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22 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. Joint culture in the armed forces is way forward: CDS

Topic: GS2 – Governance
Context
Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan outlined the importance of jointness and integration for creating Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC), aimed at enhancing military readiness.

● Speaking at a memorial lecture, he emphasised advancing to “Jointness 2.0” for better operational efficiency and incorporating multi-domain operations, including cyberspace and digitization.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan emphasised that jointness and integration are essential for creating Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC), crucial for advanced military preparedness.
 Chief of Defence Staff (CDS):
Background

● Recommended in 2001 by a Group of Ministers (GoM) studying the Kargil Review Committee (1999) report.

● Integrated Defence Staff created in 2002 to serve as the CDS’s Secretariat.

Naresh Chandra Committee (2012) suggested a Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Officially created in 2019 on the recommendation of a committee led by Lt General DB Shekatkar.

● General Bipin Rawat appointed as the first CDS on December 31, 2019.

Roles and Responsibilities

Foster operational synergy between the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the Ministry of Defence.

Single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister.

● Prioritise inter-service procurement decisions as Permanent Chairman-Chiefs of Staff Committee.

● Provide directives to the three service chiefs without command authority.

● Advisory role in the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).

Significance

Enhances synergy between armed forces and the Ministry of Defence.

Accelerates decision-making as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to the Defence Minister.

● Addresses dysfunction in the Chiefs

  • Speaking at the 22nd Major General Samir Sinha memorial lecture, he explained that ITCs will separate operational functions from administrative ones, enhancing focus on security.
  • He introduced “Jointness 2.0” as the next step in fostering a joint culture among the armed forces, moving beyond the initial phase of inter-service consensus.
  • General Chauhan highlighted that joint culture should respect each service’s uniqueness while integrating their strengths, aiming for the highest common factor rather than the lowest common denominator.
  • He mentioned that ITCs will initiate reforms, including multi-domain operations, integration of space and cyberspace, battlefield digitization, and data-centric operations.
  • The mandate of the CDS includes ensuring jointness across various military functions, with the reorganisation into geography-centric ITCs as a priority.
  • Progress on ITCs had stalled due to a lack of consensus and the death of the first CDS, General Bipin Rawat. With General Chauhan now in position, the process is back on track.
Significance of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC):
What is Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC)?

● Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC) are unified military structures that combine resources and personnel from the Army, Navy, and Air Force under a single command.

● Their purpose is to streamline operations, enhance jointness, and improve overall military effectiveness by focusing on combined, multi-domain warfare and coordinated defence strategies.

 Significance of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC):

Enhanced Coordination: Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC) ensure seamless coordination among the Army, Navy, and Air Force, enabling unified and efficient responses to threats.

Operational Synergy: ITCs foster jointness, promoting interoperability and cohesive action among different service branches during operations.

Resource Optimization: Shared resources and unified command structures reduce redundancy, leading to more efficient use of defence resources.

Faster Decision-Making: Streamlined command chains and reduced bureaucratic layers allow for quicker decision-making in critical situations.

Improved Strategy Implementation: Centralised planning and execution enhance the implementation of comprehensive military strategies.

Enhanced Flexibility: ITCs provide the flexibility to reallocate forces and resources swiftly in response to dynamic threat environments.

Effective Joint Operations: ITCs enable more effective planning and execution of joint operations, improving combat effectiveness and mission success.

Promote Modernization: ITCs drive modernization by integrating advanced technologies and capabilities across the services.

Holistic Defence Posture: A unified command structure enhances India’s overall defence posture, ensuring a robust and cohesive defence mechanism.

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITC) in enhancing the operational efficiency and jointness of the Indian Armed Forces. How do ITCs contribute to modern military preparedness and what challenges might arise during their implementation? (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 4)

2. Analysing local environmental footprints

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Environmental pollution and degradation
Context
A recent study in India examines the environmental impact of luxury consumption on CO2, water, and air pollution footprints.

Findings reveal a significant increase in footprints as households move up the economic ladder, underscoring the need for sustainable consumption practices and policy intervention.

