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Daily Current Affairs

4-March -2024- Top News of the Day

1. India's Household Expenditure Survey Reveals Milk as Top Food Spend Item, Posing Challenges and Opportunities for Dairy Industry

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – Economies of Animal Rearing
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the significant role of milk as a food spend item, highlighting its implications for the dairy industry and agricultural economy.
Context:
  • The latest Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) for 2022-23 reveals that milk has become India’s top food expenditure item, both in rural and urban areas.
  • In rural India, the monthly value of milk and dairy products consumed per person (Rs 314) surpasses expenditures on vegetables, cereals, eggs, fish, meat, fruits, edible oil, spices, and pulses.
  • Similarly, in urban areas, milk (Rs 466) ranks highest, followed by fruits, vegetables, cereals, eggs, fish, meat, edible oil, spices, and pulses.
More about the news: Challenges in Milk Consumption:
  • While increased spending on milk is beneficial for the dairy industry and farmers, it faces challenges from inflation and rising production costs.
  • The modal price of milk has risen significantly over the last five years, with a substantial increase in the last year alone.
  • Additionally, the cost of fodder, feed, and raw materials has surged, leading to higher procurement prices for dairies and increased costs for consumers.
Addressing Challenges: Boosting Milk Yield and Genetic Improvement:
  • To mitigate these challenges, there is a need to enhance milk yield per animal through genetic improvement and breeding technologies.
  • By using sex-sorted (SS) semen, the probability of female calves, crucial for milk production, can be increased significantly.
  • Organizations like Amul are actively promoting the use of SS semen, targeting a higher ratio of female calves by 2024-25.
Advancements in Embryo Transfer (ET) Technology:
  • Furthermore, advancements in embryo transfer (ET) technology offer significant potential for increasing milk production.
  • ET involves stimulating cows to release multiple eggs, which are then fertilized with superior-quality semen.
  • This technique enables the production of several calves from a single high-genetic-merit (HGM) cow, thereby maximizing milk yield.
Implementation and Impact:
  • Initiatives such as the Bovine Breeding Center at Mogar in Gujarat aim to breed a nucleus herd of genetically superior bulls and cows.
  • Through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ET technology, organizations like Amul have successfully produced male and female animals with high milk-producing potential.
  • Additionally, efforts to improve animal nutrition by promoting high-yielding protein-rich fodder grasses are underway, aimed at reducing feeding costs for farmers.
Conclusion:
  • While milk consumption in India is on the rise, challenges such as inflation and production costs need to be addressed.
  • By leveraging advancements in breeding and reproductive technologies, along with initiatives to improve animal nutrition, the dairy industry can enhance milk production while minimizing costs.
  • Ultimately, the focus of initiatives like the White Revolution 2.0 should be on lowering the cost of milk production at the farm gate, ensuring sustainability and profitability for farmers.
Indian Dairy Industry
  • India’s dairy sector is a significant agricultural segment, boasting the highest milk production worldwide, with an impressive annual output of 230 million tonnes. This figure represents a substantial portion of the global dairy market, where India contributes around 15% of the world’s total milk production, serving the needs of a population where approximately 60% reside in rural areas.
  • The growth in milk production over the years has been remarkable, showing a 14-fold increase over the past 75 years. This surge has been a major economic driver, particularly empowering about 80 million farming households. It has also been pivotal in elevating the status of women in rural economies, as they play a key role in dairy farming activities.
  • On the consumption side, the per capita milk availability in India stands at an impressive 430 grams daily, which is above the global average. This availability has been achieved through the adoption of enhanced dairy management practices and technological advancements, which have increased the average yield per animal.
  • The Indian dairy sector’s advancements reflect a concerted effort to improve productivity through better breed quality and feed management, leading to a robust and nutritionally secure milk supply chain. This focus on quantity without compromising quality has been instrumental in fortifying the nation’s food security and nutritional profile.
PYQ: Livestock rearing has a big potential for providing non-farm employment and income in rural areas. Discuss suggesting suitable measures to promote this sector in India. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2015)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the government’s latest Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) for the dairy industry in India. Analyze the trends in milk consumption, challenges faced by the dairy sector, and potential strategies to address them. (250 words/15 m)

