Daily Current Affairs : 27th and 28th November 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC

Topics Covered

  1. Rare Earth Minerals
  2. Black corals
  3. India – Bhutan Satellite
  4. Women’s Role in drafting Constitution
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Rare Earth Minerals


Context: To counter India’s reliance on China for imports of critical rare earth minerals, industry has urged the government to encourage private sector mining in the sector and diversify sources of supply for these strategic raw materials.

About the News

  • Industry has urged to Set up an ‘India Rare Earths Mission’, manned by professionals, like the India Semiconductor Mission and make their exploration a critical component of the Deep Ocean Mission plan of the government.
  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has recommended that the public sector firm Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL), administered by the Department of Atomic Energy, should be split into two entities. While IREL primarily focuses on Thorium mining, CII has suggested that the second entity could pursue other minerals.
  • The industry group has also mooted making rare earth minerals a part of the ‘Make In India’ campaign, citing China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative that focuses on new materials, including permanent magnets that are made using rare earth minerals.

Why the demand?

  • Though India has 6% of the world’s rare earth reserves, it only produces 1% of global output, and meets most of its requirements of such minerals from China.
  • In 2018-19, for instance, 92% of rare earth metal imports by value and 97% by quantity were sourced from China.
  • There is a need to build domestic capability and broad-base supply sources for such an important and strategic raw material.
  • Such minerals should not be held captive to India’s civil nuclear programme.
  • China too offers state support for the industry. China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative too focuses on new materials, including permanent magnets that are made using rare earth minerals.

What are rare earth minerals?

  • The 17 rare earth elements (REE) include the 15 Lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 — which is Lanthanum — to 71 in the periodic table) plus Scandium (atomic number 21) and Yttrium (39). REEs are classified as light RE elements (LREE) and heavy RE elements (HREE).
  • Some REEs are available in India — such as Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and Samarium, etc.
    • Others such as Dysprosium, Terbium, and Europium, which are classified as HREEs, are not available in Indian deposits in extractable quantities.
    • Hence, there is a dependence on countries such as China for HREEs, which is one of the leading producers of REEs, with an estimated 70 per cent share of the global production.

Why are these minerals important?

  • Minerals like Cobalt, Nickel, and Lithium are required for batteries used in electric vehicles.
  • REEs are an essential — although often tiny — component of more than 200 consumer products, including mobile phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, semiconductors, flatscreen TVs and monitors, and high-end electronics.
  • India has an ambitious plan to convert a large percentage of its transport to electric, and would require these minerals.
    • According to the plan, 80 per cent of the country’s two- and three-wheeler fleet, 40 per cent of buses, and 30 to 70 per cent of cars will be EVs by 2030.
  • If India is not able to explore and produce these minerals, it will have to depend on a handful of countries, including China, to power its energy transition plans to electric vehicles. That will be similar to its dependence on a few countries for oil.


2 . Black Corals


Context: Using a remote-controlled submarine, researchers at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, discovered five new species of black corals living as deep as 2,500 feet (760 metres) below the surface in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea off the coast of Australia.

About Black Corals

  • Black Corals are known as deep-sea corals are found in all oceans but are most common in deep water habitats of tropical and subtropical seas.
  • Black corals can be found growing both in shallow waters and down to depths of over 26,000 feet (8,000 metres), and some individual corals can live for over 4,000 years.
  • They are located in deep oceans, so they do not require light for their growth.
  • Unlike their colourful, shallow-water cousins that rely on the sun and photosynthesis for energy, black corals are filter feeders and eat tiny zooplankton that are abundant in deep waters.
  • Many of these corals are branched and look like feathers, fans or bushes, while others are straight like a whip.
  • Similarly to shallow-water corals that build colourful reefs full of fish, black corals act as important habitats where fish and invertebrates feed and hide from predators in what is otherwise a mostly barren sea floor.
    • For example, a single black coral colony researchers collected in 2005 off the coast of California, United States, was home to 2,554 individual invertebrates.’



