Daily Current Affairs: 25th November 2021


Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics covered

  1. Lithium Deposits
  2. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)
  3. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 
  4. The Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) 2014
  5. Wage Rate Index
  6. Facts for Prelims : Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, Full Stack Digital Bank, Thalassemia

1 . Lithium Deposits


Context: A number of Chinese companies have already begun “on-site inspections” of possible projects to tap lithium deposits in Afghanistan, having received the green light to do so from the Taliban regime, according to a report in the Chinese state media on Wednesday.

About Lithium

  • Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3.
  • It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal.
  • Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in vacuum, inert atmosphere or inert liquid such as purified kerosene or mineral oil. 
  • Lithium can float on even the lightest hydrocarbon oils and is one of only three metals to float on water(other two: sodium and potassium).
  • Lithium is a comparatively rare element, although it is found in many rocks and some brines, but always in very low concentrations.

Extraction of Lithium

  • Primary resources such as ores/minerals (spodumene, petalite and lepidolite) by acid, alkaline and chlorination processes and from brines by adsorption, precipitation and ion exchange processes.
  • Secondary resources including the industrial processes like the recovery of lithium from lithium ion batteries (LIBs).

Lithium deposits by country

  • Chile has the largest lithium reserves worldwide by a large margin. Chile had an estimated 9.2 million metric tons of lithium reserves in 2020.
  • Australia came in second, with reserves estimated at 4.7 million metric tons that year.
  • Mineral reserves are defined as those minerals that were extractable or producible at the time of estimate.
  • Australia was the top country in terms of lithium mine production in 2020, producing 40,000 metric tons of lithium that year.
  • The top four lithium-producing countries of the world from 2019 are Australia, Chile, China and Argentina.
  • The intersection of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina make up the region known as the Lithium Triangle.

Lithium Deposits in Afghanistan

  • Lithium is one of many resources in Afghanistan present in large deposits but as yet untapped, largely because of years of political instability and the lack of infrastructure

Lithium Deposits in India

  • Researchers at the Atomic Minerals Directorate( under India’s Atomic Energy Commission) have estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of land surveyed in the Southern Karnataka’s Mandya district recently. Also to be India’s first ever Lithium deposit site found.
  • India currently imports all its lithium needs. A “Khanij Bidesh India” has been setup to source and acquire mines in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
  • The exploratory work is meanwhile also on to possibly extract lithium from the brine pools of Rajasthan and Gujarat and the mica belts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

Uses

  • Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, flux additives for iron, steel and aluminium production, rocket fuels, lasers, lithium batteries, and lithium-ion batteries. These uses consume more than three-quarters of lithium production.
  • Lithium salts have proven to be useful as a mood stabilizer and antidepressant in the treatment of mental illness such as bipolar disorder.
  • One of lithium’s most well-known end uses is in lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries are proving to be an effective and affordable alternative to traditional batteries, and also in new battery applications. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable and mostly used in portable electronics and electronic vehicles.

Lithium ion batteries

  • In lithium-ion batteries, the lithium ions move from the negative electrode to positive electrode and back while charging.
  • These batteries are highly flammable but are also low-maintenance. They have a high energy density and a low self-discharge.
  • Some drawbacks include the fact that they are expensive to manufacture, and that they require protection circuits to maintain the voltage safely.
  • Lithium is considered key to the new green global agenda of switching to electric vehicles. The global lithium battery market is projected to grow substantially in coming years, from 30 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 to over 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
  • The electric vehicle market will propel the growth of the lithium market as the number of hybrid and electric vehicles powered by rechargeable lithium batteries picks up.

2 . Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)


Context: Acknowledging that poor families still need food security support in the middle of a recovering economy, the Centre has decided to extend its free ration scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), for another four months, until March 2022.