2. Grey Zone Tactics: Navigating the Thin Line Between Conflict and Peace in Global Affairs

Topic: GS2 – International Relations GS3 – Internal Security This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the Grey zone warfare which involves tactics employed by nations to exert influence and pressure on adversaries without resorting to overt military actions. It also highlights the risks and implications of grey zone warfare, including its potential to escalate tensions and lead to unintended military reprisals.
Context:
  • Grey zone warfare is characterized as a form of informal warfare that operates within a nebulous middle ground between direct conflict and peace.
  • It encompasses a multitude of activities that fall outside the clear delineation of conventional warfare, including economic actions, influence operations, cyberattacks, mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns.
More about the news: Historical Context: Cold War Origins:
  • The concept of grey zone warfare has roots in the Cold War era, particularly during the intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • With both superpowers possessing nuclear capabilities, direct conflict was deemed too risky.
  • As a result, tactics deployed in the grey zone became increasingly prevalent as a means for parties with limited resources or power to gain an advantage over technically superior adversaries.
Examples of Grey Zone Warfare: Chinese Actions:
  • Recent actions by China in the South China Sea exemplify grey zone warfare tactics.
  • China’s expansive territorial claims in the region have led to confrontations with neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, which has challenged China’s presence and activities in disputed waters.
  • Chinese maritime militia vessels and coast guard actions near disputed reefs have sparked tensions and accusations of illegality.
  • Similarly, Taiwan has reported increased Chinese military activities, including fighters flying over the strait, as part of a strategy to exert pressure short of full-blown conflict.
  • These actions aim to wear down Taiwan and test its resolve without escalating to direct confrontation.
Grey Zone Tactics of Other Nations:
  • The United States has also been implicated in employing grey zone tactics, including economic sanctions and duties on Chinese imports, along with maritime reconnaissance activities.
  • These measures are seen as part of broader strategies to exert influence and pressure on adversaries without resorting to overt military actions.
Risks and Implications:
  • Grey zone warfare poses significant risks as it blurs the lines between peace and conflict, making it challenging for nations to respond effectively.
  • By operating in this ambiguous space, countries may provoke reactions from adversaries that could escalate tensions and lead to unintended military reprisals.
Conclusion:
  • Understanding and effectively addressing the challenges posed by grey zone warfare require nuanced strategies that go beyond traditional approaches to conflict resolution.
  • Nations must remain vigilant and develop adaptive responses to navigate the complexities of this evolving form of warfare, ensuring stability and security in an increasingly uncertain geopolitical landscape.
What is China’s Grey Zone Tactics against India?
  1. South China Sea Activities– China employs naval and civilian vessels to assert its control over the South China Sea. It causes tensions with neighbouring countries, including India.
  2. Constructing infrastructure in border areas– China builds infrastructure and establishes villages close to India’s borders. It reinforces its territorial assertions and gains strategic benefits.
  3.  Investments in digital technologies– China directs investments into apps, media, and various digital platforms within India. This presence in the digital sphere holds the potential to mould public perceptions and narratives.
Practice Question:  Discuss the concept of grey zone warfare and its implications in contemporary international relations. Analyze the strategies employed by nations to navigate the complexities of grey zone tactics and address the associated risks, considering the evolving nature of warfare and security challenges in the 21st century. (250 words/15 m)

