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Daily Current Affairs

20-February-2024- Top News of the Day

1. Centre's Crop Diversification Proposal Rejected by Farmers Amidst Calls for MSP Guarantee

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – MSP
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of crop diversification, agricultural procurement mechanisms, and their impact on the economy of Punjab and India which aligns with topics related to agriculture and its role in the economy.
Context:
  • During the fourth round of talks with protesting farmers, the Centre introduced a proposal for crop diversification in Punjab.
  • Under this plan, government-promoted cooperatives would offer five-year contracts to procure five crops—tur, urad, masur, maize, and cotton—at minimum support prices (MSP).
  • Despite the innovative nature of the proposal, farmers rejected it, and the ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest march is set to resume.
More about the news: Reasons for Pushing Crop Diversification:
  • Punjab’s heavy reliance on rice and wheat cultivation has led to concerns regarding water usage and groundwater depletion.
  • The proposal aims to diversify crops to reduce water consumption and mitigate environmental degradation.
  • However, the area under the proposed crops remains significantly smaller compared to rice and wheat cultivation in the state.
Challenges in Crop Diversification:
  • Previous attempts at crop diversification have yielded limited results, with areas under cotton and maize witnessing declines.
  • Despite an increase in pulse cultivation, challenges such as market prices and disposal mechanisms persist, as highlighted by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
Procurement Patterns and Challenges:
  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI), National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED), and the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) are the key procurement agencies.
  • While cotton procurement in Punjab has seen a slight increase, it remains low compared to other states.
  • Similarly, pulse procurement by NAFED has faced challenges, including stock disposal below MSP and market price disruptions.
Recommendations for Addressing Challenges:
  • The CACP suggests exploring alternative disposal mechanisms, such as distributing pulses to households in aspirational districts, to improve nutrition without affecting market prices.
  • Additionally, addressing challenges in stock disposal is crucial to prevent market disruptions and ensure fair prices for farmers.
Conclusion:
  • Despite the rejection of the Centre’s proposal, addressing challenges in crop diversification and procurement mechanisms remains imperative.
  • Collaborative efforts involving farmers, government agencies, and other stakeholders are necessary to develop sustainable solutions and promote balanced agricultural practices in Punjab and beyond.
How to improve crop diversification in India?
  • India needs to identify crops and varieties that may suit a range of environments and farmers’ preferences.
a) India needs to frame adequate skill development policies to promote the crops and varieties amongst rural livelihoods, b) Research institutes such as ICAR should conduct research on further crop diversification,  c) The government should procure crops produced other than wheat and rice at a Minimum Support Price.  d) Reduce agricultural emissions through smarter livestock handling, technology-enabled monitoring of fertilizer application and more efficient agricultural techniques.
PYQ: What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question:  Examine the challenges and opportunities associated with the proposed crop diversification initiative in Punjab, as presented by the Centre during recent negotiations with protesting farmers. (150 words/10 m)

2. "Indian Researchers Uncover Link Between La Nina Events and Air Quality Anomalies"

