Daily Current Affairs : 26th August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. BRICS innovation base
  2. Issues with Raising Marriage age of Women
  3. RBI Annual Report for 2019-20
  4. Use of Satellite for Farm Credit
  5. National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . BRICS innovation base

Context: China has proposed the creation of the ‘BRICS innovation base’ to take forward 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) cooperation among the five countries.

About BRICS Innovation Base

  • BRICS innovation base is planned by China to strengthen cooperation among the five-country bloc including India in sectors like 5G, AI and digital economy, industry and information technology.
  • China is planning to establish BRICS innovation base in China, in order to strengthen practical cooperation with the BRICS

Stand of other BRICs nations on the issue of Huawei & 5G Technology

  • India is the only country in the grouping that is leaning towards excluding Chinese participation in the roll-out of its national 5G network.
  • Russia has agreed to work with China on 5G.
  • In South Africa, Huawei is providing services to three of its telecom operators in the roll-out of their 5G networks.
  • Brazil has allowed participation in trials but is yet to take a final call. Brazil is more likely to allow Huawei considering that “more than a third” of Brazil’s 4G network operators use Huawei equipment.

Concerns Raised by India

  • Concerns over Chinese involvement in 5G wireless networks stem from allegations that cellular network equipment sourced from Chinese vendors may contain backdoors enabling surveillance by the Chinese government (as part of its intelligence activity internationally) and Chinese laws, such as the China Internet Security Law, which compel companies and individuals to assist the state intelligence agency on the collection of information whenever requeste
    • US has blockaded Huawei on the ground that its equipment is designed to aid snooping and would make American telecoms players dependent on subsidised Chinese technology
    • U.K. telecom operators are now required to stop buying new 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of 2020 and to remove such equipment from their networks by the end of 2027.
    • New progress report on implementation of the European Union’s “5G Toolbox” risk mitigation framework recommends that member-states establish plans to phase-out “high-risk suppliers.”
    • Back in December 2009, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked Indian mobile companies to suspend deals with Chinese equipment makers after fears that Chinese equipment were being used for hacking and spying. But India has been a fence-sitter since then — and has never fully banned Chinese companies from its telecom equipment industry. Indeed, much of India’s telecom growth story has been supported by Chinese companies in both hardware and software.

Difference between 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G & 5 G

  • 1 G Network – The 1980s brought the first generation—or 1G—of networks with voice-only, analog service. The top speed of data transmission on a 1G network reached around 2.4kbps.
  • 2G Networks : The 2G network began in Finland in 1991, allowing cell phones to move into the digital world. 2G allowed for call and text encryption as well as SMS, picture messaging and MMS. The maximum speed for 2G was about 50kbps.
  • 3G Networks : The advent of a 3G network with more data, video calling and mobile internet began in 1998. 3G networks reach 2mbps on stationary or non-moving devices and 384kbps on devices in moving vehicles.
  • 4G Networks : 4G, or the current standard of cellular networks, was released in the late 2000s and is 500 times faster than 3G. It has been able to support high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing and much more. When a device is moving, as when you are walking with your phone or are in a car, the top speed can be 10s of mbps, and when the device is stationary, it can be 100s of mbps. The 20MHz bandwidth sector has peak capacity of 400Mbps.
  • 5 G Network : 5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference.  One of the biggest differences between 4G and 5G will be peak capacity and latency. For example, peak capacity of 5G UWB sector is in gbps compared to 4G in mbps. Also, the latency, or the time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device until it is used by a receiver, will be greatly reduced on 5G networks, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. Another big difference between 4G and 5G is bandwidth size.

2 . Issues with Raising Marriage age of Women

Context: Delhi-based NGO Partners for Law in Development undertook an analysis of the impact of raising the age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women and how has the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006 been used and up to what extent.


  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Independence Day speech, had announced that the central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women, which is currently 18.

About the Analysis

  • Delhi-based NGO Partners for Law in Development undertook an analysis of cases reported under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, to understand who used the law the most and to what end.
  • The data analysed comprised of 83 High Court and District Court judgments and orders between 2008 and 2017.

Findings of the study

  • It was found that in 65% of the cases, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) was used to punish elopement of two consenting older adolescents and in the remaining 35% of cases of child marriage, the PCMA was invoked in more than half of them to seek dissolution of marriages that didn’t work and not to punish the parents for breaking the law.
  • The law was used mostly by parents and relatives of the girl in 56 out of the 83 cases and only 14% of the cases were initiated by legal functionaries such as the Child Marriage Prohibition Office.
  • The study also found that when used to punish young consenting couples for marrying against the wishes of their parents, the PCMA was invoked along with penal provisions for kidnapping and rape under the Indian Penal Code as well as Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
  • In marriages arranged by parents in violation of the law, only PCMA is applied where the maximum punishment is for 2 years.

