Daily Current Affairs :11th and 12th September 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. IPEF 
  2. Rabies Vaccine 
  3. Price cap on Russian Oil 
  4. Cloudburst forecasting 
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Indo Pacific Economic Framework


Context: India stayed out of the joint declaration on the trade pillar of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) ministerial meet in Los Angeles, with Union Commerce Minister citing concerns over possible discrimination against developing economies.

Key highlights

  • India was the only one of the 14 IPEF countries, which include Southeast Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, not to join the declaration on trade.
  •  However, a statement by the government said India had “engaged exhaustively” on all the four pillars and was “comfortable” with the outcome statements on the other three pillars: supply chains, clean economy (clean energy) and fair economy (tax and anti-corruption).
  • The decision to stay out came four months after the launch of the talks by the IPEF leaders on the sidelines of the Quad Summit in Tokyo in May.
  •  Indian needs to see what benefits member countries will derive and whether any conditionalities on aspects like environment may discriminate against developing countries, who have the imperative to provide low-cost and affordable energy to meet the needs of our growing economy.
  • One of the reasons for staying out of the trade pillar was that the “contours of the framework” had not emerged yet, particularly on the kind of commitment each country would have to make on “environment, labor, digital trade and public procurement”.
  • The IPEF move mirrors India’s decision to walk out after seven years of negotiations from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a grouping resembling the IPEF that includes China but doesn’t include the U.S.
  • India had not walked out of the IPEF talks, and that delegations would continue to participate in future IPEF talks, including on trade with an “open mind”.

About Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)

  • Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) is a U.S.-led economic grouping comprising 12 countries.  
  • The 14 IPEF partners represent 40 per cent of global GDP and 28 per cent of global goods and services trade.
  • It seeks to strengthen economic partnership among participating countries with the objective of enhancing resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness and competitiveness in the region.
  • The 14 members of the IPEF are — Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the US.
  • The framework is structured around four pillars relating to trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy.

What does the framework entail? 

  • The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will be spearheading the trade pillar, while the others (I.e., supply chain resilience, clean energy and decarbonisation, and taxes and anti-corruption measures) will fall under the purview of the U.S. Department of Commerce. 
  •  Trade front: The endeavor is to establish “high-standard, inclusive, free, and fair-trade commitments” to fuel economic activity and investments benefiting both workers and consumers. What stands out, however, is the U. S’s willingness to extend cooperation for enhancing digital economy and trade. 
    • Digital trade incorporates not just the purchase and sale of goods online but also data flows that enable the operation of global value chains and services, like smart manufacturing, platforms and applications.
    • The idea here is to overcome downstream costs for businesses as well as upscale the ability to utilise data processing and analysis and enhance cybersecurity outside their geographies. 
  • Supply chain resilience: The framework aspires to secure access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals and clean energy tech, particularly for crisis response measures and ensuring business continuity.
  • Clean economy: In line with the Paris Agreement, the clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure pillar would provide technical assistance and help mobilise finance, including concessional finance, to improve competitiveness and enhance connectivity by supporting countries in the development of sustainable and durable infrastructure for adopting renewable energy. 
  • Fair economy: The pillar on tax and anti-corruption is aimed at promoting fair competition by enforcing robust tax, anti-money laundering and anti-bribery regimes in line with existing multilateral obligations, standards and agreements to curb tax evasion and corruption in the region.

 How do members participate? 

  • Countries are free to join (or not join) initiatives under any of the stipulated pillars but are expected to adhere to all commitments once they enroll.
  • Negotiations slated to begin after the launch are meant to determine and list the provisions under each pillar and open the floor for countries to choose their ‘commitments’.
  • CSIS suggests that the agreements would be finalized within 18 months, possibly ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to be hosted by the U.S. in November 2023. 
  •  Additionally, the framework would be open to other countries willing to join in the future provided they are willing to adhere to the stipulated goals and other necessary obligations.

What are the broad challenges? 

  • Feasibility of a grouping: U.S. officials have made clear that the grouping would neither constitute a ‘free trade agreement,’ nor a forum to discuss tariff reductions or increasing market access.
  • Unlike a traditional trade agreement, the U.S. administration will not need congressional approval to act under the IPEF, thereby avoiding a politicised battle about domestic ramifications. This also raises doubts among potential participants about its willingness to offer significant concessions under the agreement.
  • The volatility of domestic politics has raised concerns about IPEF’s durability.


