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Daily Current Affairs

24-April -2024- Top News of the Day3

1. How is India planning to boost EV production?

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

The topic is crucial for UPSC as it reflects India’s strategy to promote EV manufacturing and address domestic market dynamics.

Context:
●       The news highlights India’s new policy to attract global Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacturers, aiming to boost EV production and address domestic market challenges.

 

Introduction:

  • The Union government approved a policy to promote India as a manufacturing hub for Electric Vehicles (EVs) with a minimum investment cap of ₹4,150 crore.

Key Provisions of the Policy:

  • The policy aims to attract global EV makers like Tesla and BYD to enter the Indian market and transition to localized production.
  • Import duty on electric vehicles imported as a Completely Built Unit (CBU) with a CIF value of $35,000 will be reduced to 15% for a five-year period, provided the maker sets up a manufacturing unit within three years.
  • A total duty waiver of ₹6,484 crore or an amount proportional to the investment made, whichever is lower, would be applicable on the total number of EVs imported, with a maximum of 40,000 units imported annually.
  • Localisation targets require manufacturers to achieve 25% localisation by the third year and 50% by the fifth year, failing which bank guarantees will be revoked.

Impact on Domestic Players:

  • Tata Motors opposed the policy, fearing adverse effects on the domestic industry, while it presents opportunities for OEMs catering to higher-end consumers.
  • The policy benefits global EV players and Indian JVs with them, encouraging expansion in sales and manufacturing in India.

Catering to Indian Markets:

  • Global players must consider local circumstances like environmental factors, road conditions, and usage patterns.
  • Limited penetration in passenger vehicles due to challenges like charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and limited affordable products with low localisation.
  • CII report suggests the need for at least 13 lakh charging stations by 2030 to support aggressive EV uptake.

Building an EV Ecosystem:

  • The EV ecosystem must address reliability, durability of components, and service support.
  • Enhanced control in business partnerships can lead to growth in imports, emphasizing the importance of sustainable product and system designs.
  • Focus on domestic demand should guide product and system designs, with exports following suit, rather than relying solely on foreign capital.

Conclusion:

  • The EV manufacturing policy aims to attract global players, promote localized production, and address challenges in the Indian EV market, paving the way for sustainable growth in the sector.
Transition to Electric Mobility in India

Need:

Environmental Concerns: Transitioning to electric mobility is essential to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate climate change, addressing environmental challenges and improving public health.

Energy Security: Electric vehicles (EVs) reduce dependence on fossil fuels, promote energy independence, and enhance energy security by utilizing renewable energy sources for transportation.

Resource Conservation: Electric mobility reduces resource depletion and reliance on finite resources like oil and gas, conserving natural resources and promoting sustainability.

●  Technological Innovation: Adoption of electric vehicles fosters technological innovation, research, and development in clean energy technologies, driving economic growth and competitiveness.

Global Trends: Aligning with global trends towards clean energy and sustainable transportation systems enhances India’s international reputation, competitiveness, and participation in the global green economy.

Challenges:

Infrastructure: Lack of adequate charging infrastructure, including charging stations and battery swapping facilities, poses a challenge for widespread adoption of electric vehicles, requiring substantial investment and development.

●  Cost and Affordability: Higher upfront costs of electric vehicles compared to conventional vehicles, along with limited availability of affordable EV models, hinder mass adoption, requiring policy interventions and incentives.

Range Anxiety: Concerns about limited driving range, battery range anxiety, and charging time for electric vehicles deter consumers from switching to EVs, necessitating advancements in battery technology and infrastructure.

●  Manufacturing Capacity: Scaling up manufacturing capacity for electric vehicles, batteries, and components requires investment, technology transfer, and skill development to meet growing demand and achieve economies of scale.

●  Consumer Awareness: Lack of awareness about the benefits of electric mobility, misconceptions about EV performance, and limited consumer education hinder market acceptance and adoption of electric vehicles.

Policy and Regulatory Framework: Inconsistent policies, regulatory barriers, and taxation issues related to electric vehicles, including GST rates and import duties, create uncertainty and deter investment in the electric vehicle ecosystem.

