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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 26 July 2021

Contents

  1. Recent developments UNESCO World Heritage listing
  2. Typhoon ‘In-fa’ in China
  3. JJM goals unmet in Government Schools & Anganwadis
  4. Limestone cave in Asifabad forest
  5. India: G20 nations should pledge GHG reductions by 2030
  6. US’s 2021 Investment Climate Statements: India

Recent developments UNESCO World Heritage listing

Context:

The English city of Liverpool has been removed from UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Turkey rejected UNESCO’s voicing of “grave concern” for the World Heritage Site Hagia Sophia in Istanbul after it was changed from a museum to a mosque.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture, GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Committee
  3. Developments in Liverpool as a World Heritage Site
  4. About Hagia Sophia
  5. About UNESCO

What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of distinctive cultural or physical importance which is considered of outstanding value to humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy as they have a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.
  • At present, India has 38 World Heritage Properties. All the sites under the Ministry are conserved as per ASI’s Conservation Policy and are in good shape.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.

Developments in Liverpool as a World Heritage Site

  • UNESCO found new buildings, including a football stadium, undermined the attractiveness of its Victorian docks and stripped Liverpool of its world heritage status.
  • This makes Liverpool only the third place to be removed from the prestigious list. The only other sites stripped previously of the title are a wildlife sanctuary in Oman in 2007 after poaching and habitat loss and the Dresden Elbe valley in Germany in 2009 when a four-lane motorway bridge was built over the river.
  • The UK ranks eighth in the worldwide list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Liverpool made no effort to continue to comply with World Heritage criteria, instead pushing ahead with more major building projects — in 2012, UNESCO threatened to revoke Liverpool’s World Heritage status because of “substantial” building interventions.

About Hagia Sophia

  • Hagia Sophia is a Late Antique (Late antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in Europe) place of worship in Istanbul, designed by the Greeks.
  • Built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of the imperial capital of Constantinople, it was the largest Christian church of the eastern Roman Empire.
  • In 1453, after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque.
  • In 1935, the secular Turkish Republic established it as a museum.
  • In 2020, it controversially re-opened as a mosque and the UNESCO expressed “grave concern” over the fate Hagia Sophia; but, Turkish foreign ministry dismissed UNESCO’s concerns and said that the changes to Hagia Sophia had “no negative impact” on UNESCO standards.

About UNESCO

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
  • It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • UNESCO’s Headquarters are located in Paris and it has 193 Members and 11 Associate Members.
  • Three UNESCO member states are not UN members: Cook Islands, Niue, and Palestine.
  • While three UN member states (Israel, Liechtenstein, United States) are not UNESCO members.
  • UNESCO sponsors many programmes such as in the fields of teacher training, science, promotion of media and press freedom, regional and cultural history, cultural diversity, natural and cultural heritage, translating world literature, human rights, etc.

Areas of Specialization of UNESCO are:

  1. Education transforms lives and is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development.
  2. Protecting Heritage and Fostering Creativity is another area of focus for UNESCO and it has adopted a three-pronged approach to make culture takes it rightful place in development strategies and processes:
    1. Spearheads worldwide advocacy for culture and development.
    2. Engages with the international community to set clear policies and legal frameworks
    3. Works on the ground to support governments and local stakeholders to safeguard heritage, strengthen creative industries and encourage cultural pluralism.
  3. Science for a Sustainable Future is another area where UNESCO works to assist countries to invest in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), to develop national science policies, to reform their science systems and to build capacity to monitor and evaluate performance through STI indicators.
  4. Regarding Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO helps to enable people to create and use knowledge for just and inclusive societies, support them in understanding each other and working together to build lasting peace.
  5. UNESCO advances freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, combats online hate speech, as well as disinformation and misinformation through awareness raising initiatives.

-Source: The Hindu


Typhoon ‘In-fa’ in China

Context:

Typhoon In-fa made landfall in China forcing the city of Shanghai and neighbouring coastal regions to cancel all flights and shutter businesses.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical geography – Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Typhoon In-Fa
  2. Tropical Cyclones and their Structure
  3. Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?
  4. Landfall: What happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?

