Daily Prelims Notes 23 June 2022
- June 23, 2022
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
23 June 2022
Table Of Contents
- Western Sahara dispute
- Worldwide oil-refining crunch
- How lightning kills and how to be safe when it strikes
- The importance of Snake Island, speck of land in the Black Sea, where Ukraine has bombed Russia
- Governor Powers, floor test law under spotlight
- Four new corals recorded from Indian waters
- GST Tax Rates
- Droupadi Murmu a Santhal Women nominated by NDA for President post
- Israel uncovers remains of mosque
- Digital wearables can expose users to cyberattacks
- Rupee hits a new low on worries over hike in US interest rates
Subject: International relations
- Algeria announced that it was immediately suspending its 20-year-old treaty of “friendship, good neighbourliness, and co-operation” with Spain.
- The blow to the ties came after Spain decided to shift its position on the Western Sahara dispute.
What is the Western Sahara dispute?
- The dispute started with colonisation of the region by Spain in 1884.
- When Spain announced its withdrawal from Western Sahara in 1975, the region descended into a conflict between Mauritania, Morocco and the Polisario Front – with all three trying to control the region.
- The Polisario Front declared the establishment of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara on the very day Spain left.
- However, the SADR did not get Western recognition despite going on to become a member of the African Union.
- The matter then came up before the International Court of Justice in 1975 itself, and the court decided neither Morocco nor Mauritania could claim sovereignty over Western Sahara.
- The ICJ called for decolonization of the region. Notwithstanding the ICJ’s decision, the Moroccan Sultan began the “Green March” towards Western Sahara causing an influx of thousands of Moroccans in the region.
- The Polisario Front kept fighting both Morocco and Mauritania.
- The Front signed a ceasefire with Mauritania in 1979.
- The fighting with Morocco continued and finally ended when both Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed to a UN-proposed peace deal.
- Post this 1991 Agreement, Morocco controls about 80 per cent of the Western Sahara, with the Polisario Front-led SADR operating primarily from the eastern flank of the region and from refugee camps in Algeria.
- The Front continues to push for complete independence with support from Algeria. Algeria has been a committed supporter of the Polisario Front, after it recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976.
- Prices were already elevated before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. But since mid-March, fuel costs have surged while crude prices are up only modestly.
- Much of the reason is a lack of adequate refining capacity to process crude into gasoline and diesel to meet high global demand.
Why is there a worldwide oil-refining crunch?
- There is a lack of adequate refining capacity to process crude into gasoline and diesel to meet high global demand.
- According to the International Energy Agency, there is enough capacity to refine about 100 million barrels of oil a day, but about 20% of that capacity is not usable. This is mostly due to lack of investment in countries like Latin America.
- Many refineries around the world have closed down due to decreased demand during the pandemic. The refining industry estimates that the world lost a total of 3.3 million barrels of daily refining capacity since the start of 2020.
- China has the most spare refining capacity as refined product exports are only allowed under official quotas, mainly granted to large state-owned refining companies and not to smaller independent companies that hold much of China’s spare capacity.
- Nearly 30% of Russia’s refining capacity was idled in May. In Europe, refineries are constrained by high prices for natural gas, which powers their operations.
- Some refiners also depend on vacuum gasoil as an intermediate fuel. Loss of Russian vacuum gasoil has prevented certain from restarting certain gasoline-producing units.
Who is gaining from the current situation?
- Refiners, especially those that export a lot of fuel to other countries, such as US refiners- US-based Valero and India-based Reliance Industries.
- India, which refines more than 5 million bpd, according to the IEA, has been importing cheap Russian crude for domestic use and export. It is expected to boost output by 450,000 by year-end, the IEA said.
|Asian Premium is an extra charge being collected by OPEC countries from Asian countries when selling oil in comparison to western countries.|
Context: Seventeen people have been killed by lightning over the last two days in various parts of Bihar, Six deaths have been reported from Bhagalpur district, while three people were killed in Vaishali, and two each in Banka and Khagaria. Other deaths happened in Madhepura, Saharsa, Munger and Katihar.
What is lightning?
- Scientifically, lightning is a rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere some of which is directed towards earth. The discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall. The base of these clouds typically lie within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while the top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures in the top of these clouds are in the range of –35° to –45°C.
