Daily Current Affairs : 14th May

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. CPI Inflation
  2. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
  3. Beluga Whales
  4. Herbivore Census
  5. Facts for Prelims – Thrissur Pooram, ICMR – National Institute of Nutrition

1 . CPI Inflation

Context : Retail inflation quickened to a six-month high of 2.92% in April, driven in large part by accelerating food and fuel inflation, according to official data released on Monday.

What is CPI &WPI

  • While both baskets measure inflationary trends (the movement of price signals) within the broader economy, the two indices differ sharply in the manner in which weightages are assigned to food, fuel and manufactured items, as well as at the broken-down level of these segments.
  • Wholesale inflation, measured by WPI, tracks year-on-year inflation at the producer or factory gate level, and is a marker for price movements in the purchase of bulk inputs by traders.
  • CPI, on the other hand, captures changes in prices levels at the shop end, and is, thereby, reflective of the inflation experienced at the level of consumers. The weightage of food in CPI is far higher (46%) than in WPI (24%).
  • Also, WPI does not capture changes in the prices of services, which CPI does.
  • In April 2014, the RBI had adopted the CPI as its key measure of inflation. Prior to this, the central bank had given more weightage to the WPI as the key measure of inflation for all policy purposes.

Why is CPI inflation rising?

  • Rising prices in the food basket, as well as jump in fuel prices, are contributing to the rising inflation.
  • Within CPI inflation, food inflation is expected to rise in the current year, as last two months witnessed rise in prices of many farm commodities, mainly due to drought in large parts of western and southern India, coupled with an early and harsher-than-usual summer.
  • From September 2016 to March 2019, consumer food inflation has ruled below general retail inflation, averaging a mere 1.3 per cent year-on-year during this period, as against 3.6 per cent for the latter.

What is the impact on interest rates?

  • Despite rising CPI inflation, analysts expect the Reserve Bank of India to cut repo rate – the rate at which it lends short-term funds to banks – as inflation remains within the RBI’s target of 4 per cent even as growth of the Indian economy has been slowing down.

2 . Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

Context : The executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, has invited India to be an observer in the CTBT.

What is the CTBTO and what does it do?

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is an international organization that will be established upon the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Its seat will be Vienna, Austria.
  • The organization will be tasked with verifying the ban on nuclear tests and will operate therefore a worldwide monitoring system and may conduct on site inspections.
  • The Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO, and its Provisional Technical Secretariat, were established in 1996 and employs staffs from the CTBT’s Members States.
  • The Preparatory Commission is tasked with making preparations for effective implementation of the Treaty, in particular by establishing its verification regime. The main task is establishing and provisionally operating the 337-facility International Monitoring System (IMS), including its International Data Centre (IDC) and Global Communications Infrastructure (GCI). The Commission is tasked also with the development of operational manuals, including a manual to guide conduct of on-site inspections.

What is CTBT

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the Treaty banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • It opened for signature on 24 September 1996. Since then, the Treaty has reached near-universality. 182 countries have signed the Treaty – the last country to do so was Trinidad and Tobago on 8 October 2009 which also ratified the Treaty on 26 May 2010. 154 countries have ratified the Treaty – most recently Ghana on 14 June 2011.

Why is the CTBT so important?

  • It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs.
  • When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing.
  • The Treaty also helps prevent human suffering and environmental damages caused by nuclear testing.

How many nuclear tests were conducted and by whom?

  • Between 1945 and 1996 when the CTBT was adopted, over 2000 nuclear tests were conducted by the United States (1000+), the Soviet Union (700+), France (200+), the United Kingdom and China (45 each).
  • Three countries have carried out nuclear explosions after the 1996: India and Pakistan in 1998, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 2006 and 2009.

Why has the Treaty not entered into force yet?

  • The Treaty’s entry into force depends on 44 specific States  that must have signed and ratified the Treaty. 
  • These States had nuclear facilities at the time the Treaty was negotiated and adopted.
  • As of August 2011, 35 of these States have ratified the Treaty.
  • Nine States still need to do so: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. 
  • India, North Korea and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty.
  • All 44 States are listed in the Treaty’s Annex 2.

What is the difference between signature and ratification?

  • The signature to a treaty indicates that the country accepts the treaty.  It commits not to take any actions that would undermine the treaty’s purposes. A treaty is signed by a senior representative of a country such as the president or the foreign minister.
  • The ratification symbolizes the official sanction of a treaty to make it legally binding for the government of a country.  This process involves the treaty’s adoption by the legislature of a country such as the parliament.  It also includes the submission of the so-called instrument of ratification to the treaty’s depository, which for the CTBT is the UN Secretary-General.  Only then is the process of ratification officially concluded. The ratification of a treaty may require the adjustment of a country’s legislation, reflecting its commitments under the treaty.