 Introduction to Household Environmental Footprints in India

  • Understanding household environmental footprints crucial for addressing local environmental issues.
  • Recent study examines CO2, water, and particulate matter (PM2.5) footprints of luxury consumption in India.
  • Methodology involved input/output analysis to assess environmental impacts of consumption.
 What is an Environmental Footprint?
●  An environmental footprint refers to the measure of human impact on the environment, typically quantified in terms of resource consumption and waste generation.

It encompasses various aspects such as carbon emissions, water usage, land use, and energy consumption associated with human activities.

● Environmental footprints assess the ecological strain exerted by individuals, communities, or nations on natural resources and ecosystems.

● Understanding and reducing environmental footprints are crucial for sustainable development and mitigating environmental degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

● It involves adopting practices that minimise resource consumption, promote conservation, and foster a harmonious relationship between human societies and the natural environment.

 Assessment of Environmental Impacts

  • Input/output analysis mapped household consumption to resource usage in production.
  • Water footprint quantified water usage in production and direct household usage.
  • 5 footprint included embedded emissions and direct emissions from household activities.
  • CO2 footprint captured both embedded and direct CO2 emissions from consumption.

Key Findings of the Study

  • Environmental footprints increase as households move from poorer to richer economic classes.
  • Richest 10% of households exhibit double the overall average footprints.
  • Notable surge in footprints observed from ninth to tenth decile.
  • Air pollution footprint experiences highest increase in the tenth decile.
  • Rise in water footprint is lowest, while CO2 emissions stand at 55%.

Key Contributors to Environmental Footprints

  • Eating out/restaurants significant contributor to rise in footprints, especially in top decile.
  • Consumption of fruits and nuts drives increase in water footprint in top decile.
  • Luxury consumption items contribute to rise in CO2 and air pollution footprints.
  • Presence of fuels like firewood in poorer households’ consumption baskets contrasts with affluent lifestyles.
  • Transition from biomass to LPG reduces direct footprints but leads to rise in PM2.5 footprints.

Per Capita CO2 Footprint and Policy Implications

  • Average per capita CO2 footprint of top decile in India surpasses global average.
  • Disparity underscores the need for urgent attention from policymakers.
  • Policymakers should focus on nudging affluent households towards sustainable consumption.

Implications for Environmental Justice

  • Global environmental footprints do not align with local and regional footprints.
  • Luxury consumption exacerbates local and regional environmental issues, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities.
  • Affluent sections can afford protective measures, further marginalising vulnerable groups.
  • Multi-footprint analysis is essential for addressing environmental justice concerns and ensuring equitable sustainability efforts.

Conclusion

  • Understanding household environmental footprints is crucial for addressing local environmental issues.
  • Environmental footprints increase with economic class, with the top decile exhibiting double the average footprints.
  • Policy focus should be on nudging affluent households towards sustainable consumption.
 Ways to reduce household environmental footprint:
Energy Efficiency: Use energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, and smart thermostats to reduce electricity consumption.

Water Conservation: Install low-flow fixtures, fix leaks promptly, and practise water-saving habits like shorter showers and efficient irrigation.

Waste Reduction: Reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to minimise waste generation and landfill contributions.

Sustainable Transportation: Opt for walking, biking, carpooling, or using public transportation to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles.

Green Purchasing: Choose eco-friendly products with minimal packaging, made from renewable materials, and produced sustainably.

Plant-Based Diet: Incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet to reduce the environmental impact of meat and dairy production.

Composting: Compost organic waste to divert it from landfills and create nutrient-rich soil for gardening.

Reduce Water Footprint: Conserve water by choosing locally sourced, seasonal foods and reducing consumption of water-intensive products.

Renewable Energy: Invest in solar panels or support renewable energy initiatives to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for electricity.

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of luxury consumption on household environmental footprints in India, as highlighted in recent studies. How can policymakers address the challenges posed by escalating environmental footprints associated with affluent lifestyles? (150 Words /10 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 10)

 

3. RBI’s proposed framework to administer project financings

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy
Context
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed draft regulations to enhance the regulatory framework for financing long-gestation projects in infrastructure, non-infrastructure, and commercial real estate sectors.

