Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - August 24, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Ethanol Blending in Petrol

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • The government has set targets of 10 per cent bioethanol blending of petrol by 2022 and to raise it to 20 per cent by 2030 under the ethanol blending programme to curb carbon emissions and reduce India’s dependence on imported crude oil.
  • 1G and 2G bioethanol plants are set to play a key role in making bio-ethanol available for blending but face challenges in attracting investments from the private sector.

About 1G and 2G bio fuel plants

  • 1G bioethanol plants utilise sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material, while 2G plants utilise surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bioethanol.
  • Currently, domestic production of bioethanol is not sufficient to meet the demand for bio-ethanol for blending with petrol at Indian Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
  • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were only able to supply 1.9 billion litres of bio-ethanol to OMCs equating to 57.6 per cent of the total demand of 3.3 billion litres.

About the Highlights

  • Experts point out that many sugar mills which are best placed to produce bioethanol do not have the financial stability to invest in biofuel plants and there and there are also concerns among investors on the uncertainty o the price of bio-ethanol in the future.
  • The prices of both sugarcane and bio-ethanol are set by the central government.
  • An expert at a leading OMC, said the price of obtaining agricultural waste required for the production of bio-ethanol at 2G plants was currently too high for it to be viable for private investors in the country.
  • The expert noted that state governments needed to set up depots where farmers could drop their agricultural waste and that the central government should fix a price for agricultural waste to make investments in 2G bioethanol production an attractive proposition.
  • The three state-run OMCs Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. are currently in the process of setting up 2G bio-ethanol plants.

Source: Indian Express.

Hurdles to Naga Peace

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.


Context

  • Fresh hurdles have emerged in the road to peace in Nagaland.
  • After a framework agreement (Naga Peace Accord) was signed in 2015 between the Centre and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, or the NSCN (I-M), the largest of the extremist groups in the peace process since 1997, there have been more than 100 rounds of talks and several twists and turns.
Background

The latest involves the demand by the NSCN (I-M) to remove Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi as the Centre’s interlocutor for the 23-year-old peace process and his alleged tweaking of the original framework agreement.

About the hurdles
  • Talks, fatigue and growing impatience across the Naga domain gave way to optimism when Mr. Ravi was made Nagaland’s Governor in July 2019.
  • His appointment was seen as a message from New Delhi that the solution would be found soon.
  • As the Centre’s interlocutor, Mr. Ravi had signed the framework agreement in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • But in October 2019, he issued a statement blaming the “procrastinating attitude” of the NSCN (I-M) for the delay in a mutually-agreed draft comprehensive settlement.
  • He also said the NSCN (I-M) imputed “imaginary contents” to the framework agreement while referring to the government’s purported acceptance of a ‘Naga national flag’ and ‘Naga Yezhabo (constitution)’ as part of the deal.
  • In June 2020, the NSCN (I-M) took offence to Mr. Ravi’s letter to Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio in which he referred to them as “armed gangs” running parallel governments.
  • The NSCN (I-M) reacted by demanding Mr. Ravi’s removal from the peace process but the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), a conglomerate of seven rival groups, and some social organisations want him to stay.
About the Highlights
  • In his ‘Naga Independence Day’ speech on August 14, NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah insisted the Nagas “will never merge with India”.
  • But States adjoining Nagaland, where the peace headquarters of NSCN (I-M) is located, are apprehensive of the sovereignty issue.
  • This is because of the NSCN (I-M)’s idea of Greater Nagalim — a homeland encompassing all Naga-inhabited areas in Nagaland and beyond.
  • Apart from Myanmar, where many of more than 50 Naga tribes live, the Greater Nagalim map includes large swathes of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur.
  • The Assam government has vowed not to part with “even an inch of land”, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union warned against any “territorial changes” while finding a solution.
  • Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh said he has received the Centre’s assurance that the peace deal with the NSCN (I-M) will not affect the territorial integrity of Manipur.
  • But non-Naga groups are suspicious since the Tangkhul community, forming the core of the NSCN (I-M), is from Manipur and the outfit may not accept any agreement that excludes areas inhabited by them.
  • The NNPGs, whose members are primarily from Nagaland, are also a factor; their inputs for a final solution could be at variance with those of the NSCN (I-M).

