Daily Prelims Notes 3 October 2021
- October 3, 2021
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
3 October 2021
Table Of Contents
- United Nations Food Systems Summit
- Increasing Adoption Of Crypto Assets Pose Financial Stability Challenges: IMF
- Green Bonds
- Act-A or Access to covid-19 Tools accelerator
- BepiColombo mission
- North Korea tests new hypersonic weapon
- Immortal Beings
- Positive Feedback Loop and Desertification
- New rules to clear retro tax mess
- Langa-Manganiyar Heritage
- Jal Jeevan Mission
- Assam Accord
- A tiny plant that can digest low intensity plastic sheets
- IAO Hanle
Subject – IR
Context – United Nations Food Systems Summit: Need to transform food systems, say experts
- There is a need to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 and address climate change in view of food production, leaders and subject matter experts stressed at the United Nations Food System Summit September 23, 2021.
- This transformation can stem from an understanding that we must urgently move from incremental and siloed action towards a systems approach. The food system will not prosper until all sectors concerned work together, they said.
- According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food systems encompass the entire range of actors and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products.
- Food systems comprise all food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which these diverse production systems are embedded.
- The world is looking forward to a simpler and more inclusive food system. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already given the world a ‘One-Health’ vision, and the world is optimistic of a food system that recognises the associated concerns of non-judicious use of chemicals as well as unregulated animal intensification.
- Five action areas to help inform the transitions needed to realise the vision of the 2030 agenda have emerged from the Summit process. These include:
- Nourish all people
- Boost nature-based solutions
- Advance equitable livelihoods, decent work and empowered communities
- Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
- Support means of implementation
- At a global level, UN agencies as the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) will jointly lead a UN system-wide coordination hub to continue the work of the Summit.
Subject – Economy
Context – The rapid growth of the crypto ecosystem presents new opportunities; the IMF has said but also cautioned that the digital currency assets pose financial stability challenges.
- The rapid growth of the crypto ecosystem presents new opportunities, the IMF has said but also cautioned that the digital currency assets pose financial stability challenges.
- Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of their units and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.
- Technological innovation is ushering in a new era that makes payments and other financial services cheaper, faster, more accessible, and allows them to flow across borders swiftly,” said in a chapter of its latest report Global Financial Stability Report.
- Crypto asset technologies have the potential as a tool for faster and cheaper cross-border payments. Bank deposits can be transformed to stable coins that allow instant access to a vast array of financial products from digital platforms and allow instant currency conversion.
- Decentralised finance could become a platform for more innovative, inclusive, and transparent financial services.
- Bitcoin could lead to instability because it is extremely volatile.
- It’s fine as an investment asset right. But as a monetary aggregate, it just doesn’t have the right properties.
- Transaction costs can be fairly expensive and compared to digital money, as it’s the case in India for example, where you have a real-time gross settlement payment system, it’s actually slow because it’s a distributed ledger, and to know that the transaction has gone through, it has to be verified on all of these different computers. So, it’s not that instantaneous, and it can be expensive to transact and it’s extremely volatile. It doesn’t have the properties that you want money to have.
- The IMF in its report said that challenges posed by the crypto ecosystem include operational and financial integrity risks from crypto asset providers, investor protection risks for crypto-assets and DeFi, and inadequate reserves and disclosure for some stable coins.
- “Crypto-assets offer a new world of opportunities: Quick and easy payments. Innovative financial services. Inclusive access to previously “unbanked” parts of the world. All are made possible by the crypto ecosystem”. But along with the opportunities come challenges and risks.
International Monetary Fund
- IMF is an organization working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
- Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. India Joined on December 27, 1945.
- The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other.
- The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
Reports by IMF
Multilateral surveillance involves monitoring global and regional economic trends and analyzing spill overs from members’ policies onto the global economy. As part of its World Economic and Financial Surveys, the IMF publishes flagship reports on multilateral surveillance twice a year:
- World Economic Outlook (WEO),
- Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR)
- Fiscal Monitor (FM).
