Daily Current Affairs

TODAY’S MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS- 30TH OCT,2020

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS

A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

1. Green Buildings and Green Rating System in India (PIB)

  • Context: The Vice President also highlighted the need to create awareness on the urgency of promoting green buildings concept among the people.

Analysis

Benefits of Green Buildings

  • A green building is one that makes minimal impact on the environment due to its climate responsive design.
  • Reducing negative environmental impact and providing occupant comfort are the key features of a green building.
  • Some of the tangible benefits of constructing green are as follows:
  • Reuse of the construction waste material to the maximum possible extent;
  • Reduce the energy and water demands of the building;
  • Reduce air and water pollution loads on the community;
  • Limited waste generation due to recycling and reuse;
  • Increase occupant productivity;
  • Enhance marketability for the community as a whole;
  • Reduction in operational cost of buildings.

Green Ratings in India

  • Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council is an independent, not-for-profit society jointly set up by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India to promote and administer green buildings in India.
  • The GRIHA rating was adopted as the National Rating System for Green Buildings in India by MNRE in 2007.
  • The GRIHA rating has been acknowledged as the tool to evaluate reduction in emissions intensity through habitats as part of the mitigation strategy for combating climate change in India’s ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC.
  • GRIHA rates new and existing buildings of various built-up areas under residential, commercial, and institutional typologies.
  • GRIHA evaluates the environmental performance of all typologies of building, holistically over its entire life cycle, thereby providing a definitive standard for green buildings and sustainable habitats.
  • Public Works Department (PWD), Government of Maharashtra (GoM), has entered into a first of its kind agreement with GRIHA Council to ensure that all the upcoming government buildings are mandatorily rated under GRIHA and the evaluation of these projects with respect to GHG reduction is recorded and published publically.
  • As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India is expected to undertake actions to adapt buildings to climate change in a manner consistent with the multilateral framework.
  • The salient features of the GRIHA rating are as follows:
  • Performance-based rating system designed for different climatic zones and incorporating regional variations;
  • Unifies multiple national and state level codes and norms, such as National Building Code (NBC), Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), CPCB, and CGWB, into a simple set of criteria;
  • Common sense oriented with non-applicability clauses, that is, every project is unique and its rating is evaluated only on the basis of attempted criteria;
  • Places emphasis on using the integrated design approach and implementation of cost-effective strategies;
  • Emphasis on strategies to identify and reduce losses in energy consumption;
  • Ensures the acoustic, thermal, and visual comfort for all building occupants;
  • Recommends taking a realistic approach towards indoor air quality through usage of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, adhesives, and sealants;
  • Construction stage linked due diligence visits to ensure that the commitments made during the design stage are being implemented.
  • MNRE has made it mandatory for buildings to obtain a GRIHA rating to avail subsidies and other financial assistance allocated for green development.
  • The Ministry also provides incentives to local bodies that offer rebate in property tax for GRIHA rated buildings.
  • Backed up by MNRE subsidies, GRIHA requires, as a mandatory criterion, 1 per cent of the total energy needs for the development to be sourced from solar power.
  • GRIHA mandates the treatment of ground water for drinking and irrigation to the norms as prescribed by ISI.
  • GRIHA requires adherence to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and NBC guidelines for acceptable outdoor and indoor noise levels.
  • GRIHA considers many local issues, besides critical ideas such as embodied energy, minimising ozone depleting materials, adapting efficient construction technology and accepting non-air conditioned buildings.
  • TERI states that ‘by its qualitative and quantitative assessment criteria’, it would be able to ‘rate’ a building on the degree of its ‘greenness’.
  • There also are provisions for large developments, prequalification. Star-ratings and such others.
  • TERI accepts that “It is a known fact that it costs more to design and construct a green building. However, it is also a proven fact that it costs less to operate a green building that has tremendous environmental benefits and provides a better place for the occupants to live and work in.”
  • In late 2017, GRIHA Council and TERI developed ‘PRAROOP’, a simulation tool which allows users to choose materials to design a virtual green building for themselves.
  • The simulation model generated a green score to indicate the level of sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the building.