3. Thailand Replaces Ambassador to WTO Amid Dispute Over India's Rice Subsidies

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Important International institutions, agencies and fora – their structure, mandate
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the dynamics of trade disputes, the role of international organizations like the WTO, and the implications of agricultural policies on global trade.
Context:
  • Thailand has made a diplomatic move by replacing its Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) following objections raised by India over her comments regarding India’s Public Stockholding (PSH) program.
  • Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield, the former Thai ambassador, faced criticism for her remarks on India’s rice procurement program, particularly targeting the Public Distribution System (PDS) which provides essential food items at subsidized rates to the public.
  • These comments were deemed inappropriate by Indian authorities, leading to her replacement.
More about the news: Thailand’s Concerns and WTO’s Norms:
  • Thailand, a key member of the Cairns Group, has consistently raised concerns about India’s PSH program at the WTO, arguing that it distorts global food prices and negatively impacts the food security of other countries.
  • Trade distortion issues arise when domestic support measures exceed the deminimis limit set by the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture.
  • While the deminimis ceiling for developing countries like India is 10%, India has breached this limit in the case of rice, leading to discontent among other exporters like Thailand who find it challenging to compete with subsidized Indian rice.
Questioning India’s Rice Subsidies:
  • India’s rice subsidies have come under scrutiny at the WTO as they exceed the permitted deminimis limit.
  • India has defended its subsidies, arguing that the calculation method used by the WTO, based on fixed and outdated prices, overestimates the subsidy provided.
  • India is pushing for changes in the calculation method during WTO negotiations on agriculture.
India’s Argument and Demand at WTO:
  • India, along with a group of developing nations, is advocating for a permanent solution for public stockholding of food grains at the WTO.
  • This solution would provide India with more flexibility in providing farm support.
  • India contends that its subsidies are significantly lower compared to those provided by developed countries like the US and EU.
  • Despite efforts, the recent WTO conference failed to reach a decision on a permanent solution for public stockholding of food.
Financial Outlay and Approval:
  • The Union Cabinet approved the NQM with a total outlay of Rs. 6003.65 Crore for eight years.
  • The recent approval by the Mission Governing Board (MGB) to invite pre-proposals for technology hubs underlines the mission’s centrality and strategic importance.
Conclusion:
  • The replacement of Thailand’s Ambassador to the WTO highlights the diplomatic tensions surrounding India’s PSH program and its impact on global trade dynamics.
  • As India seeks to defend its agricultural subsidies within WTO norms, the debate over trade distortions and the need for a permanent solution for public stockholding continues on the international stage.
PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2017) 1.     India has ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of WTO. 2.     TFA is a part of WTO’s Bali Ministerial Package of 2013. 3.     TFA came into force in January 2016. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 and 2 only (b) 1 and 3 only (c) 2 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans:(a)
Practice Question:  Discuss the recent diplomatic tensions between India and Thailand over India’s Public Stockholding (PSH) program, as well as its implications on international trade and global food security. (250 words/15 m)

4. Plans for non-lapsable defence modernisation fund put on hold

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies
Critical for UPSC: Examines rejection of non-lapsable defence fund, emphasizing funding mechanisms, parliamentary scrutiny, and accountability in India.
Context
  • The article discusses the rejection of the proposal to establish a non-lapsable defence modernisation fund in India.
  • Government officials emphasize that current funding mechanisms meet defence needs and address concerns about parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.
 Additional information on this news:
  • The proposal to establish a non-lapsable defence modernisation fund in India has been rejected by top government officials.
  • Officials emphasise that all defence funding needs are currently met as they arise, and creating a non-lapsable pool could undermine parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.
  • The Ministry of Defence had previously indicated the exploration of a special mechanism for a non-lapsable fund, but no decision has been taken, and it is not actively considered due to drawbacks.
  • A top Finance Ministry official highlights that traditionally, only funds financed through cesses for a specific purpose are non-lapsable, ensuring accountability to Parliament.
  • Ministries seek assurance of funding, and the emphasis is on making funds available when necessary without necessarily resorting to a non-lapsable fund.
  • The Interim Budget 2024-25 assures all necessary defence capital spending, consolidating capex demands of the Services under one head for a more unified approach to procurements.
  • The 15th Finance Commission had recommended a dedicated non-lapsable Modernisation Fund for Defence and Internal Security, but the government has not proceeded with its creation, citing the need for further examination of funding sources and modalities.
Non-Lapsable Fund For Defence Modernisation
Pros:
  • Assured Funding: Provides a dedicated pool of funds ensuring a consistent and assured financial resource for defence modernisation.
  • Long-term Planning: Enables long-term planning for defence capabilities without the risk of funds lapsing, allowing for strategic and systematic upgrades.
  • Flexibility: Allows flexibility in budget allocation, ensuring that funds earmarked for defence modernisation are not diverted for other purposes.
  • Avoids Budgetary Constraints: Shields defence spending from budgetary constraints and uncertainties, fostering stability in the modernisation process.
  • Quick Decision-Making: Facilitates swift decision-making in procurement and modernisation initiatives, as funds are readily available without complex approval processes.
Cons:
  • Reduced Accountability: Poses a challenge to parliamentary scrutiny and financial accountability, as the non-lapsable nature may reduce transparency in fund utilization.
  • Potential Misuse: There is a risk of funds being mismanaged or misused without strict oversight, as the non-lapsable nature might lessen the urgency in judicious spending.
  • Inflexibility in Allocation: The fixed nature of the fund may lead to inflexibility in responding to changing defence priorities or emergencies, as funds are earmarked in advance.
  • Political Influence: The fund could be subject to political influence or manipulation, impacting decision-making on defence allocations outside regular budgetary processes.
  • Impact on Parliamentary Control: Non-lapsable funds might diminish the effectiveness of parliamentary control over financial matters, as decisions may be made outside the regular budgetary review process.
PYQ: Foreign direct investment in the defence sector is now said to be liberalised. What influence this is expected to have on Indian defence and economy in the short and long run? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications and drawbacks of rejecting the proposal for a non-lapsable defence modernisation fund in India. (150 words/10 m)