2 . Rabies Vaccine


Context: The death of a 12-year-old girl in Kerala from rabies, despite having multiple inoculations of the vaccine, has raised questions on the efficacy of rabies vaccines in India and their availability.

How does a rabies vaccine work?

  • Rabies is a disease that is caused by a family of viruses called the lyssaviruses and found in a range of mammals.
  • The virus targets the central nervous system and is nearly 100% fatal to the host animal if it succeeds in infecting it.
  • Though many animals from cats to crocodiles can be transmitters of the virus, it is most likely to spread to people from the bite of an infected dog or a cat as they are the most common pets.
  • Despite being potentially lethal, the virus is slow-moving, and it can be several weeks before the disease manifests into a fatal encephalitis which is why administering a vaccine, even after being bitten by a rabid animal, is effective.
  • A shot of rabies immunoglobulin (rabies-antibodies against the virus derived either from people or horses) followed by a four-week course of anti-rabies vaccine, is nearly guaranteed to prevent rabies.
  • This translates to the first dose being given on the same day as the immunoglobulin followed by vaccinations on the 3rd, 7th and 14th day.
  • There are other regimens, such as five shots which include one on the 28th day approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) which clinics may consider, depending on the availability of the vaccine.

 How is the vaccine made?

  • The vaccine is made up of an inactivated virus that is expected to induce the body into producing antibodies that can neutralise the live virus in case of infection.
  • There are also test vaccines that involve genetically modified viruses. There is no single-shot rabies vaccine or one that offers permanent immunity.
  • There are mainly two ways of administering the rabies vaccine.
    • One, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), is given to persons who have been exposed via a bite to an animal suspected to be infected.
      • The vaccines are administered either into the muscles, or into the skin.
    • It can also be given ahead of time to people who have a high risk of being infected, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, areas with a high number of rabies infections, by what is called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
      • The advantage of a PrEP is that if bitten, one doesn’t need an immunoglobulin injection, and two subsequent shots of the vaccine will suffice for full protection, unlike the four-course prescription in the case of PEP.
  • However, the WHO doesn’t recommend PrEP as a general preventive.

 Are rabies vaccines easily available in India?

  • There are at least six rabies vaccines approved for India. They all contain inactivated viruses made of duck, chicken or human cell cultures and are marked as safe, efficacious and with long immunity.
  • Rabies vaccines are available for free in government dispensaries though vaccines administered in a private clinic can cost up to ₹500 per dose.
  • However, reports of hospitals running out of vaccines continue to surface and knowledge about vaccines and treatment is still inadequate in India.
  • The Health Ministry has said that no centralized database of vaccine availability is maintained, being a State-procured product, but that shortages had been reported in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal and Karnataka.
  • The Centre says that from 2016-18, around 300 laboratory-confirmed rabies deaths were reported in India.
  • The WHO says India is endemic for rabies and accounts for 36% of the world’s deaths.
  • The true burden of rabies in India is not fully known; although as per available information, it causes 18,000-20,000 deaths every year.
  • About 30-60% of reported rabies cases and deaths in India occur in children under the age of 15 years, as bites that occur in children often go unrecognized and unreported, it notes.

 What about vaccines for animals?

  • Given that rabies treatment requires multiple shots of vaccine as well as immunoglobin, sticking to the schedule is challenging.
  • Governments of countries where rabies is endemic have frequently set targets to eliminate the disease — India has committed to do so by 2030.
  • Yet it is widely acknowledged that this elimination requires vaccination of dogs.
  • Like in people, vaccinating animals too doesn’t guarantee lifelong immunity from the disease.
  • Because dogs are deemed responsible for 99% of all rabies infections in people, the government in its 2021 plan, called the ‘National Action for Plan — Rabies Elimination’, aims to vaccinate at least 70% of all dogs in a defined geographical area annually for three consecutive years.
  • With this, a degree of herd immunity is expected leading to eventual elimination within eight years. Rather than inoculate all dogs, the plan is to identify ‘rabies hotspots’ in the country and target them.


3 . Price Cap on Russian Oil


Context: Recently, Finance Ministers of all G7 countries announced their plan to “finalise and implement a comprehensive prohibition of services which enable maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products globally”, unless they are purchased at or below a “price cap” they will fix. The plan, however, doesn’t include Russian gas, which Europe is still quite dependent on.