Typhoon In-Fa

  • China’s national observatory renewed its orange or second-highest alert for typhoon In-Fa, which made landfall in Zhejiang province.
  • Typhoon In-Fa is a Tropical Cyclone – Tropical Cyclones are referred to as “Typhoons” in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea.
  • Depending on its location and strength, tropical cyclones are referred to by different names:
    1. Cyclones in the Indian Ocean
    2. Hurricanes in the Atlantic
    3. Typhoons in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea
    4. Willy-willies in Western Australia

Click Here to read about Tropical Cyclones and their Structure

Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?

  • The depth of warm water (26-27°C) should extend for 60-70 m from surface of the ocean/sea, so that deep convection currents within the water do not churn and mix the cooler water below with the warmer water near the surface.
  • The above condition occurs only in western tropical oceans because of warm ocean currents (easterly trade winds pushes ocean waters towards west) that flow from east towards west forming a thick layer of water with temperatures greater than 27°C. This supplies enough moisture to the storm.
  • The cold currents lower the surface temperatures of the eastern parts of the tropical oceans making them unfit for the breeding of cyclonic storms.
  • ONE EXCEPTION: During strong El Nino years, strong hurricanes occur in the eastern Pacific. This is due to the accumulation of warm waters in the eastern Pacific due to weak Walker Cell.

Landfall: What happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?

  • Tropical cyclones dissipate when they can no longer extract sufficient energy from warm ocean water.
  • A storm that moves over land will abruptly lose its fuel source and quickly lose intensity.
  • A tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters. tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters.

-Source: The Hindu


JJM goals unmet in Government Schools & Anganwadis

Context:

Over 35% of government schools, anganwadis do not have tap water access even ten months after the Jal Jeevan Mission launched a 100-day campaign to provide the facility.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to poverty and hunger, Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Jal Jeevan Mission’s 100-day campaign and the Progress
  2. Criticism of the execution of the 100-day campaign
  3. Jal Jeevan Mission
  4. What are Anganwadi Centres

Jal Jeevan Mission’s 100-day campaign and the Progress

  • The 100-day campaign for 100% coverage of tap water supply aimed to provide potable piped water supply for drinking and cooking purposes and tap water for hand washing and in toilets in every school, anganwadi and ashramshala or residential tribal school.
  • It was launched on 2nd October, 2020 (Gandhi Jayanti) (at the time, about 40% of schools and anganwadis already had tap water access) and should have completed its 100-day period target by 10th January, 2021.
  • However, some States/ UTs had indicated that they need more time to complete the task and sustain the efforts and the campaign was extended till 31st March, 2021.
  • So far, Seven States – Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Punjab – achieved 100% coverage.

Criticism of the execution of the 100-day campaign

  • Almost four months after the extended deadline of March 2021, the JJM is yet to achieve its goal of 100% coverage of FHTC [Functional Household Tap Connections] in schools & anganwadi centers as only 66% schools & 60% anganwadi centers have been covered so far and this is noting that 40% of them already had tap water access in October 2020.
  • From 4.1 lakh before the campaign started, the number of schools with taps rose to 6.35 lakh by February 2021 and for anganwadis, the increase was from 4.3 lakh to 6.3 lakh.
  • In March 2021, the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Water Resources deplored the slow rate of progress, pointing out that “children are more susceptible to water borne diseases, more so, when there is also a need for repeated washing of hands as a precautionary measure during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
  • JJM has only added tap water access in about 50,000 schools and 40,000 anganwadis since the Extended deadline of March 2021, marking a significant slowdown.
  • There is widespread disparity among States, with a few laggards pulling down the national average, despite the fact that nine States and Union Territories have already achieved 100% coverage.
  • In Jharkhand and West Bengal, less than 15% of schools and less than 10% of anganwadis have tap water access.

Jal Jeevan Mission

  • Jal Jeevan Mission, a central government initiative under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, aims to ensure access of piped water for every household in India.
  • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) was restructured and subsumed into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) – to provide Functional Household Tap Water (FHTC) to every rural household with service level at the rate of 55 lpcd i.e., Har Ghar Nal Se Jal (HGNSJ) by 2024.