5. PM to witness launch of core loading of reactor in T.N. today

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology –  Indigenization of technology Critical for UPSC: News covers core loading in indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor signifies nuclear advancements, self-reliance, and clean energy objectives.
Context
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnesses the core loading of India’s indigenous Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor, marking a milestone in the nuclear power program, promoting self-reliance and clean energy.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to witness core loading of India’s indigenous 500 Mwe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam.
  • Developed by BHAVINI, PFBR is a significant milestone in India’s nuclear power program.
  • Core loading includes control, blanket, and fuel sub-assemblies for power generation.
  • PFBR is part of India’s three-stage nuclear power program with a closed fuel cycle, promoting self-reliance in fuel supply.
  • Sodium-cooled PFBR produces more fuel than it consumes, contributing to self-sufficiency.
  • Advanced safety features and minimized nuclear waste make FBRs a safe and clean energy source.
  • Marks progress towards thorium utilization in the third stage of India’s nuclear power program.
  • India, once commissioned, will be the second country after Russia with a commercial operating Fast Reactor.
Need for Thorium Utilisation in India’s Nuclear Power Program
  • Abundant Thorium Reserves: India possesses one of the world’s largest thorium reserves, making it crucial for energy security.
  • Limited Uranium Resources: With limited uranium resources, thorium becomes a viable alternative for sustainable nuclear power.
  • Three-Stage Nuclear Power Program: Thorium plays a key role in the third stage of India’s nuclear program, focusing on advanced nuclear technologies.
  • Closed Fuel Cycle: Thorium utilization complements the closed fuel cycle strategy, enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing nuclear waste.
  • Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs): Thorium is integral to Fast Breeder Reactors, contributing to self-sufficiency by producing more fuel than consumed.
  • Reduced Dependency on Imported Uranium: Utilizing thorium decreases reliance on imported uranium and strengthens India’s energy independence.
  • Long-Term Energy Security: Integrating thorium in the nuclear program ensures long-term energy security, addressing the growing demand for power in India.
  • Global Pioneering: India’s emphasis on thorium positions it as a global leader in advancing nuclear technologies for sustainable and clean energy.
What is fast breeder (FBR) reactor and how it is different?
●     Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR):
  • A type of nuclear reactor that produces more fissile material (typically plutonium) than it consumes.
  • Uses fast neutrons to sustain the nuclear fission chain reaction, allowing efficient breeding of fissile material.
  • Key for the three-stage nuclear power program, especially in closed fuel cycles.
●     Differences from Thermal Reactors:
  • Neutron Speed: FBR uses fast neutrons, while thermal reactors use slow neutrons.
  • Fuel Efficiency: FBRs achieve higher fuel efficiency by utilizing nuclear fuel and breeding more fuel than consumed.
  • Waste Reduction: FBRs produce less long-lived radioactive waste compared to thermal reactors.
●     Thorium Utilization:
    • FBRs play a crucial role in utilizing thorium as fuel, addressing India’s abundant thorium reserves in the nuclear program.
●     Self-Sufficiency:
    • FBRs contribute to self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel production, reducing dependence on external sources.
PYQ: With growing energy needs should India keep on expanding its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018)
Practice Question:  Discuss the strategic significance of thorium utilization in India’s three-stage nuclear power program, emphasizing its role in ensuring energy security and sustainability. (150 words/10 m)

