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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 4 June 2021

Contents

  1. SDG India Index 2020-21: Significant progress
  2. India’s abstention on Palestine at UNHRC not new
  3. Cabinet gives nod ratifying SCO agreement
  4. World Bank study: Policies on black carbon

SDG India Index 2020-21: Significant progress

Context:

India saw significant improvement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health in 2020, according to the NITI Aayog’s 2020 SDG Index.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Government Policies & Interventions, Inclusive Growth & Development, Important Institutions and their reports, Co-operative Federalism, Issues Relating to Development)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sustainable Development?
  2. India’s record in implementing Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Highlights of the NITI Aayog 2020 SDG Index

What is Sustainable Development?

  • Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • Three core elements of sustainable development are: Economic Growth, Social Inclusion and Environmental Protection.
  • Sustainable economic growth, achieving sustainable livelihood, living in harmony with nature and appropriate technology are important for sustainable development.

What are Sustainable Development Goals?

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an intergovernmental agreement formulated to act as post-2015 Development agenda to be achieved by 2030.
  • The SDGs are a set of seventeen pointer targets as proposed by the United Nation General Assembly’s Open Working Group, that all the countries which are members of the UN agreed to work upon for the better future of the country.

The 17 goals under the Sustainable Development Goals are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all stages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Built resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequalities within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern
  13. Take urgent actions to combat climate change and its impact
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

India’s record in implementing Sustainable Development Goals

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is being implemented to provide jobs to unskilled labourers and improve their living standards.
  • National Food Security Act is being enforced to provide subsidized food grains.
  • The government of India aims to make India open defecation free by the year 2019 under its flagship programme Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • Renewable energy generation targets have been set at 175 GW by 2022 to exploit solar energy, wind energy and other such renewable sources of energy efficiency and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) schemes have been launched for improving the infrastructure aspects.
  • India has expressed its intent to combat climate change by ratifying the Paris Agreement.

Highlights of the NITI Aayog 2020 SDG Index

  • Even though India saw significant improvement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health, there has been a major decline in the areas of industry, innovation and infrastructure as well as decent work and economic growth.
  • Kerala retained its position at the top of the rankings in the third edition of the index, with a score of 75, followed by Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, both scoring 72.
  • At the other end of the scale, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam were the worst performing States.
  • However, all States showed some improvement from last year’s scores, with Mizoram and Haryana seeing the biggest gains.

Holistic development

  • Developed by a global consultative process on holistic development, the 17 SDGs have a 2030 deadline.
  • The NITI Aayog launched its index in 2018 to monitor the country’s progress on the goals through data-driven assessment, and foster a competitive spirit among the States and Union Territories in achieving them.
  • In March 2021, a UN assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the SDGs said the region India is part of may see rising inequality due to the pandemic.
  • The NITI Aayog Index shows some improvement in the SDG on inequality, but a look at the indicators used to assess this goal shows that the think tank has changed the goalposts.
  • In 2019, the indicators for inequality included the growth rates for household expenditure per capita among the bottom 40% of rural and urban populations, as well as the Gini coefficient — a measure of the distribution of income — in rural and urban India. The 2018 indicators included the Palma ratio, another metric for income inequality.

Greater weightage

  • Such economic measures have been omitted from the indicators used for this SDG in the 2020 edition of the NITI Aayog’s Index.
  • Instead, it gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as the percentage of women and SC/ST representatives in State legislatures and the panchayati raj institutions, and the levels of crime against SC/ST communities.
  • The only economic indicator this year is the percentage of population in the lowest two wealth quintiles.
  • The SDGs that do deal directly with wages and industrial growth better reflect the fact that India’s economy has taken a beating over the 2019-2020.
  • The country’s score on the SDG related to industry and infrastructure dropped 10 points to 55, while the scores on decent work dropped three points to 61.
  • The Clean Water and Sanitation SDG also saw a five-point drop, despite flagship government schemes in this sector. In a more welcome development, the SDGs on eradication of poverty and hunger both saw significant improvement.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s abstention on Palestine at UNHRC not new

Context:

Palestine’s Foreign Minister said India’s abstention from the latest resolution on the Palestinian issue suppresses human rights of “all people”.

India’s latest abstention on a Palestine-related resolution at the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations is not a “new” stand, said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International Institutions, Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests, Effect of Foreign Policies on India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  2. About the recent UNHCR Resolution

Click Here to read all about the Israel-Palestine conflict and India’s stand on the Conflict

Click Here to read more about the understanding the territory of the region: West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a UN agency mandated
  • To aid and protect:
    • refugees,
    • forcibly displaced communities, and
    • stateless people, and
  • To assist in their:
    • voluntary repatriation,
    • local integration or
    • resettlement to a third country.
  • The UNHCR was established in 1950 in the wake of the mass displacements caused due to the Second World War in Europe.
  • Since then, it has provided relief to thousands of refugees and displaced persons in many parts of the world – and also won the Nobel Prize for Peace twice (1954 and 1981).
  • The chief legal document that governs the work of the UNHCR is the 1951 Refugee Convention and its parent organisation is the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and works in 135 countries and in India, has offices in New Delhi and Chennai.

