal consultation with Washington.

15 July 20: The Hindu

  • Seven years after talks on a free trade agreement were suspended, India and the European Union (EU) are set to agree on a “high-level dialogue on trade and investment” to restart negotiations.
  • The trade and investment dialogue is expected to give a boost to negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as the EU-India FTA is known.
  • An EU official, who specialises in trade issues, admitted that there was “no timeline” for the BTIA talks yet and that negotiators are still “quite far apart” due to what Europe perceives as India’s “protectionist stance”.
  • The Make in India programme was accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis and recent pronouncements that India wants to go “self reliant”, didn’t help the situation,” the official said, referring to Mr. Modi’s launch of “Atmanirbhar India”.
  • The official said trade with India formed under 3% of the EU’s global trade, which is “far below” what was expected of the relationship.
  • Conversely, the EU is India’s largest trading partner and investor, and accounts for 11% of India’s global trade.
  • The official also said the EU has reservations about the model “Bilateral Investment Treaty” (BIT) that New Delhi has proposed, especially on dispute mechanisms in Indian courts.

European Union-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

  • India is the only major power lacking an FTA with any of its top trade partners, including the EU, the U.S., China and Gulf economies.
  • India, in the meantime, is hanging on to its Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status.
  • Its status under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) will face rising competition from Pakistan or Sri Lanka, who enjoy GSP+ benefits (China, India, Colombia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are not eligible for GSP Plus).
  • The good news here is that India’s talks with the EU have been advancing slowly but steadily.
  • From agriculture to intellectual property, the EU and India have quietly been exchanging and aligning views.
  • New areas like e-commerce have registered significant convergence because India’s position on data privacy is not that different from the EU’s.
  • As with the EU-Japan deal, India may wish to proceed at two speeds: it could delay discussions about free flow of data for a few years and freeze differences on the tax moratorium issue or data localisation, even while committing to liberalise in other areas.
  • EU negotiators are now more willing to make concessions on labour or environmental regulations, which used to be insurmountable obstacles.
  • The collapse of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and concerns about excessive economic reliance on China have propelled the EU to become a little more pragmatic.
  • Increasing economic integration:
  • Free Trade Area-> Custom Union-> Common Market-> Economic Union

Generalized System of Preferences

  • Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries (donor countries) to developing countries (beneficiary countries).
  • It involves reduced Most Favoured Nation Tariffs or duty-free entry of eligible products exported by beneficiary countries to the markets of donor countries.
  • The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) was instituted in 1971 under the aegis of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
  • The objective of UNCTAD’s support on GSP and other preferential arrangements is to help developing countries – particularly LDCs – to increase utilization of GSP and other trade preferences and in turn promote productive capacity development and increased trade.
  • The primary objective of the Generalized System of Preference, commonly called GSP is to contribute to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development and good governance.
  • Tariff preferences in the developed markets enable Developing Countries to participate more fully in international trade and generate additional export revenue to support implementation of their own sustainable development and poverty reduction policy strategies.
  • GSP is presently extended by about 28 developed countries (Recently, U.S. has ended this status for India).
  • Only such products of a beneficiary country (like India) that fulfil the requirements of the rules of origin (a set of requirements laid down by the importing country) laid down by the importing country, are considered eligible for preferential tariff treatment on import into the markets of donor countries.
  • The rules of origin are aimed at reserving, as far as possible, the benefit of the preferential system to the country for which it is intended, and to prevent third countries’ goods from unduly exploiting the system.

What is the EU GSP Plus Scheme and how does it differ from ‘normal’ GSP?

  • The European Union’s GSP covers three separate regimes;
  • (i) The standard GSP, which provides preferences to 90 (previously 177) Developing Countries and Territories on over 6300 tariff lines;
  • (ii) the special incentive arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance, known as GSP+, which offers additional duty-free exports to support vulnerable developing countries (previously 16 now 25 countries – Including Pakistan) in their ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions in these fields, and;
  • (iii) The Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement, which provides Duty-Free, Quota-Free access for the 50 Least-Developed Countries (LDCs).

Least developed countries (LDCs)

  • Least developed countries (LDCs) are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development.
  • They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.
  • There are currently 47 countries on the list of LDCs which is reviewed every three years by the Committee for Development (CDP).
  • LDCs have exclusive access to certain international support measures in particular in the areas of development assistance and trade.

Most Favoured Nation (MFN)

  • While the term Most Favoured Nation (MFN) suggests special preference for the country given MFN status, it actually means it would be treated equally as all others.
  • According to the World Trade Organisation rules, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners.
  • If one country is granted a trade concession such as, for example, lower import duties, then all WTO members must be extended the same concessions. This principle is known as the Most Favoured Nation treatment.

 

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