1st December 2021| UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS |
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1st December 2021 Current Affairs MCQs
Farm fires added 14.6% to city’s PM2.5 in Nov
- Stubble burning being seasonal, its contribution to Delhi pollution lesser overall
- The contribution of stubble burning in neighbouring States to the daily levels of PM2.5 – a chief pollutant – inDelhi was as high as 48% on November 7 and averaged 33.5% during the week after Deepavali (November 511).
This is the same period when air pollution spiked in the Capital, National Capital Region and several other north Indian States.
The average contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s PM2.5 level in November was 14.6%, according to data from the governmentrun monitoring agency SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research). The highest contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 in Delhi for a day was 58% in 2018, 43% in 2019, and 46% in 2020, said Gufran Beig, founder project director of SAFAR.
After initial confusion on November 15, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Central Government, had told the Supreme Court on November 17 that the contribution of farm fires to Delhi’s PM2.5 count was about 35% to 40% in October and November. The annual contribution is usually far lesser since the burning of stubble is only a seasonal activity and not all year round.
The effect of stubble burning on pollution in Delhi and NCR has been a political hot potato with the Delhi Government blaming neighbouring States for the hazardous dip in air quality during winter.
- Delhi usually experiences two spells of high air pollution during winter, one in October-November and the other in December-January.
- “During OctoberNovember, one of the main reasons for the high pollution in Delhi and NCR is stubble burning,” said Mr. Beig.
But the stubble burning season is over before the second spell in DecemberJanuary.
For instance, the contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 in Delhi has already come down to 1% on November 30, as per SAFAR data, and number of farm fires have also dwindled.
“During the second spell, the main reason for air pollution is the transport of pollutants from the rest of the IndoGangetic Plain to Delhi combined with extreme cold and foggy conditions,” said Mr. Beig. He said this year, the number of effective fire counts in OctoberNovember (the stubble burning season) according to SAFAR data is around 77,000, the highest in four years.
Admiral Hari Kumar is Navy chief
- He takes over at a time when the force is revising its perspective plan
- Admiral R. Hari Kumar on Tuesday took charge as the 25th Chief of the Naval Stafffrom Admiral Karambir Singh, who retired after a 41year career.
“It’s a matter of great honour for me to take charge as the CNS. The Indian Navy’s focus is on national maritime interests and challenges,” he said after reviewing a guardof honour on the South Block lawns here. He was earlier the Flag Officer CommandinginChief of the Western Naval Command.
Admiral Kumar takes over at a time when the Navy is in the process of revising its 15year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan to align it with the 10year Integrated Capability Development Plan being formulated by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA).
- During Admiral Singh’s tenure, the Navy has seen a manifold increase in engagements in the region, both with the littoral states and major partners. This was backed by a series of bilateral logistics support agreements and maritime cooperation agreements.
Admiral Kumar graduated from Jsquadron, 61 Course National Defence Academy, in December 1981 and was commissioned into the Executive Branch of the Navy on January 1, 1983.
During a career spanning nearly 39 years, he has served in a variety of Command, Staffand Instructional appointments. His Sea Command includes Indian Coast Guard Ship C01, INS
Nishank, missile corvette INS Kora and guided missile destroyer INS Ranvir. He also commanded aircraft carrier INS Viraat. He was the Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet.
Before taking over as FO CinC Western Naval Command, Admiral Kumar was Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Basil Rajapaksa to meet PM Modi
- He is likely to seek crucial economic assistance from India, say official sources
- Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Ministers over the next two days. He is likely to seek crucial economic assistance from India by way of investments and enhanced tourist exchanges, official sources in Colombo indicated.
- This is his first official visit abroad since his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, appointed him Finance Minister in July amid what the Government termed an “unprecedented” economic crisis — with draining foreign reserves, falling rupee (200 to a dollar), soaring living costs, and growing fear of a food shortage next year.
Mr. Basil recently presented his first Budget in Parliament. It is expected to be passed next week, with the Government’s twothirds majority in the House.
Since the pandemic struck, the Sri Lankan leadership has made at least two requests for economic assistance — a debt freeze that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa requested in February 2020, and a $1.1 billion currency swap that President Gotabaya sought in May 2020 — but New Delhi is yet to respond to either amid considerable strain after Sri Lanka unilaterally cancelled a tripartite agreement earlier this year with India and Japan to jointly develop a Colombo Port terminal. Colombo instead offered a “compromise” project at a neighbouring terminal, and India agreed to rope in the Adani Group as the main private investor.
- Meanwhile, high-profile visits have continued. Early October, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Sri Lanka and sought an early completion of the india backed projects, and enhanced connectivity between the countries.
- Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani visited Sri Lanka later in October and held talks with the leadership on the West Container Terminal Project at the Colombo Port, as well as potential investments in the energy sector.
