Daily Current Affairs : 23rd and 24th January

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Democracy Index
  2. Vyomamitra
  3. Facial Recognition Application for voter verification
  4. Global corruption Perception Index
  5. Rising carbon dioxide levels may double floods
  6. Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar
  7. Facts for Prelims : Voluntary Retention Route (VRR), Sagarmatha Dialogue

1 . Democracy Index


Context : The latest edition of the Democracy Index spells gloom for India. The world’s biggest democracy slipped 10 places in the 2019 global ranking to 51st place.

Background

  • The report, A year of democratic setbacks and popular protest, was done by The Economist Intelligence Unit — the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, which is the sister company to The Economist newspaper. The report records how global democracy fared, analysing 165 independent states and two territories.

About the Index

  • The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories.
  • The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
  • Based on their scores on 60 indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy; flawed democracy; hybrid regime; and authoritarian regime.

Classification

  • Full democracies: are nations where civil liberties and fundamental political freedoms are not only respected but also reinforced by a political culture conducive to the thriving of democratic principles. These nations have a valid system of governmental checks and balances, an independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, governments that function adequately, and diverse and independent media.
  • Flawed democracies: are nations where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honoured but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement). These nations have significant faults in other democratic aspects, including underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance.
  • Hybrid regimes: are nations with regular electoral frauds, preventing them from being fair and free democracies. These nations commonly have governments that apply pressure on political opponents, non-independent judiciaries, widespread corruption, harassment and pressure placed on the media, anaemic rule of law, and more pronounced faults than flawed democracies in the realms of underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance.
  • Authoritarian regimes: are nations where political pluralism has vanished or is extremely limited. These nations are often absolute monarchies or dictatorships, may have some conventional institutions of democracy but with meagre significance, infringements and abuses of civil liberties are commonplace, elections (if they take place) are not fair and free, the media is often state-owned or controlled by groups associated with the ruling regime, the judiciary is not independent, and there are omnipresent censorship and suppression of governmental criticism.

Key Findings

  • The average global score recorded its worst value ever, down from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44, driven by a sharp regression in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lesser one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and by stagnation in the remaining regions that were covered.
  • Almost one-half (48.4%) of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort, although only 5.7% reside in a “full democracy”, down from 8.9% in 2015 as a result of the US being demoted from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in 2016,” it says.
  • The total score of some 68 countries declined from 2018, but almost as many (65) recorded an improvement. Thailand registered the biggest improvement in score owing to an election in March 2019, which was the first since the military coup d’état in May 2014, while China registered the greatest decline as discrimination against minorities, especially in Xinjiang, intensified, and digital surveillance of the population continued apace.

Key Findings on India

  • India’s overall score fell from 7.23 to 6.9, on a scale of 0-10, within a year (2018-2019) — the country’s lowest since 2006.
  • In the Asia and Australia region, India ranks eighth, behind Taiwan and Timor-Leste.
  • The report talks about the repeal of both Article 370 and Article 35A and how ahead of the move, “the government deployed a large number of troops in J&K, imposed various other security measures and placed local leaders under house arrest, including those with pro-India credentials.”“The government also restricted Internet access in the State,” it notes.
  • It says the NRC exercise in Assam excluded 1.9 million people from the final list, and that “the vast majority of people excluded from the NRC are Muslims.”
  • On the CAA, the report says, “The new citizenship law has enraged the large Muslim population, stoked communal tensions and generated large protests in major cities.”
  • The Index also categorises India under “flawed democracies”, countries that hold free and fair elections and where basic civil liberties are respected, but have significant weaknesses in aspects of democracy, such as problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation. According to the report, there are only 22 “full democracies” as compared to 54 “authoritarian regimes” and as many “flawed democracies,” that include the U.S.

2 . Vyomamitra


Context : In the end, a “young woman” named Vyommitra will ride to space in the first test flight of the human space mission, Gaganyaan.ISRO unveiled its first ‘woman’ astronaut to an international gathering here on Wednesday. Seated at a desk in a uniform and sporting her name on a custom-made ISRO identity badge, Vyommitra created a sensation as she introduced herself to ISRO Chairman K. Sivan and Principal Scientific Adviser K. VijayRaghavan at the symposium on human space flight.

About Vyomamitra

  • Vyommitra, the prototype of the half-humanoid, been made for the first unmanned Gaganyaan mission.
  • The robot has been named Vyommitra combining two Sanskrit words — Vyoma (Space) and Mitra (Friend).
  • Robot can do switch panel operations, ECLSS [environment control and life support systems] functions, be a companion, converse with the astronauts, recognise them and also respond to their queries. She can detect and give out warnings if environmental changes within the cabin get uncomfortable to astronauts and change the air condition
  • Half-humanoid would simulate human functions while in space. Apart from checking whether the system is right, this will be very useful in simulation, similar to how a human astronaut will be
  • Two trial flights without crew will take place with a humanoid — the first around December 2020 and the second around July 2021.
  • Vyommitra is the result of a year-long toil of the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram,
  • ISRO will send the human-resembling model in a space capsule around the end of 2020 or early 2021 to study how she — and later real astronauts — respond to living outside earth in controlled zero-gravity conditions.