LEED India

  • In 2007, LEED India (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-India) was adapted from the USGBC LEED programme.
  • This is a private initiative run by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), part of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Energy Conservation Building Code 2017 (ECBC 2017)

  • The Energy Conservation Building Code 2017 (ECBC 2017) was launched in June 2017.
  • It has been developed by Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) with technical support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the U.S.-India bilateral Partnership to Advance Clean Energy – Deployment Technical Assistance (PACE-D TA) Program.
  • ECBC 2017 prescribes the energy performance standards for new commercial buildings to be constructed across India.
  • ECBC sets minimum energy standards for commercial buildings having a connected load of 100kW or contract demand of 120 KVA and above.
  • While the Central Government has powers under the EC Act 2001, the state governments have the flexibility to modify the code to suit local or regional needs and notify them.
  • ECBC 2017 sets parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design.
  • In order for a building to be considered ECBC-compliant, it would need to demonstrate minimum energy savings of 25%.
  • Additional improvements in energy efficiency performance would enable the new buildings to achieve higher grades like ECBC Plus or Super ECBC status leading to further energy savings of 35% and 50%, respectively.
  • Presently, the code is in voluntary phase of implementation.
  • Complementing the efforts of the government of India, the ECBC has been integrated in other rating & compliance systems being followed in the country such as:
  • EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for large area development under MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forest),
  • Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) rating system and
  • Leadership in Energy &Environmental Design (LEED) rating system of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

Star Rating Programme for commercial buildings

  • To create a market pull for energy efficient buildings, BEE developed a voluntary Star Rating Programme for commercial buildings which is based on the actual performance of a building, in terms of energy usage in the building over its area expressed in kWh/sq. m/year.
  • This Programme rates buildings on a 1-5 star scale, with 5-Star labelled buildings being the most energy efficient.

State Energy Efficiency Index 2019

  • The ‘State Energy Efficiency Index 2019 tracks the progress of Energy Efficiency (EE) initiatives in 36 states and union territories based on 97 significant indicators.
  • The index is developed by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in association with Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE).
  • For rational comparison, States/UTs are grouped into four groups based on aggregated Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) required to meet the state’s actual energy demand (electricity, coal, oil, gas, etc.) across sectors.

2. Extension of Norms for Mandatory Packaging in Jute Materials, Jute crop and Jute Geo-textiles (PIB)

  • Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has approved that 100% of the foodgrains and 20% of the sugar shall be mandatorily packed in diversified jute bags.

Analysis

  • In case of any shortage or disruption in supply of jute packaging material or in other contingency/exigency, the Ministry of Textiles may, in consultation with the user Ministries concerned, relax these provisions further, up to a maximum of 30% of the production of foodgrains over and above the provisions.
  • The jute industry is predominantly dependent on Government sector (which purchases jute bags of value of more than Rs. 7,500 crore every year for packing foodgrains).
  • This is done in order to sustain the core demand for the jute sector and to support the livelihood of the workers and farmers dependent on the sector.
  • Major Jute producing States in India are: West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Other Support provided to the Jute Sector

  • In order to improve the productivity and quality of raw jute through a carefully designed intervention, called the Jute ICARE, the Government has been supporting close to approx. two lakh jute farmers by disseminating improved agronomic practices such as line sowing using seed drills, weed management by using wheel-hoeing and nail-weeders, distribution of quality certified seeds and also providing microbial assisted retting.
  • With a view to boost demand in the jute sector, Government of India has imposed Definitive Anti-Dumping Duty on import of jute goods from Bangladesh and Nepal with effect from January, 2017.
  • With a view to promoting transparency in jute sector, Jute SMART, an e-govt initiative was launched in December, 2016, providing an integrated platform for procurement of B-Twill sacking by Government agencies.
  • Further, the JCI is transferring 100% funds to jute farmers online for jute procurement under MSP and commercial operations.

