Context: The Odisha Forest department has stressed the need for stricter monitoring of social media plat forms to check pangolin poaching and trading.
Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Science & technology | Mains – Health (GS-2)
· Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin; they are the only known mammals with this feature.
· of mainly ants and termites, which they capture using their long tongues.
· They tend to be solitary animals, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring, which they raise for about two years.
· Pangolins are threatened by poaching (for their meat and scales, which are used in Chinese traditional medicine and heavy deforestation of their natural habitats, and are the most trafficked mammals in the world.
· All eight species of pangolin are assessed as threatened by the IUCN, while three are classified as critically endangered.
· All pangolin species are currently listed under Appendix I of CITES which prohibits international trade, except when the product is intended for non-commercial purposes and a permit has been granted.
Bird flu, Pong Dam Lake, Bar headed geese
· Migratory birds found dead at Pong Dam Lake in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district have tested positive for bird flu, according to officials. Around 1,800 migratory birds, most of them bar headed geese, have been found dead in the lake sanctuary so far.
· H5N8 subtype of Influenza A virus reported in ducks in Kerala.
Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Science & technology, Geography, Environment
What is bird flu & Influenza A virus?
· Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral infection spread from bird to bird. Currently, a particularly deadly strain of bird flu — H5N1 — continues to spread among poultry in Egypt and in certain parts of Asia.
· Technically, H5N1 is a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus. It’s deadly to most birds. And it’s deadly to humans and to other mammals that catch the virus from birds.
· People catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings.
About Pong Dam Lake:
· Constructed over the mighty Beas river upstream of Talwara in Himachal Pradesh, the Pong Dam is one of the most beautiful embankments in India.
· The dam’s construction became the reason for the formation of the utterly beautiful Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake.
· Known widely as the Pong Reservoir or the Pong Dam Lake, it is one of the leading causes of tourist interest in the area. The lake overlooks the majestic Shivalik hills and is surrounded by forests.
· The Dhauladhar mountains ensconce the Pong dam lake from all sides. Since the lake is an extension of the perennial Beas river that flows from the Rohtang Pass, it contains water throughout the year.
About Bar headed geese:
· The bar-headed goose is a goose that breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India.
· It is known for the extreme altitudes it reaches when migrating across the Himalayas. The summer habitat is high-altitude lakes where the bird grazes on short grass.
· The species has been reported as migrating south from Tibet, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia before crossing the Himalaya.
· The bar-headed goose has been suggested as being the model for the Hamsa of Indian mythology.
· Another interpretation suggests that the bar-headed goose is likely to be the Kadamb in ancient and medieval Sanskrit literature, whereas Hamsa generally refers to the swan.
· IUCN conservation status: Least Concern.
Context: Budget session to be held amid curbs – Members to be seated separately for President’s address as per COVID-19 norms.
Topic in syllabus: Prelims – Polity
What is President’s address?
· Article 87 of the constitution provides two instances when the President specially addresses both Houses of Parliament.
· The President of India addresses both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha at the beginning of the first Session after each general election when the reconstituted lower house meets for the first time.
· The President also addresses both the houses at beginning of the first session of each year.
· The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. The address provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.
Important news in short
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to “delete” its three year old law which allowed seizure and subsequent confiscation of livestock from people who depended on these animals for a livelihood, even before they were found guilty of cruelty towards them.
· The Directorate of Education has issued a circular asking schools to follow the new ‘School Bag Policy, 2020’ released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
· India was approaching its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council
(UNSC) with a strong commitment to reformed multilateralism”, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti said on Monday.
· Iran on Monday began enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility and seized a South Korean flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in West Asia between Tehran and the West.
There are no Examples related to Ethics (GS-4) in today’s newspaper
India’s UNSC opportunity
Source: The Indian Express
Written by: C. Raja Mohan
Topic in syllabus: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (GS-2)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about the opportunities and challenges present for India as a UNSC member (non-permanent).
How India shifted its attitude & how
we can see India at UNSC?
· As it enters the United Nations Security Council for the third time since the end of the Cold War, India finds a very different dynamic than the one it encountered during the earlier stints in 1991-92 and 2011-12.
