# 05 Oct 2021: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

Oct 5th, 2021, CNA:-

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. SC lashes out at farmers’ groups
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. ‘Hold Sri Lanka provincial polls’
2. Shringla pushes projects, connectivity in Sri Lanka
C. GS 3 Related
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Unlocking mysteries of senses
2. Drone-based vaccine delivery model launched
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Govt. moots changes to Forest Conservation Act
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. An alphabet soup New Delhi needs to sift through
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Taproots to help restore India’s fading green cover
2. Science over smog towers
F. Prelims Facts
1. VAHAN Portal:
G. Tidbits
1. Govt. promises probe into Pandora Papers
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions


1. ‘Hold Sri Lanka provincial polls’

Context:

India has urged Sri Lanka to hold elections to its provincial councils without further delay, along with the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

Issue:

• The five-year terms of the provincial councils born out of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a step to devolve political power to all the provinces last expired in 2018 and 2019, during the time of the former Maithripala Sirisena–Ranil Wickremesinghe government.
• Despite the then oppositional Rajapaksa camp demanding that the polls be held to the nine provinces, the Sirisena administration, which amended the Provincial Councils Elections Act in 2017, postponed holding the elections, as it grew increasingly unpopular amid internal rifts.

13th Amendment:

• The 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution is an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, which was signed by the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayawardene.

This topic has been covered in September 6th, 2020 CNA

2. Shringla pushes projects, connectivity in Sri Lanka

Context:

India’s Foreign Secretary who is on a visit to Sri Lanka has stressed the need for the conclusion of connectivity projects in Sri Lanka.

Details:

• India has underscored the need for early conclusion of bilateral projects in Sri Lanka.
• It has sought the enhancement of connectivity by air and sea between the neighbouring countries, which are seeking to reset ties amid a strain in ties.
• The foreign secretary, referring to halted, or delayed projects awaiting a push for revival or completion has asserted:
• With the easing of the situation in Sri Lanka, it may be time to work on connectivity initiatives like the Jaffna to Chennai flight, ferry services between Karaikal and Kankesanthurai, and Dhanushkodi and Talaimanar and the Buddhist corridor with the new international airport at Kushinagar.

Note:

During his virtual bilateral summit with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2020, the Prime Minister of India had announced a \$15 million grant for the promotion of Buddhist ties, aimed at deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries.

2. Drone-based vaccine delivery model launched

Context:

Health Minister has launched the ICMR’s drone response and outreach in the north-east (i-Drone).

• The delivery model is aimed at ensuring that life-saving vaccines reach everyone.
• This is for the first time that a ‘Make in India’ drone has been used in South Asia to transport COVID vaccine over an aerial distance of 15 km in 12-15 minutes from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the primary health centre.
• The delivery model would serve remote areas and hard to reach terrains.
• Currently, the drone-based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Significance:

• India is home to geographical diversities and drones can be used to deliver essentials to the last mile.
• Drones can be used in delivering important life-saving medicines, collecting blood samples.
• This technology can also be used in critical situations.
• It may prove a game-changer in addressing the challenges in health care delivery, particularly health supplies, in difficult areas.

1. Govt. moots changes to Forest Conservation Act

Context:

The Union Government has proposed changes to Forest Conservation Act.

Details:

• It has proposed absolving agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre.
• The FCA, which first came in 1980 and was amended in 1988, requires such permission.
• The onerous requirements imposed by the FCA have in the past delayed critical border infrastructure projects.
• Earlier, MoEFCC had accorded general approval for diversion of forest land for construction and widening of border roads in the areas falling within 100 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
• Given the deteriorating security situation along the LAC, India will have to significantly increase the pace of the construction of border roads.
• India is also planning to link Ladakh to the rest of the country through a rail line, and is also working on significantly improving railway connectivity in Arunachal.
• The proposed amendment could remove one of the biggest hurdles in the timely completion of border infrastructure projects.
• There is also a plan in the document to exempt land acquired before 1980 by public sector bodies such as the Railways.
• Currently, there is strong resentment among several Ministries on how the Act was being interpreted over the right of way of railways, highways.
• At present, a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc.) is required to take approval under the Act and pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.
• The Environment Ministry has proposed adding a clause to make offences under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable.
• Provisions have been proposed for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.
• It proposes removing zoos, safaris, Forest Training infrastructures from the definition of “non-forestry” activities.
• The current definition restricts the way money collected as part of compensatory cess can be spent towards forest conservation purposes.

Note:

• The proposed amendment is part of a larger rationalising of existing forest laws.
• The document is open to public discussion.