3 . Women’s Role in drafting Constitution


Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Constitution Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court, said the contribution of women in the Constituent Assembly which drafted the Constitution was hardly discussed and efforts should be made to educate future generations about their work.

About the News

  • He added that 15 members of the Constituent Assembly were women. One of them, Dakshayini Velayudhan, who belonged to a marginalised community, made important interventions to protect the rights of the oppressed classes.

15 Women Members & their contribution

  • Ammu Swaminathan –  Ammukutty, as she was fondly called was fearless in thought and action, evident in her lifetime as social worker and politician. Through her work at WIA, she addressed the economic issues and problems of women workers. It was one of the first associations to demand adult franchise and constitutional rights for women. Lakshmi Sahgal, Ammu’s second-born, would lead the Rani Jhansi regiment in the Indian National Army under Subhash Chandra Bose.
  • Annie Mascarene – Mascarene was one of the leaders of the movements for independence and integration of the Princely States within the Indian nation. When the political party Travancore State Congress was formed, she became one of the first women to join. She also served on the Constituent Assembly’s select committee that looked into the Hindu Code Bill.
  • Dakshayani Velayudhan :  The only Dalit woman to be elected to the Constituent Assembly, she served as a member of the assembly, and as a part of the provisional parliament from 1946-52. At 34, she was also one of the youngest members of the assembly. Velayudhan’s life and politics was influenced and defined by the rigid caste system in Kerala.
  • Begum Aizaz Rasul –  Begum was the only Muslim woman member in the Constituent Assembly, Aizaz Rasul formally gave up the purdah in 1937 when she won her first election from the non-reserved seat and became a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council. She also significantly contributed to popularising Women’s Hockey.
  • Durgabai Deshmukh –  A prominent social reformer who participated in Gandhi-led Salt Satyagraha activities during the Civil Disobedience Movement, she was instrumental in organising women satyagrahis in the movement. This led to British Raj authorities imprisoning her three times between 1930 and 1933. Durgabai was the first to emphasise the need to set up separate Family Courts after studying the same during her foreign visits to China, Japan.
  • Hansa Jivraj Mehta :  Hansa Jivraj Mehta served on the Constituent Assembly and was a member of the fundamental rights sub-committee, the advisory committee and the provincial constitutional committee. On 15 August 1947, a few minutes after midnight, Mehta, on behalf of the “women of India”, presented the national flag to the assembly—the first flag to fly over independent India.
  • Kamla Chaudhry –  Kamla Chaudhry was a Hindi story writer. She actively participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly & after the constitution was adopted, she served as a member of the Provincial Government of India till 1952.
  • Leela Roy – A freedom fighter & social worker who worked for the education of women in India, Roy was the only elected woman member from Bengal to the Assembly. She resigned from her post to stage a protest against the partition of India. She was a close associate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
  • Malati Choudhury –  After Independence, Malati Choudhury, as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, and as the President of the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee, tried her best to emphasize the role of education, especially adult education in rural reconstruction. She also joined the Bhoodan Movement of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, and was deeply influenced by both, Tagore and Gandhi.
  • Purnima Banerjee –  Purnima Banerjee was one among a radical network of women from UP who stood at the forefront of the freedom movement in the late 1930-40s. She was the Secretary of the Indian National Congress committee in Allahabad. Banerjee was the younger sister of famous freedom fighter, educator and activist Aruna Asaf Ali.
  • Rajkumari Amrit Kaur –  Amrit Kaur was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces. Her most significant contribution was in ensuring extensive political participation of women. She became the first woman to hold a cabinet position in India as health minister. The All India Women’s Conference Center, the Lady Irwin College in Delhi and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are few of the reputed organisations that owe their existence to her.
  • Renuka Ray –  As part of the Constituent Assembly from West Bengal, she made several interventions in the Assembly including on women’s rights issues, minorities rights and bicameral legislature provision. She also joined the All-India Women’s Conference & campaigned hard for women’s rights and inheritance rights in parental property.
  • Sarojini Naidu –  Popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of India’, Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist and poet. Naidu’s poetry includes both children’s poems and others written on more serious themes including patriotism, romance, and tragedy. She became the President of the Indian National Congress and later she was appointed as the Governor of the United Provinces.
  • Sucheta Kriplani –  Sucheta Kripalani is remembered for her role in the Quit India Movement of 1942. She established the women’s wing of the Congress party in 1940. She sang Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly. She was also India’s first woman Chief Minister.
  • Vijayalakshmi Pandit-  As an activist, minister, ambassador and diplomat she was among the few revolutionising the role of women in nation-building. The first woman cabinet minister in the British era, Pandit was one of the first leaders to call for an Indian Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution.