· India, too, has changed over the last decade. The range of Indian interests has expanded and so has the circle of India’s international partners.
· Delhi’s attitudes have also shifted from the reactive to the proactive. That, in turn, should make India’s new stint at the UNSC more purposeful and pragmatic.
· Purposefulness is about tightly integrating its UNSC engagement with India’s broader national goals.
· Pragmatism demands adapting to the changed conditions at the UNSC and avoiding overly ambitious goals.
As India looks for a productive tenure at
the UNSC, what are the objectives & challenges presents for India?
· One is about making the UNSC “effective”. Delhi, however, might be sensible to pare down that ambition. The UNSC is becoming less effective today thanks to the deep divisions among the major powers.
o The UNSC system was designed to function as a concert of five powers.
o Unanimity among the five permanent members with veto powers was rare during the Cold War decades.
o But there will be enough room for India to carve out a larger role for itself amid renewed great power rivalry.
The UNSC offers room for sustained diplomatic interaction between the major powers, who could minimise tensions and create new opportunities for cooperation.
o All other powers, including India, will, of course, want to be sure that the US China cooperation is not at the expense of others.
· Making the UNSC more “representative” has been one of India’s demands since the end of the Cold War.
o Pessimists would urge Delhi to curb its enthusiasm. China has no interest in letting two other Asian powers — India and Japan — join the UNSC as permanent members.
o Optimists would suggest Delhi’s campaign, in partnership with Brazil, Germany and Japan, to expand the UNSC must continue.
o For the campaign is about an important principle and revealing the nature of political resistance to it.
· Delhi has no choice but to deal with China’s
growing hostility to India.
At the end of the Cold War, India had bet that cooperation with China on the multilateral front was valuable in its own right, and would also help generate the conditions for resolving the boundary dispute and expand the areas of bilateral cooperation.
o Delhi, which was eager to build a multipolar world with Beijing, now finds itself in a unipolar Asia that is centred around China.
· The engagement with peace and security issues at the UNSC will allow India to strengthen its new coalitions such as the Quad — which brings together Australia, India, Japan and the US.
o India could also use the UNSC tenure to deepen collaboration with its European partners like France and Germany in the security arena, and find common ground with “Global Britain” that is carving out a new international path for itself after breaking away from the European Union.
Delhi must also sustain an intensive dialogue with Moscow on all international issues,not with standing Russia’s worsening problems with the West and closer ties to China.
· Delhi needs to revitalise its engagement with
its traditional partners in the “global south” by articulating their peace and security concerns in the UNSC.
o Two sub-groups of the global south should be of special interest. The numerous small island states around the world face existential challenges from global warming and rising sea levels.
o They also struggle to exercise control over their large maritime estates. Supporting the sovereignty and survivability of the island states is a crucial political task for India.
· Africa is the other priority. Nearly half of UNSC meetings, 60 per cent of its documents, and 70 per cent of its resolutions are about peace and security in Africa.
o The UNSC tenure is a good moment for Delhi to intensify India’s engagement on peace and security issues in Africa at bilateral, regional and global levels.
Embracing energy efficiency
Source: The Hindu
Written by: Shalu Agrawal (Programme Lead at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water)
Topic in syllabus: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (GS-2)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about how India can bring down household energy bills and reduce the financial stress of discoms.
· The Power Minister, R.K. Singh, recently announced the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020.
· The rules lay down uniform performance standards for power distribution companies (discoms) and make them liable to compensate consumers in case of violations.
· This is partly linked to drop in payment rates, as consumers are struggling to pay their bills amid rising consumption and tight finances.
· The Indian government has sanctioned liquidity relief to help discoms tide over this crisis, but these are just short-term fixes.
How India adopted energy efficient appliances so far?
· In recent years, India has seen significant adoption of energy efficient appliances, especially those covered under the mandatory labelling programme, according to the India Residential Energy Survey conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy.
The survey, covering
nearly 15,000 households across 21 States, found that more than 75% of air
and 60% of refrigerators used in Indian homes were star labelled.
· Further, nearly 90% of Indian homes used LED lamps or tubes.
What are the concerns?
There has been limited uptake of energy
efficient ceiling fans and televisions. While 90% of homes
use fans, only 3% have efficient fans.