About the scheme

  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) is a scheme as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat to supply free food grains to migrants and poor. 
  • The program was announced as part of the existing Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana welfare initiative in his first address to the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Prime Minister
  • The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • Phase-I and Phase-II of this scheme was operational from April to June, 2020 and July to November, 2020 respectively.
  • Phase-III of the scheme was operational from May to June, 2021.
  • Phase-IV of the scheme is currently operational for July-November, 2021 months.
  • The PMGKAY scheme for Phase V from December 2021 till March, 2022 would entail an estimated additional food subsidy of Rs. 53344.52 Crore

Benefits

  • More than 81.35 crore people will be provided 5 kg free wheat/rice per person / month along with 1 kg free whole chana to each family per month.
  • Wheat has been allocated to 6 States/UTs, – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi and Gujarat and rice has been provided to the remaining States/UTs.
  • This is over and above the regular monthly entitlements under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).

Eligibility 

  • Families belonging to the Below Poverty Line – Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH) categories will be eligible for the scheme.
  • PHH are to be identified by State Governments/Union Territory Administrations as per criteria evolved by them.
  • AAY families are to be identified by States/UTs as per the criteria prescribed by the Central Government:
  • Households headed by widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support.
  • Widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more or single women or single men with no family or societal support or assured means of subsistence.
  • All primitive tribal households.
  • Landless agriculture labourers, marginal farmers, rural artisans/craftsmen such as potters, tanners, weavers, blacksmiths, carpenters, slum dwellers, and persons earning their livelihood on daily basis in the informal sector like porters, coolies, rickshaw pullers, hand cart pullers, fruit and flower sellers, snake charmers, rag pickers, cobblers, destitute  and other similar categories in both rural and urban areas.
  • All eligible Below Poverty Line families of HIV positive persons.

3 . National Family Health Survey (NFHS)


Context: As per the fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS), India now has more women than men. There are 1,020 women for every 1,000 men as per the report released by the Union health ministry on Wednesday.

What is NFHS?

  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a country-wide survey conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, with the International Institute for Population Sciences serving as the nodal agency.
  • In 1992-93, the first round of the National Family Health Survey was conducted in three phases.
  • The main objective of the survey was to collect reliable and up-to-date information on fertility, family planning, mortality, and maternal & child health. Subsequently, four other rounds conducted between 1998 to 2015.
  • The latest being NFHS 5 that started in 2019, however, was stalled amid the COVID-19 associated lockdown.
  • The first phase of the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) was conducted in 2019-20 and its findings were released in December 2020. Phase one of the NFHS-5 covered 22 states / UTs.
  • The states and UTs which were surveyed in phase 2 were Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • The NFHS provides estimates on key indicators related to population, family planning, child and maternal health, nutrition, adult health, and domestic violence, among others. 
  • NFHS is a sample survey, and whether these numbers apply to the larger population can only be said with certainty when the next national census is conducted, although it is very likely that they will in the case of many states and Union territories.

Vital Stats: National Family Health Survey 5

Phase 1

Population

  • Use of family planning methods increased; most states reduce their fertility rate, below the target of 2.1
    • All states (except Mizoram) have seen an increase in the use of family planning methods.  Goa (42%-point) and Bihar (32%-point) have seen the highest increase in the use of family planning methods. 
  • Sex ratio at birth has declined in a few states
    • Sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years is below 950 for seven (of the 17) states.  
    • Sex ratio at birth is the number of female children born per 1,000 male children born.  
    • In three states, the ratio is below 900 (Goa: 838, Himachal Pradesh: 875, and Telangana: 894). 
    • The ratio has declined in seven states.  
    • The most notable decline was in Goa (from 966 to 838), and Kerala (from 1,047 to 951).  
    • Only Tripura has a sex ratio at birth above 1,000 (i.e., more females born than males).

