Daily Current Affairs: 6th November 2021

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Stubble burning
  2. Adi Shankaracharya
  3. Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA
  4. Facts for Prelims
  5. Places in News

1. Stubble Burning

Context: Pollution from stubble burning significantly reduced lung function and was particularly
harmful to women in rural Punjab, says one of the largest studies of its kind in India, correlating the effect of air pollution on health.

Details of the Study

  • The study was conducted in six villages of Patiala, Punjab, and spanned two phases. The first was in October 2018 and again the following summer from March to April 2019 and the second phase was undertaken in the same villages during late October-November, 2018.
  • The latter is the period when crop burning peaks and the two timeframes were considered to measure the change in air quality during both periods. Close to 3,600 participants, from 10-60 years of age, were included in the study.

Key Findings of the study

  • It emerged from the study that the concentrations of PM2.5, the category of unburnt carbon particles considered most harmful to respiratory health, was found to increase more than twice between the two phases, from 100 g/m3 to 250 g/m3.
  • Incidentally these are around 10-15 times the WHO prescribed air quality standards though the permissible standards by India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are higher.
  • During the crop residue burning period, a two- to three-fold increase was noted in most of the respiratory symptoms, including wheezing, breathlessness on exertion, cough in morning, cough at night, skin rashes, runny nose or itchiness of eyes, across all age groups.
  • The highest number of complaints were reported by the elderly population (>40-60) and the lowest in the younger age group(>10-18) during crop burning period in Punjab

About stubble burning

  • Stubble (parali) burning is intentionally setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested.
  • Stubble burning is, quite simply, the act of removing paddy crop residue from the field to sow wheat. It’s usually required in areas that use the ‘combine harvesting’ method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • Combines are machines that harvest, thresh i.e separate the grain, and also clean the separated grain, all at once. The problem, however, is that the machine doesn’t cut close enough to the ground, leaving stubble behind that the farmer has no use for. There is pressure on the farmer to sow the next crop in time for it to achieve a full yield. The quickest and cheapest solution, therefore, is to clear the field by burning the stubble.
  • Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is a major reason behind Delhi’s worsening air quality.
  • The period from October 15- November 15 is when stubble burning instances spike because paddy crops are harvested during this period and the residue left behind is to be cleared for sowing wheat.

2 . Adi Shankaracharya

Context : Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 12-foot statue of Adi Shankaracharya  at Kedarnath, where the acharya is believed to have attained samadhi at the age of 32 in the ninth century. 

About Sankaracharya

  • Adi Shankara is said to have been born in Kaladi village on the bank of the Periyar, the largest river in Kerala.
  • In a lifespan of just 32 years, he is said to have visited all the important spiritual centres of the time — from Kanchi (Kancheepuram) to Kamrup (Assam), and Kashmir and the Kedar and Badri dhams, as well as Sringeri, Ujjain, Kashi, Puri, and Joshimath.
  • He is believed to have established the ritual practices at the Badri and Kedar dhams, and to have debated with tantrics in Srinagar.
  • He is believed to have attained samadhi at Kedarnath; however, Kanchi and Thrissur are also talked about as places where Adi Shankara spent his last days.

Literary works

  • Adi Shankara is generally identified as the author of 116 works — among them the celebrated commentaries (bhashyas) on 10 Upanishads, the Brahmasutra and the Gita
  • Poetic works includes
    • Vivekachudamani
    • Maneesha Panchakam,
    • Saundaryalahiri.
  • But scholars such as Vidyavachaspathi V Panoli have argued that Saundaryalahiri and Maneesha Panchakam are not his works, but attributions.
  • It has also been claimed that Adi Shankara composed texts like Shankarasmrithi, which seeks to establish the social supremacy of Nambuthiri Brahmins.
  • Scholars point out that often authorship is credited to a great figure to claim legitimacy for texts that may in fact have been composed centuries later.