Jute Geotextile (JGT)

  • Jute Geotextile (JGT) is one of the most important diversified jute products.
  • It can be applied in many fields like civil engineering, soil erosion control, road pavement construction and protection of river banks.
  • JGT are very similar in function to the man-made synthetic Geotextiles (Geosynthetics) – which are made from various petro-chemical derivatives.
  • The biodegradability of JGT helps in the quick regrowth of displaced vegetation by coalescing with the soil, increasing its permeability, retaining the appropriate humidity as “mulch” and creating a micro-climate that is conducive to vegetative growth.
  • Around the world, JGT has been lauded as the most acclaimed natural fabric that provides biotechnical solutions to soil made vulnerable by exposure.
  • Biodegradability is considered by some experts to be a disadvantage.
  • But, it still has a very good future as it has an effective life span of two season-cycles which is sufficient for natural consolidation of the soil by forming a consolidated layer known as “filter cake”. It is widely used in road construction.
  • Geo jute is used in erosion control, separation, filtration and drainage in civil engineering work, and agricultural uses.
  • It also has application in rural road pavement construction and agro plant mulching.
  • Geotextiles belongs to a class of technical textiles that addresses various soil related problems in civil engineering.
  • These are either made of synthetic polymers (petrochemical derivatives) or of natural fibers.
  • To promote and popularize jute diversification work, National Jute Board, Ministry of Textiles, acts as the apex body for promotion of the products in India and abroad.

Advantages of Jute Geotextiles:

  • High moisture absorbing capacity
  • Flexibility
  • Good drainage properties
  • Abundant in nature
  • Low in cost when compared to synthetic Geotextiles
  • The most important i.e. it is bio-degradable

All about Jute

  • Jute is soft, flexible and hard-wearing bast fibre.
  • Bast fibre (also called phloem fibre or skin fibre) is plant fibre collected from the phloem (the “inner bark”, sometimes called “skin”) or bast surrounding the stem of certain dicotyledonous plants.
  • It supports the conductive cells of the phloem and provides strength to the stem. Jute fibres are long, lustrous, resilient and softer to touch.
  • India is the world’s largest producer of raw jute and jute goods, contributing to over 50 percent and 40 percent respectively of global production.
  • The cultivation of jute in India is mainly confined to the eastern region of the country in seven states – West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya .
  • West Bengal alone accounts for over 50 percent raw jute production.

What type of Climate and Soil are required to grow Jute?

  • Jute crop requires humid climate with temperature fluctuating between 24 degree Celsius and 38 degree Celsius.
  • Minimum rainfall required for jute cultivation is 100 cm.
  • New grey alluvial soil of good depth receiving silt from annual floods is most suitable for jute growth.
  • However, jute is grown widely in sandy looms and clay loams.
  • Jute is generally sown during March to May (kharif crop) depending on the nature of land and atmospheric condition.
  • About 90 to 100 days after sowing and jute plants attain desired length from 8 to 12 feet high.
  • Burlap is a finer quality of jute.

When the first Jute Mill was established in India?

  • The first jute mill was established at Rishra (Bengal – now in West Bengal), on the river Hooghly near Calcutta in the year 1855, by Mr. George Aclend.

What is Kenaf? 

  • Kenaf is a fast-growing plant of the bast fibre group – species Hibiscus cannabinus. It is usually known as Mesta.
  • Kenaf requires a warm, moist climate and grows in well-drained, sandy loam soils.
  • Kenaf is less demanding on the soil than jute and may be grown in rotation with other crops.
  • Leading producers include India, Bangladesh, Thailand and China.
  • It is mainly used for cordage, canvas, sacking and other products, such as, newsprint and carpet-backing yarn.

    B) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

    1. Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (PIB)

  • Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) Phase II & Phase III with the financial assistance of the World Bank (WB), and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Analysis

  • The Project will be implemented over a period of 10 years duration in two Phases.
  • DRIP Phase II & Phase III envisages the following objectives:
  • To improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner across the whole country.
  • To strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level, and
  • To explore the alternative incidental means at few of selected dams to generate the incidental revenue for sustainable operation and maintenance of dams

    C) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgements

    1. Hirakud Dam and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) (TH)

  • Context: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Odisha government to submit a report on non-receipt of compensation by people who were displaced by the Hirakud Dam project — one of the oldest unresolved problems of displacement in the country.