Topic: GS1 – Geography
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of La Nina events and their impact on weather patterns and air quality.
Context:
  • A recent study conducted by Indian researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Studies and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology suggests a connection between La Nina events and air quality in India.
  • La Nina, characterized by cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean, is believed to have influenced air quality in Indian cities during the winter of 2022, indicating a potential indirect impact of climate change on air pollution.
More about the news: Impact on Air Quality:
  • Factors Affecting Air Quality: The study highlights various meteorological factors influencing air quality, including temperature, moisture, wind speed, and direction. These factors play a crucial role in trapping pollutants in the atmosphere and transporting them across regions.
  • Deviation from Normal Patterns: Unlike previous years, the winter of 2022 witnessed a significant deviation in air quality patterns. Northern Indian cities, including Delhi, experienced cleaner air, while cities in western and southern India, such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai, reported worse-than-usual air quality.
Anomalous Behaviour and Wind Circulation:
  • Change in Wind Direction: An essential factor contributing to the anomalous behaviour was a change in wind circulation. Instead of the typical northwesterly direction, winds blew in a north-south direction during the winter of 2022, bypassing Delhi and transporting pollutants to southern regions.
  • Extended La Nina Effect: The prolonged La Nina event lasting three years influenced wind patterns over India, resulting in anomalous air circulation. Computer models showed similarities between observed changes and La Nina conditions, indicating a strong sensitivity to La Nina events.
Uncertainties and Further Research:
  • Future Implications: While the study underscores the impact of La Nina on air quality, uncertainties remain regarding the effects of El Nino and the cumulative impact of La Nina events.
  • Further research is needed to elucidate the complex interactions between climate phenomena and air pollution.
Conclusion:
  • The study concludes that changes in wind patterns, driven by La Nina events, were a significant contributing factor to the unusual trends in air quality during the winter of 2022.
  • However, it acknowledges that local meteorological conditions unrelated to La Nina could also have influenced pollutant concentrations.
  • The findings emphasize the intricate relationship between climate variability and air quality, highlighting the need for comprehensive research and policy measures to address air pollution challenges in India.
About La Nina
  • La Nina is Spanish for “The Little Girl.” In certain cases, it is referred to as El Viejo, anti-El Nino, or just “a cold event.”
  • Periods of below-average sea surface temperatures in the east-central Equatorial Pacific are known as La Nina events.
  • The sea surface temperature dropping by more than 0.9°C for at least five consecutive three-month seasons is indicative of it.
  • A La Nina event occurs when the Eastern Pacific’s water temperature falls significantly below average, creating a strong area of high pressure over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific.
The Conditions of La Nina.
  • In the tropical Pacific, which is the region of the Pacific Ocean between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, cooler-than-normal seas accumulate, leading to La Nina.
  • Lower-than-normal air pressure across the western Pacific is a hallmark of La Nina. There is more rainfall due to these low-pressure areas.
  • Rainfall totals above average are also linked to La Nina episodes in northern Brazil and southeast Africa.
  • However, catastrophic floods in northern Australia are linked to powerful La Nina events.
  • Higher-than-normal pressure across the central and eastern Pacific is another feature of La Nina.
  • As a result, there are less clouds and rains in that area.
  • There have been reports of drier-than-normal weather in the US Gulf Coast, the pampas region of southern South America, and the west coast of tropical South America.
PYQ: With reference to ‘Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)’ sometimes mentioned in the news while forecasting Indian monsoon, which of the following statements is/are correct? (2017) 1) IOD phenomenon is characterised by a difference in sea surface temperature between tropical Western Indian Ocean and tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean. 2) An IOD phenomenon can influence an El Nino’s impact on the monsoon. Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2 Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the recent research findings by Indian scientists regarding the correlation between La Nina events and air quality anomalies in India. Evaluate the significance of understanding this link for environmental management and public health policies in the country. (250 words/15 m)

3. Odysseus: Private Lunar Mission Sets Sights on Moon Landing, Signaling New Era in Space Exploration

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Developing New technology- Space
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the dynamics of space exploration, including the involvement of private companies like Intuitive Machines.
Context:
  • A robotic lunar lander was launched into space, marking an ambitious endeavor to land on the Moon’s surface.
  • Scheduled to touch down on February 22, if successful, it would mark the first American spacecraft to achieve this feat since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972.
  • Named Odysseus, the spacecraft represents the first private effort to reach the Moon’s surface intact, following the failures of three previous attempts by various entities.
More about the news: Naming Inspiration:
  • The spacecraft derives its name, Odysseus, from a contest held among employees of Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based company spearheading the mission.
  • Engineer Mario Romero, who proposed the name, drew parallels with the epic journey of Odysseus in Greek mythology.
  • Romero likened the challenges, setbacks, and delays of the lunar mission to Odysseus’ arduous travels across the wine-dark sea, ultimately triumphing and returning home after a decade-long odyssey.
Significance of the Mission:
  • The successful landing of Odysseus holds significant implications for space exploration, particularly in terms of cost-effectiveness and broader lunar exploration endeavors.
  • As a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the mission represents a collaborative effort between private companies and NASA, aiming to expand lunar exploration capabilities.
  • With NASA as the primary customer, the mission carries payloads including a stereo camera and a radio receiver.
  • The success of private companies in lunar missions at a lower cost than traditional NASA missions could pave the way for increased collaboration and exploration opportunities.
Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Program:
  • Odysseus is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS), which seeks to utilize commercial companies to send experiments to the Moon, rather than NASA developing and operating its own moon landers.
  • Despite the inherent risks associated with commercial space endeavors, including the expectation that half of the missions may fail, the cost-effectiveness of the CLPS program remains a driving factor.
  • Experts highlighted that even with potential mission failures, the cost savings compared to traditional missions are significant, making the program a viable and promising avenue for lunar exploration.
Conclusion:
  • The launch of Odysseus represents a significant milestone in the collaboration between private companies and NASA, offering potential cost savings and expanding opportunities for lunar exploration and scientific research.
About Intuitive Machines
  • Intuitive Machines is an American company headquartered in Houston, Texas.
  • It was founded in 2013 by Stephen Altemus, Kam Ghaffarian, and Tim Crain.
  • Intuitive Machines is an end-to-end space exploration company delivering lunar access, lunar data services, extreme lunar mobility, and more.
  • Intuitive Machines is the most NASA-awarded commercial lunar program.
  • The company has three missions that will deliver NASA and commercial payloads into orbit and on the surface of the Moon.
PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2016) The Mangalyaan launched by ISRO 1) is also called the Mars Orbiter Mission 2) made India the second country to have a spacecraft orbit the Mars after USA 3) made India the only country to be successful in making its spacecraft orbit the Mars in its very first attempt Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (c)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the National Quantum Mission (NQM) in the context of India’s technological advancements. Highlight its objectives, potential impact on economic growth, and the role it plays in positioning India globally in the field of Quantum Technologies. Also, explain the collaborative approach involving academia, industry, and startups in the implementation of NQM. (250 words/15 m)