Source: The Hindu.

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Swachh Survekshan 2020 rankings

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

  • Coimbatore is the cleanest city in Tamil Nadu, securing the 40th rank in the Swachh Survekshan 2020, an annual cleanliness survey conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
  • No Tamil Nadu city has made it among the top 10, according to the results published. 

Background

  • Based on feedback from 1,82,018 citizens, Coimbatore was adjudged as the cleanest city in Tamil Nadu.
  • The city came 16th in 2017 and 2018. Madurai and Chennai were ranked 42nd and 45th, respectively, under the more than 10 lakh population category.
  • However, Tiruchy faced a huge disappointment with its ranking falling from 3 in 2016 to 39 in 2019 and 102 this year.
  • That it is the cleanest city in Tamil Nadu in the 1-10 lakh population category comes as a small consolation.
  • Chennai, on the other hand, has made great strides by improving its ranking from 235 in 2017, 100 in 2018 and 61 in 2019.

About the Highlights

  • According to Ministry of Urban Affairs, the survey, which covered 4,242 cities and saw the participation of 1.87 crore citizens, was completed in 28 days.
  • It was conducted based on 71 parameters, including open defecation, garbage collection, dumpster-free street, beautification projects, public toilets and mapping of public toilets.
  • A delay in the announcement of the survey results was due to the pandemic situation.
  • The MoHUA, which is the nodal agency for the Swachh Bharat Mission, conducted its first Swachh Survekshan survey to rank 73 cities (Urban Local Bodies) in January 2016.
  • Every year, cities and towns across India are awarded the title of 'Swachh Cities' based on their cleanliness and sanitation drives as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which was launched in 2014.

Source: Indian Express

Consumer Affairs Ministry launches online system for registration of jewellers

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.


Context

  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs launched digital solutions for registration and renewal process for licences for jewellers and for recognition and renewal of Assaying and Hallmarking (A&H) Centres.
  • With the hallmarking of precious metals set to become mandatory from June 1, 2021, the online systems have been launched to provide ease of doing business for both the jewellers and the entrepreneurs who have established Assaying and Hallmarking Centres or plan to set them up in the future.

Background

  • The government believes this will also lead to increase in the number of A&H Centres.
  • At present, there are 921 such centres, located in 234 districts of the country.
  • BIS is also now working on operationalising A&H centres in remaining 480 districts by June 2021.
  • The online system of audit will “facilitate expeditious disposal of complaints regarding malpractices in the Hallmarking of jewellery items.”
  • The BIS is also working on the module to automate the work-flow of the Assaying and Hallmarking Centres, which is expected to be ready by December.

About the Highlights

  • The official statement added that with the launch of the online system, the entire entire process of recognition, which involves audit of the Centres, submission of audit report, and grant of recognition or renewal, has been automated.
  • With the launch of the two online systems, jewellers and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to join the government’s effort to ensure the availability of the gold jewellery of proven quality and purity to the consumers.
  • The Department is in process of implementing IS or EU standards for products in India and from next month, BIS officials along with custom officials will examine the quality and standard of imported products cargoes on 7 Indian ports.
  • Only those products which meet the prescribed quality standards will be given permission to enter the Indian markets.
  • Currently, steel, chemical, heavy machineries and toys holds major share in import list of the country.
  • BIS is also working on quality checks for various products available in the market.
  • At present QCO (Quality Control Orders) for 254 products are there and QCO’s for another 268 products are under pipeline.

Source: PIB.

Railways cancels tender for manufacturing 44 Vande Bharat Express rakes

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • Indian Railways cancelled the tender for the manufacturing of 44 rakes of Train 18, which has been re-christened as Vande Bharat Express, and said a fresh tender will be floated within a week's time, focusing on Make in India as a Chinese Joint Venture also applied as a foreign bidder.
  • The Ministry of Railways in a statement said: "Tender for manufacturing of 44 sets of semi high-speed train set (Vande Bharat) has been cancelled."

Background

  • The decision came after the Chinese joint venture company CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Limited emerged as the only foreign bidder for the global tender floated for manufacturing 44 rakes of Vande Bharat trains.
  • The Chennai-based ICF has invited bids for procurement of electric traction kits for Train 18, the country's first self-propelled train without locomotives.