● The revisions aim to mitigate risks and improve financial viability amid challenges such as delays and cost overruns.

 Introduction:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released draft regulations aimed at fortifying the existing regulatory framework concerning long-gestation period financing for projects in various sectors such as infrastructure, non-infrastructure, and commercial real estate.
  • The purpose of these regulations is to address the challenges associated with funding projects characterised by extended gestation periods, aiming to enhance financial viability and mitigate risks.

Purpose of the Framework:

  • Infrastructure projects typically entail prolonged gestation periods, posing higher risks of financial inviability.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s review highlighted significant delays and cost overruns in numerous projects, attributing these issues to various factors such as land acquisition, regulatory clearances, and scope changes.
  • These challenges deter banks, which have to reassess risks associated with such projects and adjust their provisions accordingly.

Key Revisions:

  • The focus of the RBI’s revisions is on mitigating potential credit events, including defaults or the need for extensions of the Date of Commencement of Commercial Operations (DCCO) or additional debt infusion.
  • Notably, the proposed framework suggests increasing the provisioning requirement from 0.4% to 5% at the construction stage for both existing and new exposures, which might affect infrastructure developers’ bidding enthusiasm in the short to medium term.

Phased Implementation of Provisioning:

  • The 5% provisioning requirement is set to be implemented gradually, allowing stakeholders to adjust to the new regulatory landscape over time.

Prudential Conditions:

  • The framework mandates that all necessary prerequisites, including environmental and legal clearances, must be secured before finalising financial closures.
  • The DCCO must be clearly defined, and financial disbursements should be tied to project milestones, with independent engineers or architects monitoring progress.

Project Finance Prerequisites:

  • The RBI proposes that a positive Net Present Value (NPV) should be a prerequisite for project finance, with lenders required to re-evaluate project NPV annually to proactively address potential stress.
  • While repayment norms can be revised, the framework limits the repayment tenure to not exceed 85% of the economic life of the project, including any moratorium period.

Evaluation of Repayment Schedule Changes:

  • The framework outlines criteria for evaluating changes in repayment schedules due to increased project outlay, requiring reassessment of project viability before the DCCO if the risk in project cost exceeds 25% of the original outlay.

Standby Credit Facility:

  • Additionally, guidelines are introduced for a standby credit facility sanctioned at financial closure to address overruns resulting from delays.

Initial Observations:

  • Initial observations suggest that higher provisioning requirements may impact the near-term profitability of non-banking financial companies and infrastructure financing firms.
  • However, major banks such as SBI, Union Bank of India, and Bank of Baroda expressed confidence in the proposal, expecting no significant adverse effects.

Conclusion:

  • The proposed regulatory framework aims to bolster the financing environment for long-gestation projects, enhancing financial stability and risk mitigation in sectors crucial for economic development
Time delays and cost overruns in infrastructure projects in India:
Reasons for Time Delay and Cost Overruns:

Poor Planning: Inadequate feasibility studies and project planning lead to unrealistic timelines and budget estimates.

Land Acquisition Issues: Delays in acquiring land for projects due to legal, regulatory, and social hurdles.

Environmental Clearances: Lengthy processes for obtaining environmental clearances and addressing related concerns prolong project timelines.

Funding Constraints: Budgetary constraints, delayed fund allocations, and financing challenges contribute to cost overruns.

Contractual Disputes: Disputes between contractors, subcontractors, and project owners lead to delays and additional costs.

Lack of Skilled Manpower: Shortage of skilled labour and technical expertise hampers project execution.

Inefficient Project Management: Poor project management practices, including inadequate monitoring and coordination, result in delays and cost escalations.

Political Interference: Political factors such as changes in government priorities, policy instability, and corruption can disrupt project timelines.

Way Forward to Address Time Delay and Cost Overruns:

Comprehensive Planning: Conduct thorough feasibility studies and robust project planning before initiating infrastructure projects.

Streamlined Approval Processes: Simplify and expedite land acquisition, environmental clearances, and other regulatory procedures.

Enhanced Project Monitoring: Implement effective project management systems to monitor progress, identify issues early, and take corrective actions promptly.