What is the price cap plan?

  • The price cap plan is the latest of the sanctions proposed by Western countries against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, as well as Belarus for its support to Russia.
  • For the past few weeks, U.S. and EU officials have been trying to convince countries including India, China and Turkey to join the coalition or to at least support the price cap, which they say is in the interests of all oil buyers from Russia as it will give them leverage to lower purchase prices.

 How will it be enforced?

  • For countries that join the coalition, it would mean simply not buying Russian oil unless the price is reduced to where the cap is determined.
  • For countries that don’t join the coalition, or buy oil higher than the cap price, they would lose access to all services provided by the coalition countries including for example, insurance, currency payment, facilitation and vessel clearances for their shipments.
  • G7 countries say they are aiming to reduce the price of oil, but not the quantity of oil that Russia sells, to control inflation globally while hurting the Russian economy and its ability to fund the war in Ukraine. This could only work, of course, if all countries joined the coalition.

 How has Russia reacted to the plan?

  •  Russian President has lashed out at the plan, warning that Russia would not supply “anything at all” if it contradicts Russian interests.
  • Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), he threatened that Russia could stop supplies of gas, oil, coal, heating oil… leaving European countries to “freeze”.
  • Recently, Russia also announced a halt on all supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe due to “maintenance issues” arising from the EU sanctions already in place, raising fears of a very difficult winter for European countries.

 India’s stand

  • The price cap is only the latest in several sanctions to hurt the Russian economy that the U.S. and EU have tried to bring India on board, from asking India to change its uncritical stance on Russia at the United Nations, to cutting down oil imports, to stopping defense and other purchases from Russia, and to avoid the Rupee-Rouble payment mechanism that circumvents their sanctions.
  • Thus far, India has not obliged, and there is little indication that India is likely to, just yet.
  • India’s oil intake from Russia, which was minuscule prior to the war has soared 50 times over.
  • Union Petroleum Minister rejected any “moral” duty to join the price cap coalition, and said his only duty was to provide affordable oil to Indian consumers.
  •  At the EEF, Indian PM said he wanted to “strengthen” ties with Russia in the energy field and boost India’s $16 billion investment in Russian oilfields.
  • This week, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan, the price cap issue will no doubt be discussed from the opposite viewpoint to the G7’s.
  • It also remains to be seen whether India will bargain with the U.S. to set aside sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, from which it cancelled oil imports under pressure from the U.S. in 2017-18, in exchange for joining the price cap coalition.


4 . Cloudburst Forecasting


Context: Cloudbursts have been reported since the mid-19th century. Yet, the characteristics of these events remain elusive, and our efforts in monitoring and forecasting them are at an embryonic stage. However, their disastrous impact that causes loss of lives and property is seemingly increasing in a changing climate and has led to close observations in the recent decade, advancing our understanding of these events.

What are cloudbursts

  • Cloudburst events are often associated with cumulonimbus clouds that cause thunderstorms and occasionally due to monsoon wind surges and other weather phenomena. \
  • Cumulonimbus clouds can grow up to 12-15 km in height through the entire troposphere (occasionally up to 21 km) and can hold huge amounts of water.
  • However, cloudbursts are not defined based on cloud characteristics and do not indicate clouds exploding. Cloudbursts are defined by the amount of rainfall.
  • According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), 100 mm of rain in an hour is called a cloudburst. Usually, cloudbursts occur over a small geographical region of 20 to 30 sq. km.
  •  In India, cloudbursts often occur during the monsoon season, when the southwesterly monsoon winds bring in copious amounts of moisture inland.
  • The moist air that converges over land gets lifted as they encounter the hills. The moist air reaches an altitude and gets saturated, and the water starts condensing out of the air forming clouds. This is how clouds usually form, but such an orographic lifting together with a strong moisture convergence can lead to intense cumulonimbus clouds taking in huge volumes of moisture that is dumped during cloudbursts.
  • Tall cumulonimbus clouds can develop in about half an hour as the moisture updraft happens rapidly, at a pace of 60 to 120 km/hr.
  • A single-cell cloud may last for an hour and dump all the rain in the last 20 to 30 minutes, while some of these clouds merge to form multi-cell storms and last for several hours.

