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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 5 June 2021

Contents

  1. NASA plans two new missions to Venus
  2. World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021
  3. No change in RBI’s view on cryptocurrencies
  4. Govt clears building of 6 attack submarines

NASA plans two new missions to Venus

Context:

NASA announced plans to launch a pair of missions to Venus between 2028 and 2030 — its first in decades — to study the atmosphere and geologic features of Earth’s so-called sister planet and better understand why the two emerged so differently.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Space Technology and advancements in Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Venus
  2. Observations and explorations of Venus
  3. About NASA’s plans for Missions to Venus
  4. ISRO’s Mission Venus

About Venus

  • Venus is the second planet from the Sun and as the brightest natural object in Earth’s night sky after the Moon, Venus can cast shadows and can be, on rare occasions, visible to the naked eye in broad daylight.
  • In Venus, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east, because it rotates in the opposite direction (East to West/Clockwise) to all but Uranus.
  • It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. Because of this, the greenhouse effect on Venus is so strong that even though Mercury is closer to the Sun, Venus has the hottest surface of any planet in the Solar System.
  • The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is about 92 times the sea level pressure of Earth.
  • Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light.
  • The water has probably photodissociated, and the free hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field.
  • As one of the brightest objects in the sky, Venus has been a major fixture in human culture for as long as records have existed.

Observations and explorations of Venus

  • Due to its proximity to Earth, Venus has been a prime target for early interplanetary exploration.
  • It was the first planet beyond Earth visited by a spacecraft (Mariner 2 in 1962), and the first to be successfully landed on (by Venera 7 in 1970).
  • Venus’s thick clouds render observation of its surface impossible in visible light, and the first detailed maps did not emerge until the arrival of the Magellan orbiter in 1991.
  • Plans have been proposed for rovers or more complex missions, but they are hindered by Venus’s hostile surface conditions.
  • Observations of the planet Venus include those in antiquity, telescopic observations, and from visiting spacecraft. Spacecraft have performed various flybys, orbits, and landings on Venus, including balloon probes that floated in the atmosphere of Venus.
  • After the Moon, Venus was the second object in the Solar System to be explored by radar from the Earth.
  • Ten Soviet probes have achieved a soft landing on the surface, with up to 110 minutes of communication from the surface, all without return.
  • U.S.’s missions to Venus: Mariner series 1962-1974, Pioneer Venus 1 and Pioneer Venus 2 in 1978, Magellan in 1989.
  • Russia’s mission to Venus: Venera series of space crafts 1967-1983, Vegas 1 and 2 in 1985.
  • Japan’s Akatsuki was launched in 2010, however, the orbital insertion maneuver failed and the spacecraft was left in heliocentric orbit.
  • Venus Express was a mission by the European Space Agency to study the atmosphere and surface characteristics of Venus from orbit.

 

Significance of Exploring Venus

  • It will help to learn how Earth-like planets evolve and what conditions exist on Earth-sized exoplanets (planets that orbit a star other than our sun).
  • It will help in modelling Earth’s climate, and serves as a cautionary tale on how dramatically a planet’s climate can change.

About NASA’s plans for Missions to Venus

  • Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced two new robotic missions to Venus.
  • The new missions will give fresh views of the planet’s atmosphere, made up mostly of carbon dioxide, down to the core.
  • The two sister missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface.
  • DaVinci Plus: It will be the first of the two, it will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.
  • Veritas: It will be the second one seeking a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface.

ISRO’s Mission Venus

  • ISRO has opened for its ―Mission Venus‖ seeking experiment ideas from space agencies, universities and researchers.
  • It is planned to be launched in Mid-2023.
  • It plans to study the planet from an elliptical orbit that is closest to Venus at 500 km and 60,000 km at the farthest end.
  • It is currently being handled by the Space Science Programme Office.
  • If the project is approved would be ISRO‘s third interplanetary mission after Chandrayaan – 1 and Mars Orbiter Mission.

