Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Indus Water Treaty
- Microbial Fuel Cells
- Global Hunger Index
- World Economic Outlook
- Project Soli
- Hong Kong Right Act
- Rangdum Monastery
- Facts for Prelims : Islands of Tulagi
1 . Indus Water Treaty
What is Indus Water Treaty?
- In the year 1960, India and Pakistan signed a water distribution agreement — came to be known as Indus Water Treaty which was orchestrated by the World Bank.
- This agreement took nine years of negotiations and divides the control of six rivers between the two nations once signed.
- Under this treaty, India got control over: Beas, Ravi, Sutlej (Eastern Rivers)
- Pakistan got control over: Indus, Chenab, Jhelum (Western Rivers)
Why this treaty is important for Pakistan
- Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are the lifelines of Pakistan as the country is highly dependent on these rivers for its water supply. Since these rivers do not originate from Pakistan but flow to the country through India, Pakistan fears the threat of drought and famine.
- While Chenab and Jhelum originate from India, Indus originates from China, making its way to Pakistan via India.
- The treaty clearly spells the do’s and don’ts for both countries; as it allows India to use only 20 per cent of the total water carried by the Indus river.
2 . Microbial Fuel Cells
Context : Earlier this year, ZSL scientists installed microbial fuel cells at London Zoo’s Rainforest Life exhibit, which would power a plant to take its own picture.
About Microbial Fuel Cell
- A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a bio-electrochemical device that harnesses the power of respiring microbes to convert organic substrates directly into electrical energy. At its core, the MFC is a fuel cell, which transforms chemical energy into electricity using oxidation reduction reactions.
- The key difference of course is in the name, microbial fuel cells rely on living biocatalysts to facilitate the movement of electrons throughout their systems instead of the traditional chemically catalyzed oxidation of a fuel at the anode and reduction at the cathode.
How plant energy is captured
- Under sunlight, plants produce sugars and oxygen from water and CO2 (photosynthesis)
- These sugars do not remain in the leaves but are transported throughout the plant to the stem and roots
- Some of these sugars are excreted by the roots as a waste product from the plant
- Soil micro-organisms break this down further, releasing energy
- This energy is captured using an anode and a cathode and charge a super capacitor
- When the super capacitor is full, the power is discharged and a photo is taken
3 . Kurds
- The Kurds are the world’s largest stateless ethnic group. There are an estimated 25 million to 35 million of them
- They live in the highlands of southern and eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, the northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran, and parts of south Armenia, and are a minority in each of these countries.
- Small communities live in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and eastern Iran as well.
- Their numbers, and distinct cultural and ethnic identity notwithstanding, the Kurdish people have never had their independent national homeland. At the Versailles peace conference after World War I, the Kurdish Ottoman diplomat Mehmet Sherif Pasha proposed borders of a new Kurdistan that covered parts of modern Turkey, Iraq, and Iran; however, the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), which partitioned the old Ottoman dominions, marked out a much smaller territory, entirely in what is now Turkey. Turkey negotiated with the Allied powers and, in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne overtook Sèvres and ended the idea of a self-governing Kurdistan.
- Over the decades that followed, the Kurds made repeated attempts at establishing a de facto Kurdistan with defined national borders — and in the process attracted massive Turkish repression, including bans on the Kurdish language, names, songs, and dress. In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Chemical Ali attacked them with chemical weapons, and in Iran, their uprisings of the 1980s and 1990s were crushed.
- In 1978, the Marxist revolutionary Abdullah Öcalan formed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or PKK in Kurdish) with the aim of setting up an independent Kurdistan. PKK guerrillas fought the Turkish army from 1984 until Öcalan’s capture in 1999, during which some 40,000 Kurdish civilians were killed. Sporadic terrorist attacks continued until 2013, when the PKK declared a ceasefire. This collapsed when Turkey joined the war against the Islamic State in 2015 and started to bomb PKK targets in Iraq.
4 . Global Hunger Index
About Global Hunger Index
- Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels.
- GHI scores are calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.
- The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.
- A low score gets a country a higher ranking and implies a better performance. The reason for mapping hunger is to ensure that the world achieves “Zero Hunger by 2030” — one of the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations. It is for this reason that GHI scores are not calculated for certain high-income countries.
- Seventeen countries, including Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba and Kuwait, shared the top rank with GHI scores of less than five
- The report, prepared jointly by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organisation Welt Hunger Hilfe termed the level of hunger in India serious
How GHI Scores are complicated
GHI scores are calculated using a three-step process that draws on available data from various sources to capture the multidimensional nature of hunger
First Step – For each country, values are determined for four indicators:
- UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient);
- CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
- CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and
- CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments
Second Step – Each of the four component indicators is given a standardized score on a 100-point scale based on the highest observed level for the indicator on a global scale in recent decades.