Health and Nutrition

  • Institutional births have increased; out of pocket expenditure on deliveries increased in some states
    • In 7 states, more than 90% of the births in the last five years were institutional births.  In Kerala, nearly 100% of the births were institutional births.  Only 46% of the births in Nagaland were institutional births. 
    • The average out of pocket expenditure on a delivery in a public health facility increased in 8 of the 17 states.
    •  Note that in West Bengal, the average expenditure on deliveries declined by Rs 5,236 per delivery (66% of the cost in 2015-16), and the proportion of institutional births increased from 75% to 92%.
    • Along with an increase in institutional births, there has also been a substantial increase in C-section deliveries in many States/UTs especially in private health facilities.
  • Infant Mortality Rate has declined across states; however, malnourishment among children is increasing
    • IMR has marginally declined in nearly all states.  
    • Assam has seen one of the largest drops in IMR, from 48 deaths (per 1,000 live births) to 32 deaths.  
    • IMR remains high in Bihar (47 deaths per 1,000 live births).
    • However, nutritional status of children below 5 years of age is worsening.  
    • Stunting or chronic malnutrition (i.e., low height with respect to age) has increased in 11 of the 17 states.  
    • Proportion of severely wasted children has increased in 13 of the 17 states.
    • Wasting or acute malnutrition refers to low weight with respect to height. Children who are stunted or wasted are more vulnerable to diseases and illness.  
    • The proportion of children who are underweight (low weight with respect to age) has increased in 11 of the 17 states.  
    • In Bihar and Gujarat, 40% or more of the children under the age of five years are underweight.
  • Anaemia among women and children continues to be a cause of concern. More than half of the children and women are anaemic in 13 of the 22 States/UTs. It has also been observed that aanaemia among pregnant women has increased in half of the States/UTs compared to NFHS-4, in spite of substantial increase in the consumption of IFA tablets by pregnant women for 180 days or more.
  • Obesity is rising for both men and women across all states
    • The proportion of women and men, between the age of 15-49 years, who are overweight or obese have increased across nearly all states (except Gujarat and Maharashtra).  
    • Overweight or obesity is measured through the Body Mass Index of persons. 
    • In Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, nearly one-third of men and women (between 15-49 years of age) are overweight or obese.

Access to infrastructure

  • Access to electricity, improved source of drinking water and sanitation facility has increased
    • The proportion of households with electricity and improved drinking water source has increased across all states.  
    • Households with an improved sanitation facility has also increased across all states.
    •  99% households in Kerala have an improved sanitation facility, while only 49% households have it in Bihar. 
    • Similarly, the proportion of households using clean fuel for cooking has also increased across nearly all states.  
    • Telangana has seen a nearly 25%-point increase in access to improved sanitation facility and clean cooking fuel as compared to NFHS-4.
  • More women using mobile phones across all states; however, many of them do not have access to internet
    • The proportion of women who have a mobile phone has increased across all states.  
    • However, only about 50% women own and use a mobile phone in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, and West Bengal.
  • More women using bank accounts; ownership of house/ land amongst women declines in several states
    • The proportion of women who have a savings or bank account has increased across all the 17 states.  
    • Bihar (51%-point) and Manipur (39%-point) have seen the highest increase in this regard.  
    • Across all 17 states, close to 80% women now have a savings or bank account, except in Gujarat (70%) and Nagaland (64%).
    • However, the proportion of women who own a house or land (including joint ownership) has declined in 9 of the 17 states.  Tripura, Maharashtra and Assam have seen a large decline in women owning house/ land. 

Gender related indicators

  • Use of hygienic methods of protection during menstrual period has increased across states 
    • The Survey measured the proportion of women (15-24 years) who are using hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period.  
    • This has increased across almost all states.  
    • The largest increase was seen in Bihar and West Bengal (28%-point).  
    • However, it still remains low in Bihar (59%), Assam and Gujarat (66%).
  • Gender based violence still remains high, has increased in some states
    • The proportion of married women (between 18-49 years of age) who have ever faced spousal violence has increased in 5 states.  
    • In Karnataka, it has doubled, from 21% to 44%.
    • More than a third of the married women face spousal violence in Karnataka (44%), Bihar (40%), Manipur (40%), and Telangana (37%).