Strengthened Contract Management: Ensure transparent and fair contract agreements, and resolve disputes swiftly through arbitration or mediation.

Investment in Skills Development: Invest in training programs to enhance the skills of the workforce involved in infrastructure projects.

Policy Stability: Provide policy certainty and consistency to instil investor confidence and attract private investment in infrastructure.

Accountability and Transparency: Hold stakeholders accountable for project delays and cost overruns, and ensure transparency in project governance and decision-making processes.

Technology Adoption: Embrace digital technologies and innovative construction methods to improve efficiency and productivity in infrastructure development.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs): Encourage PPP models to leverage private sector expertise and investment for infrastructure projects, while ensuring transparency and accountability.

PYQ: Explain how private public partnership agreements, in longer gestation infrastructure projects, can transfer unsuitable liabilities to the future. What arrangements need to be put in place to ensure that successive generaSons’ capacities are not compromised? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the proposed RBI draft regulations on long-gestation project financing for infrastructure and real estate sectors in India. Evaluate the potential impact of these regulations on mitigating risks and enhancing financial viability. (150 Words /10 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 10)

4. Pastoralists in India Need Greater Recognition and Market Access to Combat Rangeland Degradation, UN Report Urges

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Environment – Environment Pollution and Degradation

Context:
  • Millions of pastoralists in India rely on livestock and the vast rangelands, including grasslands, shrublands, and plateaus, for their livelihoods.
  • However, these communities face significant challenges in gaining recognition of their land rights and access to markets, as highlighted in a recent United Nations report on rangeland degradation by the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD).
Analysis of News:

What is the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)?

  • Established in 1994, it is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • The Convention’s 197 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.
  • The UNCCD works with the other two Rio Conventions to address the interlinked challenges of land, climate and biodiversity:
    • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
    • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework:

  • It is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations.

UNCCD and Sustainable Development:

  • Goal 15 of SDG, 2030 declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”.

Rangeland Degradation and Its Global Impact:

  • The UNCCD report reveals that nearly half of the world’s rangelands are degraded due to factors such as climate change, population growth, land-use changes, and expanding farmlands.
  • These rangelands, covering 80 million square kilometers or 54% of the earth’s land surface, are crucial ecosystems.
  • They act as carbon sinks, prevent soil erosion, and combat land degradation and desertification.
  • Despite their importance, the degradation of rangelands often goes unnoticed compared to deforestation, which evokes a stronger emotional response.

The Plight of Pastoralists in India:

  • In India, the exact population of pastoralist communities is not precisely known but is estimated to be over 20 million, including groups such as Maldharis, Van Gujjars, and Rabaris.
  • These communities are marginalized with little influence over policy decisions, leading to uncertainty about their access to common lands and land rights.
  • The report stresses that pastoralists’ contributions to the economy, through livestock rearing and milk production, are significant.
  • The livestock sector accounts for 4% of the national GDP and 26% of agricultural GDP, with India holding 20% of the world’s livestock population.

Neglect of Grasslands in Conservation Policies:

  • Despite their ecological importance, grasslands in India are largely overlooked in environmental conservation and ecosystem restoration policies, which typically favor forestry-based interventions.
  • This often results in the conversion of natural grasslands into plantation forests or other uses.
  • The report indicates that less than 5% of India’s grasslands are within protected areas, and the total grassland area has declined from 18 million hectares in 2005 to 12 million hectares in 2015.

Need for Policy Intervention and Market Access:

  • The UNCCD report underscores the need for better recognition of pastoralists’ rights and improved access to markets. Enhancing policy focus on these communities and their ecosystems is essential.
  • This includes integrating grassland conservation into broader environmental policies and ensuring that pastoralists have secure land rights and access to resources.
  • Additionally, facilitating market access for pastoralists can help improve their livelihoods and economic contributions, making the livestock sector more robust and sustainable.