PYQ: The adoption of electric vehicles is rapidly growing worldwide. How do electric vehicles contribute to reducing carbon emissions and what are the key benefits they offer compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the recently approved policy to promote Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacturing in India, considering its impact on domestic industry, global players, and market dynamics. (250 Words /15 marks)

2. An overview of the PMAY-U scheme

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government Policies

Understanding the successes and failures of PMAY is crucial for analyzing housing policies and social welfare initiatives for UPSC.

Context
●       The news discusses the challenges and shortcomings of India’s flagship housing scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), in achieving its goal of Housing for All by 2022.

 

PMAY Scheme Overview:

  • Launched in 2015, PMAY aimed to provide Housing for All by 2022 in both urban and rural areas.
  • Objectives included slum rehabilitation, affordable housing for weaker sections, and beneficiary-led construction.

Scheme Progress:

  • Despite a two-year extension, Housing for All remains unrealized.
  • Shortage: Approximately 20 million houses in rural areas and three million in urban centres.
  • Urban shortfall: More than 60 lakh houses till 2023, increased by 54% from 2012 to 2018.
  • Current shortfall: Around 40 lakh houses from sanctioned and completed segments.
  • ISSR Failure: Only 2,10,552 houses sanctioned under ISSR, addressing just 25.15% of the housing shortage.

Issues Affecting PMAY:

  • Private Sector Participation: Reliance on private sector led to vertical growth, increased utility costs, and unsuitable design for residents.
  • Land Availability: ISSR hindered by land issues, especially on land registered under airports, railways, etc.
  • Dichotomy with City Plans: Discrepancy between city master plans favouring market forces and PMAY objectives.

Financial Contribution:

  • Centre’s contribution: Only 25% of overall investment expenditure, bulk from beneficiary households (60%) and state governments (15%).

Limited Government Role:

  • Majority (62%) of houses sanctioned under BLC vertical with limited government involvement.
  • CLSS beneficiaries (21%) receive interest subsidy, with land owned by beneficiaries.
  • ISSR beneficiaries constitute only 2.5% of total, highlighting limited focus on slum rehabilitation.

Conclusion:

  • Despite significant investment, PMAY faces challenges due to private sector reliance, land availability issues, and discrepancies with city plans, limiting its impact on addressing housing shortages.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY): Urban

●  Objective: Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U) aims to address the urban housing shortage among economically disadvantaged segments by providing durable and permanent houses.

Duration: Originally aimed for completion by 2022, the scheme has been extended until December 2024 to ensure all sanctioned houses are completed without altering funding or implementation methods.

Beneficiaries: Targets Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Low Income Group (LIG), and Middle Income Group (MIG) households, including slum dwellers, based on income criteria.

Components:

  •  In-situ Slum Redevelopment (ISSR)Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS)
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP)
  • Beneficiary-led Individual House Construction/Enhancement (BLC-N/BLC-E)

Subsidies: CLSS offers interest subsidies on housing loans based on income and loan amounts.

Central Nodal Agencies: HUDCO, NHB, and SBI oversee subsidy distribution and monitor progress.

Woman Empowerment: PMAY-U promotes female ownership of houses.

PYQ:

Q. Discuss the various social problems which originated out of the speedy process of urbanisation in India. (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2013)

Q. With a brief background of quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and strategy of the ‘Smart City Programme.” (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2016)

Practice Question:  Assess the effectiveness of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in addressing housing shortages and urban development challenges in India. (150 Words /10 marks)

3. Significant human rights violations in India, says U.S. government report

Topic: GS2 – International relations – Effect of policies and politics of developed countries on India’s interests

The topic is crucial for UPSC as it assesses India’s human rights record and diplomatic implications in international relations.

Context
●   The 2023 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report flags numerous abuses in India, including extrajudicial killings, ethnic conflicts, repression against activists, and threats to minorities.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The 2023 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report (HRR) on India highlights numerous human rights abuses.
  • It cites extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture for confessions, and frequent internet shutdowns.
  • Ethnic conflicts, particularly between the Kuki and Meitei groups, resulted in significant abuses.
  • The government is criticised for not taking sufficient action against officials involved in abuses.
  • Over 800 cases of extrajudicial killings were reported between 2016 and 2022, with Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh recording the highest numbers.
  • Transnational repression is noted, with allegations of government targeting journalists, activists, and diaspora members.
  • Allegations of the government’s involvement in reprisals against individuals abroad, like the case of a Sikh Canadian citizen, are mentioned.
  • The cancellation of registration certificates for numerous nonprofit associations under FCRA provisions is noted.
  • Threats and violence against human rights defenders are documented.
  • Reports of militant groups targeting Muslims and Dalits over cattle transportation or slaughter are highlighted, despite Supreme Court guidelines issued in 2018 to address such vigilantism.
Possible impact of this report on India – US relationship

Diplomatic Strain: The report could strain diplomatic relations between India and the U.S., as it publicly highlights human rights concerns, potentially leading to friction in bilateral talks.