Analysis

Hirakud Dam project

  • It is located on river Mahanadi in Sambalpur District, Orissa,
  • It is the longest earthen dam of the world.
  • From horizon to horizon the resorvoir forms the largest artificial lake in Asia.
  • It was also in news to slowly cause the death of Sukapaika river, one of the several distributaries of the mighty Mahanadi river in Odisha.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • It is a statutory body and not a constitutional body.
  • The statute under which it is established is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  • It is in conformity with the Paris Principles (endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations)
  • Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.

Composition and Qualification:

  • It consists of a chairman and four members.
  • The chairman should be a retired Chief Justice of India and members should be either serving or retired judges of the Supreme Court, a serving or retired chief justice of a high court and two persons having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights.
  • In addition to these full-time members, the commission also has four ex-officio members-
  • The chairman of the National Commission for Minorities
  • The chairman of the National Commission for SCs
  • The chairman of the National Commission for STs
  • The chairman of the National Commission for Women

Appointment

  • The chairman and the members are appointed by the President on the recommendations of a six-member committee comprising-
  • The Prime Minister as its head;
  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha;
  • The Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha;
  • Leaders of the opposition in both the Houses of Parliament;
  • The Central Home Minister
  • A sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a sitting chief justice of a high court can be appointed only after consultation with the chief justice of India.
  • The Chairman and members hold office for a term of five years or until they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The Chairman and members are not eligible for further employment under the Central or a state government, after their tenure.
  • The president can remove the chairman or any member from the office under the following circumstances:
  • If he is adjudged an insolvent; or
  • If he engages, during his term of office, in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
  • If he is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
  • If he is of unsound mind and stand so declared by a competent court;
  • If he is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence.
  • Besides, the president can also remove the chairman or any member on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • However, the president has to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for an enquiry.
  • If the Supreme court, after the inquiry, upholds the cause of removal the chairman or a member.

Powers of NHRC

  • NHRC is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure.
  • It has all the powers of a civil court and its proceedings have a judicial character.
  • It may call for information or report from the Central and state governments or any other authority subordinate thereto.
  • The commission has its own nucleus of investigating staff for investigation into complaints of human rights violations.
  • It is also empowered to utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central or any state government for the purpose.
  • The commission is not empowered to inquire into any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the act constituting violation of human rights is alleged to have been committed.

Human Rights

  • Human Rights are those minimal rights which every individual must have against the State or other public authority by virtue of his being a ‘member of the human family’, irrespective of any other consideration.
  • The concept of human rights is as old as the ancient doctrine of ‘natural rights’ founded on natural law, the expression ‘human rights’ is of recent origin, emerging from (post-Second World War) international Charters and Conventions.
  • The natural rights were derived from the nature of man for these are inherent in the nature of man and form part of his intrinsic nature.
  • It means there exist in the nature of universe certain objective moral principles which can be perceived by the man by the application of his reason and self-determination.

Human Rights in India

  • Our country was one of the original signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Human Rights under the Constitution of India

  • The Preamble of the Indian Constitution reflects the inspiring ideals with the specific mention of “dignity of the individual”.
  • The impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on drafting Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution is apparent.
  • India has acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as to the subsequent International Covenants of Economic, Social and Cultural rights and Civil & Political Rights adopted by the Central Assembly of the United Nations.
  • The Natural Rights transformed into fundamental rights operate as a constitutional limitation or a restriction on the powers of the organs set up by the Constitution or the State action.
  • The wisdom of the forefathers of the Constitution was justified in incorporating non-justiciable human rights in the concrete shape of the Directive Principles of State Policy.                                                                           

    2.  Permanent Commission Vs Short Service Commission (TH)

  • Context: The Supreme Court allowed the Union government time till December 31 to implement its March 17 judgment, which upheld the right of women naval officers to be considered for permanent commission.
  • The government said it needed more time for preparations owing to the pandemic.

