Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 17th June-2021

 

Topics

  • Food and Agriculture Organisation
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  • Deep Ocean Mission
  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
  • Rare Earth Metals

 

 

  1. Food and Agriculture Organisation

#GS3 #GS2 #Agriculture #International organisations

Context:        

  • The 42nd session of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Conference was held recently.
  • For the first time ever, the FAO Conference is held in virtual mode.
  • The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare addressed the Conference.
  • The Conference takes place every two years and is FAO’s supreme governing body.
  • It determines the policies of the Organization, approves the budget, and makes recommendations to Members on food and agriculture issues.

FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031:

  • In this year’s Conference, FAO Members will adopt the Strategic Framework 2022-2031.
  • The Framework aims to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems for Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind.
  • The Agenda 2030 embraces five basic principles that feed into all SDGs – the ‘five Ps’: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.
  • The five Ps highlight how the SDGs are one intertwined framework and that progress on one P must balance and support progress on another.
  • At the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is a healthy planet that allows our agri-food systems to provide a healthy diet for all in a sustainable manner.

Challenges Ahead:

  • 690 million people suffered from hunger even before COVID-19.
  • Millions more are micronutrient deficient, and an alarmingly growing number of people are overweight across all ages, classes and borders.
  • The pandemic has increased the number of undernourished up to 132 million more people, highlighting the importance and vulnerability of the world’s agri-food systems.
  • The pandemic coupled with conflict and disruption is dealing devastating setbacks to food security, with millions of people facing the risk of famine.
  • Food markets continue to face uncertainties due to prospects of weak economic growth.
  • African swine fever and a catastrophic desert locust outbreak constitute major disasters, in addition to threats and shocks of climate change.
  • Agri-food systems which directly employ over 1 billion people and provide livelihoods to another 3.5 billion, are experiencing disruptions that could at least temporarily disrupt the incomes and, by extension, food access of 1.5 million people.
  • This unprecedented situation is an opportunity for the Organization and its Members to reaffirm FAO’s leadership and position as the UN agency mandated to defeat hunger and achieve global food and nutrition security while preserving the planet’s resources and reducing the environmental impact.

India’s Efforts for Food Security during the Covid-19 Pandemic:

  • High Production of Foodgrains: India registered an all-time high production of foodgrains at 305 million tonnes as well as in exports during 2020-21, contributing to global food security.
  • KISAN RAIL: It was introduced to transport the essential commodities including perishable horticulture produce, milk and dairy produce from the production centres to the large urban markets.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Under this scheme, free food grains were provided to 810 million beneficiaries and it has been further extended in which workers will be benefited till November, 2021.
  • PM Kisan Scheme: More than Rs.1,37,000 Crore have been sent to the bank accounts of over 100 million farmers under this to provide income support to the farmers.

About FAO:

  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16th October to mark the anniversary of the founding of the FAO in 1945.
  • It is one of the UN food aid organisations based in Rome (Italy). Its sister bodies are the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
  • Goal of FAO: Their goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

Important reports and Programmes:

  • Global Report on Food Crises.
  • Every two years, FAO publishes the State of the World’s Forests.
  • FAO and the World Health Organization created the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1961 to develop food standards, guidelines and texts.
  • In 1996, FAO organized the World Food Summit. The Summit concluded with the signing of the Rome Declaration, which established the goal of halving the number of people who suffer from hunger by the year 2015.
  • In 1997, FAO launched TeleFood, a campaign of concerts, sporting events and other activities to harness the power of media, celebrities and concerned citizens to help fight hunger.
  • The FAO Goodwill Ambassadors Programme was initiated in 1999. The main purpose of the programme is to attract public and media attention to the unacceptable situation that some 1 billion people continue to suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition in a time of unprecedented plenty.
  • In 2004 the Right to Food Guidelines were adopted, offering guidance to states on how to implement their obligations on the right to food.
  • FAO created the International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC in 1952.
  • FAO is depositary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also called Plant Treaty, Seed Treaty or ITPGRFA, entered into force on 29 June 2004.
  • The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Partnership Initiative was conceptualized in 2002 during World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

  1. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

#GS2 #Internal security #Judiciary

Context: Delhi High court called out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.

About the case:

  • Recently, the Delhi High Court granted bail to student who faced charges for being part of a “larger conspiracy” during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 protests which erupted into violence resulting in deaths across North-East Delhi.
  • While delivering the judgement, the court redefined the boundaries of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the UAPA.

