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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 29 January 2020

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 29 January 2020

Table of Contents:

 

GS Paper 2:

1. Import duty on palm oil cut.

2. Bhuvan Panchayat 3.0.

3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Spitzer telescope.

2. Cheetah reintroduction project.

3. Ramsar sites in India.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Operation Vanilla.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: India and it’s neighbours.

Import duty on palm oil cut

What to study?

For Prelims: What is import duty? India’s palm oil consumption, why refining is necessary?

For Mains: Implications of this move on Malayasia and India.

Context: India has cut import duty on crude palm oil (CPO) and refined, bleached and deodorised (RBD) palm oil, and also moved RBD oil from the “free” to the “restricted” list of imports.

What’s the issue now?

The move has been construed as retaliation against Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who has criticised India’s internal policy decisions such as the revocation of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir and the new citizenship Act.

Malaysia has also been sheltering since 2017 the Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is wanted by India on charges of money laundering, hate speech, and links to terror.

Why and How this decision would affect Malaysia?

Indonesia and Malaysia together produce 85% of the world’s palm oil, and India is among the biggest buyers.

Both Indonesia and Malaysia produce refined palm oil; however, Malaysia’s refining capacity equals its production capacity — this is why Malaysia is keen on exporting refined oil.

Indonesia, on the other hand, can supply CPO, which would allow India to utilise its full refining capacity.

How and why crude oil is refined?

Crude oil contains fatty acids, gums and wax-like substances. Refining neutralises the acids and filters out the other substances.

The filtrate is bleached so that the oil does not change colour after repeated use.

Substances that may cause the oil to smell are removed physically or chemically.

This entire process increases the value of a barrel of crude oil by about 4%.

Additionally, there are costs to transporting the crude, which makes it more cost-effective to import the refined oil.

Why domestic players demand for crude oil imports?

The refining industry has been demanding that the import duty on refined oil be increased, which would make importing crude oil cheaper than importing refined oil. This will mainly benefit domestic refiners, which include big-ticket names like the Adani Wilmar group.

Why does India need so much palm oil?

It is the cheapest edible oil available naturally.

Its inert taste makes it suitable for use in foods ranging from baked goods to fried snacks.

It stays relatively stable at high temperatures, and is therefore suitable for reuse and deep frying.

It is the main ingredient in vanaspati (hydrogenated vegetable oil).

 Implications of this move:

On Indian consumers: Palm oil is not used in Indian homes and the fact that CPO continues to be imported, makes it unlikely that the decision to restrict refined palm oil imports will impact food inflation immediately.

On Malayasia: With imports to its largest market restricted (India bought over 23% of all CPO produced by Malaysia in 2019), Malaysian palm oil futures fell by almost 10% between January 10 and January 17, although it has recovered since then. If India does not issue licenses for importing refined oil, Malaysia will have to find new buyers for its product.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

Bhuvan Panchayat 3.0

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance.

Context: The Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0 web portal was recently launched.

About Bhuvan Panchayat Version 3.0:

Bhuvan Panchayat is part of ISRO’s Space-based Information Support for Decentralised Planning Update project.

Aim: For better planning and monitoring of government projects.

Services: This version of the portal will provide database visualisation and services for the benefit of panchayat members, among others.

The targeted audiences for this portal are Public, PRIs and different stakeholders belonging to the gram panchayats.

 Features:

Using Bhuvan satellite imagery, hi-resolution database at 1:10,000 scale is applied to identify land use land cover, settlements, road and rail network etc. The portal offers database visualization, data analytics, generation of automatic reports, model-based products and services for Gram Panchayat members and other stake-holders.

Implementation:

In the project that will last for at least two years, ISRO will collaborate with the gram panchayat members and stakeholders to understand their data requirements.

Significance:

The project is meant to provide geo-spatial services to aid gram panchayat development planning process of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Bhuvan

Background:

The space-based information support for decentralised planning programme was taken up in 2011 to empower panchayati raj institutions and its stake-holders to enable participatory and decentralised planning in the country.

Taking advantage of information and communication technology, the Bhuvan Panchayat web portal was launched for visualisation, planning and monitoring of schemes at panchayat levels.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features, need for amendments and significance.

Context: Moving to ease abortion laws in the country, the Union Cabinet is set to consider a host of changes to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

Changes planned:

  1. Among others, amendments seek to increase the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
  2. It also seeks to extend the contraceptive-failure clause for termination to include “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”.
  3. The draft Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  4. It also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
  5. The Bill also seeks to increase the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women.
  6. For unmarried women, the Bill seeks to relax the contraceptive-failure condition for “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”, allowing them to medically terminate the pregnancy.

