Daily Current Affairs - 06-08-2021

Thailand has banned sunscreens comprising of chemicals that damage coral from all of its marine national parks.

Key Points

Coral Reef

It is an underwater ecosystem, characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed by colonies of coral polyps that are held together by calcium carbonate. Most of the reefs are built from stony corals. Coral belongs to the Anthozoa class in animal phylum Cnidaria. It comprises of sea anemones and jellyfish. Corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons. Such exoskeletons support and protect coral. Reefs are mostly grown in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water. First ever coral reefs were appeared some 485 million years ago. Corals are also called as rainforests of the sea. Corals comprises of less than 0.1% of world’s ocean area. They are commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters. In deep water and cold water, coral reefs exist on smaller scales. Great Barrier reefs of Australia is the largest reef of World.

Location of coral reefs

Coral reefs cover an area of 284,300 km2 under 0.1% of oceans’ surface area. Indo-Pacific region including Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and Pacific makes 91.9% of 0.1% area.

Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, introduced a Bill in Parliament to nullify the provisions of Income Tax Act. This bill has put an end to contentious retrospective tax law which has hit the confidence of foreign investors like Vodafone and Cairn.

Highlights

About the Bill

Bill will withdraw the retrospective amendments in the Income Tax Act of 1961 that raised demands on Vodafone, Cairn and some others. This bill seeks to attract foreign investments. As per the bill, no tax demand would be raised in future based on the retrospective amendment for any indirect transfer of Indian assets, in case transaction was undertaken before May 28, 2012.

Vodafone case

Vodafone case dates back to telco acquiring Indian assets of Hutchison Essar in 2007. There was a demand of Rs 22,100 crore. Government had filed an appeal against verdict in Singapore. India had also lost a case against taxing Cairn Energy Plc and Cairn UK holdings ltd in international arbitral tribunal at The Hague in 2020 on alleged capital gains that company made in 2006. Tribunal had asked India to pay Cairn an amount of $1232.8 million plus interest as well as $22.38 million towards arbitration and legal costs.

Retrospective Taxation

Retrospective Taxation allows any country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services. It charges companies from time behind the date on which any law is passed. This route is used by countries to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies. Countries like USA, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Italy and Australia and have retrospectively taxed companies.

Indian government approved the appointment of Dr. Dhriti Banerjee as new director of ZSI.

Key Points

About Zoological Survey of India

Zoological Survey of India was founded in July 1916. It is headquartered in Kolkata. It comprises of 16 regional centres and works under the ministry of environment, forests and climate change. It was set up as premier Indian organisation in zoological research. It studies and promote survey, explore & research of fauna in India.

Background

History of ZSI starts from the days of Asiatic Society of Bengal which was founded by Sir William Jones on January 15, 1784. Asiatic Society of Bengal was the mother institution to Indian Museum (1875), Zoological Survey of India as well as Geological Survey of India. Establishment of ZSI was a fulfilment of dream of Sir William Jones.  Asiatic Society had started to collect zoological and geological specimens since 1796.

When ZSI started hiring women?

ZSI started hiring women scientists in 1949. Mira Mansukhani was the first women employee of ZSI.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch an Earth Observation Satellite on August 12. Satellite will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

Key Points

What is EOS-03 Satellite?

EOS-03 is a state-of-the-art agile satellite. It will enable real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones. It will also monitor water bodies, crops, forest cover changes and vegetation condition. EOS-03 is capable of imaging whole country four to five times every day.

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)

GSLV is an expendable launch system of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In between 2001 to 2018, GSLV was used in thirteen launches. Though, GSLV Mark III shares the name, it is a completely different launch vehicle. GSLV project was initiated in 1990 with the objective of acquiring launch capability of India for geosynchronous satellites. GSLV uses major components of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launch vehicles.

First flight of GSLV

First development flight of GSLV (Mk I configuration) was launched in April 2001. But the flight failed because payload failed to reach the intended orbit parameters. This launcher was declared operational after second development flight that successfully launched GSAT-2 satellite.

People of Bihar faces perennial flooding in North Bihar (Mithilanchal region) almost every year despite the efforts of government. Solution to such flooding lies in correction of India-Nepal flood management.

Steps taken by government

First ever disaster management plan came into state with the efforts of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. During his tenure in 2005-2010, he made a few noticeable structural changes such as renewed approaches in infrastructure of dams and reservoirs, detention basins, embankments as well as channel improvement. Non-structural measures such as floodplain management, flood forecasting & warning, flood insurance and financial compensation are also being taken in the state.

What are the concerns?

