UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 17th March 2022
Topics for the day:
- Kamikaze drones, the ‘lethal’ weapon being sent by US to Ukraine
- restores e-tourist visa for 156 countries
- Patent rights on COVID-19 jabs may be waived
- What are Heat Waves?
- One rank, one pension (OROP) scheme for the armed forces:
- Daylight saving time (DST)
- MGNREGA Scheme
Kamikaze drones, the ‘lethal’ weapon being sent by US to Ukraine
- Drones called kamikaze are a part of the tranche of weapons that are being sent by the US to Ukraine to assist their fight against Russia.
- There are drones that fire missiles and then there are ones which are missiles themselves. Called the Kamikaze or suicide drones, these are drones which are themselves missiles.
More on the news :
- US President Joe Biden announced $800 million in new military aid for Ukraine, including 800 additional Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 9,000 antitank weapons, 100 tactical drones and a range of small arms including machine guns and grenade launchers.
- In his words “This new package on its own is going to provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine”
What are kamikaze drones ?
- Also called Switchblade drones, these are small unmanned aircraft that are packed with explosives that can be flown directly at a tank or a group of troops that are destroyed when it hits the target and explodes.
- The single-use weapons are cheaper than most US drones, and come in two sizes
- The Switchblade 300 weighs about five pounds, flies up to 15 minutes at a time, and is designed to be carried in a backpack, assisting small infantry units tracking the Russians’ movements.
- The Switchblade 600, by comparison, weighs about 50 pounds, flies up to 40 minutes, and is known as a “loitering missile” that can target armoured vehicles.
- The drones have the capability of going past traditional defences to strike its targets and also cost a fraction of what the larger counterparts do.
- Weighing just five-and-a-half pounds, including its small warhead, the Switchblade can be taken into battle in a backpack and fly up to 7 miles to hit a target.
- They are called Switchblade because their bladelike wings spring out on launch.
- The drone, made by AeroVironment Inc(private company), has been in the arsenal of US commandos since it was secretly sent to Afghanistan in 2010 for use against the Taliban
- The Switchblade has a feature that allows the operator to adjust the blast radius. So, it can kill the driver of a vehicle but not a passenger, for example.
- The weapon can be “waved off” up to two seconds before impact
- The Switchblade also has cameras that show a target seconds before impact. The drone cruises at 63 miles per hour and provides “operators with real-time video downlinks for a centralised view of the area of operation”.
Comparison between Kamikaze drones and other drones :
- On the other hand we have Hellfire missiles raining down from Predator and Reaper drones to hit terrorist targets
- However, the drone war has changed as the $6,000 Kamikaze drones are fast replacing the $150,000 Predators.
- The small lethal drones are difficult to detect on radar, and they can even be programmed to hit targets without human intervention, based on facial recognition.
Govt. restores e-tourist visa for 156 countries
- After it announced that international flights to and from India will resume fully from March 27, the Centre restored the electronic tourist visa (e-TV) facility for 156 countries, the Union Home Ministry said in an order
More on the international flights resuming :
- The government recently announced that international flights would resume fully from March 27, two years after the country imposed a total ban on them to curb the spread of COVID-19 cases.
- “After having recognised the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India from 27.03.2022, i.e. start of Summer Schedule 2022,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.
- Though regular or scheduled international flights were banned on March 23, 2021, four months later the government started entering into bilateral “air-bubble” agreements with different countries starting with France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. amidst opposition by some of these countries to Air India’s repatriation flights for stranded Indians around the world. Today, India has agreements with 36 countries.
E-Visa Facility :
- However, all land and riverine borders, including the Attari-Wagah post along Pakistan, will continue to remain shut, except for those with special permission.
- The Ministry said that the “instructions will not be applicable to Afghanistan nationals” who will continue to be governed by e-Emergency X-Miscellaneous Visa.
- Currently valid e-tourist visa issued for five years, which was suspended since March 2020, shall stand restored to nationals of 156 eligible countries with immediate effect. Nationals of these 156 counties will also be eligible for issuance of fresh e-tourist visa
- The order said valid regular (paper) tourist visa with validity of five years, issued to foreign nationals of all countries, shall be restored. The long duration (10 years) regular tourist visa for the citizens of the U.S. and Japan, issued before March 2020, has also been restored.