- As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense. As they move to temperatures below 0°C, the water droplets change into small ice crystals. They continue to move up, gathering mass until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth. This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
- Collisions follow and trigger the release of electrons, a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues. This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged. The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge, of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts. In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
- While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged. As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well. It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
- Direct lightning strikes are rare but even indirect strikes are fatal given the immense amount of charge involved.
Which areas are lightning-prone?
- A recently released annual report on lightning by the Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), which works closely with government agencies like the India Meteorological Department, includes a lightning atlas which maps vulnerability at the district level.
- According to the report, Madhya Pradesh has reported the largest number of cloud to ground lighting strikes, followed by Chhatisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. Other states with high strike rate include Bihar, UP, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
- Lightning is fairly common, though it is not often realised in the urban centres. In India, well over one crore lightning strikes have been recorded in recent years. It is only over the last few years that lightning records have begun to be maintained, thanks to the efforts of CROPC and India Meteorological Department.
- In 2019-20, about 1.4 crore lightning strikes were recorded, which increased to 1.85 crore in 2020-21.
- In 2021-22, about 1.49 crore strikes were recorded across the country. The reduction, in line with the trend observed globally, has been attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The reason attributed to reduction in lightning is due to Covid-2019 pandemic induced reduction in aerosol level, pollution, environmental upgradation and relatively stable weather system in Indian subcontinent, the annual lightning report said.
- But most of this reduction was seen in the cloud-to-cloud lightning. Of the strikes that reach the Earth, only a 2.5% reduction was observed.
How can the effects of lightning strikes be mitigated?
- Lightning is not classified as a natural disaster in India. But recent efforts have resulted in the setting up of an early warning system, that is already saving many lives. More than 96% of lightning deaths happen in rural areas. As such, most of the mitigation and public awareness programmes need to focus on these communities.
- Lightning protection devices are fairly unsophisticated and low-cost. Yet, their deployment in the rural areas, as of now, is extremely low.
Subject: International relations
Context: Ukraine has said it has caused “significant losses” to the Russian military in airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, in the Black Sea.
As the Russia-Ukraine conflict rages on, the spotlight is on Kaliningrad, Russia’s westernmost region. The region is at the centre of a row after Lithuania decided to ban goods part of EU sanctions from moving through its territory to reach Kaliningrad
Important Places and Locations:
Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake or Serpent Island, is a small piece of rock less than 700 metres from end to end, that has been described as being “X-shaped
It is located 35 km from the coast in the Black Sea, to the east of the mouth of the Danube and roughly southwest of the port city of Odessa
It belongs to Ukraine
The Black Sea:
It was bound by Ukraine to the north and northwest, Russia and Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west, which links to the Sea of Marmara through the Bosphorus and then to the Aegean through the Dardanelles
Why Black Sea is significant for Russia?
The Black Sea is both a stepping stone to the Mediterranean as well as a strategic buffer between NATO and itself
Domination of the Black Sea region is a geostrategic imperative for Moscow, both to project Russian power in the Mediterranean and to secure the economic gateway to key markets in southern Europe
As Russia’s westernmost federal entity, the Kaliningrad Oblast occupies 15,000 sq km
Home to the deployment of Moscow’s Iskander missiles and the Russian Baltic Fleet, Kaliningrad has been called the Kremlin’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier”
Context: As the Maharashtra political crisis continues to play out with the Shiv Sena headed for a split and CM Uddhav Thackeray possibly losing majority, the Governor’s powers under the Constitution to call for a floor test takes centre stage.
- Article 174(2)(b) of the Constitution gives powers to the Governor to dissolve the Assembly on the aid and advice of the cabinet
- However, the Governor can apply his mind when the advice comes from a Chief Minister whose majority could be in doubt.
- Under Article 175(2), the Governor can summon the House and call for a floor test to prove whether the government has the numbers
- When the House is in session, it is the Speaker who can call for a floor test. But when the Assembly is not in session, the Governor’s residuary powers under Article 163 allow him to call for a floor test
S R Bommai Case
- The Governor has a crucial role when there is political instability in a state. Before 1994, Governors were quick to dismiss state government, charging that it did not have a majority in the state legislature and recommending the imposition of the President’s rule in the state. But the Supreme Court ended this practice with its judgment in the SR Bommai case in1994. In this landmark case, the court ruled that the place for deciding whether government has lost its majority was in the legislature. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari can ask Chief Minister Uddhav ThackeraytoconvenetheAssemblyandprovehismajorityontheflooroftheHouse
In 2020, the Supreme Court, in Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Ors versus Speaker, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly & Ors, upheld the powers of the Speaker to call for a floor test if there is a prima facie view that the government has lost its majority.