-Source: The Hindu


World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021

Context:

International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends (WESO) report 2021 which shows that Global unemployment is expected to be at 205 million in 2022, surpassing the 2019 level of 187 million.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Important International Institutions and their reports, Employment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. International Labour Organization (ILO)
  2. Highlights of the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends (WESO) report 2021
  3. Employment in the Indian Economy

International Labour Organization (ILO)

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency whose mandate is to advance social justice and promote decent work by setting international labour standards.
  • It was the first specialised agency of the UN.
  • The ILO has 187 member states: 186 of the 193 UN member states plus the Cook Islands are members of the ILO.
  • In 1969, the ILO received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving fraternity and peace among nations, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to other developing nations.

ILO’s Tripartite Structure:

  • Unlike other United Nations specialized agencies, the International Labour Organization has a tripartite governing structure that brings together governments, employers, and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
  • The tripartite structure is unique to the ILO where representatives from the government, employers and employees openly debate and create labour standards.
  • The structure is intended to ensure the views of all three groups are reflected in ILO labour standards, policies, and programmes, though governments have twice as many representatives as the other two groups.

The Functions of the ILO

  • Creation of coordinated policies and programs, directed at solving social and labour issues.
  • Adoption of international labour standards in the form of conventions and recommendations and control over their implementation.
  • Assistance to member-states in solving social and labour problems.
  • Human rights protection (the right to work, freedom of association, collective negotiations, protection against forced labour, protection against discrimination, etc.).
  • Research and publication of works on social and labour issues.

Objectives of the ILO

  • To promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work.
  • To create greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment.
  • To enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all.
  • To strengthen tripartism and social dialogue.

Highlights of the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends (WESO) report 2021

  • The Covid-19 Pandemic has pushed over 100 million more workers into poverty worldwide. The world would be 75 million jobs short at the end of this year compared to if the pandemic had not occurred.
  • Relative to 2019, an estimated additional 108 million workers are now extremely or moderately poor, meaning that they and their family members are having to live on less than USD 3.20 per day (It is the World Bank poverty line for lower-middle-income countries) in purchasing power parity terms.
  • The sharp increase in poverty rates is due to lost working hours as economies went into lockdown, outright job losses, and a decline in access to good quality jobs.
  • Five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone, as working poverty rates have now reverted to those of 2015.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in the labour market, with lower-skilled workers, women, young people or migrants among the most affected.
  • In 2020, 8.8% of global working hours were lost compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 — the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs.
  • While the situation has improved, global working hours have far from bounced back, and the world will still be short the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs by the end of 2021.
  • Unemployment rate of 6.3% this year (2020-21), falling to 5.7% next year (2021-22) but still up on the pre-pandemic rate of 5.4% in 2019.

Employment in the Indian Economy

  • In 2012, there were around 487 million workers in India, the second largest after China.
  • In 2018 reports show: Close to 81% of all employed persons in India make a living by working in the informal sector, with only 6.5% in the formal sector and 0.8% in the household sector.
  • Among the five South Asian countries, informalisation of labour is the highest in India and Nepal (90.7%), with Bangladesh (48.9%), Sri Lanka (60.6%) and Pakistan (77.6%) doing much better on this front.
  • Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector.
  • Employment in India is multifaceted. There are people who are permanently unemployed; and there are people who are temporarily employed or temporarily unemployed (known as seasonal unemployment/employment), and in addition there is disguised unemployment – which in simple terms is the condition where a task that requires only 5 workers to handle it, is being handled by 12 workers.
  • Agriculture, dairy, horticulture and related occupations alone employ 43 percent of labour in India. However, Agriculture and the allied sectors contribute only to 14.6% of India’s GDP!

-Source: The Hindu


No change in RBI’s view on cryptocurrencies

Context:

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das made it clear that the central bank’s view on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin remains unchanged and it continues to have “major concerns” on the volatile instruments.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Banking, Money, Monetary Policy), GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments in Science and Technology, Application of Technology in Daily life, Blockchain technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are cryptocurrencies?
  2. How are they different from actual currency?
  3. How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?
  4. RBI’s views on Cryptocurrency

What are cryptocurrencies?

