01 October 2023 CNA
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS 1 Related GEOGRAPHY 1. September rainfall washes off India’s monsoon deficit B. GS 2 Related GOVERNANCE 1. The concerns of using Aadhaar in welfare C. GS 3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. How important is the first asteroid sample? D. GS 4 Related E. Editorials INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Asia’s disputed waters F. Prelims Facts 1. Kazan meet makes no headway on equal rights in Afghanistan 2. Army’s Project Udbhav to rediscover ‘Indic heritage of statecraft’ from ancient texts G. Tidbits H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS 1 Related
Syllabus: GS-1, Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclones. etc., geographical features and their location – changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Prelims: El Nino and Indian Ocean Dipole concept
Mains: El Nino and Indian Ocean Dipole impact on the Indian Monsoon
Despite experiencing the driest August in a century, India has managed to avoid a drought this year 2023, thanks to unexpectedly heavy rainfall in September. This turnaround in the monsoon pattern has significant implications for the country’s agriculture and water resources.
Significance of September Rainfall:
- Monsoon Deficit Mitigation: The heavy rainfall in September has played a crucial role in mitigating India’s monsoon deficit, bringing relief to farmers and water reservoirs.
- Monsoon Season Overview: As of September 30, which marks the official end of the monsoon season, India received 94% of the expected rainfall from June to September. While this falls slightly below the forecasted 96%, it remains within the acceptable error margin set by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Rainfall in the range of 96% to 104% of the long-term average is considered ‘normal.’
- Regional Variations: The monsoon distribution exhibited significant regional variations. Northwest India received its expected rainfall, but the northeast and eastern regions saw an 18% deficit, while southern India had an 8% deficit. Central India came close to its expected quota.
- Rainfall Variation Over Months: The monsoon months reported erratic swings. June had 9% less rainfall than normal, July received 13% more than normal, August reported a substantial 36% deficit, and September ended with a 13% surplus. July and August contribute the majority of the monsoon’s total rainfall, making September’s surplus particularly crucial.
- Impact of El Nino: Early in the monsoon season, the IMD had anticipated below-normal rainfall due to the influence of El Nino, a cyclical warming of the eastern and central Pacific associated with reduced rainfall in India.
- Positive Indian Ocean Dipole: However, the unexpected excess rains in September were attributed to favorable conditions in the Indian Ocean, particularly a positive Indian Ocean Dipole. This counteracted the El Nino effect, historically associated with weak September rainfall.
IMD’s Monsoon Forecast:
- Upcoming North-East Monsoon: The IMD has forecast a ‘normal’ north-east monsoon from October to December, indicating a promising period for regions typically dependent on this monsoon phase.
- Rainfall Projections: Additionally, the IMD predicts ‘normal to above-normal rainfall’ for large parts of north-west India and the southern peninsula, further alleviating concerns about water scarcity and agricultural yields.
Nut Graf: The unexpected heavy rainfall in September has been a game-changer in India’s monsoon narrative, rescuing the country from the brink of a drought. This sudden shift, influenced by factors like the positive Indian Ocean Dipole, highlights the complexity and variability of the monsoon system. As the north-east monsoon approaches, the forecast of ‘normal’ conditions offers hope for continued agricultural productivity and water availability in the coming months, underscoring the importance of meteorological monitoring and adaptability in India’s agricultural sector.
B. GS 2 Related
Syllabus: Government policies and interventions for the development of various sectors
Mains: Issues of using Aadhaar in welfare
Context: Recently September 2023 report by Moody’s Investor Service raised concerns like Security and Privacy Vulnerabilities on aadhar. How instead of centralised biometric systems like India’s Aadhaar, we should have decentralized digital identity systems, but India has refuted the claims.
The History of Aadhaar:
- Concept introduced in 2009 by UIDAI.
- The first Aadhaar numbers were issued in September 2010 in the state of Maharashtra. The program was gradually rolled out to other states and union territories.
- In 2016, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act was passed by the Indian Parliament, providing a legal framework for the Aadhaar project.
- Legal challenges put to rest in Puttaswamy Case.
- SC upheld its constitutionality
- Restrictions on Mandatory linking of Aadhar.
- Must be used on a voluntary basis for purposes other than government subsidies and welfare programs.