Conclusion:

  • The degradation of rangelands and the marginalization of pastoralist communities in India highlight significant gaps in current environmental and economic policies.
  • Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort to recognize the rights of pastoralists, integrate grassland conservation into national policies, and improve market access for these communities.
  • By doing so, India can ensure the sustainability of its rangelands, support the livelihoods of millions of pastoralists, and enhance its economic resilience.
What are the Efforts to Curb Land Degradation?
Global Efforts:

  • The Bonn Challenge: To bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • Great Green Wall: Initiative by Global Environment Facility (GEF), where eleven countries in Sahel-Saharan Africa have focused efforts to fight against land degradation and revive native plant life to the landscape.

India’s Efforts:

  • Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana)
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),
  • Soil Conservation in the Catchment of River Valley Project,
  • National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA).
  • Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).
PYQ: What is/are the importance/importances of the ‘United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’? (2016)

1) It aims to promote effective action through innovative national programmes and supportive international partnerships.

2) It has a special/particular focus on South Asia and North Africa regions, and its Secretariat facilitates the allocation of major portion of financial resources to these regions.

3) It is committed to bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating the desertification.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (c)

Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges faced by pastoralist communities in India regarding land rights and market access. Analyze the impact of rangeland degradation on these communities and suggest measures that can be taken to integrate grassland conservation into national policies. (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Second Page; Page: 02)

5. EU Activates Rapid Satellite Mapping Service to Assist in Search Efforts for Iranian President’s Crashed Helicopter

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
Context:
  • Soon after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter crashed, the European Union (EU) quickly activated its rapid satellite mapping service to assist in the search efforts.
  • This response was facilitated by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS), a key component of the EU’s Copernicus programme.
  • This incident highlights the crucial role of satellite technology in emergency management and international cooperation.
Analysis of News:

The Copernicus Programme:

  • The Copernicus programme is part of the EU’s space initiative aimed at monitoring the Earth and its environment through data collected from satellites known as the Sentinels.
  • This data is supplemented by contributions from commercial and public satellites as well as non-space sources like ground stations.
  • Launched in 1998 as the Global Monitoring for Environmental Security (GMES), the programme provides data that is processed and analyzed to create valuable information for a wide range of applications including land management, marine environment monitoring, atmospheric studies, emergency response, security, and climate change.
  • The data and resulting information are freely available to users on a full, open, and free-of-charge basis.

Emergency Management Service (EMS):

  • Operational since 2012, the Copernicus EMS provides geospatial information derived from satellite remote sensing and in situ data sources to manage natural disasters, man-made emergencies, and humanitarian crises.
  • The EMS is divided into two main components: the mapping component and the early warning component.
  • The mapping component offers satellite imagery-based maps and analysis, while the early warning component issues alerts about natural events like floods, droughts, and forest fires, providing near-real-time assessments.

Rapid Mapping Component:

  • The rapid mapping (RM) service of the Copernicus EMS, which was activated for the search of Raisi’s helicopter, is designed to provide maps within days or even hours anywhere in the world. This service is critical for immediate disaster response. The RM component includes four types of products:
    • Reference Product: Provides baseline information about the area of interest and its assets before an emergency or disaster occurs.
  • First Estimate Product: Offers a quick assessment of the most affected locations shortly after a disaster.
  • Delineation Product: Supplies detailed information on the impact and extent of the disaster, including updates on the situation.
  • Grading Product: Delivers a comprehensive damage assessment, detailing the spatial distribution and extent of the damage.

Activation and Implementation:

  • When the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi crashed, the EU’s Copernicus EMS was activated at Iran’s request.
  • The RM service quickly acquired, processed, and analyzed satellite imagery, geospatial data, and, when necessary, social media inputs.
  • This rapid response facilitated the efficient search for the helicopter wreckage, which was found after an overnight search in challenging, blizzard-like conditions.

Conclusion:

  • The activation of the Copernicus EMS for the search efforts following the crash of President Raisi’s helicopter underscores the importance of international cooperation and advanced satellite technology in managing emergencies.
  • The rapid mapping service is a testament to the EU’s commitment to providing timely and crucial assistance in disaster scenarios, leveraging high-tech resources to save lives and manage crises effectively.
Practice Question:  Explain the role of the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) in assisting search efforts for the crashed helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. (150 words/10 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 14)

 

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