The WEO provides detailed analysis of the state of the world economy, addressing issues of pressing interest such as the protracted global financial turmoil and ongoing economic recovery from the global financial crisis. The GFSR provides an up-to-date assessment of global financial markets and prospects and highlights imbalances and vulnerabilities that could pose risks to financial market stability. The FM updates medium-term fiscal projections and assesses developments in public finances. The IMF also publishes Regional Economic Outlook (REO) reports as part of its World Economic and Financial Surveys.
Subject – Environment
Context – India at the bottom of ethical funds with just 22 funds worth $2 bn: Report
- India, despite being the sixth largest economy and the third largest polluter, has the lowest number of ethical/sustainable/green bonds at just about 22 funds.
- Collectively called the ESG funds (money deployed mutual funds and insurance) globally is over USD 103.4 trillion as of March 2020, while the same here is just USD 7.93 billion through 22 issues in so far 2021.
- However, the report says the country is witnessing an early signs of pick-up in demand for ESG funds — which are funds broadly labelled as ESG or environmental, social and governance/sustainable investments/ethical funds across mutual funds and insurance products as four of the past five quarters saw strong demand.
- Yet India is well below many countries and markets as there are only 22 ethical funds in India compared to Belgium (148), Pakistan (159), China (162), Germany (352), USA (612) and even Cayman Islands (28) and Luxembourg leading at 2,135.
- While the Luxembourg leads the ethical fund issuance with 2,135, Australia is second with 1,006 such issuances, France comes third (844), Ireland (630), US (612), Britain (562).
To know about green bonds, please click here.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – Pursuit of a cure for covid-19
- Act-A or Access to covid-19 Tools accelerator is a platform developed by the World Health Organization (who) to aid virus research; its “A” arm deals with therapeutics.
- In this, naturally occurring antibodies in humans are engineered in a laboratory and given as injectables at very early stages of infection.
- Certain mAb drugs such as immunomodulators, which work on the immune system and prevent a cytokine storm, which can result in hospitalisation and also death.
- Unlike other mAbs, these are administered on severely ill patients in advanced stages of the disease.
- Non-profits are quick to point out that they are costly in low- and middle-income countries.
- The high cost of mAb-based drugs can be explained by the fact that they are biologics. Unlike most drugs, which are made up of simple molecules synthesised from scratch, biologics are complex and larger molecules. They are easier to develop, but the process is expensive.
- considering the affordability and accessibility issues of this wonder drug, Doctors and health experts are desperately calling for the development of antivirals—a class of drugs which, if given early, can prevent multiplication of the virus inside the respiratory tact.
- Drugs like Tamiflu (oseltavimir) have proven effective against influenza viruses.
- As of now, Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral initially developed for the treatment of Ebolavirus, is being widely used against sars-cov-2.
- Prescribed at early stages of infection, Remdesivir is the only antiviral officially part of the US’ covid-19 treatment protocol.
- India also recommends this drug but with riders, such as that it should only be given to high-risk patients.
- Reports of the drug being black-marketed and hoarded during the country’s second wave remain fresh. It is also expensive.
- Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are other antivirals rejected by who and subsequent trials; bothare now out of all major global treatment protocols.
- Approval of 2-Deoxy-D-glucose (2DG), an antiviral drug developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, is also questionable, since it is not in official protocols.
To know about Monoclonal Antibody Therapy and antivirals, please click here.
- Corticosteroids were the first class of medicines to be approved by who for covid-19 treatment as early as September 2020. They do not act against the virus but come into play when a patient turns hypoxic, a condition in which oxygen supply to tissues is reduced due to an over-active immune system.
- However, the reckless prescription of these drugs during the recent wave in India, even for mild cases, caused a host of complications in patients.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – European-Japanese Space Mission Gets First Glimpse of Mercury
- A joint European-Japanese spacecraft got its first glimpse of Mercury as it swung by the solar system’s innermost planet while on a mission to deliver two probes into orbit in 2025.
- The BepiColombo mission made the first of six flybys of Mercury at 11:34 p.m. GMT Friday, using the planet’s gravity to slow the spacecraft down.
- After swooping past Mercury at altitudes of under 200 kilometers (125 miles), the spacecraft took a low-resolution black-and-white photo with one of its monitoring cameras before zipping off again.
