Daily Current Affairs - 17-08-2021

Vriksharopan Abhiyan – 2021 of Coal Ministry is all set to be Launched on August 19, 2021. It will be launched as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Key Points

Vriksharopan Abhiyan 2021

It is a key event under the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations in coal sector. It will bring environment sustainability in mining operations. It will also help the coal sector to obtain social and environmental licence in order for it to operate.  It will be very crucial as more mines will be opened up by involving new players. It will sensitize and motivate society and common people to take more afforestation initiatives in their areas.

Challenges before India

India is a fast-emerging economy that faces the double challenges of decarbonizing the energy sector and meeting its rising energy demand.

How energy demand is met in India?

Energy demand would primarily be reliant on coal because of its affordability and availability. Thus, coal sector plays a very crucial role in meeting India’s energy demand. In the line, coal sector in India has been taking various innovative initiatives to promote sustainable mining.

According to Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, six lakh villages in India will get internet connectivity by 2024 under the Bharat Net programme.

Key Points

BharatNet initiative

It is a flagship mission that is being implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL). This Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was set up Government of India under Companies Act, 1956. It was under Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in the initial phase (bifurcated into Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Electronics & Information technology in 2016). Currently, this initiative is being implemented by Department of Telecommunication under Ministry of Communications.

Background

Government had launched the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) in October 2011. In 2015, this project was renamed as Bharat Net Project.

National Optical Fibre Network

This mission was launched as an information superhighway by creating a robust middle-mile infrastructure to extend broadband connectivity to Gram Panchayats. It was launched by Ministry of Communications to facilitate universal and equitable access to broadband services.

The Reserve Bank of India introduced the financial inclusion index on August 17, 2021.

Key Points

About Financial Inclusion Index (FI Index)

Unique feature of the Index

Unique feature is its quality parameter that captures the quality aspect of financial inclusion on the line of financial literacy, consumer protection etc.

Base-year of index

FI-Index has been created without any base year. It reflects cumulative efforts of all stakeholders towards financial inclusion. It will be published annually in July.

Challenges of Financial Inclusion

According to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das, there are three challenges of improving financial inclusion infrastructure across India:

  1. Identification of the customer
  2. Reaching the last mile and
  3. Providing relevant, affordable and safe products.

Social media giant, Facebook, banned the Taliban and all the content supporting it from its platforms after designating the Taliban as a terrorist organisation.

Highlights

Facebook’s high-profile decisions

Facebook made several high-profile decisions on handling sitting world leaders and groups in power in year 2021. For instance, it blocked former U.S. President Donald Trump for inciting violence and banned on Myanmar’s military following coup in the country.

About Facebook Inc.

It is an American multinational technology company, headquartered in Menlo Park, California. It was founded in 2004 as TheFacebook. Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, are its founding members. This social networking service became Facebook and amasses some 2.9 billion monthly users by 2021. It acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp & Oculus in 2014. Facebook is world’s most valuable companies and is among Big Five companies in U.S. information technology besides Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Facebook offers products and services like Facebook Watch, Facebook Messenger and Facebook Portal. Facebook also acquired Giphy and Mapillary. It is having a take of 9.99% in Jio Platforms.

The public sector undertaking of the Defence Ministry, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has successfully carried ground tests for making a civilian aircraft named ‘Hindustan-228’.

Key Points

Ground run and low speed taxi trials (LSTT) of the Hindustan-228 aircraft was carried out at HAL facility at Kanpur.

About Hindustan-228

It is a 19-seat multirole utility aircraft. It has been built on the basis of existing frame of military plane Dornier 228. This civil version will be used for various applications like air ambulance, VIP transport, passenger transport, cloud seeding, flight inspection roles and recreational activities such as para jumping, photography, aerial surveillance and cargo applications.

Aim of the aircraft

Hindustan-228 aircraft has been built with the aim of supporting the regional connectivity scheme- UDAN. It will be utilised by civil operators and state Governments for their intra and inter-state connectivity by providing support towards training, maintenance and logistics.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)

HAL is a state-owned aerospace and defence company, having its headquarter in headquartered in Bangalore. It was established on December 23, 1940. It is the oldest and largest aerospace and defence manufacturers across the world. It started manufacturing aircraft in 1942 with licensed production of aircrafts like Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Harlow PC-5, and Vultee A-31 Vengeance. HAL is currently having 11 dedicated Research and development (R&D) centres along with 21 manufacturing divisions.