Trust Deficit: India may perceive the report as an intrusion into its internal affairs, leading to a trust deficit between the two nations.

Policy Adjustments: India might adjust its foreign policy to counter the negative portrayal, possibly distancing itself from certain U.S. initiatives or seeking closer ties with other nations.

Public Perception: The report could influence public opinion in both countries, affecting sentiments towards each other and shaping domestic political discourse.

Trade and Investment: There could be implications for trade and investment, as investors and businesses may reconsider their engagement with India based on human rights considerations.

Multilateral Cooperation: India might seek to strengthen its partnerships with other countries or international organizations to mitigate the impact of the report.

Dialogue and Engagement: Both countries may engage in diplomatic dialogue to address the concerns raised in the report and find common ground for cooperation.

Long-term Relations: The handling of human rights issues could impact the long-term trajectory of the India-U.S. relationship, shaping the dynamics of their strategic partnership.

PYQ: Human rights activists constantly highlight the view that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is a draconian act leading to cases of human rights abuses by the security forces. What sections of AFSPA are opposed by the activists? Critically evaluate the requirement with reference to the view held by the Apex Court. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2015)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the 2023 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on India’s domestic governance and its impact on international diplomacy. (150 Words /10 marks)

 

4. T.N., Kerala to count Nilgiri tahrs in a synchronised survey from April 29

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Conservation – Important species

The Nilgiri tahr census is vital for UPSC due to its relevance to environment, conservation, and biodiversity in India.

Context:
●   The news is about Tamil Nadu and Kerala conducting a synchronized census to estimate the population of the Nilgiri tahr, the state animal of Tamil Nadu.

Additional information on this news:

  • Tamil Nadu and Kerala are conducting a synchronized census of the Nilgiri tahr, the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  • The census will take place over three days starting April 29, with 700 people involved.
  • Methods like bounded count and double observer methods will be used for population estimation.
  • This is the first time such a large-scale, organized, and scientific survey is being conducted for the Nilgiri tahr.
  • Eravikulam and Silent Valley National Parks in Kerala, contiguous with tahr habitats in Tamil Nadu, will be covered.
  • Nilgiri tahrs inhabit montane grasslands at altitudes between 300 and 2,600 meters.
  • A 2015 study estimated a little over 3,100 Nilgiri tahrs in fragmented habitats across Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • WWF-India, Wildlife Institute of India, and Nature Conservation Foundation are involved in formulating the census technique.
About Nilgiri Tahr

Species: Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius)

IUCN Status: Endangered

Habitat: Native to the Nilgiri Hills of the Western Ghats in southern India, inhabiting montane grasslands and shola forests.

Description: A medium-sized ungulate, resembling a small antelope, with a slender body, short legs, and a distinctive dark brown coat.

Diet: Primarily herbivorous, feeding on grasses, herbs, and shrubs found in its habitat.

Status: Classified as Endangered by the IUCN due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting pressure.

Population: Estimated to be fewer than 3000 mature individuals, with a declining trend.

Conservation: Protected under Indian law, efforts include habitat restoration, anti-poaching measures, and community involvement.

Challenges: Fragmentation of its habitat due to human activities such as agriculture, infrastructure development, and illegal hunting.

Ecological Importance: Plays a role in maintaining the biodiversity and ecological balance of its habitat through grazing and browsing activities.

●  Research: Ongoing studies focus on population dynamics, habitat requirements, and conservation strategies to ensure the survival of this unique species.

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the synchronised census conducted by Tamil Nadu and Kerala for estimating the population of Nilgiri tahr, highlighting its implications for wildlife conservation and ecosystem management in the Western Ghats.  (150 Words /10 marks)

5. Many glacial lakes expanding, show ISRO images of catchments of Indian Himalayan river basins

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Effects of Climate change

GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Environmental pollution and degradation

Critical for UPSC due to relevance in environmental studies, disaster management, and understanding climate change impacts on Himalayan ecosystems.

