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Current Affairs 24 March 2023

CONTENTS

  1. India’s push for semiconductors
  2. India’s CAMPA at odds with new IPCC report
  3. World Tuberculosis Day
  4. Guillotine Motion
  5. Kashmiri Stag ((Hangul)

India’s Push For Semiconductors


Context:

The Union Government has disbursed around ₹1,645 crore in performance-linked incentives (PLI) for electronics manufacturers so far, as part of its efforts to bring in more of the electronics supply chain to India.

  • The push for semiconductors, or integrated circuits, is far more pressing now, as these chips are found in practically every modern electrical appliance and personal electronics devices.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why is the government encouraging semiconductor manufacturing?
  2. India’s Semiconductor Manufacturing Industry
  3. Can India produce both semiconductors and finished products?
  4. Advantages and Limitations of India’s Semiconductor Ambition

Why is the government encouraging semiconductor manufacturing?

National Security:

  • Semiconductors are critical components of modern electronic devices, including those used in defence systems.
  • The dependency on foreign countries for the supply of semiconductors is seen as a potential national security risk.
  • By encouraging semiconductor manufacturing within the country, governments aim to reduce their dependence on other countries for such critical components.

Economic Growth:

  • Semiconductor manufacturing is a capital-intensive industry that creates jobs and contributes to economic growth.
  • Countries see semiconductor manufacturing as a strategic industry that can help to boost the economy and create high-value jobs.

Technological Advancement:

  • Semiconductor manufacturing is at the heart of technological advancement.
  • By encouraging the development of semiconductor manufacturing, governments hope to spur innovation and keep pace with technological developments.

Competitive Advantage:

  • Countries see semiconductor manufacturing as a way to gain a competitive advantage in the global market.
  • By producing semiconductors domestically, countries can reduce their reliance on imports and potentially become leaders in the semiconductor industry.

India’s Semiconductor Manufacturing Industry

  • Invest India agency estimates that the electronics manufacturing industry in India will be worth $300 billion by the financial year 2025–26.
  • While facilities for assembling finished products are growing in number, fabs for making chipsets and displays are rare in India.
  • Minister of Electronics and Information Technology announced that the first semiconductor manufacturing fab will be announced in the coming weeks.

Can India produce both semiconductors and finished products?

  • According to a report by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), India should focus on its strength in the electronics manufacturing value chain.
  • Foundry companies, which turn raw materials into semiconductors, require significant investments, but companies specializing in Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT) are less expensive to set up and generate better margins.
  • OSAT setups take care of less capital-intensive parts of chipmaking, such as assembling and testing already manufactured components.
  • Traditional chip facilities tend to be captive units of large companies, but India is attracting assembly facilities from companies like Foxconn, although some of its most valuable facilities are dedicated to building Apple devices that account for a small fraction of handsets sold in India.

Advantages and Limitations of India’s Semiconductor Ambition

Advantages:
  • India has a large pool of semiconductor design engineers who are either Indian or of Indian origin, giving the country an edge in the design and intellectual labor aspect of semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Companies such as Intel and NVIDIA have significant facilities in India with a large talent pool working on design problems.
Limitations:
  • The cost of setting up foundry companies, which turn silicon into semiconductors, is high, requiring investments upwards of 35% of revenues, and entry costs running into billions of dollars.
  • While facilities for assembling finished products have been growing, fabs for making chipsets and displays, which are crucial parts of the manufacturing process for many electronics, are rare.
  • India may face challenges in achieving its semiconductor ambitions due to the need for a sustainable pipeline of high calibre talent, which is critical to the success of the sector.

Conclusion:

  • India’s electronics manufacturing incentive programmes are focused on opening display and semiconductor fabs, which is a strategic and economic goal for the country.
  • India has the potential to develop the parts of the semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem that have promise for sustainable growth and fiscal feasibility.
  • To be effective, the electronics value chain needs to be an international undertaking among nations with common values, with each nation specializing in different aspects of the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing process and working together on distribution.
  • India should not delude itself into thinking that it will be the “king of the hill” in semiconductor manufacturing, but rather work together with like-minded nations to address the geopolitical problem of Chinese dominance without simply transferring power to a different country.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s CAMPA at odds with new IPCC report


Context:

The Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. expert body, states that not degrading existing ecosystems in the first place will do more to lower the impact of the climate crisis than restoring ecosystems that have been destroyed — a finding that speaks to an increasingly contested policy in India that has allowed forests in one part of the country to be cut down and ‘replaced’ with those elsewhere.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why is afforestation contested?
  2. Why do natural ecosystems matter?
  3. Comparison of Ecosystems and Renewable Energy: IPCC Report Findings

Why is afforestation contested?