Who manages HAL?

HAL is managed by a Board of Directors who are appointed by the President of India. They are appointed through the Ministry of Defence.

Secretary General of United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has asked the international community to unite and use all available instruments in order to ensure Afghanistan is not used as safe haven for terrorists again.

Key Points

United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

UNSC is one among six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). It is responsible for ensuring international peace and security. It also recommends admission of new UN members to the General Assembly and approves any changes to the UN Charter. It is the only UN body that have the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states.

Power of UNSC

Powers of UNSC comprises of:

  1. To establish peacekeeping operations
  2. To enact international sanctions and
  3. To authorize military action.

History

Security Council was set up after World War II to address the failings of League of Nations in maintaining peace across the world. First session of UNSC was held in January 1946.

Members of UNSC

It comprises of fifteen members. Out of it, five are permanent members namely, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. Permanent members can use the veto power on any substantive resolution. Other ten members are elected on a regional basis for a term of two years.

Presidency of UNSC

Presidency of UNSC rotates monthly among its members. Currently, India holds the Presidency for the month of August 2021.

Militants in Gaza Strip fired rocket at Israel on August 16, 2021.

Key Points

Gaza–Israel conflict

Gaza-Israel conflict is the part of localized Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It is also a scene of power struggle between regional powers like Iran, Egypt and Turkey. Qatar supports different sides of this conflict in the backdrop of regional standoff between Iran & Saudi Arabia and between Qatar & Saudi Arabia.

Background

This conflict was originated after the election of Islamist political party called Hamas in 2005 and 2006 in Gaza Strip. Conflict escalated following the split of Palestinian Authority Palestinian government into Fatah government in West Bank and Hamas government in Gaza.

Israel–Gaza barrier

This barrier was completed in 1996. It has helped in reducing the infiltration from Gaza Strip into Israel. With the start of Second Intifada, Gazans are not permitted to enter Israel for work purposes. Special permits for medical purposes to enter Israel were also reduced.

About Gaza Strip

It is a self-governing Palestinian territory situated on the eastern coast of Mediterranean Sea. It shares border with Egypt in southwest, Israel in east & north. Gaza and West Bank are claimed by sovereign State of Palestine.  Territories of Gaza and West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory and it is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian Authority.

Researchers from University of Pennsylvania in US have developed a new cheaper, faster and more accurate Covid diagnostic test that uses electrodes made from graphite to test the SARS CoV-2 Virus. It is the material found in pencil lead.

Highlights

About Graphite

Graphite is a crystalline form of element carbon. In Graphite, atoms of carbon are arranged in a hexagonal structure. Graphite is also called as plumbago. It occurs naturally in this form only and is considered as the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions.

Features of Graphite

Types of Graphite

Major types of natural graphite are:

  1. Crystalline small flakes of graphite– It occurs naturally as an isolated, flat, plate-like particle with hexagonal edges (if unbroken) and irregular or angular edges (when not broken).
  2. Amorphous graphite– Fine flake graphite is called as amorphous graphite.
  3. Lump graphite– Also called as vein graphite. It occurs in fissure veins or fractures.

Occurrence of Graphite

Graphite occurs in metamorphic rocks because of reduction of sedimentary carbon compounds during metamorphism. It also occurs in igneous rock. Minerals associated with graphite are calcite, quartz, micas and tourmaline.

US President, Joe Biden, noted that he stands by his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and blamed leadership in Afghanistan for giving in to the Taliban without any retaliation.

Key Points

US training to Afghan troops

Biden highlighted, US has spent over a trillion dollars for training and equipping Afghan military force (300,000 or more in number).  This force is incredibly well equipped and larger in size than militaries of many of the NATO allies. America also paid their salaries and provided aid for maintenance of their air force.

Why US withdrew from Afghanistan?

  1. US decided to withdrew troops from Afghanistan following a costly and prolonged military intervention in the Middle East. US realised that, it can’t fix centuries-old conflicts there.
  2. Promise to end America’s “endless wars” was the central themes of former US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
  3. US now consider China as revisionist power that can challenge US’ hegemony across the world. Thus, US now wants to shift its military, political and diplomatic resources from Middle east to Indo-pacific region.

Maharashtra reported 10 new cases of the Delta Plus variant. With this, total cases of Delta Plus variant has increased to 76 in the state.