Master of Advaita Vedanta

  • Shankara’s great standing is derived from his commentaries of the prasthanatrayi (Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Gita), where he explains his understanding of Advaita Vedanta.
  • Advaita Vedanta articulates a philosophical position of radical non dualism, a revisionary worldview which derives from the ancient Upanishadic texts.
  • According to Advaita Vedantins, the Upanishads reveal a fundamental principle of nonduality termed ‘brahman’, which is the reality of all things.
  • Advaitins understand brahman as transcending individuality and empirical plurality. They seek to establish that the essential core of one’s self (atman) is brahman.
  • The fundamental thrust of Advaita Vedanta is that the atman is pure non-intentional consciousness. It is one without a second, nondual, infinite existence, and numerically identical with brahman.
  • This effort entails tying a metaphysics of brahman to a philosophy of consciousness.
  • This philosophical tradition, according to the encyclopedia entry, found its most sustained early articulation in the works of Shankara, who “endeavored to communicate nonduality through systematized theories of metaphysics, language, and epistemology”, and whose “philosophy and methods comprise a teaching tradition intended to culminate in a direct liberating recognition of nonduality that is synonymous with liberation or freedom (moksha)”.

His political appropriation

  • The mathas Shankara is believed to have established in Sringeri, Dwaraka, Puri, and Joshimath for the spread of Advaita Vedanta are seen as custodians of Hinduism, and Shankara’s digvijaya (conquest) is often interpreted as a near nationalistic project where faith, philosophy and geography are yoked together to imagine a Hindu India that transcends the political boundaries of his time.
  • It is a project that fits in with the ideological exigencies of the present time.
  • The image of the lonely seeker, looming above his peers, demolishing his foes, and seeking transcendence in the snow-clad mountains has rich connotations in today’s performative politics.

3 . Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA

Context: Iran’s atomic agency said on Friday that its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has
reached over 210 kilograms, the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

About Enriched Uranium

  • Uranium is the most common fuel used in nuclear reactors, and is required for nuclear electricity generation as well as to make nuclear weapons.
  • Naturally occurring uranium, which is predominantly composed of a stabler isotope, uranium-238, is not fissionable, meaning its nucleus cannot be split in a way that can sustain a chain reaction.
  • To be used in nuclear reactors, natural uranium has to be ‘enriched’ with uranium-235 that can sustain fission chain reactions. Naturally occurring uranium has less than 1% of the uranium-235 isotope.
  • Even a small amount of enrichment, in the range of 3% to 5%, called “low enrichment”, is sufficient to run nuclear power reactors which allow only controlled fission reactions.
  • For making nuclear weapons, however, “highly enriched” uranium — with more than 90% uranium-235 — is needed.
  • More enrichment means more uranium-235 nuclei are available to be split, which in turn means greater heat and energy can be generated.

About Iran Nuclear Deal

  • The Iran nuclear deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran and the P5 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council–the US, UK, France, China and Russia) plus Germany and the European Union in Vienna in July 2015.
  • Under the agreement, which came into force in January 2016, Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from crippling economic sanctions imposed by the UN, US and the EU.
  • The deal, signed after years of negotiations that began during the Obama administration, limited the number of centrifuges Iran could run and restricted them to an older, slower model.
  • Iran also reconfigured a heavy-water reactor so it couldn’t produce plutonium, and agreed to convert its enrichment site at Fordo into a research centre.
  • It granted more access to inspectors from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and allowed it to look at other sites.
  • In exchange, world powers lifted the economic sanctions that had kept Iran away from international banking and the global oil trade.
  • The deal allowed Iran to purchase commercial aircraft and reach other business deals. It also unfroze billions of dollars Iran held overseas.
  • As part of the agreement, restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment and stockpile size will end in 2031, 15 years after the deal.
  • In 2016, the IAEA acknowledged that Iran met its commitments under the nuclear deal, and most sanctions on Iran were lifted. The country slowly re-entered the global banking system and began selling crude oil and natural gas on the international market.
  • After the Republicans won the presidential race of US in 2016, the US first tried in vain to renegotiate the accord with Iran, and then unilaterally withdrew from it in May 2018.
  • After the US election President Biden has said the United States will rejoin the agreement if Iran returns to compliance, but has also said he wants to negotiate a broader agreement that addresses Iran’s other activities, such as its missile program.