About the recent UNHCR Resolution

  • The resolution called on the UNHRC to set up a permanent commission to probe human rights violations in Gaza, West Bank and Palestine.
  • It was adopted with the vote of 24 members. Nine voted against, and 14, including India, abstained.
  • Among the countries that abstained on the vote, along with India, were France, Italy, Japan, Nepal, the Netherlands, Poland, and South Korea.
  • China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Russia were among those who voted in favour; Germany, the UK, and Austria voted against the resolution.
  • As it was passed, an independent commission of inquiry was formed to investigate violations of international law by Israel.

Palestine’s Stand

  • The resolution is not an aberration to the Human Rights Council. It is the by-product of extensive multilateral consultations.
  • It is the consolidation of years and thorough investigations into and reporting on Israel’s grave violations by States, UN’s experts, Human Rights Treaty bodies, and international organisations.
  • According to Palestine, the Palestinian people were deprived of applicability of international human rights law and the root causes of the injustice against the Palestinian people was dispossession, displacement, colonisation by Israel.
  • Therefore, India’s abstention stifles the important work of Human Rights Council at advancing human rights for all peoples, including those of the Palestinian people.

-Source: The Hindu


Cabinet gives nod ratifying SCO agreement

Context:

The Cabinet on accorded an ex post facto approval for signing and ratifying an agreement on cooperation in the field of mass media between all member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests, Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
  2. About the ‘Cooperation in the field of Mass Media’

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance which was formed in 2001 in Shanghai, China.
  • The SCO is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
  • The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan were involved in the formation; India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in 2017.
  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the Organisation
  • The SCO is widely regarded as the “alliance of the East”, due to its growing centrality in Asia-Pacific
  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, it meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
  • The Council of Heads of Government is the second-highest council in the organisation.
  • Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability.

About the ‘Cooperation in the field of Mass Media’

Main Areas of Cooperation under ‘Cooperation in the field of Mass Media’:

  • Creation of a favorable system for mutual and wide distribution of information via Mass Media in a bid to deepen the knowledge about the lives of the people of their States.
  • Cooperation among the Editorial Offices of the Mass Media of their States as well as between the relevant Ministries, Agencies, and Organizations in the field of Mass Media.
  • Promoting equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between professional associations of journalists of the States.
  • Aiding broadcast of television and radio programs and those distributed legally within the territory of the State.
  • Encouraging the exchange of specialists and experience in the field of Mass Media, offer mutual assistance in training media professionals, and promote cooperation between scientific research and educational institutions in the field of Mass Media.

-Source: The Hindu


World Bank study: Policies on black carbon

Context:

The World Bank (WB) said in its research report titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience” that glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass in the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Black Carbon?
  2. Adverse Effects of Black Carbon
  3. Highlights of the research by World Bank (WB) on Black carbon (BC)

What is Black Carbon?

  • Black carbon is a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels.
  • Complete combustion would turn all carbon in the fuel into carbon dioxide (CO2), but combustion is never complete and CO2, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and organic carbon and black carbon particles are all formed in the process.
  • The complex mixture of particulate matter resulting from incomplete combustion is often referred to as soot.
  • BC is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
  • Deposits of BC act in two ways hastening the pace of glacier melt: by decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight and by raising air temperature.

Adverse Effects of Black Carbon

  • Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant with a lifetime of only days to weeks after release in the atmosphere.
  • During this short period of time, black carbon can have significant direct and indirect impacts on the climate, glacial regions, agriculture and human health.
  • Several studies have demonstrated that measures to prevent black carbon emissions can reduce near-term warming of the climate, increase crop yields and prevent premature deaths.
  • Black carbon absorbs solar energy and warms the atmosphere.
  • When it falls to earth with precipitation, it darkens the surface of snow and ice, reducing their albedo (the reflecting power of a surface), warming the snow, and hastening melting.

India and Black Carbon Emission

  • India is the second largest emitter of black carbon in the world, with emissions expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades.
  • Indo Gangetic plains are found to be the largest contributor.
  • Industry [primarily brick kilns] and residential burning of solid fuel together account for 45–66% of regional anthropogenic [man-made] BC deposition, followed by on-road diesel fuels (7–18%) and open burning (less than 3% in all seasons) in Himalayan region.

Highlights of the research by World Bank (WB) on Black carbon (BC)

  • Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity which accelerate the pace of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels, new research by World Bank (WB) specialists has said.
  • The research report from the WB covers the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges, where, it says, glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass.
  • The rate of retreat of HKHK glaciers is estimated to be 0.3 metres per year in the west to 1.0 metres per year in the east. BC adds to the impact of climate change.
  • Full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23% reduction but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits.

-Source: The Hindu

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