Concerns regarding raising the age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women in the study

  • Raising the marriage age for women will lead to an increase in parental backlash against young adults who marry against the wishes of their parents and will lead to criminalisation of sexual activity.
  • According to the data from National Family Health Survey-4, a vast majority of women are married by the age of 21 and raising the age of marriage for women will lead to the criminalisation of these women and their families.

Other issues raised from various quarters

  • Even though the minimum age of marriage is 18 years, socially in the more backward villages and even in some cities, girls are being married off as soon as they attain menarche, which is 12,13,14 years. This is because the societal opinion is that if a girl cannot be educated or we cannot send her to work, then she is a burden hence the need is to educate people.
  • Increase in age is not the only thing. What is needed is information, education and communication as there is a need to ensure that girls are sent to school. Due to lack of money, and the amount of unpaid work women do, the girls are the first to be pulled out of school. What we need to do is make sure the laws are not flouted and customs change.

What needs to be done other than raising the age

  • Emphasis needs to be on schooling and access to job opportunities to delay the age of marriage and address poverty to prevent under-age marriage and fight malnutrition.
  • The child marriage needs to be made null and void ab initio. The law now says that either the woman or the man needs to go to court to get the marriage nullified. 
  • There is lack of awareness of reproductive health among young persons, and even the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) launched by the Health Ministry in 2014 for educating adolescent children “is not rigorously implemented
  • 18 is the universal age of adulthood. If the person can vote, own a business, sign a contract, the government cannot tell them not to marry the objective has to be how to empower girls

3 . RBI Annual Report for 2019-20

Context: According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) the economic contraction triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic might extend into the second quarter.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Economy

  • Cosumer consumption: During the COVID-19 pandemic period, consumption has been severely affected. The consumer confidence fell to an all-time low, consumers are pessimistic regarding the general economic situation, employment, inflation and income.
  • Domestic Trading: The domestic trading activity which is marked by total issuance of e-way bills, has lost momentum in the recent times.
  • Private Consumption: The private consumption had lost its discretionary elements across the board, particularly in transport services, hospitality, recreation and cultural activities. There are behavioural restraints now which may prevent the normalisation of demand for these activities.
  • Urban consumption: Urban consumption demand has suffered a bigger blow as the passenger vehicle sales and supply of consumer durables have also dipped.

Key Takeaways

  • Following an unprecedented retrenchment in economic activity, the upticks that became visible in May and June after the lockdown was eased in several parts of the country, appear to have lost strength in July and August. This is mainly due to reimposition or stricter imposition of lockdowns, suggesting that contraction in economic activity will likely prolong into Q2FY21.
  • Government consumption spending has provided a measure of relief, with central government’s revenue expenditure, net of interest payments and major subsidies, having risen by 33.7% in the first quarter of the year.
  • Government consumption is expected to continue pandemic-proofing of demand. However, public finances have been stretched by the imperative to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and headroom for continuing support to aggregate demand may be severely diminished.
  • State finances are likely to be squeezed so much that cuts in growth-giving capital expenditure seem quite probable.
  • As the wind-down begins and consolidation resumes, it is prudent to expect lower contributions of government consumption expenditure to overall demand.
  • As such, the future path of fiscal policy is likely to be heavily conditioned by the large overhang of debt and contingent liabilities incurred during the pandemic.
  • A credible consolidation plan, specifying actionables for reduction of debt and deficit levels, will earn confidence and acceptability, rather than just extending the path of touchdown.
  • Declining capacity utilisation, weakening consumption demand and the overhang of stressed balance sheets are restraining new investment. Underlying developments suggest that the appetite for investment is anaemic and in need of more reforms.
  • A recapitalisation plan for public and private sector banks assumes critical importance as minimum capital requirements for banks may no longer suffice to absorb post-pandemic losses. It also emphasised on the need for cultivating alternatives to bank finance

4 . Use of Satellite for Farm Credit

Context : ICICI Bank has announced the introduction of usage of satellite data-imagery from earth observation satellites—to assess credit worthiness of its customers belonging to the farm sector.


  • The bank has been using satellite data for the past few months as a pilot basis in over 500 villages in Maharashtra, MP and Gujarat and will now scale it up to over 63,000 villages across the country in two to three months.
  • Earlier, one had to visit remote locations to manually assess a host of parameters on the land location, irrigation levels and crop quality patterns to forecast future revenues of the farmers. Now, imagery from earth observation satellite gives us ground-breaking ability to track many information across large areas in a contactless and highly reliable manner.
  • “This, combined with demographic and financial details, provides strong information on the land asset of the farmers.