What is the CTBT verification regime?

  • The CTBT verification regime is a unique, comprehensive system, consisting of the International Monitoring System(IMS),  International Data Centre (IDC) and on-site inspections (OSI). It constantly monitors the planet for nuclear explosions and shares its findings with Member States (= the 182 States that have signed the Treaty).

Monitoring stations

The 337 IMS facilities are located all over the globe and use four distinct technologies to look for signs of nuclear explosions: 

  • Seismic: to detect shockwaves in the Earth.  The seismic network is comprised of 170 stations.  50 primary stations provide data continuously and 120 auxiliary stations provide data on demand. They register thousands of earthquakes and mine explosions every year. 
  • Hydroacoustic: to detect acoustic signals in the oceans. Eleven stations are sufficient to monitor the big oceans as sound travels very efficiently in water.  
  • Infrasound: to detect low-frequency sound waves in the air with a network of 60 stations.  
  • Radionuclide: to detect radionuclide particles and noble gas. 80 stations provide the “smoking gun” evidence that an explosion was nuclear. Half of these stations are equipped with radionuclide noble gas detection technology.  The radionuclide network is complemented by 16 laboratories for detailed analysis.  

3 . Beluga Whales

Context : Over the last few weeks, a beluga whale swimming in the Arctic off Norway has given rise to speculation that it is a spy being used by the Russians. It is tame, allowing humans to pet it, and one video shows it returning a phone to a woman who had accidentally dropped into the ocean. The reason it is being described as a spy is a harness it was wearing, with the words “Equipment St. Petersburg” in English, along with a GoPro camera holder.

About Beluga Whales

  • The beluga, or white whale, is one of the smallest species of whale. Their distinctive color and prominent foreheads make them easily identifiable.
  • Belugas are social animals and very vocal communicators that employ a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. Belugas can also mimic a variety of other sounds.
  • These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean’s coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well. Arctic belugas migrate southward in large herds when the sea freezes over.
  • Beluga feed on fish, crustaceans, and worms. The whale is related to the tusked “unicorn” whale known as the narwhal.
  • IUCN Redlist Status – Least Concern

Other Marine Animals used for Spying

  • Other marine mammals are known to have been used for military use, including bottlenose dolphins by the US Navy since the 1960s.
  • A dolphin can identify objects underwater that would be invisible to human divers.
  • The same US Navy programme also trains sea lions, with their excellent low-light vision and underwater hearing, to locate and mark the locations of marine mines and other threats

4 . Herbivore Census

What is Herbivore Census

  • The Herbivore Census covers ungulates such as spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars, as well as Indian langurs and peafowl.

Importance

  • Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions, the endangered species whose only wild population in the world is surviving in the 22,000 sq km Greater Gir area.
  • A count provides a sense of the available of the prey base for lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas and wolves.
  • A strong prey base can reduce depredation of livestock by lions and can reduce man-animal conflict.
  • In 2013-14, the last Herbivore Census before the previous Lion Census, the total count of all herbivores was 1.32 lakh, higher than the about 1.25 lakh counted in 2012-13.

Why it’s done in summer

  • During summer, foliage is reduced to a minimum in dry and deciduous tropical forests, which affords the best visibility for conducting a census. Also, wild animals concentrate around water points, which in Gir include 450 artificial ones filled by the Forest Department.

5 . Facts for Prelims

Thrissur Pooram

  • Thrissur Pooram is an annual Hindu festival held in Kerala, India.
  • It is held at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur every year on the Pooram day – the day when the moon rises with the Pooram star in the Malayalam Calendar month of Medam.
  • It is the largest and most famous of all poorams

ICMR -National Institute of Nutrition

  • National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) was founded by Sir Robert McCarrison in the year 1918 as ‘Beri-Beri’ Enquiry Unit in a single room laboratory at the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.
  • Within a short span of seven years, this unit blossomed into a “Deficiency Disease Enquiry” and later in 1928, emerged as full-fledged “Nutrition Research Laboratories” (NRL) with Dr. McCarrison as its first Director.
  • It was shifted to Hyderabad in 1958.At the time of its golden jubilee in 1969, it was renamed as National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

Objectives

  • To identify various dietary and nutrition problems prevalent among different segments of the population in the country.
  • To continuously monitor diet and nutrition situation of the country. 
  • To evolve effective methods of management and prevention of nutritional problems.
  • To conduct operational research connected with planning and implementation of national nutrition programmes.
  • To dovetail nutrition research with other health programmes of the government.
  • Human resource development in the field of nutrition.
  • To disseminate nutrition information.
  • To advise governments and other organisations on issues relating to nutrition 

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