1. Taproots to help restore India’s fading green cover

The article talks about the importance of participation of local communities, adequate financing and incentives in the restoration of India’s declining forest cover.

Significance of Forest Cover:

• Forests cover nearly 30% land surface of the earth.
• They provide a wide variety of ecosystem services and support countless and diverse species.
• They stabilise the climate, sequester carbon and regulate the water regime.

Issue:

• Despite various international conventions and national policies in place to improve green cover, there is a decline in global forest cover.
• The State of the World’s Forests Report 2020, says that since 1990, around 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through deforestation, conversion and land degradation.
• India lost 4.69 MHA of its forests for various land uses between 1951 to 1995.
• Dependence on forests by nearly 18% of the global human population has put immense pressure on ecosystems; in India, this has resulted in the degradation of 41% of its forests.

Steps taken to improve the Forest Cover:

• Restoration is bringing back the degraded or deforested landscape to its original state by various interventions to enable them to deliver all the benefits.
• 2021-2030 has been declared as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration for improving environmental conditions and enhancing human communities.
• India joined the Bonn Challenge with a pledge to restore 21 MHA of degraded and deforested land which was later revised to 26 MHA to be restored by 2030.
• The first-ever country progress report under the Bonn Challenge submitted by India by bringing 9.8 million hectares since 2011 under restoration is an achievement.
• There have been remarkable initiatives to involve local people in the protection and development of forests by forming joint forest management committees (JFMC).
• However, continued degradation and deforestation need to be tackled effectively to achieve the remaining target of restoration by addressing various challenges.

Key challenges:

• Forest restoration and tree planting are leading strategies to fight global warming by way of carbon sequestration. However, planting without considering the local ecology can result in more damage.
• Planting a forest in the wrong places such as savannah grasslands could be disastrous for local biodiversity.
• Also, naturally regenerated forests tend to have more secure carbon storage.
• Being less tech-sensitive, cost-effective and conserving more biodiversity, natural forest restoration is becoming more widely accepted.
• Nearly 5.03% of Indian forests are under protection area (PA) management needing specific restoration strategies. The remaining areas witness a range of disturbances including grazing, encroachment, fire, and climate change impacts that need area-specific considerations.
• Though India’s increasing economic growth is helping to eliminate poverty, there is continued degradation and a growing scarcity of natural resources. The intricate link between poverty and environmental degradation was first highlighted by India at the first UN global conference on the human environment in Stockholm.
• Encroachment of nearly 1.48 MHA of forest and grazing in nearly 75% of forest area is also linked to the livelihood of local communities.
• This dependency, along with various social-political and economic factors, complicates the issue manifold.
• Adequate financing is one of the major concerns for the success of any intervention including restoration.
• The involvement of multiple stakeholders in forest restoration is bound to cause a conflict of interests among different stakeholders; along with low priority and insufficient funding, it becomes even more challenging.

Way Forward:

• It is fundamental to consider the local ecology before implementing any restoration efforts to retain their biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
• Restoration, being a scientific activity, needs research support for its success. Critical examination is necessary before putting restoration interventions into practice.
• The relevance of local research duly considering ecological aspects, local disturbances and forest-dependent communities is important to formulate guidelines for locally suitable interventions and to meet India’s global commitment.
• Alternate ways of financing such as involving corporates and dovetailing restoration activities with ongoing land-based programmes of various departments can help to make it easy for operation.

2. Science over smog towers

Context:

Two new smog towers have been inaugurated in Delhi.

This topic has been covered in Aug 20th, 2021 CNA.

Details:

• The smog towers have also been installed in cities like Bengaluru and Chandigarh.
• Mumbai’s clean air plan indicates a financial requirement of ₹25 crore for installing air filtration units at major traffic intersections in the city.

Issue:

• While the efforts by governments indicate that they are taking cognisance of air pollution, the deployments are mostly driven by symbolism rather than science.
• For instance, the Delhi government claims that the newly installed smog tower in Connaught Place could reduce air pollution levels by 80%.
• However, there is no scientific evidence of smog towers or any other outdoor air filtration units improving air quality in cities.
• The smog tower installed in two cities in China did not prove to be effective and were not scaled up.

Reconsidering the installation of Smog Towers:

• Smog towers create an illusion of progress towards clean air while diverting crores of public money away from proven solutions. They misdirect policymakers and citizens by deflecting attention from areas that call for urgent action.
• Therefore, governments looking at investing in outdoor filtration systems should defer their deployment plans.
• The data on the effectiveness of the newly installed smog towers should be made available publicly for independent evaluation.
• Until there is scientific consensus on their effectiveness, every new tower installed is just a violation of taxpayers’ money and citizens’ trust.