4 . India-Bhutan Satellite


Context: The launch of a joint India-Bhutan satellite, among the nine satellites launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Saturday, marks a “new era” in relations between the two countries, said Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk.

Bhutan’s Satellite Mission-

  • India-Bhutan SAT is also known as the ISRO Nano Satellite 2 for Bhutan (INS-2B).
    • It has been jointly developed by scientists from both countries.  
    • India had assisted in training Bhutanese engineers to build and test satellites, as well as to process and analyse the satellite data that will be received.
  • It was launched aboard the launch pad PSLV-C54 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The satellite is expected to provide Bhutan with high resolution images for land-mapping and managing its natural resources, agriculture and forests.
  • This is Bhutan’s second nano-satellite, after its engineers worked on BHUTAN-1 in 2018, which was developed in Japan and sent into space from the United States on the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket.


5 . Facts for Prelims


Sacred Groves-

  • Sacred groves or sacred woods are groves of trees and have special religious importance within a particular culture.
  • Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community.
  • Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches.
  • Traditionally, and in some cases even today, members of the community take turns to protect the grove.
  • The introduction of the protected area category community reserves under the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 has introduced legislation for providing government protection to community held lands, which could include sacred groves.
  • Around 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings.
  • Apart from the rich species diversity, the groves also host species of some of the last remaining repositories of critically endangered Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests (TDEFs).
  • Threats to the groves include urbanization, and over-exploitation of resources.
    • Once found in plenty across the country, sacred groves have shrunk in many places due to rampant encroachments, the spread of invasive species, and unfettered human interference.

Critically endangered Tropical Dry evergreen forest-

  • The Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests are unique forests that can only be found in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. I
  • ts distribution is limited to a short coastal strip that stretches from Vishakapattinam in Andhra Pradesh to Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu in the south.
  • The East Deccan Dry Evergreen Forest is one of the only three dry evergreen forests in the world, with the other two in Sri Lanka and SE Indochina. 
  • This forest happens to be one of the driest because it is in the rain shadow.
  • Despite having around 66 species of mammals and 230 species of birds, TDEF has very few endemic species.
  •  Most trees in TDEF have waxy leaves, seeds encased in small fruits, dense wood, and generally lack thorns.  They also help stabilize climate and store carbon.
  • Rainfall during both the summer and winter monsoons as well as an extended dry season from March to September characterize the tropical dry evergreen forest ecosystem.
  • 95 % of the natural forest cover has been destroyed, and the species composition of the remaining forests has been altered by heavy human use, which includes the removal of all taller trees.

China- Indian Ocean Region Forum-

  • China this week convened a first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” bringing together 19 countries from the region – and all of India’s neighbours, except for India itself, the lone absentee from a new Beijing strategic initiative.
  • The forum, held in Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province on November 21, brought together representatives from 19 countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia.
  • It was organised by China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), an organisation connected with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
  • India was not invited.
  • The forum underlined China’s stepped up diplomacy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • At CIDCA’s Kunming forum, China “proposed to establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region, and stood ready to provide necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need.