Despite the efforts made by government, people continue to suffer with perennial flooding in north Bihar. This chronic issue is making over five crore people in north Bihar and Terai in Nepal vulnerable. But it does not seem to get attention by policymakers in both the countries.

Two documents by disaster management department

In May 2021, Bihar’s Disaster Management Department released two documents- “Pre-Flood Preparedness” and “Flood Control Order 2021”. These documents were released in order to help local administration with preparedness and set up a relief support system.

Background

Bihar is the most flood-prone State. According to Flood Management Improvement Support Centre (FMISC), Department of Water Resources, 76% of the population in north Bihar faces recurring threat of flood devastation. In Bihar about 73.06% of the land area is flood affected.

Why North Bihar is flood prone?

A large part of north Bihar is prone to flood. Because it is drained by a number of rivers with their catchments in Himalayas. Rivers like Kosi, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Bagmati, Kamla Balan, Mahananda etc originate in Nepal. Thus, they are having high discharge and sediment load causing havoc in the plains of Nepal’s Terai and Bihar. 65% of the catchment area of stated rivers falls in Nepal or Tibet while 35% area lies in Bihar.

According to a notification of Central government, RT-PCR report is not mandatory for the people who have received both doses of covid-19 vaccines to travel across states.

Key Points

Diverse rules in State

Different states have been applying diverse rules with respect to travel. Tamil Nadu government has made negative RT-PCR test report and a complete covid-19 vaccination (with two doses) certificate mandatory for people coming from Kerala. On the similar lines, passengers travelling from Kerala to Chennai can enter only after producing an RT-PCR test negative certificate. Karnataka also mandated RT-PCR negative reports for people entering from Kerala and Maharashtra. Chhattisgarh government is asking to produce a negative RT-PCR report from people travelling by air. Goa has also mandated tests for travellers from Kerala.

Which states are witnessing high r-number?

Eight states are witnessing high reproductive number of infections. Himachal Pradesh is having the highest value of 1.4. It is followed by Jammu & Kashmir with r-number of 1.4, Lakshadweep with r-number of 1.3, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala.

Food delivery platform Swiggy is launching electric-cycles (E-cycles) in association with the Hero Lectro Cargo (HLC) in Hyderabad.

Key Points

Swiggy’s commitment

The initiative was launched in line with Swiggy’s commitment of increasing adoption of electric vehicles in its delivery fleet. This move will also benefit the riders by increasing their earnings as these electric cycles will lower the maintenance and vehicle running costs. This project will set a backdrop for rising fuel prices. Swiggy aims to cover deliveries over 8 lakh kms everyday using electric vehicles (or e-cycles).

Significance of the e-cycles

These e-cycles are affordable and enable the company to reduce their carbon footprint. It would also reduce the cost of delivery per km for delivery partners.

About Swiggy

Swiggy is India’s largest online food ordering and delivery platform. It was founded in 2014. It is based in Bangalore. This platform operates in more than 100 Indian cities. Swiggy also expanded into general product deliveries in early 2019 under the name Swiggy Stores. It also launched instant pickup/dropoff service Swiggy Go in September 2019. This service is used for various items such as laundry & document or parcel deliveries to business clients & retail customers. This platform is operated by Bundl Technologies Private Limited.

Rajasthan government launched a series of nutrition-focused welfare programmes for the benefit of women and children who are affected by disruption in routine schemes.

Key Points

Nutrition-Focused Programmes

Why this move is significant?

The nutrition focused programmes are significant because, nutritious, diverse & safe foods in early childhood and access to basic health, water & sanitation would help in improve nutritional status among women and children.

Indira Rasoi Yojana

Indira Rasoi Yojana was launched in August 2020 with the aim of providing nutritious food to poor & needy two times in a day at concessional rates. Under the scheme, one plate serves 100 grams of pulses & vegetables and 250 grams of chapati & pickles. This scheme aligns with the theme of World Food Day 2020 to grow, nourish and sustain together.

Three remote Alaska volcanoes are in different states of eruption. One of the volcanos is producing lava while other two is blowing steam and ash.

Highlights

Pavlof  Volcano

It is a stratovolcano of Aleutian Range on the Alaska Peninsula. It is one of the most active in United States since 1980. It has erupted in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1986–1988, 1996–1997, 2007, 2013. It erupted two times in 2014. Its last eruption was recorded in March 2016. This volcano mostly erupts Basaltic andesite lava with 53 % SiO2. This volcano is monitored by Alaska Volcano Observatory which is a joint program of United States Geological Survey, Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and State of Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

Great Sitkin Volcano

It is a stratovolcano comprising of caldera and dome. It is located about 1,851 kilometres southwest of Anchorage.