Ruling:

  • Court opined that terrorist activity cannot be broadly defined to include ordinary penal offences.
  • Terrorist activity is that which travels beyond the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with under ordinary penal law. The court relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hitendra Vishnu Thakur.
  • The courts must be careful in employing the definitional words and phrases used in Section 15 of UAPA in their absolute literal sense, they should differentiate clearly how terrorism is different even from conventional, heinous crime.
  • Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life. In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life.
  • The court referred to how the Supreme Court itself, in case of Kartar Singh v State of Punjab 1994, flagged similar concerns against the misuse of another anti-terror law, the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (lapsed in 1995).
  • Court also observed that protests against Governmental and Parliamentary actions are legitimate; and though such protests are expected to be peaceful and non-violent, it is not uncommon for protesters to push the limits permissible in law.
  • The line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest (Article 19) and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred.

Sections 15, 17 and 18 of UAPA:

  • 15 engrafts the offence of ‘terrorist act’.
  • 17 lays-down the punishment for raising funds for committing a terrorist act.
  • 18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy etc. to commit a terrorist act or any act preparatory to commit a terrorist act’.

Implications of this judgment:

  • With this, the court has raised the bar for the State to book an individual for terrorism under the UAPA.
  • It also points out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
  • This caution is significant given the sharp surge in the state’s use of this provision in a sweeping range of alleged offences — against tribals in Chhattisgarh, those using social media through proxy servers in Jammu and Kashmir; and journalists in Manipur among others.

Background: About UAPA:

  • UAPA was passed in 1967. It aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.
  • Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.
  • It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.
  • Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.
  • The 2004 amendment added “terrorist act” to the list of offences to ban organisations for terrorist activities, under which 34 outfits were banned.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory.

Amendments of 2019:

  • The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
  • The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.
  • It also included the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.

 

  1. Deep Ocean Mission

#GS3 #Scienceandtechnology #blueeconomy

Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved the Deep Ocean Mission of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

  • The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

About the Mission:

  • The project is aimed at exploring deep ocean resources and developing technologies for sustainable ocean use.
  • The Deep Ocean Mission will consist of six major components:
  1. Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible: A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools.This component will help the blue economy priority area of exploring and harnessing deep-sea minerals and energy.
  2. Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof of concept component. This component will support the blue economy priority area of coastal tourism.
  3. Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: The bio-prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilisation of deep-sea bio-resources will be the main focus of the mission. This component will support the blue economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.
  4. Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration: The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralisation along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. This component will additionally support the blue economy priority area of deep-sea exploration of ocean resources.
  5. Energy and freshwater from the ocean: Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant is envisaged in the concept proposal. This component will support the blue economy priority area of offshore energy development.
  6. Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology: This component is aimed at the development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into the industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities.

Bottleneck:

  • The technologies required for deep-sea mining have strategic implications and are not commercially available. Therefore, attempts will be made to indigenise technologies by collaborating with leading institutes and private industries.

Significance of the mission:

  • About 95 percent of the deep ocean remains unexplored.
  • For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 percent of the country’s population living in coastal areas, the ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade.
  • The oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth.
  • Considering the importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
  • India has a unique maritime position. With its 7,517 km long coastline, it is home to nine coastal states and 1,382 islands. The Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.
  • This mission is also directed towards capacity development in Marine Biology, which will provide job opportunities in Indian industries. In addition, design, development and fabrication of specialised equipment, ships and setting up of required infrastructure are expected to spur the growth of the Indian industry, especially the MSME and startups.
  • The five-year inter-ministerial and inter-departmental mission will bring together researchers and experts from the Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Development and Research Organisation, Department of Atomic Energy, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Navy.
  • This mission will make India one among the handful of powerful nations that already have dedicated ocean studies and missions, including the US, Japan, France, Russia and China.
  • A UN-lined organisation with expertise in mineral exploration will guide India in identifying the areas for exploration in the region.

What is blue economy?

  • “The “blue economy” concept seeks to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas.
  • At its core it refers to the decoupling of socioeconomic development through oceans-related sectors and activities from environmental and ecosystems degradation.
  • The blue economy has many diverse components like established traditional ocean industries such as fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, but also new and emerging activities including offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, seabed extractive activities, and marine biotechnology and bioprospecting.
  • In order to qualify as components of a blue economy, activities need to:
  • Provide social and economic benefits for current and future generations
  • Restore, protect, and maintain the diversity, productivity, resilience, core functions, and intrinsic value of marine ecosystems
  • Be based on clean technologies, renewable energy, and circular material flows that will reduce waste and promote recycling of materials.

 

 

  1. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

#GS2 #Internationalorganisations #Nuclearweapons

Context: A recent report published in the SIPRI Yearbook 2021 says that the number of nuclear warheads which are ready and deployed have increased globally.

About:

  • The SIPRI Yearbook is released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which researches international armament and conflict.
  • The SIPRI “Yearbook 2021” assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.