- The European Space Agency said the captured image shows the Northern Hemisphere and Mercury’s characteristic pock-marked features, among them the 166-kilometer-wide (103-mile-wide) Lermontov crater.
- It is the first mission by the European and Japanese Space agency to Mercury.
- The joint mission by the European agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was launched in 2018, flying once past Earth and twice past Venus on its journey to the solar system’s smallest planet.
- It is also the first mission to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its environment at the same time.
- The spacecraft are ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO, or ‘Mio’).
- The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assisted flybys.
- The mission is named after Italian scientist Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, who is credited with helping develop the gravity assist maneuver that NASA’s Mariner 10 first used when it flew to Mercury in 1974.
- The two orbiters will also collect data at Venus.
- The challenges to the mission include:
- Sun’s gravity makes it difficult to place a spacecraft into a stable orbit around the mercury.
- The spacecraft also have to face extreme temperatures and solar radiations.
- With this mission researchers are hoping to learn about the formation of planets and the solar system.
- Past Missions to Mercury:
- Mariner 10 – NASA Flyby Mission (Flyby is a path spacecraft follows past a planet or other body in space) to Venus and Mercury (1973)
- MESSENGER – NASA Orbiter to Mercury (2004)
Subject – IR
Context – North Korea tests new hypersonic weapon: reports
- The nuclear-armed nation conducted a test launch Tuesday (Sept. 28) of a new “hypersonic missile” called Hwasong-8.
- Hypersonic craft travel at least five times faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 5, and are highly maneuverable. They’re much tougher to track and intercept than intercontinental ballistic missiles, which follow predictable trajectories.
- The United States, Russia and China have prioritized the development of hypersonic weapons in recent years.
Subject – Science and Tech
- Hydra are small, jellyfish-like invertebrates with a remarkable approach to aging. They are largely made up of stem cells that constantly divide to make new cells, as their older cells are discarded. The constant influx of new cells allows hydra to rejuvenate themselves and stay forever young.
- Hydra show that animals do not have to grow old, but that doesn’t mean humans could replicate their rejuvenating habits. At 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) long, hydra are small and don’t have organs.
- Humans have stem cells that can repair and even regrow parts of the body, such as in the liver, but the human body is not made almost entirely of these cells, like hydra are. That’s because humans need cells to do things other than just divide and make new cells. For example, our red blood cells transport oxygen around the body.
- In a 2021 study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers reported that humans may be able to live up to a maximum of between 120 and 150 years, after which, the researchers anticipate a complete loss of resilience — the body’s ability to recover from things like illness or injury. To live beyond this limit, humans would need to stop cells from aging and prevent disease.
- Humans may be able to live beyond their biological limits with future technological advancements involving nanotechnology. This is the manipulation of materials on a nanoscale, less than 100 nanometers (one-billionth of a meter or 400-billionths of an inch).
- As technology advances, futurists anticipate two defining milestones. The first is the singularity, in which we will design artificial intelligence (A.I.) smart enough to redesign itself, and it will get progressively smarter until it is vastly superior to our own intelligence, Live Science previously reported. The second milestone is virtual immortality, where we will be able to scan our brains and transfer ourselves to a non-biological medium, like a computer.
- Researchers have already mapped the neural connections of a roundworm (Caenorhabditiselegans). As part of the so-called Open Worm project, they then simulated the roundworm’s brain in software replicating the neural connections, and programmed that software to direct a Lego robot, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The robot then appeared to start behaving like a roundworm.
Subject – Environment
- Positive feedback loop is a process where changing one quantity changes the second one, and the change in the second quantity, in turn, changes the first. Scientists fear a positive feedback loop may spiral the climate crisis out of control.
- Desertification is an example of a positive feedback loop, just as the melting of the Arctic ice cap, thawing of the Siberian permafrost, and the large-scale release of methane from methane hydrate lying on the sea and ocean floors. The climate crisis is causing desertification and, in turn, desertification is exacerbating the crisis. The cycle continues.
- Soil is one of the largest repositories of carbon on our planet. In fact, there is three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere. Carbon loss from soil has been happening since the beginning of settled agriculture, but this is now being exacerbated by desertification. The emission of soil carbon to the atmosphere is contributing to global warming.