Semisopochnoi Volcano

This volcano is located about 241 kilometres away on an uninhabited island at western end of Aleutian Islands. It has been erupting intermittently. On August 4, 2021 it spitted an ash cloud that went to about 3,048 metres into the air.

Senior ministers from governments of Assam and Mizoram held a detailed discussion on August 5, 2021 regarding the boundary dispute between Assam & Mizoram.

Key Points

How peace will be maintained?

To maintain peace in inter-state border areas and deployment of central forces, both the government highlighted that, Assam and Mizoram would not send their respective forest and police forces for the purpose of patrolling, domination, enforcement or for fresh deployment in any area where confrontation had taken place between police forces of both the states. It includes the areas along Assam-Mizoram border in the districts of Karimganj, Hailakandi & Cachar in Assam, and Mamit & Kolasib districts of Mizoram.

Assam-Mizoram Boundary Dispute

Boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram dates back to colonial era when inner lines were demarcated in accordance with administrative needs of British Raj. This dispute started from two notifications passed under British era.

  1. Notification of 1875- It differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar. It was derived from Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  2. Notification of 1933- It demarcated a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.

Mizoram is of the view that, boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification and is opposing the 1933 notification citing that Mizo society was not consulted. While, Assam government follows notification of 1933. Thus, dispute is there because of differing perception of the border.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on August 6, 2021.

Highlights

Background

Bilateral relationship between India and Australia was raised to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at a virtual summit between PM Modi and Morrison held on June 4, 2020. During the meeting, India and Australia agreed to promote expanded trade and investment flows for mutual benefit. They also agreed to re-engage on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)

Negotiations for a CECA between India and Australia started in 2001 and it was finally materialised in 2020. With the CECA, India now has a better access to world’s 12th largest economy. Earlier, Half of India’s exports to Australia face stiff tariffs.  With CECA, Indian businesses have come into same footing as other Free Trade Agreement partners of Australia like China. This agreement is helping India to improve investments from Australia.

Why CECA was a deadlock?

CECA negotiation was agreed after decades because, India was having several concerns. India was opposing the greater access for Australian businesses in dairy sectors and agricultural markets to save the interests of its small and marginal farmers. India wanted a greater free movement and relaxed visa norms for IT professionals that Australia was reluctant to agree to citing unemployment as major reason. Both countries were also having different views on their preference towards Rules of Origin (ROO) while fixing tariff lines.

India is pushing for cars to run on ethanol made from sugar. This move of Indian government is increasing the risks of higher cost of sweetener worldwide.

Key Points

Background

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advanced the target for blending 20% ethanol in gasoline to 2025 which is five years earlier than it was planned.

How this target will be achieved?

In order to meet the 2025 target, India is required to almost triple ethanol production by about 10 billion litres in a year. It will require $7 billion of investment.

Challenges that India will face

Advantages of ethanol blending

  1. Ethanol blending will reduce air pollution.
  2. It will cut India’s oil import bills.
  3. It will also help in soaking up domestic sugar glut and increase investment across rural areas.

How government is supporting the process?

Government is offering financial support to sugar mills in order to set up or expand distilleries. For instance, Balrampur Chini Mills Ltd. will stop producing sugar at some of its mills and start processing cane juice to make ethanol.

India’s strategy

India is following the Brazilian model that has promoted sugarcane-based ethanol for more than 40 years in order to increase energy security, ease its sugar glut and cut dependency on oil imports. Presently, Brazil has the largest fleet of flex-fuel cars running on any blend of ethanol and gasoline. India will also allow production of ethanol-based flex engines.

India has not been invited Russia led ‘extended Troika meet.

Highlights

Why this meeting will take place?

Russia led meeting will be held because Taliban is still continuing its major offensive in Afghanistan. So, Russia has stepped up its efforts in order to reach out to all key stakeholders in war-torn country so that violence can be stopped.  Meeting will also give a push to Afghan peace process.

Other steps by Russia

Russia has also been holding ‘Moscow Format’ of talks in order to bring peace and create conditions for process of national reconciliation in Afghanistan. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov also highlighted in Tashkent that, Russia will continue to work with India and other countries to find solution for Afghanistan.

India’ stands on Afghanistan peace process

At the last Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in Dushanbe, India urged Taliban to abide by Moscow format, Doha process (talks in Qatar), as well as Istanbul processes (an initiative of Turkey and Afghanistan) in order to instil peace in Afghanistan. India also asked Taliban to ensure that neighbours like Iran & Central Asia are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism.  In Moscow, India maintained that, basis for the India-Russia-Iran partnership followed in mid-1990s still remain valid because India asserted that, legitimacy of who ruled Afghanistan cannot be ignored.