Third Step – Standardized scores are aggregated to calculate the GHI score for each country, with each of the three dimensions (inadequate food supply; child mortality; and child undernutrition, which is composed equally of child stunting and child wasting) given equal weight
This three-step process results in GHI scores on a 100-point GHI Severity Scale, where 0 is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. The GHI Severity Scale shows the severity of hunger – from low to extremely alarming – associated with the range of possible GHI scores
About India’s Ranking
- India is ranked 102 of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019
- Among the BRICS grouping, India is ranked the worst, with China at 25 and a score of just 6.5. Within South Asia, too, India is behind every other country. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan (in that order) are all ahead of India.
- Some of the other countries ahead of India are Saudi Arabia (rank 34), Venezuela (rank 65, even as its score has doubled from just over 8 to over 16, because of the socio-economic and political crisis), Lesotho (rank 79), Burkina Faso (rank 88), and North Korea (rank 92).
- In stark contrast to India, which has the world’s largest democracy and one of the biggest economies, most of the countries below India on the GHI — Afghanistan, Haiti or Yemen etc — are either poorly governed or war-torn or ravaged by natural calamities.
Why is India ranked so low on GHI?
- With an overall score of 30.3, India finds itself sandwiched between Niger (score 30.2, rank 101) and Sierra Leone (score 30.4, rank 103). In 2000, India’s score was 38.8 and its hunger level was in the “alarming” category. Since then, India has steadily improved on most counts to reduce its score and is now slotted in the “serious” category.
- But the pace of India’s improvement has been relatively slow. So, even though India has improved its score, many others have done more and that explains why despite achieving relatively fast economic growth since 2000, India has not been able to make commensurate strides in reducing hunger.
What are the reasons for which India’s improvements have been slow?
- Child Wasting, that is, children with low weight for their height — where India has worsened. The percentage of children under the age of 5 years suffering from wasting has gone up from 16.5 in 2010 to 20.8 now. Wasting is indicative of acute undernutrition and India is the worst among all countries on this parameter.
- “India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent — the highest wasting rate of any country in this report for which data or estimates were available. Its child stunting rate, 37.9 percent, is also categorized as very high in terms of its public health significance… In India, just 9.6 percent of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet,” states the report.
- “In 2014 the prime minister instituted the ‘Clean India’ campaign to end open defecation and ensure that all households had latrines. Even with new latrine construction, however, population’s health and consequently children’s growth and development as their ability to absorb nutrients is compromised,” it said.
- India has shown improvement in other indicators such as the under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of stunting among children and prevalence of undernourishment owing to inadequate food.
5 . World Economic Outlook
Context : IMF’s 2019 World Economic Outlook (WEO) has been released.
- The International Monetary Fund cut its estimate for India’s growth this year to 6.1% from 7% projected in July, calling on the country to use monetary policy and broad-based structural reforms to address cyclical weakness and strengthen confidence.
- “India’s economy is set to grow at 6.1% in 2019, picking up to 7% in 2020
- The WEO recommended broad based structural reforms to strengthen confidence and address cyclical weakness.
- The report called for a “credible fiscal consolidation path” over the medium term to bring down elevated public debt, supported by measures to enhance the tax base and rationalize subsidy-spending.
- The report also recommended “reforms to hiring and dismissal regulations” to help incentivize job creation and “land reforms …to encourage and expedite infrastructure development.” It called for a strengthening of governance of public sector banks and greater efficiency of their credit allocation.
- IMF downgrading global growth in 2019 to 3%, the slowest since the global financial crisis.
- Globally, rising trade barriers, heightened uncertainty around trade and geopolitics, idiosyncratic factors that have strained several emerging markets and structural factors such as advanced economies’ ageing population and low productivity growth were the causes behind a “synchronized slowdown
- The IMF projected the U.S. would grow at 2.4% and 2.1% in 2019 and 2020 respectively – marginally revised upwards by 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points respectively from April projections.
- For China, growth was projected to grow at 6.1% and 5.8% in 2019 and 2020 (down from 6.3% and 6.1% April projections) due to escalating tariffs and weakening external demand.
6 . Project Soli
What is Project Soli?
- Project Soli, driven by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team, was first showcased back in 2015. The idea is that a radar chip can be used to detect hand movements and gestures to interpret what they could mean. It’s only recently that Google figured out how to reduce the size of this radar chip and fit it on the front of the smartphone, still ensuring accuracy. And that’s why it is coming to Pixel 4.
So what exactly does the Soli radar chip do?
- Soli is a dedicated radar chip on the front of the Pixel to collect raw data of hand gestures and then interpret them correctly for the right commands. Google says the miniature radar understands human motions at various scales, from the tap of a finger to the movements of the body. It is always sensing for movement while maintaining a low footprint — keep in mind Soli is not a camera and doesn’t capture any visual images.
- Soli relies on a custom-built machine learning (ML) model to understand a large range of possible movements. Google says these models run on the device and sensor data is never sent to their servers.
- The Soli radar chip emits electromagnetic waves in a broad beam and when a human hand interacts with this, some of these waves are reflected back to the antenna. The ML-model quickly interprets the properties of the reflected signal to carry out the required command.