- The Ministry said foreign nationals who have tourist/ e-tourist visas may enter India only through designated sea immigration check posts or international airports.
What is e-visa
- e-Visa enables the prospective visitor to apply for an Indian Visa from his/her home country online without visiting the Indian Mission and also pay the visa fee online.
- Once approved, the applicant receives an email authorizing him/her to travel to India and he/she can travel with a print out of this authorisation.
- On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country.
- e-Visa has been sub-divided into 5 categories i.e. e-tourist visa, e-Business visa, e-Medical visa, e-Conference and e-Medical Attendant
- Duration of stay in India of e-Tourist and e-Business visa is maximum upto 1 year with multiple entry subject to the stay stipulations
- On e-Tourist Visa continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa except nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan. In case of nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days.
- On e-Business visa continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa.
Patent rights on COVID-19 jabs may be waived
- Intellectual property rights held by international pharmaceutical companies on COVID-19 vaccines may be relaxed for up to five years, according to a proposal by the European Union (EU) against the backdrop of a festering two-year-old dispute at the World Trade Organization involving India, the U.S., South Africa and the EU.
More on the News :
- This reprieve will, however, not apply to COVID-19 drugs and diagnostic devices, though the EU proposed a “discussion” on this in the next six months and also rebuffed India’s original demand for a waiver on intellectual property restrictions on COVID therapeutics.
- This waiver will allow pharmaceutical companies in developing countries not only to make but also, later export vaccines without explicit permission from the patent holders
- Currently many developing countries, including India, already have a system of compulsory licensing, whereby exigencies can permit the government to authorise production of a drug or vaccine irrespective of whether it is protected by patents.
- A clause in the text said these “waivers” would apply to developing countries that have not exported more than 10% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021 and it is unclear if India was included in this definition.
Indian patent Act :
- The Patents Act, 1970 is the legislation that till date governs patents in India
- The major amendment was in 2005, when product patent was extended to all fields of technology like food, drugs, chemicals and micro organism
- Some salient features of the Act include:
- product and process patent
- term of patent as 20 years
- patent examination conducted on request
- fast track mechanism for quick disposal of appeals
- pre-grant and post-grant opposition allowed
- protection of biodiversity and traditional knowledge
- publication of applications after 18 months of date of filing of patent application
- One of the most important aspects of Indian Patents Act, 1970, is compulsory licensing of the patent subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions.
- Section 3(d) stipulates that the mere discovery of a new form of a known substance which does not result in the enhancement of the known efficacy of that substance unless such known process results in a new product or employs at least one new reactant, is not patentable (no evergreening)
Heat Waves :
- The Konkan region, including Mumbai, has been experiencing sweltering heat in the recent days, with maximum temperatures touching the 40-degree mark.
- The ongoing heatwave in Konkan, including Mumbai, is because it is under the direct influence of the prevailing heatwave in the adjacent Saurashtra-Kutch regions of Gujarat.
- The hot and dry winds from northwest India are reaching parts of Konkan.
- In addition, the slow movement of sea breeze along the Maharashtra coast and the overall clear sky conditions have together resulted in such hot conditions.
What is a heatwave?
- The heat wave is considered when the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
- If the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, then an increase of 5°C to 6°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave Further, an increase of 7°C or more from the normal temperature is considered as severe heat wave condition.
- If the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, then an increase of 4°C to 5°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition. Further, an increase of 6°C or more is considered as severe heat wave
- Additionally, if the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, a heat wave is declared.
Reasons why India is experiencing more heat waves are :
- Magnified effect of paved and concrete surfaces in urban areas and a lack of tree cover.
- Urban heat island effects can make ambient temperatures feel 3 to 4 degrees more than what they are.
- More heat waves were expected as globally temperatures had risen by an average 0.8 degrees in the past 100 years.
- Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.
- High intensity of UV rays in medium-high heat wave zones.
- Combination of exceptional heat stress and a predominantly rural population makes India vulnerable to heat waves.