3 . Facial Recognition Application for voter verification


Context : The Telangana State Election Commission on Wednesday successfully tested the facial recognition application for voter verification at polling stations using real time authentication capabilities.

About the News

  • The application using latest technologies like artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning was uploaded in mobile phones and tested in 10 polling stations for urban local body elections in Kompally Municipality.
  • According to SEC officials, testing of the application became necessary in view of the cases of impersonation in the voting process, as could be seen from the request for tendered votes coming up with every passing election.
  • The application, the SEC averred, was only an additional aid to personnel on election duties and not in lieu of the existing identification systems.

4 . Global Corruption Perception Index


Context : India’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI-2019) has slipped from 78 to 80 compared to the previous year, said Transparency International on Thursday, while questioning the “unfair and opaque political financing” in the country. Its score of 41 out of 100 remains the same.

About the Index

  • The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index published annually by Transparency International since 1995 which ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
  • The CPI defines corruption as the misuse of public power for private benefit.
  • The 2019 CPI draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in various countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). It was launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020.

Key Findings

  • India’s score of 41 out of 100 remains the same. The global average for 2019 is 43.
  • China has improved its position from 87 to 80 with a score of 41 out of 100.
  • The top-ranked countries are New Zealand and Denmark, with scores of 87 each, followed by Finland (86), Singapore (85), Sweden (85) and Switzerland (85). The countries ranked at the bottom of the list are Somalia, South Sudan and Syria with scores of 9, 12 and 13. These countries are closely followed by Yemen (15), Venezuela (16), Sudan (16), Equatorial Guinea (16) and Afghanistan (16).
  • In the Asia Pacific region, the average score is 45, after many consecutive years of an average score of 44, which illustrates general stagnation across the region.
  • In the last eight years, only 22 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Greece, Guyana and Estonia. In the same period, among the 21 countries that saw a significant fall in their scores are Canada, Australia and Nicaragua. In the remaining 137 countries, the levels of corruption show little to no change.
  • The report observed that, in democracies like India and Australia, unfair and opaque political financing, undue influence in decision-making and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, have resulted in stagnation or decline in the control of corruption.
  • The CPI report has revealed that a majority of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption.
  • Transparency International pointed out that their analysis also showed that corruption was more pervasive in countries where big money could flow freely into electoral campaigns and where governments listened only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals.

5 . Rising carbon dioxide levels may double floods


Context : The risk of extreme floods or storms could double every 13 years at the rate carbon-dioxide concentrations are building up in the atmosphere.  This could spell a “catastrophe” for India, scientists have warned in a study.

About the News

  • The number of intense “hydro-meteorological” disasters could increase by 5.4% annually for an “average” country facing annually nearly one “extreme disaster” (defined as one that causes 100 or more fatalities and/or affects 1,000 or more people).
  • India faces 5-10 times as many extreme events as the average country, the authors say. “One more extreme event in India [such as the Kerala floods of 2018 that killed at least 400] would strain the ability of the country to cope; a doubling of the numbers in 13 years, using the above estimation, would be catastrophic,”
  • The report, Impacts of Carbon Dioxide Emissions on Global Intense Hydro-meteorological Disasters, appears in the January issue of Climate, Disaster and Development Journal.

6 . Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar


Context : The Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in Uttarakhand and former IPS officer K.M. Singh have been selected for the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar for their contribution in the field of disaster management

About the Award

  • Government has instituted an annual award titled Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar.
  • The award is to be announced every year on 23rd January on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
  • The National award is instituted for organisations and Individuals who work silently but effectively to alleviate suffering of the affected population during disasters. Award is given to recognise the efforts of such organisations and individuals. \
  • All Indian Citizens and organizations, who have excelled in areas of Disaster Management; like Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Rescue, Response, Relief, Rehabilitation, Research/ Innovations or Early Warning are eligible for the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar

7 . Facts for Prelims


Voluntary Retention Route (VRR)

  •  In March 2019, the RBI introduced a separate channel, the ‘Voluntary Retention Route’ , to enable FPIs to invest in debt markets in India.
  • Investments through VRR are free of the macro-prudential and other regulatory prescriptions applicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided FPIs voluntarily commit to retain a required minimum percentage of their investments in India for a particular period

Sagarmatha Dialogue

  • Sagarmatha Sambaad is a multi-stakeholder, permanent global dialogue forum initiated by the Government of Nepal. It is scheduled to be held biennially in Nepal.
  • The Sambaad (dialogue) is named after the world’s tallest mountain Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) which is also a symbol of friendship and is meant to promote the notions of common good and collective well-being of humanity. Sagarmatha, being the highest natural landmark on the earth, is also the tallest witness of the unfolding global events.
  • The first episode of the Sambaad is scheduled to be held from 2 to 4 April 2020 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Nepal), in collaboration with the Institute for Foreign Affairs, Nepal and Policy Research Institute, a government policy think tank.
  • The theme of the first Sambaad is “Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of Humanity.”
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