Phase 2

  • At the national level, the occurrence of anaemia among women and children was found to be the same as that in 14 states and UTs. The findings for national level were calculated by using data from phase one and phase two of the NHFS-5.
  • According to the findings, child nutrition indicators showed a slight improvement at all-India level as stunting declined from 38 per cent to 36 per cent, wasting from 21 per cent to 19 per cent and underweight from 36 per cent to 32 percent.
  • The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has further declined from 2.2 to 2.0 at the national level and in all 14 states and UTs. All phase two states have achieved replacement level of fertility (2.1), except Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Women’s empowerment indicators show considerable improvement at all-India level and across all 14 states and UTs. “Significant progress has been recorded between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 with respect to women operating bank accounts from 53 per cent to 79 per cent at all-India level”.
  • Full immunisation drive among children aged 12-23 months has shown substantial improvement from 62 per cent to 76 per cent at all-India level. Out of 14 states and UTs have more than three-fourth of children aged 12-23 months with full immunisation and it is the highest for Odisha at 90 per cent, the statement said.
  • Overall Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) has seen an increase from 54 per cent to 67 per cent at the nationwide level and in almost all phase two states and UTs, with the exception of Punjab. As per the syrvey, the use of modern methods of contraceptives has also increased in almost all states and UTs. 

4 . The Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) 2014


Background

  • The Union Government has listed 29 Bills (26 new and three pending) to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.
  • In 2014, the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy was adopted, mandating a host of rules, including that whenever the Government makes any law, it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days.
  • Since the inception of the policy, 227 of the 301 bills introduced in Parliament have been presented without any prior consultation.
  • Of the 74 placed in public domain for comment, at least 40 did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.

What is the policy?

  • The Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) 2014 mandates that whenever the Government makes any laws (bills, rules, regulations etc.), it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days.
  • The policy also says that along with the draft, a note explaining the law in simple language and justifying the proposal, its financial implication, impact on the environment and fundamental rights, a study on the social and financial costs of the bill, etc. should be uploaded.
  • The respective departments should also upload the summary of all the feedback that they receive on the circulated draft.
  • The PLCP was formulated based on the broad recommendations of the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi (2013) and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2002).
  • It aimed to create an institutionalised space for public participation in lawmaking processes.

Why is it important?

  • This policy provides a forum for citizens and relevant stakeholders to interact with the policymakers in the executive during the initial stages of lawmaking.
  • Protests in the recent past over laws such as the farm laws, the RTI Amendment Act, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, etc. have all highlighted that there is discontent among relevant stakeholders and the public at large since they were not looped in while framing such laws.
  • Public consultations enhance transparency, increase accountability and could result in the building of an informed Government where citizens are treated as partners and not as subjects.
  • For example, concerns raised by civil society members (#SaveTheInternet campaign) were addressed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority in its framing of the net neutrality rules after extensive consultation and deliberation processes adopted by them.

What is the status of its implementation?

  • During the 16th Lok Sabha (May 2014 to May 2019) 186 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 142 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
  • From the 44 bills placed in the public domain for receipt of comments, 24 did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.
  • During the 17th Lok Sabha (June 2019 to present), 115 bills were introduced in Parliament, of which 85 saw no consultation prior to introduction.
  • From the 30 bills placed in public domain for receipt of comment, 16 of them did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.
  • The tentative schedule for the winter session indicates that a total of 29 bills are listed for introduction and passing. Of these, 17 saw no prior consultation while from the 12 that were placed in the public domain, only six adhered to the 30-day deadline.

Why is implementation difficult?

  • Though it is required that the mandates of an approved policy be heeded by all Government departments, the absence of a statutory or constitutional right has watered down its effect.
  • The effective implementation of the policy requires subsequent amendments in executive procedural guidelines like the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures and Handbook on Writing Cabinet Notes.
  • However, during a subsequent amendment to the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs ignored the Ministry of Law and Justice when it requested them to incorporate PLCP provisions in the manual.
  • Incorporation of pre-legislative consultation in the procedures of the Cabinet, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha etc. should be prioritized.
  • Similarly, it must be required of ministers while introducing the bill to place an addendum note on the details of the pre-legislative consultation.
  • Empowering citizens with a right to participate in pre-legislative consultations through a statutory and a constitutional commitment could be a gamechanger.

5 . Wage Rate Index


Context : The government has revised the base year for Wage Rate Index (WRI) to 2016 which will replace the old series with base of 1963-65. The revised base will be more representative and play a critical role in determining the minimum wages and national floor wages along with other parameters.