Analysis

  • The Supreme Court in February 2020 has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC and allowed women to serve as permanently commissioned (PC) officers in 10 combat support arms and services of the Indian Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects.
  • A Permanent Commission means a career in the armed forces until one retires.
  • It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
  • It means that women officers will be eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them: if women officers had served only in staff, they would not have gone beyond the rank of Colonel.
  • It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.
  • In March 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.
  • The Indian Air Force was first among the three services to grant PC to SSC women officers. The Indian Army chose to appeal in the Supreme Court, citing reasons of peculiar service conditions and operational requirements.
  • In July 2020, the government issued formal sanction offering PC to women officers of the Indian Army.

Women in Army: Background of the case

  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992. They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.
  • They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
  • While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  • They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.

 D) Economy

1. Relation between slide of rupee and the dollar index (TH)

  • Context: The rupee declined further by 23 paise to close at a two-month low of 74.10 against the U.S. currency, tracking weak domestic equities and a strong dollar amid global risk aversion.

Analysis

  • The S. dollar has strengthened as investors flock to a safe haven in times of uncertainty and cut riskier bets after the imposition of fresh lockdowns in Europe to control resurging COVID-19 cases.
  • Brent crude futures fell 87% to $38.78 per barrel.
  • Foreign institutional investors were net sellers as they offloaded shares worth ₹1,130.98 crore on a net basis on Wednesday, according to Sensex data.
  • Dimming hopes of a stimulus plan from the U.S. administration in near term have led to the recent rise in Dollar Index from a multi-week low.
  • Besides, uncertainty due to the second wave of COVID-19 cases hitting the U.S. and Europe had also dented investor sentiment.

U.S. Dollar Index (DXY)

  • The U.S. Dollar Index tracks the strength of the dollar against a basket of major currencies.
  • DXY was developed by the U.S. Federal Reserve in 1973 to provide an external bilateral trade-weighted average value of the U.S. dollar against global currencies.
  • S. Dollar Index goes up when the U.S. dollar gains “strength” (value), compared to other currencies.
  • The following six currencies are used to calculate the index: 
  • Euro 57.6% weight
  • Japanese yen 13.6% weight
  • Pound sterling 11.9% weight
  • Canadian dollar 9.1% weight
  • Swedish krona 4.2% weight
  • Swiss franc 3.6% weight

2. Revenue and Capital Expenditures (TH)

Revenue Expenditure

  • Revenue Expenditure is that part of government expenditure that does not result in the creation of assets.
  • Payment of salaries, wages, pensions, subsidies defence, health, and other services and interest fall in this category as revenue expenditure examples.
  • The central government pays subsidy under three major heads – food subsidy, fertiliser subsidy and fuel subsidy.
  • All grants given to state governments and Union territories are also treated as revenue expenditure, even if some of these grants may be used for the creation of capital assets.
  • Also, expenses incurred by the government for its operational needs are considered revenue expenditure.
  • Revenue Expenditure is recurring in nature.

Capital Expenditure

  • Capital Expenditure on the other hand responsible for asset creation and liabilities reduction.
  • It adds to the capital stock of the economy and bolster the productivity through long-term investments and capital gains.
  • It includes spending on construction of highways, metro rail network, bridges dams and school buildings etc.
  • It also includes the loans given to Union Territories and states, and repayment of borrowings. It is non-recurring in nature.
  • Giving and taking loans also have become an integral part of the functions of a modern government.
  • Borrowing of money and repayment of debt and interest are also divided into two categories – revenue account and capital account.
  • High revenue expenditure impedes developmental efforts.
  • High revenue expenditure means that the government machinery is spending too much money on sustaining itself, rather than creating assets required to achieve high economic growth.
  • For Fiscal deficit and other economy related terms refer to 2nd Oct file.

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