Way Forward:

• Governments must ramp up investments in proven solutions to reduce air pollution.
• Policymakers should expand air pollution monitoring in areas with limited or no air quality monitoring and strengthen forecasting capacity across cities.
• Cities should strengthen their air quality forecasting systems by collaborating with scientific institutions that are transparent about their approach and findings.
• The forecasts should be used in rolling out preventive measures such as travel restrictions, pausing commercial activities or encouraging working from home, on anticipated high pollution days.
• City-level emission inventories must be updated periodically.  These data are critical to identify key sources of air pollution and design effective clean air plans as per the local context.
• Targeted efforts must be made to improve air quality for urban slum dwellers who have no access to clean cooking energy.
• Policymakers must focus on providing LPG connections to these households along with ensuring sustained usage of LPG as the primary fuel.

Conclusion:

Cities should strengthen their enforcement capacity by investing in people and systems that can keep a round-the-clock watch on polluters. India is witnessing a rising democratic demand for clean air. But this cannot be met by unproven technological fixes. Instead, the government must vigorously pursue solutions that are rooted in science. Restoring ecosystem health can sustain human systems as well.

F. Prelims Facts

1. VAHAN Portal:

• VAHAN is the name of the national vehicle registry, which intends to collate all the information available with road transport authorities for easy access by both citizens and regulators.
• VAHAN is a highly flexible and comprehensive system that takes care of all the burdensome activities of Vehicle Registration, thus letting the Transport Department deal with more important business issues.
• The software enables the processes at RTO/DTO/MLO/SDM involving Vehicle Registration, Fitness, Taxes, Permits & Enforcement to get computerized.
• With Vahan, multiple visits to the RTO, extensive paperwork, queues, middlemen and bribes will be eliminated.
• Vahan helps carry out most of the RTO related transactions including payments, online.
• Vahan allows access to all details related to vehicles such as registration number, chassis/engine number, body/fuel type, colour, manufacturer and model and provides various online services to citizens.
• Driving Licence and related data are automated through a separate application called ‘Sarathi’.

G. Tidbits

1. Govt. promises probe into Pandora Papers

What’s in News?

The Union Government has promised an investigation into the revelations in the Pandora Papers and assured appropriate action in such cases as per law.

• It has said that investigations in cases of the Pandora Papers leaks appearing in the media would be monitored through a multi-agency group.
• The multi-agency group headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman, with representatives from the Enforcement Directorate, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Reserve Bank of India, would keep a tab of the phased disclosures from the Pandora Papers indicated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) website.
• India is part of an Inter-Governmental Group that ensured collaboration and experience sharing to effectively address tax risks associated with such leaks.
• Also, following earlier similar such leaks in the form of ICIJ, HSBC, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, the government has already enacted the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, with an aim to curb black money, or undisclosed foreign assets and income by imposing suitable tax and penalty on such income.

Read more on this topic covered in Oct 4th, 2021 CNA.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. With respect to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, which of the following
statements is/are correct?
1. Every offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable.
2. It is mandatory for the judge to award the Death penalty for certain offences after a previous conviction.

Options:

1. 1 only
2. 2 only
3. Both
4. None

Explanation:

• Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, every offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable.
• Cognizable offences are those where a police officer can arrest without a warrant.
• Non-cognizable offence, as the name suggests, is the offence in which the police has no authority to apprehend a person for crime on its own, as explicit permission of the court is required.
• The judge has an option to award the Death penalty for certain offences after a previous conviction. It is not mandatory.
Q2. Consider the following statements:
1. Killing any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community is not an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
2. Prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle, falls under the Gandhian Principles of DPSP as part of Article 48.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

1. 1 only
2. 2 only
3. Both
4. None

Explanation:

• Killing any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community is not an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
• Prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle, falls under the Gandhian Principles of DPSP as part of Article 48.
Q3. Which amongst the following statements is the best description of Ex Milan?
1. India, Thailand and Singapore annual trilateral exercise
2. Naval exercise between United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India
3. Multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy
4. Naval exercise in the Indo-Pacific region by India, USA and Japan

Explanation:

• Exercise Milan is a multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
• It is a biennial event held in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and features professional exercises and seminars, social events and sporting fixtures between participating nations.
• Milan was first held in 1995.
Q4. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021 was awarded jointly to David Julius and
Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of 
1. how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability
2. receptors for temperature and touch
3. cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation
4. concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites

Explanation:

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021 was awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch.

Q5. Which one of the following books of ancient India has the love story of the son of the
founder of Sunga dynasty?
2. Malavikagnimitra
4. Ratnavali