Current Affairs 11-11-17

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answered Nov 11 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

 For a wider cover: meeting climate goals

Context--The following article discuss thatIndia made a Bonn Challenge commitment to place into restoration 13 million hectares (Mha) of degraded land by 2020 and an additional 8 Mha by 2030.

Introduction-India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have also pledged to sequester 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent additionally by 2030 through enhanced tree cover.

 Initial government estimates suggest that to achieve this, India will need to extend tree cover on at least 28-34 million hectares, outside of the existing forest cover.

Action Taken By various State Government-As different States work to achieve these commitments, it appears that there is an over-reliance on plantations.

Examples are M.P. and U.P.where record plantation is done and it is expected that Other States are also expected to follow suit.

Misunderstanding related to the Bonn Challenge and NDC-1.Neither the Bonn Challenge nor the NDCs are about large-scale plantations alone.

2.The Bonn Challenge, for instance, lays emphasis on landscape approaches — a model aimed at improving the ecology of a landscape as a whole in order to benefit local livelihoods and conserve biodiversity.

3.The NDC lays emphasis not only on carbon sequestration but also adaptation to climate change through a strengthened flow of benefits to local communities that are dependent on forests and agriculture for sustenance.

4.This also reflects the spirit of India’s policy framework on forests which lays emphasis on a landscape approach to manage forest and tree cover, so that the flow of multiple ecosystem services — including food security, climate mitigation and adaptation, conservation of biological diversity and water supplies — is secured.

5.Therefore, large-scale plantation drives, which often do not lay stress on species selection, the quality of planting materials or survival rates, nor recognise tenure and resource rights to ensure that the benefit flows to communities, do not really achieve the goals.

Plantations do have their space, but as one among a larger suite of interventions.

What should be correct approach?-

1.To operationalise a landscape approach, we must protect healthy forest areas from deforestation, degradation and fragmentation.

2.we must creatively integrate trees into different land uses.

3.India has numerous models that are suited for different regions and farm household sizes to draw upon, and must not rely on plantation drives alone to secure environmental and developmental outcomes.

4. The various agroforestry models, that combine different trees that provide timber, fruits, fodder, fuel and fertilizers with food crops, diversifies income from farming, and improves land productivity.

5.Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) systems where farmers protect and manage the growth of trees and shrubs that regenerate naturally in their fields from root stock or from seeds dispersed through animal manure can also deliver several economic and ecosystem benefits.

Examples-The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NABARD’s) ‘Wadi’ model and the Foundation for Ecological Security’s re-greening of village commons project.

Other Proactive measures-1.It is also important to have in place a performance monitoring system to quantify tree survival rates and the benefits to communities. This can be achieved through a combination of remote sensing, crowd sourced, ground-level monitoring with support from communities and civil society organisations.

2. It is also critical to use scientific evidence-based methodology with a participatory approach to determine the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to a certain land use. A tool called the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is being used in 40 countries.

Conclusion-India has the policy framework, the political will and financing to endorse landscape restoration. What we really need now is innovation and imagination to build replicable and scalable models with a participatory approach to achieve the country’s climate goals through landscape restoration.

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answered Nov 11 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

It takes a village(GS ,Governance-Accounatbility)

Context-The article talks about why teachers only are not accountable in school education.

Introduction- In the recent times,The idea mooted to fix education by holding teachers accountable for student test scores.

 But in the present context,The problem is-i)whether test scores are the only way to assess how well education systems are performing;

ii)whether teachers are the only ones to blame for low-performing systems;

iii)and whether ‘blame’ itself is the right approach at all.

What does UNESCO report says?-

i)UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/18 is a comprehensive and nuanced look at the role of accountability in global education systems in the effort to achieve the vision of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, and to promote lifelong learning.

ii)The report points out that providing universal quality education depends not on the performance of teachers alone, but is the shared responsibility of several stakeholders: governments, schools, teachers, parents, the media and civil society, international organisations, and the private sector.

 It does indeed take an entire village.

Why should teacher not blamed alone?

  1. Teachers, doing a complex and difficult job against many odds, are only one rung in the complex chain that makes up the education system.
  2.  It is unfair to hold them responsible for factors that are not in their hands. For example, nearly half of teacher absenteeism in Indonesia in one year was due to excused time for study, during which substitutes should have been provided.
  3. Study done across six States carried out by the Azim Premji Foundation has found that while the overall percentage of teachers not in school was 18.5%, most of these were either out of school on other official duty, or on bonafide leave. Actual teacher absenteeism because of teachers’ truancy was 2.5%.

Conclusion- Punish teachers is a bad idea for many reasons, including the risk that it might result in teachers simply teaching ‘to the test’. Teaching to the test is never a good way forward for any education system.

Examination scores by themselves are an inadequate way of assessing the complex process of teaching and learning. 

It is time to talk of accountability with a constructive focus on the role of each stakeholder in the education system.

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answered Nov 11 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

The risk of rising crude oil prices(GS 3,Economy,Infrastructure-Energy)

Context-The article talks about rising price of crude oil on India.

How India has benefited from Crude oil?

- As a large importer of crude oil, India benefited significantly from lower prices.

-It helped contain inflation and had a favourable impact on both the fiscal and current account deficits.

Rising Price of crude oil- Oil prices touched a two-year high earlier this week and have gone up by about 14% over the last one month.

Reason for price rise-i)Drawdown in inventories, especially in the US,

ii)better compliance with the voluntary production cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec),

iii)slower pickup in US shale oil and continued geopolitical risk in West Asia.

iv)According to Bloomberg data, Opec members reduced production more than they had initially agreed to.