Context:
●  The news highlights ISRO’s findings on significant expansions of glacial lakes in Indian Himalayan river basins from 1984 to 2023, aiding flood risk assessment and climate adaptation.

 Additional information on this news:

  • ISRO’s satellite imagery from 1984 to 2023 reveals significant changes in glacial lakes in Indian Himalayan river basins.
  • Out of 2,431 lakes larger than 10 hectares identified during 2016-17, 676 glacial lakes have expanded notably since 1984.
  • Among these, 130 are in India, with 65, seven, and 58 in the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra River basins, respectively.
  • 89% of the expanding lakes have grown more than twice, with 10 lakes expanding between 1.5 to 2 times and 65 lakes 1.5 times.
  • Elevation-based analysis shows 314 lakes in the 4,000 to 5,000 m range and 296 lakes above 5,000 m elevation.
  • Glacial lakes are categorized as Moraine-dammed, Ice-dammed, Erosion, and others.
  • Majority of the expanding lakes are Moraine-dammed (307), followed by Erosion (265), others (96), and Ice-dammed (8).
  • ISRO emphasizes the importance of satellite-derived change analyses for understanding glacial lake dynamics, crucial for managing flood risks and climate change adaptation in glacial environments.
PYQ: How does the melting of the Arctic Sea ice and glaciers of the Antarctic differently affect the weather patterns and human activities on the Earth? Explain. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2021)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of ISRO’s satellite-derived findings on the expansion of glacial lakes in the Indian Himalayan region, and their implications for disaster management and climate change adaptation strategies. (250 Words /15 marks)

6. Govt. should act on FMCG firms using ‘misleading’ ads: SC

Topic: GS2 – Governance

Critical for UPSC due to its relevance in consumer protection, public health, and governance in regulating advertising practices.

Context:
●  The news concerns the Supreme Court’s call for government action against FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) companies for misleading advertisements targeting vulnerable consumers, particularly families with children.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The Supreme Court urges the Centre to take action against FMCG companies for misleading advertisements targeting vulnerable consumers, particularly families with babies and schoolchildren.
  • Concerns were raised following reports alleging higher sugar content in Nestle’s baby food products in India and other countries.
  • The Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has instructed FSSAI to investigate the allegations.
  • The scope of the case has been expanded to include the Ministries of Consumer Affairs and Information and Broadcasting.
  • The court questions the Centre’s efforts in identifying FMCG companies engaging in misleading advertising.
  • The Advertising Standards Council of India flagged 948 objectionable advertisements to the AYUSH Ministry in two years, prompting queries on follow-up actions.
  • Justices express concern over FMCG advertisements amidst ongoing contempt proceedings against Patanjali Ayurved, Baba Ramdev, and Acharya Balkrishna.
  • The court previously expressed doubts about the vigilance over products advertised and sold by FMCG companies.
Impact of FMCG companies’ misleading advertisements

Impact:

●  Consumer Trust: Misleading advertisements erode consumer trust in FMCG brands, leading to loss of credibility and loyalty among consumers.

●  Public Health Concerns: False claims about product benefits or efficacy can mislead consumers into making unhealthy choices or relying on ineffective products, posing risks to public health.

Market Distortion: Misleading advertisements distort market competition by unfairly promoting certain products over others, undermining fair trade practices and market integrity.

Legal Repercussions: FMCG companies engaging in misleading advertising practices may face legal consequences, including fines, penalties, and litigation, for violating consumer protection laws and regulations.

●  Brand Reputation: Misleading advertisements tarnish the reputation and credibility of FMCG brands, damaging long-term brand equity and goodwill.

●  Consumer Discontent: Misleading advertisements lead to consumer dissatisfaction and distrust, resulting in negative word-of-mouth publicity and potential loss of sales for FMCG companies.

Way Forward:

Regulatory Oversight: Strengthen enforcement of advertising standards and regulations to prevent misleading advertisements, with stricter penalties for violations.

●  Transparency and Accountability: FMCG companies should ensure transparency and accountability in their advertising practices, providing accurate and truthful information to consumers.