Food Animal-

  • Food animals are those that are raised and used for food production or consumption by humans.
  • The Himalayan yak has been accepted as a food animal by the scientific panel of Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI), after recommendation from Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD).
    • The categorisation is expected to help check the decline in the population of the high-altitude bovine animal by making it a part of the conventional milk and meat industry.
    • Yaks are traditionally reared under a transhumance system which is primitive, unorganised and full of hardship. But the yak population in the country has been decreasing at an alarming rate according to data provided by the NRC-Y.
    • According to a census carried out in 2019, India has some 58,000 yaks – a drop of about 25% from the last livestock census conducted in 2012.
    • The drastic decline in yak population could be attributed to less remuneration from the bovid, discouraging the younger generations from continuing with nomadic yak rearing.
    • It is mainly because yak milk and meat are not a part of the conventional dairy and meat industry, their sale is limited to local consumers.
    • NRC-Y scientists believe the commercialisation of yak milk and meat products will lead to entrepreneurship development.
    • he FSSAI’s recognition will help farmers rear the yak economically and open up several vistas of economic benefits for both farmers and food processors.

Bluebugging-

  • It is a form of hacking that lets attackers access a device through its discoverable Bluetooth connection. Once a device or phone is bluebugged, a hacker can listen to the calls, read and send messages and steal and modify contacts.
  • It started out as a threat for laptops with Bluetooth capability. Later hackers used the technique to target mobile phones and other devices
  • Bluebugging attacks work by exploiting Bluetooth-enabled devices. The device’s Bluetooth must be in discoverable mode, which is the default setting on most devices.
  • The hacker then tries to pair with the device via Bluetooth. Once a connection is established, hackers can use brute force attacks to bypass authentication. They can install malware in the compromised device to gain unauthorised access to it.
  • Bluebugging can happen whenever a Bluetooth enabled device is within a 10-metre radius of the hacker. However, according to a blog by VPN service provider NordVPN,  hackers can use booster antennas to widen the attack range.
  • Turning off Bluetooth and disconnecting paired Bluetooth devices when not in use, updating the device’s system software to the latest version, limiting the use of public Wi-Fi, and using VPN as an additional security measure are some of the ways to prevent bluebugging.

Constitution Day of India-

  • The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 for ‘We the people of India’.
  • After being unnoticed for long, the day began to be celebrated as Constitution Day since 2015.
  • This day is indeed a historic day for the nation, with the framing of a Constitution for the governance of independent India.
  • On this year’s celebration of Constitution Day, PM Modi described the Constitution as open, futuristic, visionary and youth-centric.
  • President Droupadi Murmu said the onus to make the process of seeking justice affordable is on all of us, while urging the executive, judiciary and legislature to evolve an effective dispute resolution mechanism to mitigate people’s plight.
  • Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud highlighted the need for the judiciary to reach out to the people, especially the marginalised, rather than the other way around.
    • He highlighted the importance of technology in justice administration and the need to have more representation from the marginalised communities in the legal profession.

Darjeeling Tea-

  • Darjeeling Tea, called the ‘Champagne of Teas’, was the first Indian product to get the GI (Geographical Identification) tag in 2004 for its distinctive aroma and flavour.
  • About 87 gardens in Darjeeling which employ about 55,000 workers produce approximately 7 million kg of tea, most of which is exported.
  • First planted in the early 1800s, the incomparable quality of Darjeeling Teas is the result of its locational climate, soil conditions, altitude and meticulous processing. About 10 million kilograms are grown every year, spread over 17,500 hectares of land.
  • Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 600 to 2000 metre above sea level.
  • The average annual rainfall in Darjeeling ranges around the 309cm mark.
  • All teas produced in the tea growing areas of India, including Darjeeling, are administered by the Tea Board, India under the Tea Act, 1953.
  • To assist the Tea Board in its role of authenticating regional origin of Darjeeling Tea, it has developed a unique logo, known as the Darjeeling logo.

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