  • India has committed to adding “an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030”, as part of its climate commitments to the U.N.
  • Afforestation is also a part of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which is chaired by the Environment Minister.
  • When forest land is converted for non-forest use, such as building a dam or a mine, the land loses its historical ecosystem services and cannot support biodiversity.
  • According to the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, project proponents who wish to convert forest land must identify and pay for other land to afforest. The afforested land will then be managed by the forest department.
  • However, there is controversy over whether the afforested land is truly equivalent to the original forest land in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Additionally, some critics argue that the afforestation process can be mismanaged, leading to monoculture plantations that do not support biodiversity or local communities.
Why does CAMPA matter?
  • The money paid sits in a fund overseen by the CAMPA.
  • As of 2019, the fund had ₹47,000 crore.
  • The CAMPA has come under fire for facilitating the destruction of natural ecosystems in exchange for forests to be set up in faraway places.

Why do natural ecosystems matter?

According to experts, natural ecosystems are important for various reasons, including:

  • Carbon sequestration: Natural ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands are effective at sequestering carbon, which helps to mitigate climate change.
  • Biodiversity: Natural ecosystems support a wide range of species and provide habitats for plants and animals. Loss of these ecosystems can lead to the extinction of species and disrupt the balance of ecosystems.
  • Local livelihoods: Many communities rely on natural ecosystems for their livelihoods, such as through agriculture, fishing, and forestry.
  • Hydrological services: Natural ecosystems play a critical role in regulating water flow, preventing soil erosion, and maintaining water quality.

Experts caution that replacing natural ecosystems with single-species plantations or other developments can have negative impacts on these ecosystem services and may take many decades to recover. Therefore, it is important to prioritize the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems in climate and conservation efforts.

Comparison of Ecosystems and Renewable Energy: IPCC Report Findings

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report evaluated various options for mitigating climate change and compared the potential of ecosystems and renewable energy. Here’s what the report found:

  • Mitigating Potential: The report found that solar power has the highest potential for mitigating climate change after reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems. Wind power was ranked third-highest.
  • Conflicts with Solar Parks: While solar power has significant potential, many solar parks in India have triggered conflicts with local communities due to land-use limitations and increased water consumption.
  • Impact of Wind Farms: A 2018 study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution found that wind farms in the Western Ghats had reduced the abundance and activity of predatory birds, leading to an increase in the density of lizards.
  • Cost Comparison: The IPCC report noted that reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems could be more expensive than wind power but still less expensive than ecosystem restoration, afforestation, and restoration, for every GtCO2e.

-Source: The Hindu


World Tuberculosis Day


Context:

Although India continues to be the largest contributor to global TB cases, there has been a decline in the number of cases in 2021.

  • On World TB Day, Prime Minister will address the One World TB Summit.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Tuberculosis
  2. TB Cases in India: Statistics and Trends
  3. India’s TB Elimination Target: Goals and Challenges
  4. Efforts to Achieve TB Elimination Target of 2025 in India
  5. Improvements in TB Treatment Protocols and Vaccines

About Tuberculosis

  • TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer.
  • Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease
  • TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
  • Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • Symptoms: Cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
  • Treatment: TB is a treatable and curable disease. It is treated with a standard 6 month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.
  • Anti-TB medicines have been used for decades and strains that are resistant to 1 or more of the medicines have been documented in every country surveyed.
  • Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful, first-line anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs.
  • Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR-TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs, often leaving patients without any further treatment options

TB Cases in India: Statistics and Trends

India is the largest contributor to global TB cases. Here’s what the Global TB Report 2022 states about the incidence of TB in India:

  • Improved Reporting: Reporting of TB cases improved in 2021, although it didn’t reach pre-pandemic levels. The incidence of TB dropped by 18% in 2021, reducing to 210 cases per lakh population, compared to 256 cases per lakh population in 2015.
  • Drug-Resistant TB: The incidence of drug-resistant TB also went down by 20% from 1.49 lakh cases in 2015 to 1.19 lakh cases in 2021.
  • Pre-pandemic Levels: Despite the decline in TB cases, the numbers are still lower than the 24.04 lakh cases reported in 2019 before the pandemic, according to data from the government’s Ni-kshay portal.
  • Higher Incidence: A survey conducted across 20 states found a higher incidence of TB at 312 cases per lakh population.