Highlights:

  • There are nine Nuclear Armed States in the world today which are, US, Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
  • These countries together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021.
  • Russia and the US together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons and have extensive and expensive modernisation programmes under way.
  • Both the US and Russia have approved the extension of the New START treaty.
  • The Treaty is the last remaining nuclear Russia-US arms control treaty which expired in February 2021.
  • China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory.
  • China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads up from 320 at the start of 2020.
  • India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear warheads at the start of 2021 compared to 150 at the start of last year, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020.
  • India and Pakistan are seeking new technologies and capabilities that dangerously undermine each other’s defence under the nuclear threshold.
  • The growth in total spending in 2020 was largely influenced by expenditure patterns in the United States and China (first and second largest spenders respectively).
  • India’s spending of USD 72.9 billion, an increase of 2.1% in 2020, ranked it as the third highest spender in the world.
  • SIPRI identified 164 states as importers of major arms in 2016-20.

The five largest arms importers were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China, which together accounted for 36% of total arms imports.

The five largest suppliers in 2016-20 – the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China – accounted for 76% of the total volume of exports of major arms.

Recent Instances of Armed Conflict:

  • The territorial conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The situation in 2020 largely reverted to the status quo of relatively low levels of armed violence.
  • In June 2020, for the first time in over five decades, the border tensions between China and India in the disputed eastern Ladakh region of Kashmir turned deadly.
  • A new armed conflict broke out in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia in November 2020 between federal government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which killed thousands and forced more than 46,000 refugees to flee into eastern Sudan.

What SIPRI does:

  • The Sweden-based SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established on the basis of a decision by the Swedish Parliament and receives a substantial part of its funding in the form of an annual grant from the Swedish Government.
  • Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

Treaties Preventing Nuclear Proliferation and Testing

  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
  • The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).
  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed in 1996 but has yet to enter into force.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will enter into force on 22nd January 2021.

 

 

 

 

  1. Rare Earth Metals

#GS1 #Geography #Mineralsandmetals

Context:  China’s dominance in the rare earth metals, key to the future of manufacturing, is posing a major concern for the West.

China’s Monopoly:

  • China has over time acquired global domination of rare earths, even at one point, it produced 90% of the rare earths the world needs.
  • Today, however, it has come down to 60% and the remaining is produced by other countries, including the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and United States).
  • Since 2010, when China curbed shipments of Rare Earths to Japan, the US, and Europe, production units have come up in Australia, and the US along with smaller units in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
  • Even so, the dominant share of processed Rare Earths lies with China.
  • India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of rare earth elements, nearly twice as much as Australia, but it imports most of its rare earth needs in finished form from China.
  • Despite more ore than the US, India only mined 3,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2020 while the western nation mined 38,000 tonnes. The Indian Ocean Region, including India’s coastline, is rich in mineral sands.
  • Meanwhile, Australia mined 17,000 tonnes and China mined 1,40,000 tonnes. The same year, the US had 16 per cent of the production of the world’s rare earths, Australia had 7 per cent while India was at 1 per cent.
  • In 2019, the US imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China while the European Union gets 98% of its supply from China.

Opportunity for India:

New Department for Rare Earths (DRE):

  • India has more rare earth deposits than Australia and the US combined
  • India should create the new Department for Rare Earths (DRE) which could secure access to Rare Earth Elements (REEs) of strategic importance by offering viability gap funding to companies to set up facilities in the upstream sector.
  • This could make Indian Rare Earth Oxide (REOs) globally competitive.

Downstream Processes and Applications:

  • Alternatively, it could focus on downstream processes and applications, such as manufacturing rare earth magnets and batteries.
  • This would require a focus on port infrastructure and ease of doing business measures to allow Indian manufacturers to import REOs from white-listed producers cheaply.

Coordination with Other Agencies:

  • India should also create an autonomous regulator, the Rare Earths Regulatory Authority of India (RRAI), to resolve disputes between companies in this space and check compliance.
  • It could coordinate with other agencies to partner directly with groupings such as the Quad, building up a strategic reserve as a buffer against global supply crises.
  • With adjustments to the existing policy, India could emerge as a rare earths supplier to the world and use these resources to power a high-end manufacturing economy geared to the needs of the 21st century.

Existing Bottlenecks:

  • Merely having deposits of rare earths is no guarantee of being able to exploit them. The mining and extraction processes are capital-intensive, consume large amounts of energy, and release toxic by-products, an issue that has caused some controversy in India before.
  • Processed minerals usually take the form of a rare earth oxide (REO), which then needs to be converted into a pure metal before it can be used to manufacture anything.

Rare Metals:

  • Rare earths are 17 minerals that are difficult to find and obtain in most parts of the world. They are important because without them, almost all our lives will come to a standstill as they are used in a plethora of things — mobile phones, cars, airplanes, missiles, radars etc.
  • The 17 Rare Earths are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).
  • Of the 17 rare earths, neodymium is arguably the most needed in the world right now. Electric vehicles cannot function without this and lithium, which is mostly found in Bolivia.
  • Other elements like terbium, tritium and europium are crucial to targeting mechanisms in all weapons systems.

 

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