●  Consumer Education: Promote consumer education and awareness about deceptive advertising tactics, empowering consumers to identify and avoid misleading advertisements.

●  Industry Self-Regulation: FMCG industry associations can establish self-regulatory mechanisms and codes of conduct to monitor advertising practices and address complaints from consumers.

Ethical Marketing: FMCG companies should prioritise ethical marketing practices, avoiding misleading claims and focusing on genuine product benefits and value propositions.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Demonstrate commitment to corporate social responsibility by promoting honest and transparent advertising, contributing to consumer welfare and trust-building efforts.

Practice Question:  Discuss the role of regulatory mechanisms in curbing misleading advertisements by FMCG companies, and their significance in safeguarding consumer rights and public health. (150 Words /10 marks)

7. RBI Bulletin Warns of Inflation Risks from Adverse Weather and Geopolitical Conflicts

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues relating to Planning

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about inflation dynamics, economic growth trajectory, and the impact of external factors like adverse weather conditions and geopolitical conflicts.

 

Context:
  • The article from the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monthly bulletin highlights potential threats to inflation in the near term.
  • Adverse weather conditions and extended geopolitical conflicts can lead to volatility in crude oil prices, posing risks to inflation dynamics.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation has recently gravitated to 4.9 percent in March, after averaging 5.1 percent in the preceding two months.
  • The article underscores concerns about food inflation remaining elevated, despite some signs of moderation, indicating a potential source of risk to the disinflation trajectory.
More about the news:

Weather Events and Crude Oil Prices: Immediate Concerns:

  • According to RBI Deputy Governor Michael Patra and other central bank officials, extreme weather events and prolonged geopolitical tensions could keep crude oil prices volatile, thereby exacerbating inflationary pressures in the near term.
  • The article emphasizes the need for careful monitoring during the summer, particularly regarding food prices, before the expected easing of food price pressures due to an above-normal Southwest monsoon projected by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Global Warming and Climate Alerts:

  • The article also references the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) alert about global warming, highlighting the probability of 2024 breaching temperature thresholds, potentially leading to water shortage crises.
  • The report underscores the urgent need for a collective response to escalating extreme weather events, as indicated by data from the Indian Meteorological Department.

Economic Outlook and Growth Trajectory:

  • On the economic front, conditions in India suggest an extension of the trend upshift in the average real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, surpassing 8 percent during 2021-24.
  • The article emphasizes the need for sustained growth rates of 8-10 percent per annum over the next decade to capitalize on India’s demographic dividend.
  • Capital deepening, supported by sustained public investment and productivity improvements, has been driving the growth trajectory, with recent signs of a resurgence in private investment.

Harnessing Demographic Dividend for Growth:

  • The developmental strategy for India over the next few decades should focus on maximizing the contribution of its young and rising labor force to Gross Value Added (GVA) growth.
  • The article emphasizes the importance of a developmental strategy centered around harnessing India’s favorable demographics to achieve sustained growth and break through the low-middle-income barrier.

Conclusion:

  • The analysis from the RBI’s monthly bulletin provides insights into the potential threats to inflation posed by adverse weather events, geopolitical tensions, and global warming.
  • It also underscores the importance of sustained growth and developmental strategies to leverage India’s demographic dividend for long-term economic prosperity.
What are the Impacts of Rising Inflation?

Decreased Purchasing Power:

  • Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money, meaning that with the same amount of money, individuals can buy fewer goods and services.
  • For example, if inflation is 5%, a product that cost Rs 100 last year would cost Rs 105 this year.
  • This decrease in purchasing power can impact the standard of living for individuals and reduce the real value of savings.
  • Interest Rates and Investment:
  • Central banks often respond to inflation by raising interest rates. Higher interest rates can increase the cost of borrowing for businesses and individuals, potentially slowing down investment and economic growth.
  • For example, if interest rates rise, the cost of mortgage loans increases, affecting the housing market and construction industry. This leads to the Twin Balance Sheet Problem.
  • Uncertainty and Planning Challenges:
  •  High or unpredictable inflation can create uncertainty in the economy. Businesses may find it challenging to plan for the future when prices are constantly changing.
  • Long-term planning becomes difficult, and uncertainty can lead to hesitancy in making investment decisions. This forces the government to spur the investments and leads to crowding-out effects.
  • Speculative Behavior and Asset Prices:
  • Inflation can sometimes lead to speculative behavior in financial markets as investors seek assets that can provide returns exceeding the inflation rate. This can contribute to asset price bubbles.
  • For example, during periods of high inflation, real estate prices may surge as investors view real assets as a hedge against inflation as witnessed during the 2008 financial crisis in the US in SubPrime Lending.
  • Social and Political Consequences:
  • Persistent and high inflation can have social and political consequences. It may lead to public dissatisfaction, protests, and demands for wage increases.
  • Governments facing high inflation may implement policies to address these concerns, but the effectiveness of such measures can vary and may have broader economic implications.
  • For example, in countries like Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Zimbabwe etc.