India’s TB Elimination Target: Goals and Challenges

India has set an ambitious target of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global sustainable development target of 2030. Here are the goals and challenges in achieving this target:

  • Target Goals: India’s national strategic plan 2017-2025 aims to report no more than 44 new TB cases or 65 total cases per lakh population by 2025. The plan also aims to reduce TB mortality to 3 deaths per lakh population by 2025 and eliminate catastrophic costs for affected families.
  • Current Incidence: The estimated TB incidence for 2021 stood at 210 per lakh population. However, achieving the target is a big task as the plan had envisaged an incidence of only 77 cases per lakh population by 2023.
  • Mortality: The estimated TB mortality for the year 2020 stood at 37 per lakh population, which is higher than the 2025 target of 3 deaths per lakh population.
  • Catastrophic Costs: The plan aims to reduce catastrophic costs for the affected family to zero. However, the report states that 7 to 32 per cent of those with drug-sensitive TB, and 68 per cent with drug-resistant TB experienced catastrophic costs.
  • Challenges: India faces several challenges in achieving the TB elimination target, including inadequate funding, weak health infrastructure, low awareness, and poor treatment adherence.
  • End TB Strategy: The goals are in line with the World Health Organisation’s End TB strategy that calls for an 80% reduction in the number of new cases, a 90% reduction in mortality, and zero catastrophic cost by 2030.

Efforts to Achieve TB Elimination Target of 2025 in India

  • Active Case Finding: The government is actively looking for TB cases among vulnerable and co-morbid populations and screening for it at health and wellness centers.
  • Notification System: A Ni-kshay portal has been established to track notified TB cases, and the private sector has been called upon to notify all TB cases.
  • Improved Diagnostic Tests: The pandemic has led to improved access to more accurate molecular diagnostic tests like CB-NAAT and TureNat, with 4,760 molecular diagnostic machines covering all districts of the country. Additionally, 79 line probe assay laboratories and 96 liquid culture testing laboratories have been set up for the diagnosis of multi and extremely drug-resistant TB.
  • Universal Drug Susceptibility Test: The government has implemented a universal drug susceptibility test, which determines antibiotic susceptibility for all newly diagnosed cases, ensuring patients are given effective treatment from the outset.
  • Community Engagement Program: The government launched a community engagement program in which Ni-kshay mitras adopt TB patients and provide them with monthly nutritional support. So far, 71,460 Ni-kshay Mitras have adopted about 10 lakh TB patients under the program.

Improvements in TB Treatment Protocols and Vaccines

Treatment Protocols:
  • Newer drugs like Bedaquiline and Delamanid have been included in the government’s free basket of drugs for TB patients. These oral drugs can replace the injectable kanamycin, which has severe side effects like kidney problems and deafness.
  • Shorter three- and four-month courses of anti-tubercular drugs are being researched instead of the existing six-month therapy to reduce treatment duration and dropouts.
  • The government has included newer drugs in the National List of Essential Medicines, giving them the power to regulate the market price.
Vaccines:
  • Researchers are studying newer ways of preventing TB infection, as the existing BCG vaccine offers limited protection to adults and doesn’t prevent people from getting infected or re-activating a latent infection.
  • Trials are underway to test the effectiveness of a vaccine called Immuvac, developed using mycobacterium indicus pranii antigens, in preventing TB. It was initially developed to prevent leprosy.
  • Researchers are testing the vaccine candidate called VPM1002, a recombinant form of the BCG vaccine modified to express TB antigens better, resulting in better immune system training and protection against TB.
  • Researchers are studying whether the existing BCG vaccine booster shot should be given to household contacts of a person with active tuberculosis.