 More prone areas

  • Cloudbursts, hence, occur mostly over the rugged terrains over the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, and northeastern hill States of India.
  • The heavy spells of rain on the fragile steep slopes trigger landslides, debris flows, and flash floods, causing large-scale destruction and loss of people and property.
  •  Recent cloudbursts that caused significant devastation occurred over the Himalayan foothills in Himachal Pradesh (in the year 2003), Ladakh (2010), and Uttarakhand (2013). Cloudbursts were reported from the northeastern States and Western Ghats States during the current monsoon season (2022).
  • On July 8, 2022, flash floods occurred in the Lidder Valley en route to Amarnath Temple in Jammu and Kashmir, taking the lives of several pilgrims. While the media linked this event to cloudbursts that occurred upstream of the temple, there is no meteorological record in the surrounding regions to validate this.
  • Weather forecasts indicated scattered light rains for the region, and the IMD recorded moderate rainfall at the temple station.

Monitoring cloudbursts

  • Monitoring stations on the ground can hardly capture the cloudburst characteristics due to their highly localized and short occurrence.
  • Hence, most of these events go unreported due to the lack of monitoring mechanisms in the region, weakening our ability to understand these events in complete perspective.
  • Heavy rains and waterlogging brought Bengaluru to a standstill during the first week of September 2022. None of the city’s weather stations recorded a cloudburst but indicated heavy rains during the week as the monsoon winds gained strength due to a low-pressure area developing in the Arabian Sea.
  • Strong monsoon wind surges along the coast can also result in cloudbursts, as in the case of Mumbai (2005) and Chennai (2015).
  • Coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to cloudbursts since the flash floods make the conventional stormwater and flood management policies in these cities dysfunctional.

 Detecting cloudbursts

  • While satellites are extensively useful in detecting large-scale monsoon weather systems, the resolution of the precipitation radars of these satellites can be much smaller than the area of individual cloudburst events, and hence they go undetected.
  • Weather forecast models also face a similar challenge in simulating the clouds at a high resolution.
  • The skillful forecasting of rainfall in hilly regions remains challenging due to the uncertainties in the interaction between the moisture convergence and the hilly terrain, the cloud microphysics, and the heating-cooling mechanisms at different atmospheric levels.
  • The IMD’s forecasts, and in general, the weather prediction scenario, have advanced such that widespread extreme rains can be predicted two-three days in advance.
  • Cyclones can be predicted about one week in advance. However, cloudburst forecasts remain elusive.
  • Multiple doppler weather radars can be used to monitor moving cloud droplets and help to provide nowcasts (forecasts for the next three hours). This can be a quick measure for providing warnings, but radars are an expensive affair, and installing them across the country may not be practically feasible.
  • A long-term measure would be mapping the cloudburst-prone regions using automatic rain gauges. If cloudburst-prone regions are co-located with landslide-prone regions, these locations can be designated as hazardous.
    • The risk at these locations would be huge, and people should be moved, and construction and mining in nearby regions should be restricted as that can aggravate the landslides and flash flood impacts.
  • Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts worldwide.
  • As the air gets warmer, it can hold more moisture and for a longer time. We call this the Clausius Clapeyron relationship.
    • A 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature may correspond to a 7-10% increase in moisture and rainfall. This increase in rainfall does not spread moderately throughout the season.
    • As the moisture holding capacity of air increases, it results in prolonged dry periods intermittent with short spells of extreme rains. Deeper cumulonimbus clouds form and the chances of cloudbursts also increase.

Conclusion

  • Cloudbursts are reported frequently from across the country. The climate change signal is conspicuous, but we do not have long-term (20 years or more) hourly data to attest it.
  • With IMD enhancing its automatic weather stations, we may have hourly data that can help map cloudburst-prone regions.
  • The change in monsoon extremes and cloudbursts we see now are in response to the 1-degree Celsius rise in global surface temperature.
  • As emissions continue to increase and global commitment to reduce emissions proves insufficient, these temperatures are set to hit 1.5°C during 2020-2040 and 2°C during 2040-2060. We will need urgent action and policies to protect lives and property from extreme events that will amplify as the global temperature change doubles.