- Latest data indicates that land degradation is responsible for annual global emissions of 3.6- 4.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) or 10 to 12 per cent of the total emissions. Just to contextualise, CO2 emissions from land degradation is about 50 per cent higher than the total CO2 emissions of India, the third-largest emitter in the world. So, land degradation is a significant contributor to the climate crisis.
- The climate crisis, on the other hand, is further speeding up desertification by increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and forest fires, and also by the changing the patterns of temperature, solar radiations and wind. Climate crisis and desertification, thus, are reinforcing each other.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (ipcc) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C makes it clear that we cannot meet the target of 1.5°C without large-scale “carbon removal” from the atmosphere.
- The best way to remove carbon is by sequestering it in its natural sinks—forests, grasslands and soil. Meeting the 1.5°C target, therefore, requires rapid enhancement in the capacity of natural carbon sinks to suck atmospheric carbon. This is also required to combat desertification.
- To curb desertification, we need to restore degraded soil via forestry, improving vegetative cover, enhancing water use efficiency, reducing soil erosion and adopting better farming systems. All these will help enhance biomass production and organic carbon content in the soil. Combating desertification and climate change, thus, have the same solutions—enhance natural sinks.
- In 2007, redd+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) was formalised to incentivise forest conservation in tropical developing countries by providing them funds and allowing them to sell carbon credits to the developed countries. So far, more than 300 redd+ initiatives have taken off across the world.
- A decade later, however, there is no convincing evidence to establish its contribution to halting or reversing deforestation trends.
- The developed countries’ funding commitments for redd+ have also been much lower than expected.
What can be done?
- Studies show that indigenous people and local communities are capable of achieving excellent forest conservation outcomes by investing only a fraction of the total money spent on conservation by all agencies.
- The Sink Mechanism will work if millions of forest dwellers and farmers work to reverse land and forest degradation, and enhance carbon stock in forests and lands.
- Second, it has to be a carbon sequestration plus approach. In other words, improved sustainable forest and farm management practices have to be the basis of this mechanism.
- Third, land and forest-based mechanisms cannot be sustained on carbon credits. These cannot be left to the mercy of the markets, and a non-market approach is needed to finance them. We, therefore, need to design a nonmarket mechanism where funds are mobilised to build the capacity of communities and local governments.
- Lastly, any global mechanism cannot depend solely on international funding. redd+ experience shows that once foreign funding ceases, projects become unsustainable. So, funds for the Sink Mechanism have to be a combination of domestic and international resources to build domestic ownership.
Subject – Economy
Context – Govt. notifies new rules to clear retro tax mess
- Firms such as Cairn and Vodafone disputing retrospective tax demands in India will not only have to withdraw all legal proceedings and waive all rights to claim costs or attach Indian assets but also indemnify the government on costs and liabilities from any action pursued by other interested parties in future.
- Setting the stage for a closure of the retrospective tax disputes over indirect transfer of assets situated in India, the Union government late on October 1 notified new rules under the Income Tax Act for specifying the process to be followed by affected taxpayers to settle these long-brewing disputes.
- The Income-Tax (31st Amendment) Rules, 2021, introduce a new portion pertaining to ‘indirect transfer prior to May 28, 2012 of assets situated in India’, and lay out the conditions and formats for undertakings to be submitted by all ‘interested parties’ to the tax department in order to settle their tax disputes.
Subject – Art and Culture
Context – Future-proofing Langa-Manganiyar heritage
- Considered the repository of the Thar region’s rich history and traditional knowledge, the ballads, folklore and songs of the Langa-Manganiyar artistes are being preserved through an initiative for documentation and digitisation.
- The project is aimed at saving the rapidly disappearing narrative traditions of these communities.
- The Jodhpur-based RupayanSansthan, established by an eminent folklorist, the late Komal Kothari, and writer VijaydanDetha, has extended support to the initiative taken by the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in the research project.
- The Langas and Manganiyars are hereditary communities of Muslim musicians residing mostly in western Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer and Barmer districts and in Pakistan’s Tharparkar and Sanghar districts in Sindh. The iconic and internationally acclaimed folk artistes have, however, been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic that stopped their performances in India and abroad and poses a challenge to the very survival of the popular art form.