Need for overhaul:

The present abortion law, which is about five decades old, permits abortion up to a maximum foetal gestation period of 20 weeks.

In recent years, there have been strong demands to raise the foetal gestation period for abortion beyond 20 weeks.

 Significance:

The move to amend the MTP Act, 1971 is a progressive step towards empowerment of women. It will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women. Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.

Abortion laws across the world:

Abortion laws vary across the world. It is learnt that around 60 countries prescribe gestational limits.

  1. 52 % including France, the UK, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even Nepal, allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
  2. Some countries go beyond even these limits with laws in 23 countries-Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambia-allowing for abortion at any time during the pregnancy on the request of the mother.
  3. In UK, abortions are allowed at up to 24 weeks, with abortion guidelines formulated by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists including procedures for termination of pregnancies older than 20 weeks. It also states that, in pregnancy older than 21 weeks and 6 days, an injection to cause foetal death is given before the foetus is evacuated.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics covered: Awareness in space.

Spitzer telescope

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and objectives of the telescope, significant achievements.

 Context: Spitzer space telescope of NASA will be retired on January 30, 2020. Spitzer is going to shut down permanently after about 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light.

Background:

Launched into solar orbit on August 25, 2003, Spitzer was initially scheduled for a minimum 2.5-year primary mission. But the space telescope has lasted far beyond its expected lifetime.

What Will Happen to the Spitzer Space Telescope After It Is Retired?

The telescope has a very particular orbit, trailing about 158 million miles behind the Earth to keep it away from interfering heat.

In about 53 years, Spitzer’s orbit will take it past our planet. But, once the telescope flies by Spaceship Earth, Spitzer will drift off in the opposite direction into the emptiness of space.

Key achievements:

  1. Spitzer’s discoveries extend from our own planetary backyard, to planets around other stars, to the far reaches of the universe.
  2. Spitzer has logged over 106,000 hours of observation time in the past 15 years. It has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes.
  3. The telescope also assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, among other accomplishments.

About Spitzer:

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 to study the universe in the infrared.

It is the last mission of the NASA Great Observatories program, which saw four specialized telescopes (including the Hubble Space Telescope) launched between 1990 and 2003.

The goal of the Great Observatories is to observe the universe in distinct wavelengths of light.

The other observatories in Greta Observatories Program looked at visible light (Hubble, still operational), gamma-rays (Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, no longer operational) and X-rays (the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, still operational).

How it works?

  1. Spitzer focuses on the infrared band, which normally represents heat radiation from objects.
  2. Spitzer’s highly sensitive instruments allow scientists to peer into cosmic regions that are hidden from optical telescopes, including dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems.
  3. Spitzer’s infrared eyes also allows astronomers see cooler objects in space, like failed stars (brown dwarfs), extrasolar planets, giant molecular clouds, and organic molecules that may hold the secret to life on other planets.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Cheetah reintroduction project

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Cheetah reintroduction project and its significance, challenges therein.

Context: The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in India.

Background:

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had previously told the Supreme Court that African cheetahs would be translocated in India from Namibia and would be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.

What is reintroduction and why reintroduce Cheetah now?

Reintroduction’ of a species means releasing it in an area where it is capable of surviving.

Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.

  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
  • India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.

Facts:

  • The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
  • The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal.
  • It is listed as vulnerable in IUCN red listed species.
  • The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.

Cheetah reintroduction programme in India:

The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project seven years ago.

Nauradehi in Madhya Pradesh was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary.

Reasons for extinction:

  1. The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers.
  2. The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.
  3. With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.

About NTCA:

The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

It was constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Ramsar sites in India

What to study?

For Prelims: Ramsar sites in India, overview of the convention.

For Mains: Significance of wetlands, need for conservation, challenges.

Context: India has added 10 more wetlands to sites protected by the Ramsar Convention.

With this, a total of 37 sites in the country have been recognised under the international treaty.

The 10 new ones are:

Nandur Madhameshwar, a first for Maharashtra; Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal in Punjab; and Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar in Uttar Pradesh. The other Ramsar sites are in Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.

About Ramsar convention:

  • It is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971.
  • Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990).

Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.

  • Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur).
  • Chilka lake (Odisha)was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


 

Operation Vanilla:

Context: Indian navy will perform HADR operations in Madagascar under ‘Operation Vanilla’.

It has been launched to provide assistance to the affected population of Madagascar post devastation caused by Cyclone Diane.