 Further, the internal power struggle in Saudi Arabia has added to the uncertainty.

v)According to the International Monetary Fund, Saudi Arabia will need oil prices to be at $70 per barrel for fiscal break-even in 2018. 

vi) Members of Opec will meet later this month and it is likely that they will work to push oil prices to around the $70 per barrel mark in the coming year.

Present situation of India and likely Impact- i)Even though India is in a relatively strong macroeconomic position, a higher level of oil prices could still pose challenges for policymakers.

ii)India witnessed a significant positive terms of trade shock when oil prices fell by over 50% between 2014 and 2015 has shown that the windfall for the government was to the tune of 0.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of lower subsidy outgo and higher tax collection, which helped boost public investments. Households and firms also benefited.

iii)Higher oil prices could have the opposite effect and impede economic recovery in the coming quarters.

iv)They could have implications for growth, inflation, currency, current account deficit and fiscal deficit.

Every $10 increase in oil price increases consumer price inflation by 0.6-0.7 percentage point. It also estimates that a similar rise worsens India’s current account balance by 0.4% of the GDP.

v) Given India’s macroeconomic position, the impact of higher oil prices on individual indicators may not look worrying as of now, but put together with added uncertainty related to revenue and economic activity due to teething problems with the goods and services tax, could worsen the outlook for India.

vi) The Indian crude basket was at $62.4 per barrel on 8 November.

-Expectation of higher inflation will reduce the chance of a potential rate cut and could affect market sentiment.

- Bond yields have gone up in recent weeks.

vii) Higher oil prices will also affect corporate India’s profit margins and could delay the much awaited earnings revival. viii)A relatively less favourable macro outlook and a decline in profit margins would affect the equity market where stocks are richly valued.

Conclusion- i)The situation is not alarming for India at the moment, but policymakers would do well to remain watchful.

ii)It is likely that the RBI’s monetary policy committee will mull over the possible fallout in its next meeting in December.

Iii)Meanwhile, the government would be well advised to avoid reducing duty if prices remain at higher levels.

iv) It would need higher revenue to push capital expenditure and move forward with fiscal consolidation. It will be extremely important to keep fiscal deficit in control in order to protect hard-won macroeconomic stability.

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answered Nov 11 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Swachh Corporate Abhiyaan: 10 key recommendations of Kotak panel to Sebi (GS 2,Governance,Government Policies and interventions)

Background-With the view of improving corporate governance standards of listed companies in India, the panel under the chairmanship of Uday Kotak  submitted its report to the Sebi, suggesting a host of changes for bringing in transparency at companies’ boards. 

Significance-The panel’s report gains significance in the backdrop of recent boardroom battles at some of the biggest Indian corporate houses, including Tata Group and Infosys.

Markets regulator Sebi had formed the 24-member group in June that consisted of representatives of Corporate India, stock exchanges, professional bodies, investor groups, chambers of commerce, law firms, academicians and research professionals and Sebi officials. 
Here are the some of the key suggestions of the panel 

1. Panel suggested that it was the the right time to split chairman, MD-CEO role of listed companies 

2. Panel suggested it should be mandatory for top 500 companies by market capitalization to undertake D&O insurance for its independent directors. D&O Insurance stands for Directors and Officers insurance 

3. Panel suggests minimum of 6 directors to be on board of listed entities; every listed entity to have at least 1 independent woman director 

4. Panel suggested more transparency on appointment of independent directors; wants them to play a more active role on  .. 
5. Panel suggested maximum number of listed entity directorship to be reduced to 8. At least half of every listed entities board to have independent directors 

6. Panel suggested Audit Committee must review use of loans/adv/ investment by holding co in arm over Rs 100 crore 

7. Panel suggested application to fill a casual vacancy of office of any Independent Director must be okayed by holders; minimum number of Audit Committee meetings be increased to five every year .

8. Panel suggested no person to be appointed as alternate director for an independent director of a listed company 

9. Panel suggested a formal induction should be mandatory for every new Independent Director appointed to the board 

10. Panel suggested BoD to be updated on regulatory & compliance changes at least once a year; as well as an interaction between NEDs & senior management 
 

Conclusion- The proposed recommendations should shake things up in Indian boardrooms.

Their implementation will require fundamental changes on multiple fronts. But overall, they should bring reforms that will strengthen India’s corporate governance and increase international investment prospects.

- As someone had famously said, “We should all be concerned about the future, because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.”

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answered Nov 11 by prashant1984 (23,320 points)

Groundnut crop free of toxin(GS 3,Science and technology-Biotechnology)

·         Researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad have recently used the gene silencing technique to keep groundnuts free of aflatoxin contamination.

·         Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

·         Researchers deployed two strategies to prevent groundnuts being infected by the fungus.

·         One is inserting two alfalfa (flowering plant of pea family) genes to enhance immunity against fungal infection and growth.

·         Another is preventing aflatoxin production even in case of any infection through a plant-induced gene silencing technique.

Gene Silencing Technique

·         Gene silencing is a technique that aims to reduce or eliminate the production of a protein from its corresponding gene.

·         It generally describe the “switching off” of a gene by a mechanism other than genetic modification

·         It occurs when RNA is unable to make a protein during translation (gene expression).

·         In the groundnut case, the researchers designed two small RNA molecules that silence the fungal genes which produce aflatoxin.

·         When the fungus and plant come in contact with each other the small RNA molecules from the plant enter the fungus and prevent it from producing aflatoxin (protein) by its corresponding gene.

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