4. Facts for Prelims

Tea tribe community

  • There are more than 1000 (one thousand) tea gardens in Assam where workers originally coming from Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have engaged themselves and subsequently settled in Assam permanently.
  • They are known as Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes, who are recognized as Other Backward Classes by the Government.
  • These people not only constitute a sizable chunk of the population in the State but also play major role in tea production of the State (about 53% of the total tea production of the country) and this contributes to the economy of the State.
  • People belonging to the tea tribes communities are spread all over the State of Assam.
  • The Assam Cabinet on November 4 approved the reservation of seats in the State run medical colleges for students from the “tea tribes” community.

Goa Maritime Conclave

  • The GMC is Indian Navy’s Outreach Initiative providing a multinational platform to harness the collective wisdom of practitioners of maritime security and the academia towards garnering outcome oriented maritime thought.
  • The theme for this year’s edition of GMC is “Maritime Security and Emerging Non-Traditional Threats: A Case for Proactive Role for IOR Navies”.
  • At the GMC-21, Indian Navy would be hosting Chiefs of Navies/ Heads of Maritime Forces from 12 Indian Ocean littorals, including Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand
  • The 3rd edition of Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) – 2021 is being held from 07 to 09 November 2021 under the aegis of Naval War College, Goa.

Venture capital

  • Venture capital (VC) is a form of private equity and a type of financing that investors provide to startup companies and small businesses that are believed to have long-term growth potential.
  • Venture capital generally comes from well-off investors, investment banks, and any other financial institutions.
  • However, it does not always take a monetary form; it can also be provided in the form of technical or managerial expertise.
  • Venture capital is typically allocated to small companies with exceptional growth potential, or to companies that have grown quickly and appear poised to continue to expand.
  • Venture capital is a subset of private equity (PE).

Zika Virus

  • Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that is spread by the Aedes mosquito, the same species that transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses.
  • Unlike malaria-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes is most active during the day. Barrier methods of prevention, such as mosquito nets, are less effective. The mosquitoes can survive in both indoor and outdoor environments.
  • Several species of Aedes can transmit Zika. The main ones are the Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, and the Aedes aegypti, known as the yellow fever mosquito.
  • The Zika virus was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947, but it has affected people in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South and Central America. In 2016, a major outbreak in Brazil raised international awareness.
  • The symptoms of infection are mild, but if a pregnant woman catches the virus, it can have a severe impact on the pregnancy and the unborn child. It can cause a brain defect known as microcephaly in the unborn child. The brain and head of the newborn will be smaller in size than is usual. Loss of pregnancy, stillbirth, and other congenital disabilities are also more likely.
  • There have also been reports of people developing Guillain-Barré syndrome following a Zika virus infection. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.

5 . Places in News

Nilambur forests

  • Located in the state of Kerala, it is a part of the Nilgiri reserves.
  • The Nilambur forests are also known for their unique dense rain forests, tribal settlements, waterfalls and the world’s first Teak Museum.
  • Nedumkayam, the hidden gem of Nilambur is a treasure trove located in the Western Ghats.
  • Rich with flora and fauna, the Chaliar River that flows through the heart of Nedumkayam serves as the lifeline of the wildlife here.
  • The place is also known for the vast teak plantations.
  • The oldest teak plantation in the world, the Conolly’s Plot, named after H. V. Conolly, the British Malabar district collector is another attraction in Nilambur.
  • Kannimara, the oldest teak tree in the world is located inside this plantation.
  • Teak Museum at Nilambur, situated on the campus of Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) houses the treasures of historical, aesthetic and scientific aspects of teak.

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