Key Points

Delta Plus Variant

SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant is also called as lineage B.1.617.2 or Indian variant. This variant was first detected in India in late 2020. It was named as ‘Delta Variant” by World Health Organization (WHO) on May 31, 2021. It comprises of mutations in the gene encoding SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Delta with K417N corresponds to lineages AY.1 as well as AY.2. This variant is called as “Delta plus” or “Nepal variant”. It comprises of K417N mutation. Such mutation is also present in Beta variant. The exchange at position 417 is a substitution of lysine-to-asparagine. The variant of the coronavirus is considered as highly infectious. It was first detected during genome sequencing of swab samples from across the states in India.

Background

Delta Variant came to international attention in March 2021 following the genome sequencing by newly established INSACOG. Genome sequencing was performed on positive cases in Indian states. Lineage B.1.617 later called as double mutant by news media.

INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics)

It is the forum under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It was established on December 25, 2020 by the government in order to study and monitor genome sequencing and virus variation of different strains of COVID-19 in India.

Malaysian Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, resigned on August 16, 2021 following the months of political turmoil in the country.

Highlights

Caretaker PM

King of Southeast Asian nation have appointed Muhyiddin as the caretaker PM until a new PM is selected. No timeline has been set. As caretaker, he will have no cabinet. However, he will perform executive functions and advise the king until a new PM is appointed.

How PM will be appointed?

King Al-Sultan Abdullah has decided not to held elections because of the covid-19 pandemic. King would be invoking his constitutional power to appoint a prime minister who can command a majority.

Who is Muhyiddin Yassin?

Muhyiddin aged 74, is a veteran politician who started his career with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). He then jumped the ship amid tumult of multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal in 2015. He was appointed as Prime Minister of Malaysia in March 2020 following a political turmoil.

Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Malaysia was triggered by a power grab within the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition. It led to the resignation of former PM Mahathir Mohamad.

On August 15, 2021, the fundamentalist Islamic force called the Taliban entered Kabul after gaining control over much of the country following the withdrawal of US troops.

Highlights

About Taliban

The Islamic force called Taliban were founded in southern Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammad Omar was the founder of the group. He was a member of the Pashtun tribe who became a mujahideen commander. He helped in pushing Soviets out of the country in 1989. Later in 1994, Mullah Omar formed the group in Kandahar comprising of 50 followers. They captured Kandahar & seized Kabul in 1996 and imposed strict Islamic rules. These rules banned television & music, stopped girls from going to school and forced women to wear burqas.

Why US troops invaded them?

American troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled Taliban’s control when Taliban refused U.S. demand to hand over bin Laden.

Why Taliban is fighting?

The Taliban are fighting against U.S.-backed government in Kabul. They seek to reimpose their strict version of Islam in Afghanistan.

Who is the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, who is a Pashtun from Kandahar, is currently the leader of Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban have set up a council of leaders based in Pakistan called Quetta Shura. It guides the group’s decisions.

How do they fund themselves?

The Taliban makes money by Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. They impose taxes on poppy growers and heroin producers in the areas of Afghanistan it controls. They also impose taxes on businesses and operate illegal mines. Besides, it receives funding from supporters in Pakistan and the Gulf.

Union Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) has announced a new category of visa for Afghans on August 17, 2021.

Key Points

Taliban regime in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters seized Afghanistan by taking complete control of Kabul on August 15, 2021. Following the fall of Kabul, militant Islamist group announced an end to the 20-year war and declared its victory over Afghanistan.

India’s interest in Afghanistan

After Taliban troops took control of Kabul, India finds its strategic interests threatened in the region. India started looking after Afghanistan post operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ by US. After this operation ended in 2014, India started extending its friendly relation with Afghanistan government including the long-term strategic interest and immediate humanitarian effort. India built projects like roads, dams, electricity transmission lines & substations, schools and hospitals in Afghanistan. India’s development assistance is estimated to be around $3 billion.

How it impacts India’s foreign policy?

Taliban’s seizing of Afghanistan now pose threat to India’s strategic interests including projects like Stor Palace and Salma Dam.

Impact of Taliban’s control in India

  1. Taliban is only 400 km away from the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir region. It has captured Badakhshan province in Afghanistan, near to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It puts them in a position to export terrorism in India. Taliban would now expand training facilities and bases for these militant groups in Afghanistan, leading to rise in terrorism.
  2. Reports suggest that, Taliban has the support of Pakistan. Furthermore, China has stated its willingness to develop friendly relations with Taliban. This would not be in favour of India.