  • Cryptocurrencies are e-currencies that are based on decentralized technology and operate on a distributed public ledger called the blockchain.
  • Blockchain records all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The technology allows people to make payments and store money digitally without having to use their names or a financial intermediary such as banks.
  • Cryptocurrency units such as Bitcoin are created through a ‘mining’ process which involves using a computer to solve numerical problems that generate coins.
  • Bitcoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies to be launched and was created in 2009.

How are they different from actual currency?

  • The Main difference is that unlike actual currencies cryptocurrencies are not issued by Governments.
  • Actual money is created or printed by the government which has a monopoly in terms of issuing currency. Central banks across the world issue paper notes and therefore create money and assign paper notes their value.
  • Money created through this process derives its value via government fiat, which is why the paper currency is also called fiat currency.
  • In the case of cryptocurrencies, the process of creating the currency is not monopolized as anyone can create it through the mining process.

How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?

  • Any currency has its value if it can be exchanged for goods or services and if it is a store of value (it can maintain purchasing power over time).
  • Cryptocurrencies, in contrast to fiat currencies, derive their value from exchanges.
  • The extent of involvement of the community in terms of demand and supply of cryptocurrencies helps determine their value.

RBI’s views on Cryptocurrency

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) informed the Supreme Court that dealing in cryptocurrency will encourage illegal transactions.
  • According to the RBI, Cryptocurrencies are “a stateless digital currency” in which encryption techniques are used for trading and these ‘currencies’ operate independently of a Central bank, rendering it immune from government interference.
  • An interdisciplinary committee headed by secretary of economic affairs Subhash Garg was set-up in 2017 to examine virtual currencies and recommend the regulatory framework for crypto currencies.
  • The RBI had already issued a circular prohibiting use of these virtual currencies.

-Source: The Hindu


Govt clears building of 6 attack submarines

Context:

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave the Indian Navy the go-ahead Friday to select an Indian strategic partner company which, in collaboration with a foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), will build six conventional attack submarines in the country.

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)
  2. About the 6 conventional attack submarines

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

  • As an overarching structure, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), under the Defence Minister is constituted for overall guidance of the defence procurement planning process.
  • DAC is the highest decision-making body in the Defence Ministry for deciding on new policies and capital acquisitions for the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Indian Coast Guard.
  • The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
  • It was formed, after the Group of Ministers recommendations on ‘Reforming the National Security System’, in 2001, post Kargil War (1999).

Composition of Defence Acquisition Council

  1. Defence Minister: Chairman
  2. Minister of State for Defence: Member
  3. Chief of Army Staff: Member
  4. Chief of Naval Staff: Member
  5. Chief of Air Staff: Member
  6. Defence Secretary: Member
  7. Secretary Defence Research & Development: Member
  8. Secretary Defence Production: Member
  9. Chief of Integrated Staff Committees HQ IDS: Member
  10. Director General (Acquisition): Member
  11. Dy. Chief of Integrated Defence: Staff Member Secretary

About the 6 conventional attack submarines

  • This project envisages indigenous construction of six conventional submarines equipped with the state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion system at an estimated cost of Rs 43,000 crore.
  • Project 75 India or P75I will be the first under the strategic partnership model, promulgated in 2017 to boost indigenous defence manufacturing.
  • The first submarine built under the project is likely to be delivered by 2030.
  • The project had been approved in 2007, but remained on the backburner until 2019 when the government approved the Acceptance of Necessity.
  • The five OEMs are Rosoboronexport (ROE) of Russia, ThyssenKrupp of Germany, Naval Group of France, Navantia of Spain and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea.
  • The DAC nod for six conventional submarines came on the day INS Chakra, leased from Russia and one of India’s two nuclear submarines, was spotted off Singapore, reportedly on its way back to Russia — the 10-year lease term is ending soon.

-Source: The Hindu

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