While it was rumoured for some time that Mr. Basil, the youngest of the Rajapaksa brothers at Sri Lanka’s helm, would visit India before the end of the year, both sides kept the dates of his visit under wraps. The visiting Minister is also expected to meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, among others, in New Delhi.
Sri Lanka also sought enhanced strategic ties with India. Its High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi and “explored avenues of further augmenting defence and security cooperation with India”, a press release said.
New crypto Bill will be introduced soon: Govt.
- It will account for changes in virtual currency world: Nirmala
- Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Government was working on a new Bill oncryptocurrency which would take into account the rapidly changing dimensions in the virtual currency space.
The Bill would be presented to the Cabinet soon and brought in Parliament during the ongoing session.
The Enforcement Directorate was probing eight cases of cryptocurrencyrelated fraud, she said, before stressing that sharing more information might not be in the“larger public interest”.
The Minister was answering questions posed by several MPs during the Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha. BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta asked whether an outright ban of the currency was desirable.
The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, has been included in the tentative legislative business for the winter session. The description of the Bill, which said private cryptocurrency will be banned, created a huge furore. The listing is based on the old Bill.
“Yes, last time [monsoon session] there was a Bill but subsequently because there were other dimensions… That Bill has been reworked. And in a way the Bill which is coming now is a new Bill. But, never mind, the work done on that Bill has all been taken on board here.”
She refused to divulge the contours of the new Bill. “The issues pertaining to regulatory capacities and also the fact that it has proliferated in the last two or three years, are well taken note of,” she said.
- Asked if the Government proposes to ban misleading advertisements in media, the Minister said the guidelines of the Advertising Standards Council of India were being looked into “so that we can take, if necessary, some kind of a position or a decision to see how we are going to handle it”.
Ms. Sitharaman said the Government, the RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India have been cautioning people about the cryptocurrencies that could be a “high risk” area and “more can be done” to create awareness. She reiterated that cryptocurrencies were unregulated in India, and the Government did not collect data on such transactions.
To queries from Sushil Kumar Modi, Ms. Sitharaman said nonfungible Tokens (NFTs) were also unregulated, and clarified that no separate tax rate governed the income earned by cryptoexchanges and other cryptoservice providing platforms.
Their income, she said, was liable for tax under the head Business or Profession under Chapter IV of the Income Tax Act of 1961.
Russia has red line on Ukraine: Putin
- Any escalatory actions by Moscow will be a great concern and will trigger consequences: U.S.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response.
Commenting on Western concerns about Russia’s alleged intention to invade Ukraine, he said that Moscow is equally worried about NATO drills near its borders. Speaking to participants of an online investment forum, the Russian President said that NATO’s eastward expansion has threatened Moscow’s core security interests.
He expressed concern that NATO could eventually use the Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Russia’s command centres in just five minutes.
“The emergence of such threats represents a ‘re line’ for us,” Mr. Putin said. “I hope that common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the globalcommunity will eventually prevail.”
He added that Moscow has been forced to counter the growing threats by developing hypersonic weapons.
- “What should we do?” Mr. Putin said. “We would need to develop something similar to target those who threaten us. And we can do that even now.” He said a new hypersonic missile that is set to enter service with the Russian Navy early next year would be capable of reaching targets in comparable time. “It would also need just five minutes to reach those who issue orders,” Mr. Putin said.
- The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of 1,000 km, has undergone a series of tests, most recently on Monday.
warned on Tuesday of “serious consequences” for any renewed Russian aggression as NATO met to discuss Moscow’s intentions for massing troops on the border with Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to brief his 29 NATO counterparts on the U.S. intelligence picture on the group’s eastern flank and in Ukraine, which is not a member.
At a news conference in Latvia before the meeting, Mr. Blinken expressed alarm at the “unusual” Russian troop movements.
“Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States as they would to Latvia and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” he said.
Two Russian troop buildups this year on Ukraine’s borders have alarmed the West. In May, Russian troops there numbered 1,00,000, the largest since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Western officials say.
Mr. Putin argued that to avoid tensions, Russia and the West should negotiate agreements that would take the parties’ security interests into account. The Russian leader noted that Russia has been strongly worried about NATO’s drills near its borders, pointing at a recent exercise that involved U.S. strategic bombers.
- “Strategic bombers, which carry precision weapons and are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were flying as close as 20 km to our border,” he said. “That represents a threat for us.”
- The previous build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine early this year was followed by Mr. Putin’s summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in June in Geneva, where they agreed to launch a dialogueon strategic stability and cyber security.
- Mr. Putin hailed the discussions on cyber security between Russian and U.S. experts, saying “just as with the pandemic, it’s necessary to pool efforts to work efficiently.”
Asked about Mr. Biden’s bid to seek a second term, Mr. Putin hailed it, saying it would help the U.S. political stability. Drawing parallels with his own re-election plans, he indicated the possibility of him staying on has helped ensure stability.