 

PYQ: If the RBI decides to adopt an expansionist monetary policy, which of the following would it not do? (2020)

1) Cut and optimize the Statutory Liquidity Ratio

2) Increase the Marginal Standing Facility Rate

3) Cut the Bank Rate and Repo Rate

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(A) 1 and 2 only

(B) 2 only

(C) 1 and 3 only

(D) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: B

Practice Question:  Discuss the potential impacts of adverse weather conditions and extended geopolitical conflicts on India’s economy, as highlighted in the recent Reserve Bank of India (RBI) bulletin. How can the government address these challenges to sustain economic growth and mitigate inflationary pressures? (250 words/15 m)

 

8. Asia in Crisis: Extreme Weather Events Claim Thousands of Lives, Urgent Action Needed

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Climate Change – Effects of Climate change

GS3 – Environment- Environment Pollution and Degradation

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the impact of extreme weather events, such as floods, storms, and heatwaves, on different regions of Asia which provides valuable insights into environmental challenges faced by countries in the region.

 

Context:
  • The recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) sheds light on Asia’s vulnerability to extreme weather events, with 79 such events affecting over nine million people and claiming over 2,000 lives in 2023.
  • Floods and storms accounted for over 80 percent of the reported hydrometeorological hazards, with storms causing the most economic damage and affecting the largest number of people.
  • Notably, although the number of disasters was only slightly lower than in 2022, the impact on affected populations was significantly reduced compared to the devastating Pakistan floods of the previous year.
More about the news:

Impact of Extreme Weather Events in India:

  • India, in particular, experienced a range of extreme weather events in 2023, including severe heatwaves, rainfall-induced floods, glacial lake outbursts, and tropical cyclones.
  • The report highlights the adverse effects of these events, such as heat-related deaths during severe heatwaves in Uttar Pradesh and the extensive damage caused by floods in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • Additionally, the Indian subcontinent witnessed six tropical cyclones, slightly above the average, with several making landfall and causing fatalities.

Climate Change Amplifying Risks in Asia:

  • The report underscores the alarming rate at which Asia is warming, with temperatures rising faster than the global average.
  • This accelerated warming trend, compounded by climate change-induced phenomena such as glacier retreat and sea-level rise, poses significant risks to Asia’s economies and ecosystems.
  • WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo emphasizes the sobering impact of climate change on societies, economies, and human lives, urging urgent action to address these challenges.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods: Compounding Risks:

  • The occurrence of a ‘significant glacial lake outburst flood‘ in Sikkim highlights the compounding risks faced by vulnerable mountain communities due to climate change-induced glacier retreat.
  • This event, triggered by the overtopping and breaching of the Chungthang dam downstream of the South Lhonak lake, resulted in numerous fatalities and underscores the urgent need for adaptive measures to mitigate such

Conclusion:

  • The report underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to address the escalating risks posed by extreme weather events and climate change in Asia.
  • It emphasizes the importance of proactive measures to enhance resilience, mitigate risks, and protect vulnerable communities from the adverse impacts of climate change-induced disasters.
What is Climate Change?
  • Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle.
  • But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
  • Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.
  • Increasing temperatures caused by climate change are accelerating the melting of ice, which raises sea levels and leads to flooding and erosion.

 

PYQ: ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  Discuss the key findings of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report on extreme weather events in Asia in 2023. How do these findings underscore the urgent need for proactive measures to address climate change impacts and enhance resilience in the region? (250 words/15 m)

9. FSSAI Initiates Checks on Spice Brands MDH and Everest Group Amid Ethylene Oxide Contamination Concerns

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the issue of ethylene oxide contamination which involves understanding scientific concepts related to pesticide classification, chemical properties, and their impact on human health.