How satellite data will be used

  • Bank will use the data to measure an array of parameters related to the land, irrigation and crop patterns and in combination with demographic and financial parameters to make faster lending decisions for farmers,


  • Usage of this technology will enhance accessibility to credit as new-to-credit farmers will have easy access to formal credit, as well as farmers with existing credit lines will be able to securely expand their eligibility
  • Since land verification is done in a contactless manner, credit assessments take only a few days as against the industry practice of up to 15 days.

5 . National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Context: The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) over its report on the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which has proposed a 20-30% reduction of air pollution by 2024.

About the Issue

  • The NGT disapproved the submission of the MoEF that a committee, upon further deliberation, has concluded that 20-30% pollutant reduction under the NCAP seems realistic.
  • It said the MoEF’s view was against the constitutional mandate under Article 21.
  • The Environment Ministry told the tribunal that to assess the impact of technological and policy interventions on air quality levels, a mid-term nationwide review with the help of identified technical experts might be conducted and targets updated, if required.
  •  MoEF’s stand that pollution could not be controlled except to the extent of certain per cent was directly hit by the constitutional and statutory mandate.

Observations made by NGT

  • Right to Clean Air stood recognised as part of Right to Life and failure to address air pollution was denial of Right to Life, the Bench
  • The tribunal said the enforcement of ‘Sustainable Development’ principle and ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ required stern measures to be adopted to give effect to the mandate of international obligations for which the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and other laws had been enacted.

Issues with NCAP according to NGT

  • Under the NCAP, the target was to achieve norms in 10 years and reduce load to the extent of 35% in first three years with further reduction of pollution later.
    • It meant for 10 years pollution would remain unaddressed which was too long period of tolerating violations when clean air was Right to Life. Further, it was not clear what type of pollutants or all pollutants would be reduced
  • It also said that Non-Attainment Cities (NACs) cover cities where standards were not consecutively met for five years.
    • Its is silent on other cities. It is not clear as to what is monitoring mechanism for enforcement. There is no data how much pollution has been reduced in the last two years.
    • In fact, in 2019, the number of NACs has gone up from 102 to 122
  • The tribunal said the NCAP for reduction of air pollution did not fully meet the mandate of sustainable development.

What needs to be done

  • Violation of laid down air pollution levels resulting in large number of deaths and diseases needed to be addressed expeditiously.
  • Targeted time of reduction of pollution loads needed to be reduced and planned steps needed to be sternly implemented on the ground. The MoEF might take further action as per law, the Bench said.

About NCAP

  • The National Clean Air Programme is a pollution control initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Environment with the intention to cut the concentration of coarse (particulate matter of diameter 10 micrometer or less, or PM10) and fine particles (particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometer or less, or PM2.5) in the next five years,
  • Goal of NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated timeframe. The tentative national level target of 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
  • The NCAP will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.


  1. To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
  2. To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
  3. To have feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.


  • Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-Sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies.
  • Focus on no Regret Measures, Participatory and Disciplined approach

Initiatives under NCAP

  • Augmenting Air Quality Monitoring Network
  • Air Quality Management Plan for 100 Non-Attainment Cities : CPCB has identified list of polluted cities in which the prescribed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are violated. These cities have been identified based on ambient air quality data obtained (2008-2010) under National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). Action plans are being formulated and implemented to control air pollution in non-attainment cities by respective states.
  • Indoor Air Pollution Monitoring & Managemen
  • National Emission Inventory : An emission inventory is an accounting of the amount of pollutants discharged into the atmosphere.
  • Network of Technical Institutions
  • Technology Assessment Cell
  • Extending source apportionment studies to all non-attainment cities : Source apportionment study, which is primarily based on measurements and tracking down the sources through receptor modelling, helps in identifying the sources and extent of their contribution. 
  • Review of ambient air quality standards and emission standards
  • Institutional Framework : An effective institutional framework which basically refers to formal organisational structures is the precondition for the successful implementation of pollution specifically air pollution related intervention tools and therefore needs to be considered in particular.

6 . Facts for Prelims

Quick impact projects (QIPs)

  •  Quick impact projects (QIPs) are development assistance programme undertaken by government of India as part of an effort to reach out to build its influence in foreign countries especially in East Asia, many of which are of strategic importance, and to fight the impression that New Delhi lags behind in terms of completing projects.
  • The QIPs mostly cover upgradation of physical infrastructure such as roads, local community centres, social infrastructure such as in the education, health, sanitation or community development sectors. The short gestation projects are aimed to directly benefit locals, with immediate and visible results.


  • ACE2 — the enzyme on our cell surface that allows SARS-CoV-2 to infect human cells.
  • In humans, 25 amino acids of ACE2 are important for the virus to bind with the cell

INS Viraat

  • It was originally commissioned by the British Navy as HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959, the aircraft carrier had taken part in the Falkland Islands war in 1982.
  • India purchased the British carrier in 1986 and renamed it as INS Viraat.
  • INS Viraat is the Guinness record holder for being the longest-serving warship of the world.

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