5 . Facts for Prelims


Suicide prevention strategy

  • Madhya Pradesh will be the first State in the country to prepare a draft suicide prevention strategy.
  • A task force comprising a range of subject experts such as psychiatrists, legal experts, researchers, academics and social workers has been formed for this.
  • Six sub-committees have been formed to analyze the causative and preventive strategies and the task force has been mandated to submit a report in two months.
  • Each sub-committee has been given a specific mandate — such as understanding the sociological factors, suggesting preventive methods, devising ways to raise mass awareness and suggesting newer methods for the training of professionals and individuals.
  • They will also look at how the laws can be strengthened or diluted to improve the situation and understand the inter-sectoral linkages in suicide prevention.
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India 2020, a total of 1,53,052 suicides were reported in the country with 14,578 reported from Madhya Pradesh, the third highest in the country.
    • At 17.4%, the suicide rate (instances per one lakh population) was above the national average of 11.3.
  • Suicide is undoubtedly a big problem in society and every section of it is affected by it.
  • We witness frequent cases of suicide, and this is linked to mental health.
  • To check this and find a solution to this problem, this extensive action plan has been prepared.

Parvat Prahar

  • The exercise was held in the Ladakh plateau at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
  • It used newly inducted all-terrain vehicles transported by Chinook heavy lift helicopters and K9-Vajra howitzers, among others.
  • The exercise featured a display of operational capabilities by artillery guns and other key weapon systems.
  • On the western front, Exercise Gagan Strike culminated with a fire power display of attack helicopters supporting deep operations by Strike Corps.

British colonies having British monarch as head of state

  • The passing of Queen Elizabeth II is a delicate moment for the British Commonwealth, 14 countries out of which continue to recognize the monarch as their Head of State, a position that is explicitly stated in the constitutions and laws of some of these countries.
  • In these cases, changes to the law or statute might be required and could trigger calls for a referendum in jurisdictions where there is significant opposition to the current situation.
    • Jamaica is one example, and it could follow Barbados, which left the Commonwealth after becoming a republic in 2021.
  • Developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are constitutional monarchies, and their political systems are oriented in a way that the new monarch of the United Kingdom will as part of the usual process become their head of state.
  • Commonwealth of Nations:
    • The Commonwealth of Nations, or simply the Commonwealth, is a group of 56 member countries, the vast majority of which are former British colonies.
    • They are mostly in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific.
    • Three European nations are part of the Commonwealth: Cyprus, Malta, and of course, the UK itself.
    • Fourteen of these 56 countries — along with the UK — constitute the “Commonwealth realms”.
      • They are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
      • The British monarch — now King Charles III, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II — is the head of state of these countries.

Project 171 a taragiri

  • Taragiri, the third stealth frigate of Project 17A, was launched by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL).
  • The ship has been built using integrated construction methodology which involves hull blocks construction in different geographical locations and integration/erection on slipway at MDL.
  • The keel of Taragiri was laid in September 2020, and the ship is expected to be delivered by August 2025.
  • The vessel is being launched with an approximate launch weight of 3,510 tones and is designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house design organisation — the Bureau of Naval Design.
  • The MDL had undertaken the detailed design and construction of the ship which was also overseen by the Warship Overseeing Team (Mumbai).
  • The estimated cost of Project 17A is around ₹25,700 crore.
  • Features:
    • The ship, 149.02 metre long and 17.8 metre wide, is propelled by a CODOG combination of two gas turbines and two main diesel engines which are designed to achieve a speed of over 28 knots at a displacement of approximately 6,670 tonnes.
    • The steel used in the hull construction of P17A frigates is an indigenously developed DMR 249A which is a low carbon micro alloy grade steel manufactured by SAIL.
    •  Indigenously designed Taragiri will have a state-of-the-art weapon, sensors, an advanced action information system, an integrated platform management system, world-class modular living spaces, a sophisticated power distribution system and a host of other advanced features.
    • It will be fitted with a supersonic surface-to-surface missile system and the ship’s air defence capability is designed to counter the threat of the enemy aircraft and the anti-ship cruise missiles would revolve around the vertical launch and long-range surface to air missile system.
  • Project 17A:
    • Project 17 Alpha frigates (P-17A) were launched by the Indian Navy in 2019.
    • The project was launched by the defence forces of India to construct a series of stealth guided-missile frigates, which are currently being constructed by two companies – Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE).
    • The first ship of Project 17A, Nilgiri, was launched in 2019, and is expected to begin sea trials in the first half of 2024.
    • The second ship of P17A class Udaygiri was launched in May this year and is expected to start the sea trials during the second half of 2024. 

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