- Section 57 Struck Down (that allowed private companies to use Aadhaar for verification.)
- Limited the storage of Aadhaar authentication records to a maximum of six months.
Read more on Aadhaar and the Right to Privacy.
Government’s Favorable Stance on Aadhaar:
- Welfare Schemes: The government has advocated Aadhaar-based authentication for programs like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and government-to-citizen cash transfer initiatives like wage payments in MGNREGA. This approach aims to remove ghosts (those accessing benefits fraudulently) and fakes (those not entitled to benefits) from the system.
- Savings Claims: The government has claimed significant savings in welfare schemes through the use of Aadhaar by eliminating duplicate and unauthorized beneficiaries, reducing leakages, and improving the efficiency of cash transfers.
Challenges and Concerns:
- Authentication Problems: Critics point out that Aadhaar-based authentication poses several issues. In the case of PDS, quantity fraud (where beneficiaries receive less than their entitlement) is a significant concern, which Aadhaar does not address.
- Authentication Failures: Authentication failures are common, especially in rural areas with unreliable internet connectivity and fading fingerprints among manual laborers. These authentication failures result in beneficiaries being denied their entitlements.
- Data on Authentication Errors: The lack of transparency regarding data on authentication attempts and errors raises concerns about the system’s effectiveness and accountability.
- Payment Failures: In cash transfer programs, any errors, such as misspellings or incorrect Aadhaar linkage, can lead to payment failures. Workers often lack awareness of which bank account their Aadhaar is linked to, leading to wage diversions.
- Security Concerns: Banking correspondents using Aadhaar-enabled Payment Systems (AePS) operate without proper accountability, potentially compromising the security of individuals’ bank accounts. Unauthorized withdrawals and enrollments in government programs without consent have been reported.
- Misleading Savings Claims: Researchers have challenged the government’s claims of substantial savings due to Aadhaar in MGNREGA, pointing to insufficient funds as the main cause of wage payment delays.
- Privacy Vulnerabilities: A recent Moody’s report highlighted concerns about centralised ID systems like Aadhaar, citing security and privacy vulnerabilities. These concerns have sparked debates about the need for more decentralised digital identity systems.
- Resistance and Deletions: The government’s efforts to make Aadhaar-based payments mandatory in MGNREGA have faced resistance from workers and field officials. Job card deletions, often on the grounds of being “ghosts,” have raised accountability concerns.
- Voter ID Linkage: Critics worry about the government’s intention to link Aadhaar with voter IDs, given the perceived dilution of accountability in welfare programs due to Aadhaar.
Nut Graf: The debate over Aadhaar’s role in welfare programs underscores the need for a balanced approach that addresses concerns while acknowledging the potential benefits of the system. Achieving an optimal balance between the efficiency of Aadhaar-based systems and safeguarding the rights and privacy of beneficiaries remains a significant challenge for policymakers and regulators.
C. GS 3 Related
Syllabus: Developments in Science and Technology
Prelims: Concept of Asteroids
Mains: Importance of the first asteroid sample
Context: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft recently achieved a significant milestone by returning a capsule containing samples of rocks and dust collected from the asteroid 101955 Bennu. This remarkable mission has raised questions about the importance of these asteroid samples and the broader implications for space exploration.
OSIRIS-REx Mission Overview:
- Mission Purpose: The OSIRIS-REx mission, initiated in 2016, aimed to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu, which involved complex maneuvers to place the spacecraft in orbit around the asteroid.
- Challenges Faced: The mission encountered challenges due to Bennu’s frail gravity, which is so weak that it allows boulders to move uphill on the asteroid’s surface. Additionally, the asteroid’s rugged terrain rendered OSIRIS-REx’s height-measuring instrument unusable, necessitating an intricate holding pattern to identify a suitable landing site.
- Sample Collection: On October 20, 2020, OSIRIS-REx successfully landed on Bennu, collecting rocks and dust. To avoid contamination during sample acquisition, it used a blast of nitrogen gas.
- Return to Earth: After collecting the samples, OSIRIS-REx departed from Bennu’s gravitational influence and released its sample capsule above Earth’s atmosphere. It is now set to embark on a new mission to study another asteroid, Apophis, in 2029.