Context: Scientists have recorded four species of azooxanthellate corals for the first time from Indian waters. These new corals were found from the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
What is Azooxanthellate corals?
Coral polyps are tiny and fleshy sea anemones that live in tropical and subtropical oceans and seas.
They live in shallow waters along with microscopic algae called Zooxanthellae, with which they share a symbiotic relationship
This It is a group of corals that do not contain zooxanthellate and derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of plankton.
These groups of corals are deep sea corals, with the majority of species reporting from between 200 m to 1000 m. Their occurrences are also reported from shallow coastal waters.
Zooxanthellate corals, meanwhile restricted to shallow waters.
algae has photosynthesis abilities that feed the coral polyps with carbon compounds which give them energy. In return, the polyps provide protection to Zooxanthellae.
Coral reefs are one of the most productive, sustainable and pristine ecosystems of the world’s oceans, especially in shallow coastal waters.
It contributes several services associated with human needs and existence.
There are about 570 species of hard corals found in India and almost 90% of them are found in the waters surrounding Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Coral reefs in India are found in a lot of areas including the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands
The pristine and oldest ecosystem of corals share less than 1% of the earth’s surface but they provide a home to nearly 25% of marine life.
Section: Fiscal policy
- The introduction of a uniform GST was a watershed moment in India since the country’s earlier regime of taxes and cesses, both at the Centre and the States, was a big barrier to free trade and economic growth and was a cesspool of corruption.
- While proposing GST, the government was confident that the 28% GST slab would be phased out, except for luxury items and there would eventually be just two slabs: 5% and a standard rate between 12% and 18% (apart from exempt items).
- However, GST is still a complicated tax regime with different slabs.
- ‘Sin’ taxes are at cross purposes with the government’s policy of generating growth and creating jobs under ‘Make in India’ as it punishes spending. Ex- Taxes on 5-star hotels.
- Similarly, high taxes on air-conditioners, air conditioned restaurants, chocolates and luxury cars create an economic ripple effect downstream, in a complex web of businesses that have symbiotic relationships.
- At an Iyengar Bakery, the GST on bread is zero, but the vegetable sandwich is in the 5% tax slab, hitting the vegetable grower directly.
- The GST on buns is zero, but buns with a few raisins fall in the 5% slab.
- The GST on masala peanuts, murukku and namkeen is 12%.
- And the GST on cakes and chocolates is 18%.
- The same lack of logic applies to taxes on wine, rum and beer, which generate large-scale employment and are the backbone of grape and sugarcane farming and the cocoa industry.
- In the automobile sector, the GST on electric cars, tractors, cycles, bikes, low-end and luxury cars ranges anywhere from 5% to 50%.
- Khakhra, plain chapati, or roti fall under the 5% slab, while parotas are subjected to a higher GST rate of 18% as they need to be processed or heated for further consumption.
- Then there are items that are exempt from GST. Petrol, diesel, aviation turbine fuel are not under the purview of GST, but come under Central excise and State taxes.
- Central excise duties and varying State taxes contribute over 50% of the retail price of petrol and diesel.
- There is also anger at the Centre for riding roughshod over the States’ autonomy and disregarding the federal structure of the Constitution.
Section: Human Geography
- The Santal or Santhal, are a Munda ethnic group native to India.
- Santals are the largest tribe in the Jharkhand state of India in terms of population and are also found in the states of Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal.
- They are the largest ethnic minority in northern Bangladesh’s Rajshahi Division and Rangpur Division. They have a sizable population in Nepal and Bhutan.
- The Santals speak Santali, the most widely spoken of the Munda languages.
- The folklore of the Santals claims they came from Hihiri, which scholars have identified as Ahuri in Hazaribagh district.
- From there, they claim, they were pushed onto Chota Nagpur, then to Jhalda, Patkum and finally Saont, where they settled for good.
- In 1855, they revolted in the Santal rebellion, better known as the Santal Hul.
- 30,000 Santals, led by Sidhu and KanhuMurmu, attacked the zamindars and other outsiders (dikkus) who had made their lives so miserable, as well as the British authorities.