Background

  • Keeping in view the need for serial data on Wage Rate Indices, the work relating to the construction of Wage Rate Indices was entrusted to Labour Bureau.
  • Based on the results of second round of Occupational Wage Surveys, conducted in 1963-65, the Bureau took up the compilation of Wage Rate Index Numbers, to begin with, for workers in twelve manufacturing industries with effect from 1969.
  • Nine more industries (viz. three plantations, four mining and two manufacturing) were added to the list of industries for the compilation of these index numbers with effect from 1976.
  • Index numbers of wage rates depict movement of relative change in the wage rates over a period of time. Over the years same set of units/establishments do not submit the requisite wage rate data that go into the compilation of wage rate indices, which cause variation in the wage rate indices.

Current Index

  • The new series on WRI has been compiled on half-year basis as against the annual in the existing series. The new WRI series would be point-to-point, half-yearly, with reference date as January 1 and July 1 of every year.”
  • The New WRI basket (2016=100) has enhanced the scope and coverage in terms of occupations and industries as compared to old WRI series (1963-65=100).
  • Of the 37 industries covered in the new series, 16 new ones — including textile garments, footwear and petroleum — have been added to the new basket
  • Manufacturing, mining and plantation sectors have weights (estimated total wage bill) of 82.57 per cent, 11.23 per cent and 6.20 per cent, respectively, in the new WRI series as against weights (estimated employment) of 48.78 per cent, 17.01 per cent and 34.21 per cent in the old series.
  • The top five industries — motor vehicles (11.49 per cent), coal mines (9.53 per cent), textile garments (9.32 per cent), iron & steel (9.30 per cent), and cotton textiles (6.55 per cent) — together account for 46 per cent of the total weight.
  • The new series presents wage rate indices, average daily absolute wage rates and real wages at 2001 prices by occupation, industry and all-India level from July 2O16 to July 2020.
  • The overall average daily absolute wage rate for all the 37 industries combined together stood at Rs 585.5 in the second half of 2020 as compared to Rs 576.1 in the first half of the year. 


6 . Facts for Prelims


Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART

  • NASA is about to launch a spacecraft with one simple mission with the aim of Smashing it into an asteroid
  • The mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART will test whether slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid can nudge it into a different trajectory.
  • NASA is crashing DART into an asteroid to test, for the first time, a method of planetary defense that could one day save a city, or maybe the whole planet, from a catastrophic asteroid impact.
  • If all goes as planned with DART, NASA will have a confirmed weapon in its planetary defense arsenal.
  • After launching to space, the spacecraft will make nearly one full orbit around the sun before it crosses paths with Dimorphos, a football-field-sized asteroid that closely orbits a bigger asteroid, called Didymos, every 11 hours and 55 minutes. Astronomers call those two asteroids a binary system, where one is a mini-moon to the other. Together, the two asteroids make one full orbit around the sun every two years. 
  • Asteroid poses no threat to Earth, and the mission is essentially target practice.
  • DART’s impact will happen in late September or early October next year, when the binary asteroids are at their closest point to Earth, roughly 6.8 million miles away.
  • Four hours before impact, the DART spacecraft, formally called a kinetic impactor, will autonomously steer itself straight toward Dimorphos for a head-on collision at 15,000 mph.
  • An onboard camera will capture and send back photos to Earth in real time until 20 seconds before impact.
  • A tiny satellite from the Italian Space Agency, deployed 10 days before the impact, will come as close as 34 miles from the asteroid to snap images every six seconds in the moments before and after DART’s impact.

Thalassemia

  • Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder characterised by less oxygen-carrying protein (haemoglobin) and fewer red blood cells in the body than normal.
  • The disorder results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anemia.
  • Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, paleness and slow growth.

Full Stack Digital Banks

  • Niti Aayog’s proposed full-stack digital banks to end physical branches, run entirely on internet.
  • These banks would primarily work on the internet and other proximate channels to offer their services, instead of physical branches.
  • These proposed banks will help mitigate the financial deepening challenges being faced in the country.
  • It also recommends a two-stage approach – a digital business bank license to begin with, followed by a Digital (Universal) Bank license after policymakers and regulators have gained experience from the former.
  • Focus on avoiding any regulatory or policy arbitrage and giving a level playing field will be crucial.

 

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