4. Use dictionary meaning of ‘forest’, Supreme Court tells Central govt.

Topic: GS2 – Judiciary, GS3 – Environment and Ecology.
Critical for UPSC as it involves judicial scrutiny of environmental policies, impact on forest conservation, and legal interpretation.
Context
  • The Supreme Court directs the government to maintain a broad definition of ‘forest,’ encompassing 1.97 lakh sq km of undeclared forest lands, challenging the 2023 Forest Conservation Act amendments.
 Additional information on this news:
  • The Supreme Court directs the government to maintain the “broad and all-encompassing” meaning of the term ‘forest’ for the time being.
  • The order includes 1.97 lakh square km of undeclared forest lands under the ambit of ‘forest’.
  • The directive comes in response to petitions challenging the 2023 amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which allegedly diluted the definition of ‘forest.’
  • The amended Act had categorized forests into declared forests and lands recorded as forests in ‘government records’ after 1980.
  • The court instructs the government to revert to the “dictionary meaning” of ‘forest’ from its 1996 decision until States and Union Territories consolidate records of lands recorded as ‘forest.’
  • Pending this consolidation, the principles in the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad case should be observed.
  • The Union government is directed to instruct States and Union Territories to submit comprehensive records of identified forest lands by March 31.
  • The Environment Ministry must publish these records on its website by April 15.
  • The court asserts that the establishment of “zoos or safaris” requires final approval from the top court.
Amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 – in 2023
The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, underwent significant amendments in 2023. Here’s a summary of the key changes: Coverage:
  • Inclusion: The Act now applies to lands recorded as forests in government records on or after October 25, 1980.
  • Exclusion: Land converted to non-forest use before December 12, 1996, is no longer covered by the Act. Additionally, specific exemptions exist for:
  • Land within 100 km of India’s border for national security projects.
  • Small roadside amenities.
  • Public roads leading to a habitation.
Activities requiring permission:
  • De-reservation of reserved forests.
  • Use of forest land for non-forest purposes.
  • Assigning forest land to private entities.
  • Clearing naturally grown trees for the purpose of reafforestation.
Centralization:
  • The amendments strengthen the central government’s role in forest conservation decisions.
Other noteworthy changes:
  • The definition of “forest” has been revised, potentially excluding certain categories of forests previously protected.
  • The Act now recognizes community-led recording of forests, potentially paving the way for alternative protection mechanisms.
Concerns and criticisms:
  • Environmentalists and activists have raised concerns that the amendments weaken forest protection by:
  • Facilitating diversion of forest land for development projects.
  • Reducing transparency and public participation in decision-making.
  • Potentially impacting biodiversity and ecological balance.
PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2019) 1. As per recent amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, forest dwellers have the right to fell the bamboo grown in forest areas. 2. As per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, bamboo is a minor forest produce. 3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2006 allows ownership of minor forest produce to forest dwellers. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? [A] 1 and 2 only [B] 2 and 3 only [C] 3 only [D] 1, 2 and 3 Answer: B
Practice Question:  Critically evaluate the 2023 amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, considering their potential impact on forest conservation efforts in India. (150 words/10 m)

