Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - December 14, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Smuggling in India Report 2019-20

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.


Context

  • Union Finance Minister released the Smuggling in India Report 2019-20.
  • The report has been compiled by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).

Background

  • The aim is to analyse organised smuggling trends on Gold and Foreign Currency, Narcotic Drugs, Security, Environment and Commercial Frauds.
  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence detected 412 cases of smuggling resulting in the seizure worth ₹1,949 crore in 2019-20.

Highlights

  • It arrested 837 economic offenders and also unearthed 761 complex cases of Customs duty evasion amounting to ₹2,183 crore.
  • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is the apex anti-smuggling agency of India working under the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, Ministry of Finance, and Government of India.

Source: AIR News.

Agra Metro Project construction work inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • The construction work of Phase-1 of theAgra Metro Project was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi through video conferencing.
  • UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Governor Anandiben Patel were also present on the occasion. 

Background

While highlighting that the big problem with infrastructure development in the country was that projects were announced but not much attention was paid on the arrangement of funds, PM Modi said that his government is not only focused on starting new projects but also in arranging funds for them. 

About the project

  • The Agra metro project, as per the Prime Minister, will help strengthen the mission related to the establishment of smart facilities in Agra.
  • The project is worth over Rs 8000 crores.
  • The Agra Metro project mainly comprises two metro corridors with a total length of 29.4 km.
  • The metro corridors will connect major tourist attractions such as Agra Fort, Sikandra Fort and Taj Mahal with railway stations and bus stands.
  • The total estimated construction cost of the project is around Rs 8,379.62 crore and it is expected to be completed in five years.
  • The Agra Metro project is expected to benefit nearly 26 lakh population of Agra city and also benefit over 60 lakh tourists who visit the iconic city each year. 
  • The project will provide an environment-friendly mass rapid transit system to Agra.

Source: AIR News.

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Uttarakhand builds its first eco-bridge for small animals

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

  • The first eco-bridge in Uttarakhand across Kaladhungi—Nainital Highway has been constructed by the Ramnagar Forest Division of the state.
  • The one of its kind bridge has been built to save reptiles and other small animals from vehicular accidents while crossing the road.

Background

  • According to Amit Kumar Gwaskoti, Kaladhungi Range Forest officer, the 90-feet long and 5-feet wide bridge is the first eco-bridge of the state.
  • He added that it has been constructed in the hope that small animals and reptiles such as squirrels, snakes, monitor lizards will be crossing the road through a bridge and avoid being killed in the accidents.

Highlights

  • The Forest officer has also informed that no iron or cement has been used in the construction of the bridge and it is made of eco-friendly items such as rope, bamboo, and grass.
  • The eco-bridges aims at enhancing the wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of the construction of logging or highways.
  • On the Kaladhungi-Nainital Highway, Ramnagar Divisional Forest Officer, Chandra Shekhar Joshi had supervised the building of a 90-feet long eco-bridge.
  • While talking about the bridge, he informed that many road kills were found on this route, especially of reptiles.
  • The newly built bridge will be an awareness-building campaign for this very congested tourist route as it will be a way of seeing how the ecosystem necessary for reptiles that feed on insects, the snakes that feed on reptiles, and for the eagles that feed on snakes, can be preserved.

Source: Indian Express.

CoWin: A mobile app for Indians to get Covid-19 vaccine

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.


Context

When Covid-19 became an Indian health problem earlier this year, the government came out with Aarogya Setu app to keep a track of the cases and concentration of novel coronavirus infections.

Background

  • The Aarogya Setu app was launched in April.
  • But the app actually had its beginning in another smartphone application project in March -- CoWin-20. 
  • That project took the shape of Aarogya Setu app, which became a hit among urban Indians.
  • Now, it is the time for CoWin-20 app when the government is finalising Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Highlights

  • At a press conference held recently, the government projected CoWin-20 as the go-to app for Covid-19 vaccine distribution.
  • The government said the primary objective of the CoWin-20 app will be to help agencies keep a track of Covid-19 vaccination programme and allowing Indian citizens to apply for a Covid-19 vaccine shot.
  • CoWin-20 app is divided into five modules to registration for Covid-19 vaccine and tracking of the vaccination programme smooth.
  • These are administrator module, registration module, vaccination module, beneficiary acknowledgement module, and report module.
  • The government has selected around 30 crore people as the “Prioritized Population Groups” for Covid-19 vaccination programme.
  • They include about 1 crore healthcare workers in both government and private sectors, about 2 crore frontline workers such as security personnel and people involved in essential services, about 27 crore Prioritized Age Group people - those above 50 and with co-morbidities.

Source: India Today.

Mount Everest got 3 ft higher

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).