Importance of Studying Bennu:
- Understanding Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA): The asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter, houses thousands of space rocks, including NEAs that occasionally come close to Earth. Understanding these asteroids is critical for planetary defense, as it’s possible for them to pose a collision threat to our planet.
- Planetary Defense: While the likelihood of a catastrophic asteroid collision with Earth is low, the long-term risk is comparable to other everyday dangers. Even if these asteroids don’t pose an immediate threat, gravitational forces can alter their orbits over time, necessitating vigilance.
- Mining Potential: Studying asteroids like Bennu also opens the possibility of asteroid mining. These celestial bodies often contain valuable resources such as metals, water ice, and minerals. Mining asteroids could be economically viable in the future, serving as resource-rich pit stops for space missions.
- Origins of Life: Carbon-rich asteroids like Bennu may hold clues about the origins of life on Earth. Some scientists believe that asteroids and comets may have delivered the building blocks of life to our young planet billions of years ago.
Can We Mine Asteroids?
- Resource Extraction: Asteroids, composed of dust, rocks, water ice, and valuable metals like iron, nickel, and cobalt, can potentially be mined for resources.
- Resource Challenges: Challenges such as low gravity, lack of atmosphere, and radiation exposure in space must be addressed before mining asteroids becomes a reality.
Nut Graf: The return of samples from asteroid Bennu through the OSIRIS-REx mission represents a significant achievement in space exploration. These samples hold the potential to provide valuable insights into the origins of our solar system, the potential for planetary defense against asteroid threats, and the feasibility of asteroid mining as a future resource. This mission exemplifies the quest for knowledge and resources beyond Earth and highlights the ever-expanding horizons of space exploration.
D. GS 4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
Syllabus: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
Mains: Asia’s disputed waters
Context: The South China Sea dispute has once again escalated tensions, drawing attention to the strategic significance of these waters and the complex web of territorial claims. September 25, the Philippines Coast Guard said it had removed barriers placed by Chinese vessels at the entrance to a lagoon off the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
About South China Sea
- Trade and Economic Significance: According to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development, 80% of global trade by volume and 70% by value is transported by seas.
- Of the total volume, 60% passes through Asia, with the South China Sea “carrying an estimated one-third of global shipping”.
- 64% of Chinese trade passes through the sea, the highest for any country. In contrast, 14% of U.S. trade passes through it.
- Territorial Claims: The core of the dispute revolves around competing territorial claims over islands, reefs, and their associated territorial waters. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows states to establish territorial seas up to 12 nautical miles and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline.
- Complex Claims and Reclamation Activities: As many as 70 disputed reefs and islets are under contestation. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan have established outposts on these features. China, in particular, has undertaken extensive reclamation activities, creating new land in the South China Sea, altering the regional dynamics.
- The Nine-Dash Line: China’s controversial “nine-dash line” on official maps claims nearly the entire South China Sea. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in 2016 that this claim was inconsistent with UNCLOS, but China rejected the ruling, emphasizing “historical rights” to the waters and islands.
Read more on the South China Sea dispute.
Diplomatic Efforts and Arbitration:
- Code of Conduct (CoC): Diplomatic efforts, including the establishment of a Code of Conduct (CoC), have been ongoing. However, achieving a CoC has proven challenging, given the complexity of the disputes and the inability of ASEAN to present a united front in negotiations with China.
- Arbitration and PCA Ruling: In 2013, the Philippines initiated arbitral proceedings against China under UNCLOS, resulting in a 2016 PCA ruling rejecting China’s “nine-dash line” and affirming that historic rights were incompatible with UNCLOS. China rejected the arbitration.
- Enforcement and Ongoing Tensions: The enforcement of claims in the South China Sea remains a contentious issue, as demonstrated by recent disputes such as the one at Scarborough Shoal. The situation continues to evolve, with regional claimants and external powers closely monitoring developments.
Nut Graf: The South China Sea dispute remains a complex and potentially destabilizing issue with implications for regional and global security, trade, and economic stability. Present tensions and territorial claims could disrupt the vital flow of trade through these waters. India, along with other Indo-Pacific nations, has a vested interest in promoting peace and stability in this strategically significant region.
F. Prelims Facts
Context: The recent “Moscow Format” meeting in Kazan, Russia, aimed to address the ongoing challenges in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover. The meeting brought together various regional stakeholders, including India, with a focus on urging the Taliban to establish an inclusive government and uphold equal rights, particularly women’s education.