- The music of the two marginalised communities, who were supported by wealthy landlords and merchants before Independence, forms a vital part of Thar desert’s cultural landscape.
Subject – Governance
Context – ‘5 cr. houses given water connections’
- The Prime Minister launched the Jal Jeevan Mission app for improving awareness among stakeholders and for greater transparency and accountability of schemes under the mission.
- He also launched the Rashtriya Jal JeevanKosh, where any individual, institution or philanthropist, be it in India or abroad, could contribute to help provide tap water connections.
To know about Jal Jeevan Mission, please click here.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – Urgent need to stop licences for new sugar factories: Gadkari
- Ethanol is basically alcohol of 99%-plus purity, which can be used for blending with petrol.
- Produced mainly from molasses, a byproduct of sugar manufacture.
- Ethanol is a bio-fuel obtained primarily from sugarcane, damaged food grains such as wheat and broken rice.
- It has a higher octane number than gasoline and hence, it improves the petrol octane number.
- Mixing it with petrol eases the pressure on India, which is the world’s third-biggest oil importer, and also helps farmers as it provides them with an alternate source of income?
- It is also environment-friendly as agriculture waste is less polluting.
- Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.
Ethanol blending programme in India:
- The Centre had “launched pilot projects in 2001 wherein 5 percent ethanol blended petrol was supplied to retail outlets”.
- The aim is to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.
- Implemented by the Ministry or Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
- Success of field trials eventually paved the way for the launching of the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme in January, 2003 for sale of 5 percent ethanol blended petrol in nine States and four UTs.
- Currently, 5 per cent of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.
- The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030. E20 will be rolled out from April 2023.
- The central government has also released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025.
- The roadmap proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.
To know about National Policy on Biofuels, please click here.
Subject – Governance
Context – Panel set up to implement Assam Accord
- The Assam government on Saturday set up an eight member sub-committee to examine and prepare a framework for the implementation of all clauses of the Assam Accord of 1985
- The Clause 6 of the Accord pertains to the constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to “protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
- The Accord was signed between the Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre and the AASU leadership to signal the end of the six-year Assam Agitation for driving
To know more about Assam Accord, please click here.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context –Researchers from University of Madras and Presidency College, Chennai, have isolated an alga species that shows promise as an agent of biodegradation of plastic sheets.
- Researchers from University of Madras and Presidency College, Chennai, have isolated an alga species that shows promise as an agent of biodegradation of plastic sheets.
- In earlier studies, species of bacteria that degrade plastic have been studied. In the present study, this role is played by the microalga Uronemaafricanum Borge. This is a species of microalgae that is commonly found in Africa, Asia and Europe. In Rangoon, Burma, it was noted to be an epiphyte, attaching itself to other algae and plants.
- “The microalgae produce different kinds of extra cellular polysaccharides, enzymes, toxins such as cyanotoxins, hormones which react with the polymer sheets (polymer bonds) and break them up into the simpler monomers which will not have harmful effect in the atmosphere.”
- The researchers are planning to collaborate with industry to take up this technology in to a pilot scale and finally large-scale study.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – IAO Hanle: A promising astronomical observatory
- The Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) located at Hanle near Leh in Ladakh is becoming one of the globally promising observatory sites, according to a recent study.
- This is due to its advantages of more clear nights, minimal light pollution, background aerosol concentration, extremely dry atmospheric condition and uninterrupted monsoon.
- They analysed datasets for the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) in Hanle and Merak (Ladakh), and Devasthal (Nainital) in India, Ali Observatory in the Tibet Autonomous Region in China, South African Large Telescope in South Africa, University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory and Paranal in Chile, and the National Astronomical Observatory in Mexico.
- They found Paranal, in Chile, to be the best site in terms of clear skies with around 87% of clear nights in a year. IAO Hanle, and Ali observatories, which are located around 80 km from each other, are similar to each other in terms of clear night skies.
- They found that Devasthal has a slightly larger number of clear nights compared to the other sites in the subcontinent but are affected by monsoons for about three months in a year. However, night observations at IAO Hanle from 2m-Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) are possible throughout the year without any interruption due to monsoon