6. Resonance: a tendency to move in step

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Effects of S&T in everyday life
Understanding resonance is vital for UPSC candidates, as it connects physics principles to real-world applications in technology and infrastructure.
Context
  • The article discusses resonance, a phenomenon in which systems oscillate with higher amplitude at their natural frequency, impacting various contexts.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Resonance is a phenomenon where a system oscillates with a higher amplitude if its frequency matches its natural frequency.
  • The natural frequency of a system is the frequency at which it tends to oscillate even without external disturbance.
  • Resonance can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on the context.
  • Examples of positive resonance include quartz crystals in watches, musical instruments, vocal chords in singing, laser light production, and nuclear magnetic resonance used in MRI scanners.
  • Detrimental effects of resonance can be observed in situations like a bus engine’s idling causing rattling in the vehicle’s metal structure.
  • A notable historical incident occurred on April 12, 1831, when British soldiers marching in step caused the Broughton Suspension Bridge in England to collapse due to resonance.
  • Soldiers now break step when marching across bridges to avoid resonance-induced structural failure.
  • Resonance is also evident when pushing a child on a swing, where the push is most effective during the resonant interval.
  • Understanding and controlling resonance is crucial in various fields to prevent damage or enhance performance.

7. Women's urban employment guarantee act

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – vulnerable sections GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues  related to Development and EmploymentCritical for UPSC aspirants as it addresses gender gaps, economic growth, and proposes a Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
Context
  • The article proposes the Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA) to address the low employment rates among urban women. Emphasizing gender empowerment and economic growth, it suggests a phased rollout with diverse employment opportunities and incentives, showcasing successful precedents.
 Addressing Urban Women’s Unemployment:
  • Current Scenario: Despite Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) success, urban women face barriers like social norms and safety concerns, resulting in low employment rates (22.9%).
  • Unmet Demand: High urban unemployment (9%), especially among educated women (25% with higher secondary education), indicates untapped potential and unmet demand.
Proposal: Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA):
  • Objective: Introduce a national WUEGA focusing on urban women’s employment, building on successful state programs and innovative ideas.
  • Program Management: Envision at least 50% (preferably 100%) women representation in the WUEGA program management staff, enhancing decentralization and constitutional mandates.
  • Essential Facilities: Ensure worksites, within a 5-km radius, offer essential facilities like childcare, and provide free public transportation for women.
  • Diverse Employment Opportunities: Expand the list of urban works through local consultation, incorporating diverse activities like plantation and harvesting.
  • Incentives and Welfare Boards: Create incentives, such as automatic inclusion in welfare boards, supporting maternity entitlements, pensions, and emergency funds.
  • Skills Development: Address skill gaps hindering school-to-work transition; propose apprenticeships for women college students and Information Facilitation Centres for Class 10 graduates.
  • Social Audit Unit: Establish a WUEGA social audit unit with at least 50% women staff for independent monitoring, fostering transparency and accountability.
Women-Led Initiatives and Precedence:
  • Inspiration from Karnataka: Cite the success of women-led waste management initiatives in Karnataka as a precedent for the efficacy of women in such roles.
Implementation and Financial Viability:
  • Phased Rollout: Propose a phased rollout with periodic assessments to gauge uptake and evaluate the nature of works, ensuring gradual cost and efficiency adjustments.
  • Financial Implications: Estimate the wage component’s cost at around 1.5% of the GDP, factoring in material and administrative costs, emphasizing the socio-economic benefits over fiscal concerns.
Long-term Impact:
  • Assurance of Income: Advocate for a shift from income as insurance to income assurance, especially for women, highlighting the positive societal impact.
  • Potential for Broader Urban Employment Programs: Position WUEGA as a pilot for future comprehensive urban employment programs, emphasizing the need to harness women’s potential for overall economic growth.
Conclusion:
  • Holistic Approach: The WUEGA proposal aims to holistically address urban women’s unemployment, offering a structured plan to empower women, boost the economy, and pave the way for broader societal benefits.
PYQ: Women empowerment in India needs gender budgeting. What are the requirements and status of gender budgeting in the Indian context? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2016)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of implementing the Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA) in addressing gender disparities and fostering economic growth in urban areas.  (150 words/10 m)

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