Meeting Participants and Objectives:
- Participants: The meeting included representatives from nine nations, including India, the Taliban’s Acting Foreign Minister, and special envoys from Pakistan, Russia, China, Iran, and Central Asian states.
- Objectives: The primary goals of the meeting were to press the Taliban for the formation of an inclusive government and the assurance of equal rights and freedoms for all Afghans, especially women. Additionally, the meeting discussed humanitarian assistance and economic cooperation with Afghanistan.
Outcome and Challenges:
- Lack of Progress on Inclusive Government: The meeting expressed regret over the absence of progress in forming an inclusive government in Afghanistan that represents various ethno-political groups.
- Equal Rights and Freedoms: The participants emphasized the importance of fundamental rights and freedoms, including equal access to work, education, and justice for all Afghans, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, or religion. Concerns were raised about imposed restrictions on women’s employment and girls’ education.
- Humanitarian Assistance: The participants pledged to continue providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, highlighting the pressing need for assistance amid the country’s challenging humanitarian situation.
- Economic Ties: Strengthening bilateral and multilateral economic ties with Afghanistan was discussed as a means to support the country’s economic recovery.
Taliban’s Response and Diplomatic Engagement:
- Taliban’s Stance: Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi expressed the administration’s readiness to engage with the international community based on “common legitimate interests.” He underscored that foreign interventions had not resolved Afghanistan’s problems over the past decades.
- Lack of Recognition: No country officially recognizes the Taliban regime as a legitimate government. However, all the Moscow Format countries and observer nations maintain diplomatic missions in Kabul.
- India’s Engagement: India, which reopened its embassy in Afghanistan as a “technical mission” in June 2022, has been involved in discussions with the Taliban regarding humanitarian assistance and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan.
Context: The Indian Army has started an initiative, named Project Udbhav.
- Started by the Indian Army in collaboration with the United Service Institution of India (USI).
- To rediscover the “profound Indic heritage of statecraft and strategic thoughts” derived from ancient Indian texts of “statecraft, warcraft, diplomacy, and grand strategy”
- In connection with this, USI will conduct a Military Heritage Festival on October 21 and 22
- Another goal is to develop an “indigenous strategic vocabulary”
- Overall aim is to integrate age-old wisdom with modern military pedagogy
Nothing here for today!!!
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
Q1. Consider the following factors that influence Indian Monsoon:
- Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)
- Intense low-pressure formation over the Tibetan Plateau
- Subtropical jet stream
How many of the statements given above are incorrect?
- Only one
- Only two
- Only three
Explanation: All statements are correct
Q2. Consider the following statements:
- Moscow Format is a dialogue platform on the peace process in Afghanistan.
- India is not a party to the Moscow Format.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Explanation: The Moscow format was introduced on the basis of the six-party mechanism for consultations between special representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and India.
Q3. Project Udbhav initiative was recently seen in the news and is related to which of the following options ?
- Analyzing fossils
- Study of evolution of flora and fauna
- Initiative to protect critically endangered species
- Rediscovering of ‘Indic heritage of statecraft’ from ancient texts
Explanation: Project Udbhav initiative aims to rediscover ‘Indic heritage of statecraft’ from ancient texts.
Q4. OSIRIS-REx Mission recently seen in news, collected samples from which of the following asteroids?
- Asteroid Ryugu
- Asteroid Bennu
- Asteroid Itokawa
- Asteroid Apophis
Explanation: OSIRIS-REx mission collected sample from the asteroid 101955 Bennu.
Q5. Which of the following islands is not present in the South China Sea?
- Spratly Islands
- Paracel Islands
- Scarborough Shoal
- Reunion island
Explanation: Reunion island is present in the Indian Ocean.
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- How do El Nino and Indian Ocean Dipole affect the Indian Monsoon? Analyze with a special reference to the 2023 South-West monsoon season. (10 marks 150 words) (GS-1; Geography )
- The OSIRIS-Rex mission will help us not just with the insights into the creation of life on earth, but also with how to prevent its destruction. Elaborate. What other benefits can be associated with such a mission? (15 marks 250 words) (GS-3; Science and technology )
Read previous CNA articles here.