About Train 18

  • Train 18 was manufactured by ICF, which is owned by the Indian Railways, with over 80 per cent indigenous materials and was rolled out in October 2018 amidst much fanfare.
  • The train was later re-christened as Vande Bharat express and was introduced between New Delhi and Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency, in February last year.
  • In October last year, the second Vande Bharat Express train was introduced between New Delhi and Katra.

About the Highlights

  • The train was later re-christened as Vande Bharat express and was introduced between New Delhi and Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency, in February last year.
  • In October last year, the second Vande Bharat Express train was introduced between New Delhi and Katra.
  • In December last year, Indian Railways had planned to complete the production of 44 more new rakes on India's 75th Independence day.
  • All the coaches of Vande Bharat Express have a stainless steel car body equipped with automatic doors with sliding footsteps, on-board computers for train control and remote monitoring.
  • The coaches also have a GPS-based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot WiFi and comfortable seating arrangements.

Source: PIB.

Harit Path app

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

  • Union minister Nitin Gadkari stressed the need for utilising modern and green technologies in highways construction besides reducing the cost of road building by at least 25 per cent.
  • The road transport minister also launched a mobile app 'Harit Path' to monitor the plantation along the national highways.

Background

  • Chairing a meeting via video conference to review 'New Green Highways Policy (Plantation)' and discuss use of new technologies in road construction, Gadkari said it should be the ministry's mission to reduce cost of construction by 25 per cent and for this new technologies are required, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
  • Gadkari, who also holds MSME portfolio, also stressed on utilising modern and green technologies in road construction all over the country.

About the Highlights

  • "The minister launched 'Harit Path', a mobile app to monitor the plantations through geo-tagging and web-based GIS enabled monitoring tools. The app has been developed by NHAI to monitor location, growth, species details, maintenance activities, targets and achievements of each of its field units for each and every plant under all plantation projects," the statement said.
  • While inaugurating the mobile app, the minister emphasised on strict monitoring of plantation and transplantation of trees.
  • The minister suggested that specialised persons/agencies should be hired for plantation of trees along the highways.
  • The officials assured that they will be able to achieve the goal of 100 per cent plantation on highways by March 2022.
  • "While discussing the issue of transplantation of trees, Gadkari said that it should be our mission to save all the trees from being cut and specialised agencies equipped with new technologies should be hired for the purpose. The minister stressed upon using local indigenous material like jute, coir, etc for strengthening purposes," the statement said.
  • Meanwhile, the the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in a statement said the mobile app 'Harit Path' launched by the minister will provide digital address to every tree planted along the national highways.

Source: PIB.

MEA in partnership with Foreign Ministry of Thailand organize 6th Round Table of AINTT

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.


Context

  • The Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with the Foreign Ministry of Thailand has organized the 6th Round Table of ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks (AINTT) which culminated.
  • The theme of the two day Round Table which was conducted through video conferencing was 'ASEAN-India: Strengthening Partnership in the Post COVID Era'.

Background

  • It was jointly inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Thailand Mr. Don Pramudwinai.
  • ASEAN Secretary General Mr. Lim Jock Hoi also addressed the inaugural session.

About the Highlights

  • More than 400 people from academia, industry, government and diplomatic community attended the Round Table.
  • The ASEAN-India Round Table comprising think tanks, policy makers, scholars, media and business representatives was established at the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in Thailand in 2009 to provide policy inputs to Governments on future direction of cooperation.

Source: PIB.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt Union Peace Accord III:
  1. The accord opens a door to solving misunderstanding regarding the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and difficulties faced in its implementation.
  2. The peace accord called Union Peace Accord III contains 15 provisions to implement the NCA.
  3. These include troop deployment, protocol to deal with skirmishes between government troops and the armed groups among others.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

      A. 1 and 2 only
      B. 2 and 3 only
      C. 1 and 3 only
      D. AOTA

Solution: D

  1. Vinayaka Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi falls in the month (as per Hindu calendar) of?

      A. Bhadrapada
      B. Chaitra
      C. Vaishaka
      D. Asadha

Solution: A

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