· Similarly, 60% of our television stock comprises the big old energy guzzling CRT (cathode ray tube) models.
· Desert coolers, used by 15% homes, are not even covered under the labelling programme.
· At present, the most efficient fans cost more than double the price of conventional models.
· India’s residential electricity consumption is expected to at least double by 2030.
As households buy more electric
appliances to satisfy their domestic needs, concerns about the ability of
discoms to provide reliable supply at affordable rates will also rise.
What is the way forward?
· Embracing energy efficiency can be a win win solution as this can bring down household energy bills and reduce discoms’ financial stress.
· Significant efficiency gains are also possible for other appliances like water pumps and induction cook stoves.
· We need innovative business models that can attract manufacturers to produce efficient technology at scale and bring it within purchasing capacity.
· India needs a nationwide consumer awareness campaign on energy efficiency. Only a fourth of Indian households are currently aware of BEE’s star labels.
· We need a decentralised and consumer centric engagement strategy. State governments, discoms and retailers need to be at the forefront of our renewed efforts to create mass awareness about energy efficiency.
· We need to monitor supply quality and changing consumption pattern on a real-time basis.
· As discoms in India deploy smart meters, these must be used to measure actual savings and demonstrate the benefits of energy efficient devices to build consumer confidence.
· The government’s UJALA scheme transformed the market for LED bulbs, while also helping India reduce its annual carbon emissions by nearly 82 million tonnes.
· A similar focus towards other energy efficient appliances would allow India to ensure 24×7 power for all.
Quality gigs, a solution to urban unemployment
Source: The Hindu
Written by: Vineet John Samuel (German Chancellors Fellow based out of the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.)
Topic in syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment. (GS-3)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about why there must be a focus on supporting new forms of employment in urban area.
What is Gig Economy?
· In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.
· The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform.
· The gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and demand for flexible lifestyles.
· At the same time, the gig economy can have downsides due to the erosion of traditional economic relationships between workers, businesses, and clients.
· Recent data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), however, point to a gradual slowdown in employment recovery from the month of July, with the latest numbers pointing to a sharp rise in the national unemployment rate from 6.51% in November to 9.06% for the month of December.
· For labour flocking back to rural India, employment support came in the form of an increased outlay for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), which witnessed a 243% increase in person workdays.
· This increased dependency on NREGA, has seen the Rural Development Ministry spend nearly 90% of its increased ₹86,4000 crore allocation by the month of November, while still being unable to fulfil demands for nearly 13% of the 75 million households that demanded work.
What are the concerning things?
· Our current understanding of gig work and workers remains constrained to the limited disclosures made by the platforms themselves.
· As of now there exists no authoritative estimate on the total number of gig workers in India, though the centralised nature of the platforms, and the larger platform labour market should make the collating of this data relatively straightforward for the Labour Ministry.
unintentionally hurting the similar, yet distinct, market for highly skilled (and highly paid)
freelancers, that continues its rapid growth due to pandemic related fulltime staff layoffs.
Any good example of gig work platform?
· The successful pilot of Swiggy’s Street Food Vendors programme under the PM SVANidhi, or PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi scheme, may prove to be an illustrative example.
· While Swiggy has announced the on boarding of 36,000 street food vendors onto the platform under the scheme this month, it has also looked to ensure that each vendor is registered and certified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
· The simultaneous creation of jobs, alongside the voluntary adoption of quality standards is an example of a mutually beneficial partnership between the state and a platform that creates jobs while incentivising greater levels of compliance.
What is necessary?
· Similar collaborations on urban employment,
that require labour platforms to comply with disclosure norms and worker compensation standards to access government support, could be one way for the government to kill two birds with one stone.
· Collaborating with platforms to employ
workers, would not only bring down costs significantly (for both the state and their partners) but it would also create an environment where firms would be more likely to cooperate with the state, as opposed to adopting an antagonistic position in what could prove to be a longwinded legal battle.
· Limited fiscal space and a growing need to
fuel the country’s consumption base, must push the government to build symbiotic relationships with new partners.
As the pandemic forces India to define its own understanding of the future of work, it falls upon the state to ensure that this future is defined not only by the quantity of jobs it creates but also by the quality of livelihoods they provide for.