Context

  • The Foreign Ministers of Nepal and China jointly certified the elevation of Mount Everest at 8,848.86 metres above sea level — 86 cm higherthan what was recognised since 1954.
  • The common declaration meant that the two countries have shed their long-standing difference in opinion about the mountain’s height — 29,017 feet (8,844 m) claimed by China and 29,028 ft (8,848 m) by Nepal.
  • In feet, the new elevation is about 29,031 ft, or about 3 ft higher than Nepal’s previous claim.

Background

  • No other mountain has perhaps been the subject of as much debate.
  • Over the years, there have been debates on issues like whether it should be “rock height”, or whether the snow cladding it, too, should be accounted for.

Highlights

  • This was determined by the Survey of India in 1954, using instruments like theodolites and chains, with GPS still decades away.
  • The elevation of 8,848 m came to be accepted in all references worldwide — except by China.
  • Mount Everest rises from the border between Nepal and China.
  • There was also a third estimate, even higher.
  • In 1999, a US team put the elevation at 29,035 feet (nearly 8,850 m).
  • This survey was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, US.
  • The Society uses this measurement, while the rest of the world, except China, had accepted 8,848 m so far.
  • Until the devastating earthquake of April 2015, Nepal’s Survey Department had perhaps never considered the idea of measuring Mt Everest.
  • But the earthquake triggered a debate among scientists on whether it had affected the height of the mountain.

Source: Indian Express.

New software to crack down on child porn

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Context

  • The cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police recently acquired a software from Interpol that would help them track down child pornography uploaded online.
  • The Interpol has a software that uses various mechanisms like detecting nudity in images, recognising age of the person through facial structures, among other filters.

Background

  • It also has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes.
  • Based on these filters, the software ‘crawler’ scans the net looking for such images, videos and text.
  • If they find any such media, it is added to the database after which officers identify cases that could fall under child pornography.

About the software

  • While initially the database was with Interpol, they have now also provided the software to Maharashtra.
  • Earlier this year, 12 officers of Maharashtra cyber were trained by the Interpol officers in the use of this software after which they were provided access to it.
  • Kerala too was to undergo training by Interpol last year after several such media was found to be uploaded from there.
  • The 12 officers who went for training to the South Asian wing of Interpol form the core of Tactical Response Against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) Unit.
  • Those 12 officers last week trained a batch of 270 policemen across the state in the use of the software to track cases of child pornography.
  • The TRACE unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger compaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.

Source: Indian Express.

India ranked 10th in Climate Change Performance Index

Focus: GS3.                                

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

  • India remained in the top 10 for the second year in a row in this year's Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2021, occupying rank 10. 
  • It received high ratings in all CCPI categories, except renewable energy, where it had a medium performance.

Background

  • It ranked high along with the European Union and the United Kingdom in the latest edition of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) released by non-profit German watch  in cooperation with New Climate Institute and Climate Action Network (CAN).
  • However, the report said that the country needed to focus more on renewable energy, both, as a mitigation strategy and for its post-novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) green recovery, the report said.

Highlights

  • No country was doing enough to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to the index.
  • Six G20 countries were ranked among very low performers.
  • The United States, with a rank of 61, was the worst performer.
  • India, for the second time in a row, continued to remain in the top 10.
  • The country scored 63.98 points out of 100.
  • It received high ratings on all CCPI indicators except ‘renewable energy’, where it was categorised as having a ‘medium’ performance.
  • Last year, India had been ranked at the ninth position, with an overall score of 66.02.
  • The CCPI is an independent monitoring tool for tracking countries’ climate protection performance.
  • It has been published annually since 2005.
  • It helps to access and judge countries’ climate policy, their recent development, current levels and well-below-2 degrees Celsius compatibility of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renewable energies, energy use and their targets for 2030.
  • The climate change performance is therefore assessed under four categories: GHG emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy.

Source: Times of India.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. With reference to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report on global arms market 2019, consider the following statements:
  • The U.S. arms industry accounted for 61% of sales by the world’s “Top 25” manufacturers last year, ahead of China’s 15.7%.
  • India is world’s largest arms importer.
  • Six U.S companies and three Chinese firms were in the top 10, rounded out by Britain’s BAE Systems in seventh spot.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

       A. 1 and 2 only
       B. 2 and 3 only
       C. 1 and 3 only
       D. AOTA

Solution: C

  • India, however, continues to flounder in the domestic defence production arena.
  • It remains stuck in the position of being the world’s second-largest arms importer, just behind Saudi Arabia.
  1. ‘Operation Blackface’, recently seen in news, is related to:

       A. crackdown on the smuggling of mongoose hair in the country
       B. part of monetary policy operation
       C. COVID-19 alliance
       D. campaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

Solution: D

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