5. Hundred years ago, Satyendra Nath Bose changed physics forever

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
UPSC relevance: Bose’s quantum contributions, Planck’s law derivation, and quantum statistics are crucial in understanding foundational physics principles.
Context
  • The article explores Satyendra Nath Bose’s pivotal 1924 discovery in quantum theory, unraveling equations for photon behavior, and his groundbreaking work on Planck’s law of black-body radiation.
 Introduction:
  • In 1924, amidst the upheaval of quantum theory’s emergence, Satyendra Nath Bose, a lecturer from Dhaka University, introduced a crucial missing piece to the puzzle of quantum physics.
  • Despite being initially rejected by a journal, Bose’s groundbreaking work on the behavior of photons caught the attention of Albert Einstein, who translated and submitted the paper, marking the beginning of Bose’s significant contribution to quantum theory.
Early Years and Friendship with Meghnad Saha:
  • Born in Calcutta in 1894, Bose’s mathematical talent was recognized early.
  • Bose and Meghnad Saha, both faculty members at Rajabazar Science College, immersed themselves in the evolving field of quantum physics, translating Einstein’s papers on general relativity into English.
Challenge of New Physics:
  • Physics faced a transformative period with Einstein’s theory of relativity challenging classical understanding.
  • Bose’s move to Dhaka University involved teaching Planck’s law of black-body radiation, a concept he found challenging to explain satisfactorily.
Planck’s Law and Quantum Mechanics:
  • Max Planck’s law, derived in 1900, introduced the concept of quantized energy but had an incorrect derivation.
  • Bose’s contribution involved eliminating classical physics from the problem, showing Planck’s law to be a statistical property of photons, pioneering the field of quantum statistics.
Bose’s Derivation and Quantum Statistics:
  • Bose’s method, using results from Einstein and Compton, established that the distribution of energy among quanta of radiation followed Planck’s formula.
  • Bose’s paper laid the foundation for quantum statistics, demonstrating that the total number of photons is not conserved, a concept later clarified by Paul Dirac.
Legacy and Conclusion:
  • Despite publishing sparsely, Bose’s work became foundational, with Paul Dirac later formalizing Bose’s statistics into distinct categories for fundamental particles: bosons and fermions.
  • Bose’s contribution to quantum theory is likened to a bright comet that appeared once but left an enduring impact.
PYQ: Discuss the work of ‘Bose-Einstein Statistics’ done by Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose and show how it revolutionised the field of Physics. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018)

6. Why are human-wildlife conflicts escalating in Kerala?

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservations
Crucial for UPSC as it tests candidates on environmental issues, conservation strategies, and the socio-economic impact of human-wildlife conflict.
Context
  • The article discusses the escalating human-animal conflict in Kerala, India, attributed to factors like habitat loss, population growth, and proposes solutions, including Eco Sensitive Zones.
 Additional information on this news: Scale of Human-Animal Conflict in Kerala:
  • Kerala’s forest covers nearly 30% of its geographical area, leading to human settlements and agricultural plantations near wildlife habitats.
  • Sharp increase in human-animal conflict incidents, with over 600 people losing their lives since 2015.
  • The State Forest department’s study reports conflict in 1,004 areas, with over 48,000 incidents of crop damage between 2013-14 and 2018-19.
Causes of Increase in Human-Wildlife Conflict:
  • Increased cultivation around wildlife habitats, changing cropping patterns, and human movement during odd hours.
  • Population growth of elephants and tigers due to conservation efforts.
  • Habitat depletion and fragmentation, invasive species, and monoculture affecting plant biodiversity.
Proposed Solutions and Challenges:
  • Elephant-proof trenches and solar fences are effective if maintained, but often broken or destroyed.
  • Forest department proposes hanging power fences and eco-restoration policy to deter animals from agricultural lands.
  • Early warning systems using drones are suggested but not widely implemented.
Connection to Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) Norm:
  • Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) norm suggested as a solution to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Kerala legislative assembly urges exemption from ESZ due to land scarcity and dense population.
  • Implementation challenges due to the proximity of people to wildlife habitats.
Conclusion:
  • In summary, Kerala faces a significant human-animal conflict, primarily involving elephants, wild boars, and other species.
  • Proposed solutions include physical barriers, eco-restoration, and early warning systems, but challenges like human interference and species-specific issues persist.
  • The ESZ norm, suggested as a solution, faces implementation challenges in a densely populated state with limited land availability.
Practice Question:  How can effective conservation strategies mitigate human-animal conflict in Kerala, considering socio-economic factors and the importance of Eco Sensitive Zones? (150 words/10 m)

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