-Source: Indian Express


Guillotine Motion


Context:

Amidst the ongoing stalemate in Parliament, some MPs said the government may guillotine the demands for grants and pass the Finance Bill without any discussion in the Lok Sabha.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding the Parliamentary Procedural Use of the Term ‘Guillotine’
  2. What has the stalemate in Parliament been about?

Understanding the Parliamentary Procedural Use of the Term ‘Guillotine’:

In legislative parlance, the term “guillotine” is used in a different sense than its literal meaning. In this context, it refers to a parliamentary procedure that is used to expedite the passage of financial business, especially during the Budget Session of the Lok Sabha.

Here’s how the process works:
  • After the Budget is presented, Parliament goes into recess for about three weeks, during which time the House Standing Committees examine Demands for Grants for various Ministries and prepare reports.
  • When Parliament reassembles, the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) draws up a schedule for discussions on the Demands for Grants.
  • Given the limitation of time, the House cannot take up the expenditure demands of all Ministries; therefore, the BAC identifies some important Ministries for discussions.
  • The Ministries of Home, Defence, External Affairs, Agriculture, Rural Development, and Human Resource Development are typically selected for discussions.
  • Members of Parliament utilize the opportunity to discuss the policies and workings of the Ministries.
  • Once the House is done with these debates, the Speaker applies the “guillotine,” and all outstanding demands for grants are put to vote at once.
  • This usually happens on the last day earmarked for the discussion on the Budget.
  • The intention of using the “guillotine” is to ensure the timely passage of the Finance Bill, which marks the completion of the legislative exercise with regard to the Budget.

What has the stalemate in Parliament been about?

The Parliament in India has been stalled due to a stalemate between the government and opposition, and there is uncertainty whether the Budget Session will continue till its scheduled date of April 6.

Reasons for Stalemate:
  • The opposition is demanding a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) probe into the Adani issue.
  • The government is demanding that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should apologize for his recent “anti-India” remarks.
  • At meetings held by presiding officers of both houses, the BJP offered to let Rahul Gandhi present his point of view on his remarks on Indian democracy in London only if he apologized for them. The Congress rejected this and continued to demand a JPC probe into the Adani issue.
Possible Outcome:
  • The government may have to guillotine together different demands and pass them en masse if the stalemate continues with no end in sight.

-Source: Indian Express


Kashmiri Stag (Hangul)


Context:

In a recent census conducted at Kashmir’s Dachigam National Park, it was found that the population of Hangul or Kashmiri Stag has gradually increased over time at the national park.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Kashmiri Stag
  2. Key Facts About Dachigam National Park

About Kashmiri Stag

The Kashmiri Stag, also known as the Hangul, is a subspecies of Central Asian red deer that is unique to the Kashmir region and its surrounding areas. Here are some facts about the Kashmiri Stag:

  • Habitat: It is typically found in dense riverine forests located in the high valleys and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir and northern Himachal Pradesh.
  • Population: The Kashmiri Stag population is primarily concentrated in the Dachigam National Park in Kashmir, where it is provided with protection. However, a small population has also been observed in the Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary in south Kashmir.
  • Conservation status: The Kashmiri Stag is considered to be critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Additionally, it is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Key Facts About Dachigam National Park

Dachigam National Park is a protected area located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Here are some key facts about the park:

  • Geographical features: The park is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, which includes deep valleys, rocky outcrops, steep wooded slopes, and rolling alpine pastures.
  • Altitude variation: Due to its mountainous location, Dachigam National Park experiences a wide range of altitudes, ranging from 1600 meters to 4200 meters above sea level. This altitude variation categorizes the park into two regions: the upper region and the lower region.
  • Flora: The park is home to a rich variety of flora, which includes Wild Cherry, Pear, Plum, Peach, Apple, Apricot, Walnut, Chestnut, Oak, Willow, Poplar, Chinar, Birch, Pine, and Elm.
  • Fauna: Dachigam National Park is also home to a diverse range of fauna, including the endangered Hangul or Kashmir Stag, Musk deer, Brown Bear, Leopards, Jungle Cats, Himalayan black bear, and several species of wild goats such as the markhor and ibex.

-Source: Indian Express


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