Implications

  • Supply of water to all households is a basic necessity
  • Reduction in water borne diseases which was due to due to consumption of substandard water

Challenges

  • Critical situation of Decrease in ground water table.
  • Water demand and supply is a miss match
  • Contamination of local ground level sources of water like, ponds lakes and wells.
  • Sustaining the provision of water to all households is a challenge, not just starting it.

What are Anganwadi Centres

  • Anganwadis or day-care centres are set up under the centrally sponsored Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.
  • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Anganwadi centres provide a package of six services: supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunisation, nutrition and health education, as well as referral services.
  • The primary aim of the scheme is to reduce infant mortality and child malnutrition.
  • Beneficiaries of these centers will be Children in the age group of zero to six years, and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It was started by the Government of India In 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
  • The beneficiaries under the Anganwadi Services Scheme are identified on the basis of Aadhaar.

-Source: The Hindu


Limestone cave in Asifabad forest

Context:

The discovery of pre-historic tools in a limestone cave in Asifabad forest is set to further advance the understanding of human habitation in Telangana region.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture, History, GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Paleolithic Period in India
  2. About the limestone cave in Asifabad forest
  3. About Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary
  4. Gondi people

About Paleolithic Period in India

  • Ancient history can be divided into different periods according to the tools used by people then.
    • Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age): 500,000 BCE – 10,000 BCE
    • Mesolithic Period (Late Stone Age): 10,000 BCE – 6000 BCE
    • Neolithic Period (New Stone Age): 6000 BCE – 1000 BCE
    • Chalcolithic Period (Stone Copper Age): 3000 BCE – 500 BCE
    • Iron Age: 1500 BCE – 200 BCE
  • The stone age is the prehistoric period before the development of the script. The main source of information for this period is archaeological excavations.
  • On the basis of geological age, the type and technology of stone tools, and subsistence base, the Indian stone age is classified primarily into three types-
    • Palaeolithic age (old stone age): Period – 500,000 – 10,000 BCE
    • Mesolithic age (late stone age): Period – 10,000 – 6000 BCE
    • Neolithic age (new stone age): Period – 6000 – 1000 BCE
  • The term ‘Palaeolithic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘palaeo’ which means old and ‘lithic’ meaning stone. Therefore, the term Palaeolithic age refers to the old stone age.
  • The Indian people of the Palaeolithic age are believed to have belonged to the ‘Negrito’ race, and lived in the open air, river valleys, caves and rock shelters.
  • They were food gatherers, ate wild fruits and vegetables, and lived on hunting and there was no knowledge of houses, pottery, agriculture.

About the limestone cave in Asifabad forest

  • The cave in which pre-historic tools were discovered is located deep inside the Kawal Tiger Reserve and only portions of it have been explored.
  • The cave was possibly inhabited due to the discovery of prehistoric tools including a hand-axe and a cleaver that can be dated to early paleo-lithic period years.
  • The stalagmite inside the cave, known locally as Arjun Loddi, were being worshipped by Gond and Gordi tribes on celebratory occasions like harvest and other festivals.
  • The cave sediment with volcanic ash as evidence shows that it dates back to 2,50,000 years.

About Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Kawal Tiger Reserve is located at Jannaram mandal of Mancherial District in Telangana.
  • This sanctuary is catchment for the rivers Godavari and Kadam, which flow towards the south of the sanctuary.
  • The River Godavari flows through this area and the sanctuary is one of the richest teak forests in the state, with dense pristine areas free of human disturbance.
  • Dry deciduous teak forests mixed with bamboo, terminalia, pterocarpus, anogeissus and cassias can be found here along with animals such as tiger, leopard, gaur, cheetal, sambar, nilgai, barking deer, chowsingha, peacock and sloth bear.

Gondi people

  • The Gondi are a Dravidian ethno-linguistic group and one of the largest Adivasi groups in India.
  • They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.
  • For the past few decades, they have been witnesses to the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in the central part of India.

-Source: The Hindu


India: G20 nations should pledge GHG reductions by 2030

Context:

India urged the G20 nations to pledge for reductions by 2030 at the 2021 G20 climate meet.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies, Agreements and treaties affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About G20
  2. Structure and functioning of G20
  3. Highlights of the recent G20 climate meet
  4. Carbon Neutrality

About G20

  • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over 75% of global trade.
  • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
  • Spain as a permanent, non-member invitee, also attends leader summits.