- This Motion Sense technology allows Pixel 4 users to wave their hands to snooze an alarm or skip songs or go back to the last song without touching the screen. Users will have the option of going to settings to turn Motion Sense on or off.
- However, Motion Sense will only work in countries where this radar tech has been approved for consumer use. The list includes “US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and most European countries.” India has not yet given a go-ahead for this technology.
Why does India not allow the Soli chip?
- The Soli radar chip works on the 60 GHz spectrum frequency as it has the least interference for the kind of minute movements Google wants to track. However, the 60 GHz spectrum is not commercially usable in India.
- In a consultation paper titled “Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wrote that “most countries have already delicensed the 60 GHz band and this band has a good device ecosystem. The 60 GHz band is also known as V-band or WiGig band (Wi-Fi at 60 GHz) using IEEE 802.11ad protocol.”
- The TRAI also recommends that the “….V-band (57-64 GHz) may be explored for allocation to the telecom service providers.” But that is yet to happen. Without this USP available it the country, it would not have made much sense for Google to bring the pricey Pixel 4 to India.
7 . Waqf
What is a waqf?
- Waqf is the property given in the name of God for religious and charitable purposes.
- In legal terms, permanent dedication by a person professing Islam, of any movable or immovable property for any purpose recognised by the Muslim law as pious, religious or charitable.
- A waqf can be formed through a deed or instrument, or a property can be deemed waqf if it has been used for religious or charitable purposes for a long period of time. The proceeds are typically used to finance educational institutions, graveyards, mosques and shelter homes.
- A person creating the waqf cannot take back the property and the waqf would be a continuing entity. A non-Muslim can also create a waqf but the individual must profess Islam and the objective of creating the waqf has to be Islamic.
How is a waqf governed?
- Waqfs in India are governed by the Waqf Act, 1995. A survey commissioner under the Act lists all properties declared as waqf by making local investigation, summoning witnesses and requisitioning public documents.
- The waqf is managed by a mutawali, who acts as a supervisor. It is similar to a trust established under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, but trusts can be set up for a broader purpose than religious and charitable uses. A trust established can also be dissolved by the board unlike a waqf
What is a Waqf Board?
- A Waqf Board is a juristic person with power to acquire and hold property and to transfer any such property. The board can sue and be sued in a court as it is recognised as a legal entity or juristic person.
- Each state has a Waqf Board headed by a chairperson, one or two nominees from the state government, Muslim legislators and parliamentarians, Muslim members of the state Bar Council, recognised scholars of Islamic theology and mutawalis of the waqfs with an annual income of Rs 1 lakh and above.
- The Waqf Board has powers under the law to administer the property and take measures for the recovery of lost properties of any waqf, to sanction any transfer of immovable property of a waqf by way of sale, gift, mortgage, exchange or lease. However, the sanction shall not be given unless at least two thirds of the members of the Waqf Board vote in favour of such transaction.
8 . Hong Kong Rights Act
Context : US lawmakers pass Human Rights and Democracy Act
About the Bill
- The bill passed by the House of Representatives – which was introduced in June as Hong Kong’s protests took hold – says Hong Kong enjoys “unique treatment under US law”.
- “Hong Kong is part of China but has a largely separate legal and economic system,” it says.
- “The [annual review] shall assess whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”
- Among other things, Hong Kong’s special trading status means it is not affected by US sanctions or tariffs placed on the mainland.
- The bill also says the US should allow Hong Kong residents to obtain US visas, even if they have been arrested for being part of non-violent protests.
- As per the bill anyone “responsible for abducting and torturing people for exercising internationally-recognized human rights” should be barred from the US – and have sanctions imposed.
- Hong Kong Act” is designed to stop US exports of non-lethal crowd control weapons, such as tear gas and rubber bullets. The bill says such items have been used “unnecessarily and disproportionately” by Hong Kong police.
9 . Rangdum Monastery
Context : Archaeological Survey of India is planning to declare the Rangdum Monastery as a monument of national importance.
About Rangdum Monastery
- Rangdum Monastery is a Buddhist monastery in Ladakh in Kargil district
What is Monuments of National Importance
A monument or a site is declared to be of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India provided it meets the following requirements:
- The monument or archaeological site is not less than 100 years old.
- It has special historical, archaeological or artistic interest, making it worthy of declaration as of national importance.
- It qualifies under specified provisions of definition of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
- The interested public do not have major objections to such declaration.
- The authenticity and integrity of the ancient monument or archaeological site and remains have not been damaged.
- It is free from major encumbrances.
The central government maintains national monuments, while the state government maintains state monuments.
10 . Facts for Prelims
Islands of Tulagi
- Tulagi is an island within the Solomon Islands, which are located in the South Pacific, directly between Australia and the U.S.
- It was the administrative seat (from 1893) of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate until it was destroyed by the Japanese (1942) during World War II.