- As a result, the British created a 5000 km2 area, called Santal Parganas, where the normal procedures of British India did not apply.
- Administration of the community was primarily made the responsibility of the village headman, or pradhan, who was also given the power to collect taxes.
- In addition, it was made illegal for Santals to transfer land to non-Santals, allowing them to have legal rights over their land.
Rituals and Customs
- A characteristic feature of a Santal village is a sacred grove (known as the Jaher or Santal Sthal) on the edge of the village where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place.
- Sohrai is the principal festival of Santal community.
- Besides that Baha, Karam, Dansai, Sakrat, Mahmore, Rundo and Magsim are important festivals.
- They traditionally accompany many of their dances during these festivals with two drums: the Tamak‘ and the Tumdak’.
- Chadar Badar, a form of puppetry known also as Santal puppetry, is a folk show involving wooden puppets placed in a small cage which acts as the stage.
- Santal art is noticeable for its intricate carving style.
- The walls of traditional Santal homes are ornamented with carved designs of animals, hunting scenes, dancing scenes, geometric patterns, and more.
Subject: International relations
- Discovery sheds light on region’s transition from Christianity to Islam.
- The remains of the mosque are believed to be more than 1,200 years old.
- The mosque located in the Negev desert contains “a square room and a wall facing the direction of Mecca”.
- A short distance from the mosque, a “luxurious estate building” was also discovered, with remains of tableware and glass artifacts pointing to the wealth of its residents,
- Three years ago, another mosque was unearthed nearby from the same era of the seventh to eighth century AD, calling the two Islamic places of worship “among the earliest known worldwide”.
- The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel.
- The region’s largest city and administrative capital is Beersheba (pop. 209,687), in the north.
- At its southern end is the Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city and port of Eilat.
- The Negev contains the oldest discovered surface on Earth, with an approximate age of 1.8 million years.
- It covers more than half of Israel, over some 13,000 km2 (4,700 sq mi) or at least 55% of the country’s land area.
- It forms an inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Arabah valley.
Subject: Science and Technology
Section: Awareness in IT
- Digital wearables, smartwatches and fitness trackers pose unique threats to the security and privacy of customer data.
- By connecting a wearable to an extended ecosystem, one is exposing a larger attack surface.
- Cybersecurity experts look at this as a supply chain that includes a data generator, an analytics engine and a service provider.
- Each link in the chain, including the connecting networks, presents a potential risk.
- Most criminal intrusions of computer networks have a financial motive. That may lead people to conclude that wearables have a low cybersecurity risk.
- But wearables data, especially in healthcare settings, is often tied to financial information.
- Depending on the organisation from which it was obtained, stolen health data can be extremely valuable because it often includes so much personally-identifiable information – including birthdays, email addresses and other login information, that can be used for identity-theft purposes.
- The wearables market in India had clocked a record-breaking, double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2022, with shipments surpassing 13.9 million devices.
Section: External sector
- The rupee hit a fresh record low of 78.38 against the dollar on Wednesday amidst growing concerns over global growth prospects.
- The weak global cues also hit benchmark equity indices as it closed over one per cent lower on Wednesday.
- The BSE Sensex closed at 51,822.53, down 709.54 points or 1.35 per cent.
- The Nifty 50 closed at 15,413.30, down 225.50 points or 1.44 per cent.
- Amidst the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US Federal Reserve had hiked rates by an unprecedented 75 basis points. There are indications of further increase in rates.
- World over, major central banks are turning hawkish to curb inflation which could result in slower growth or even recession in developed nations.
- The risks are still skewed towards more depreciation for the rupee as the fundamental outlook has deteriorated further, primarily due to higher oil and other commodities.
- The Reserve Bank of India is seen to have intervened in the currency market to defend the rupee.
- Going forward too, the RBI is likely to continue intervening to curb the steep depreciation of the local unit.
- This is evident from the fact that the forex reserves have come down from the highs of around $642 billion and the rupee has not depreciated as much as the extent of outflows seen from the domestic markets YTD.
- Crude oil prices have corrected from the recent highs and are providing a lot of cushion to the domestic currency.
- The current account balance recorded a deficit of 1.2 percent of the GDP in 2021-22 as against a surplus of 0.9 per cent in 2020-21 as the trade deficit widened to $189.5 billion from $102.2 billion a year ago.