One rank, one pension (OROP) scheme for the armed forces:
- The Supreme Court upheld the Centre’s one rank, one pension (OROP) scheme for the armed forces.
What is one rank one pension :
- OROP means the payment of the same pension to military officers for the same rank for the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement.
- The Centre had promised that pensions of “all pensioners would be protected.” The scheme mandated the re-fixation of pension every five years.
Arguments in favour of OROP :
- The shorter period of service of military officers: The defense personnel is made to retire at the age of 33 to 35 years due to the necessity of maintaining a younger army whereas the officer of civil side retires at the age of 60 years
- Low salaries and pensions have lured youth into the far more lucrative corporate sector or civilian arms of government. Hundreds of officers opt out of the services for better financial prospects. This has led to an acute shortage of manpower in the armed forces.
- The disparity between past and present pensioners has grown with every successive Pay Commission. There’s a need to bridge the difference.
- Civil servants are protected under Section 47 of the Disability Act that prevents their termination. However people in the army are not protected under the act,thus they can be discharged from work anytime.
Arguments against OROP :
- Additional fiscal burden of 10000cr every year.
- Also since OROP is being implemented retrospectively from 1st July, 2014 there are huge arrears.
- Armed force personnel are already provided separate military service pay, field area allowance, counter insurgency allowance etc. They get various benefits, not accorded to their civilian counterparts, such as dedicated army hospitals, army schools, army colleges, subsidized food and beverages etc.
- Similar demands can be made by the CAPF, BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP etc in the future who also serve in risky environments.
Daylight saving time (DST)
- The United States Senate on March 15, 2022 unanimously passed a law making daylight saving time (DST) permanent, scrapping the biannual practice of putting clocks forward and back coinciding with the arrival and departure of winter.
- If the legislation, Sunshine Protection Act, passes in the House of Representatives as well, and is signed into law by President Joe Biden, it will come into effect in November 2023.
What is Daylight Saving Time?
- Also called summer time, it is the system for uniformly advancing clocks, so as to extend daylight hours during conventional waking time in the summer months.
- The practice was first suggested in an essay by Benjamin Franklinin 1784.
- In countries in the Northern Hemisphere, clocks are usually set ahead one hour in late March or in April and are set back one hour in late September or in October.
What is the use of DST ?
- Achieve energy efficiency: Increasing focus on energy efficiency due to climate change because of over consumption of energy makes DST relevant.
- DST is thus an environmentally sustainable concept.
- To ensure that the clocks show a later sunrise and later sunset in effect ensure a longer evening daytime.
- DST results in completion of routine work an hour earlier. DST is meant to save energy.
Opposition to DST :
- On Agriculture: One reason why farmers oppose DST is that grain is best harvested after dew evaporates, so when field hands arrive and leave earlier in summer, their labor is less valuable.
- Dairy farmers are concerned because their cows are sensitive to the timing of milking, so delivering milk earlier disrupts their systems.
- A spike in workplace injuries: A study of mining injuries across the U.S, found that there was a spike in workplace injuries of nearly 6 percent on the Monday following the shift to daylight saving time.
- On labour and work productivity: Workplace productivity the week after DST drastically decreases. People are tired and lethargic due to a reduction in sleep.
MGNREGA Scheme :
- According to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted to the Lok Sabha, various issues are hampering the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme.
What are the issues according to the committee ?
- Some of these issues are Fake job cards, widespread corruption, late uploading of muster rolls, huge pending payments for wages and materials and insufficient funding.
- Genuine labourers are not getting their dues while money keeps changing hands due to collusion of unscrupulous elements surrounding the implementation of scheme at ground level
- The Committee said that study visits and observations had shown that “rozgar sevaks are in the habit of filling up kachha muster at the start and go to the Block once a week for online uploading of muster-rolls”.
- It noted that if the muster-roll is not updated and uploaded within the stipulated time, it could not be backdated, causing a loss in payment.
- Pending wages amounted to 4,060 crore, while material component payments are pending to the tune of Rs.9,000 crore.
- The panel found it “alarming” that in such a scenario, the budget estimates for the scheme for 2022-23 were reduced from the 78,000 crore sought by the Department of Rural Development, to Rs.73,000 crore.
UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 17th March 2022
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