Structure and functioning of G20

  • The G20 Presidency rotates annually according to a system that ensures a regional balance over time.
  • For the selection of presidency, the 19 countries are divided into 5 groups, each having no more than 4 countries. The presidency rotates between each group.
  • Every year the G20 selects a country from another group to be president.
  • India is in Group 2 which also has Russia, South Africa and Turkey.
  • The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat or Headquarters.
  • The work of G20 is divided into two tracks:
  • The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Meeting several times throughout the year they focus on monetary and fiscal issues, financial regulations, etc.
  • The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, energy, etc.

Highlights of the recent G20 climate meet

  • India, at the conclusion of the G20 climate meet, said that pledges by some countries to achieve Net Zero GHG emissions or ‘carbon neutrality’ by mid-century were inadequate, when considering the rights of developing countries to economic growth.
  • India urged G20 countries to commit to bringing down per capita emissions to Global average by 2030.
  • India’s position as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter but also with among the lowest per capita emissions means that it has always resisted a hard deadline — some countries have set their target years as 2050 or 2060 — to commit to a net-zero future.
  • Countries periodically submit the National Determined Contributions (NDC) that outline their plans towards capping emission.
  • As per India’s NDC, India has to:
  • Increase cumulative electricity generation installed capacity from non-fossil sources of energy to 40% by 2030, which currently stands at around 38%
  • Lower emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030
  • Create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.

Click Here to read about carbon neutrality

-Source: The Hindu


US’s 2021 Investment Climate Statements: India

Context:

U.S. said that India remains a challenging place to do business while praising the structural economic reforms extended by India during the pandemic in its report titled ‘2021 Investment Climate Statements: India’.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources, Liberation and Planning of Indian Economy), GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the ‘2021 Investment Climate Statements: India’ US report

Highlights of the ‘2021 Investment Climate Statements: India’ US report

Calling India a challenging place to do business

  • The removal of special constitutional status from the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 are two decisions which are at the heart of policies that are bothering foreign investors.
  • Many Measures are being categorized as ‘Protectionist’ as several sectors of the economy continue to retain equity limits for foreign capital as well as management and control restrictions, which deter investment.
  • India adopted a new model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in December 2015, following several adverse rulings in international arbitration proceedings, which does not allow foreign investors to use investor-state dispute settlement methods, and instead requires foreign investors first to exhaust all local judicial and administrative remedies before entering international arbitration. This BIT also accounts for being policies that are bothering Foreign Investors.
  • Preferential Market Access (PMA) for government procurement has created substantial challenges for foreign firms operating in India. State-owned “Public Sector Undertakings” and the government accord a 20% price preference to vendors utilizing more than 50% local content.
  • India remained on the Priority Watch List in the 2020 Special 301 Report due to concerns over weak intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement.
  • India, with a score of 40, ranked 86 among 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.
  • There are other issues that restrict the expansion in bilateral trade.For example, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and Indian-specific standards not aligned with international standards.

Praising India’s Recent Economic Reforms amidst the Pandemic

  • In 2019, the government announced a new package of liberalization measures and brought a number of sectors including coal mining and contract manufacturing under the automatic route.
  • In 2021, Parliament further liberalized India’s insurance sector, increasing the foreign direct investment (FDI) limits to 74% from 49%. It also announced plans to raise $2.4 billion through an ambitious privatization program that would dramatically reduce the government’s role in the economy.
  • In order to combat economic slowdown pertaining to Covid-19, the Government of India launched Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan which envisages extensive social welfare and economic stimulus programs and increased spending on infrastructure and public health. Primarily, it aims towards cutting down import dependence by focusing on substitution while improving safety compliance and quality goods to gain global market share.
  • The government also adopted production linked incentives to promote manufacturing in pharmaceuticals, automobiles, textiles, electronics, and other sectors.
  • The government of India passed Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2021 to deal with domestic and international arbitration and defines the law for conducting conciliation proceedings.
  • The new labour codes announced by the government in 2021 target simplifying the country’s archaic labour laws and give impetus to economic activity without compromising with the workers’ benefits.

-Source: Business Standard

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