 

Context:
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has announced plans to conduct checks on products of spice brands MDH and Everest Group following reports from authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore regarding high levels of ethylene oxide in four of their spice mixes.
  • An FSSAI official emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of products consumed by the Indian population and stated the need to verify whether this contaminant is present in products available in the Indian market.
More about the news:

Understanding Ethylene Oxide:

  • Ethylene oxide, classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is a pesticide known to cause cancer.
  • As per experts ethylene oxide is a colorless, highly flammable, and reactive gas commonly used by the spice industry as a fumigant to reduce microbial contamination.

Health Implications of Ethylene Oxide Exposure:

  • Doctors advise caution regarding the consumption of foods containing ethylene oxide, even at low levels.
  • Chronic exposure to this chemical, commonly found in spices and spice blends, has been linked to an increased risk of various cancers, including leukemia, stomach cancer, and breast cancer.
  • Additionally, exposure to ethylene oxide can cause respiratory irritation, lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and shortness of breath.

Ban on Ethylene Oxide in the European Union:

  • The European Union implemented a ban on ethylene oxide in 2011 for the fumigation of food and animal feed during transport and storage.
  • Currently, its use is permitted only for the disinfection and sterilization of medical devices.

Conclusion:

  • The scrutiny of spice brands MDH and Everest Group by the FSSAI underscores the importance of ensuring food safety and the need to address potential health risks associated with ethylene oxide contamination.
  • The ban on ethylene oxide in the European Union highlights the global concern over the use of this chemical in food products.
  • Consumers are advised to exercise caution and avoid products identified to contain ethylene oxide until more rigorous testing and remedial measures are undertaken by the concerned brands.
More details about Ethylene Oxide

About

  • Ethylene oxide (EO) is an important organic compound widely used in various industrial processes.
  • Chemical Structure and Properties:
  • Chemical Formula: C2H4O
  •  Molecular Weight:05 g/mol
  • Physical State: Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas at room temperature and pressure.
  • Boiling Point:7°C
  • Melting Point: -111.3°C
  • Density:52 g/cm³ (at 0°C)
  • Production Methods:
  • Ethylene oxide is primarily produced by the catalytic oxidation of ethylene. Two main methods are commonly used:
  • Direct Oxidation: Ethylene and oxygen are reacted over a silver catalyst at high temperatures (around 250-300°C) and pressures (around 1-2 MPa).
  • Chlorohydrin Process: Ethylene reacts with hypochlorous acid or its salts to form ethylene chlorohydrin, which is then treated with a base to produce ethylene oxide.
  • Uses:
  • Ethylene oxide finds extensive application in various industries due to its versatility:
  • Sterilization: It is widely used for sterilizing medical equipment and supplies due to its ability to penetrate packaging and kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.Chemical Intermediates: Ethylene oxide is a precursor to many other chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze and polyester production.
  • Surfactants: It is used in the production of surfactants for detergents, cosmetics, and personal care products.
  • Textiles: Ethylene oxide is used for treating textiles to impart wrinkle resistance and shrink resistance.
  • Pesticides: It serves as a raw material for manufacturing certain pesticides.
  • Challenges:
  • Flammability: Ethylene oxide is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air.
  • Toxicity: It is highly toxic and a known carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to ethylene oxide vapor can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea, and, in severe cases, central nervous system depression and damage.
  • ·Reactivity: Ethylene oxide is reactive with many materials, including metals, leading to corrosion and degradation.
  • Handling: Proper ventilation, personal protective equipment (PPE), and engineering controls are necessary when handling ethylene oxide to minimize exposure risks.
  • Environmental Impact:
  •  Air Pollution: Emissions of ethylene oxide contribute to air pollution and can form smog.
  • Water Pollution: Discharges of ethylene oxide into water bodies can harm aquatic life.
  • Global Warming Potential: Ethylene oxide is a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential.

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducting checks on spice brands MDH and Everest Group due to ethylene oxide contamination. How does this action reflect the importance of regulatory oversight in ensuring food safety and protecting consumer rights? (250 words/15 m)

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