Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 29th December 2021

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1.   Transparency in Governance

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper-II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Transparency & Accountability | Initiatives to enhance transparency in India | UPSC

  • Transparency is defined as the clarity and openness with which actions are carried out. It is seen as one of the basic characteristics based on which customer credibility rises, especially when it comes to various organizational entities in society. It the release of information and requires an open attitude about actions and decisions.
  • Transparency, in governance context, is honesty and openness. Transparency is about information. It is about the ability of the receiver to have full access to the information he wants, not just the information the sender is willing to provide.
  • Accountability, unlike transparency, which emphasizes openness, can be seen as a sort of acknowledgment. It can be simply stated as having to explain one’s actions or judgments.
  • Accountability exists on a variety of levels in society, beginning with the individual and progressing to the institutional level, and is commonly considered one of the ethics of employees within corporations.

Initiatives to enhance transparency in India

Right to Information Act, Right to Public Service Legislation, Citizens Charters, e-Governance, and e-procurement are some of India’s major initiatives to improve transparency.

  • Right to Information (RTI) Act: Under the RTI Act, any Indian citizen may seek information from a “public authority” (a government entity or “state instrumentality”), which is supposed to respond promptly or within thirty days.
  • Right to Public Services legislation: It consists of statutory laws that ensure timely delivery of services for a variety of government services provided to citizens, as well as a system for disciplining errant public servants who fail to provide the service required by the statute.
  • Citizen’s Charter: A Citizens’ Charter represents the commitment of the Organisation towards standard, quality, and time frame of service delivery, grievance redress mechanism, transparency, and accountability.
  • E-Governance: It is defined as the use of information and communication technology (ICT) at all levels of government to provide citizens with services, interact with businesses, and communicate and exchange information between different government departments in a timely, efficient, and transparent manner.
  • E-Procurement: Central Public Procurement Portal is a robust and secured platform offering full transparency in public procurement for the Government of India, most States, and Local Governments across India.

Relationship between the transparency and accountability:

  • Usually, transparency is considered as a pre-requisite of accountability as well. This is because for an action to be evaluated properly there should be access to all necessary information. If the access is denied, then accountability cannot be proven.
  • Accountability and transparency can take different forms, and the relationship between them depends on the extent to which they are designed to support each other.
  • Both transparency and accountability are viewed as necessary conditions for good management. This applies in a large variety of settings starting from the individual to organizations.
  • In general, it is assumed that the existence of transparency would result in better governance, more accountability and less corruption
  • In public services both transparency and accountability are must to ensure good governance. It is evident that transparency is a pre-condition of accountability.
  • There is a direct link between transparency and accountability, and both strengthen each other.
  • Thus accountability must accompany transparency as if a civil servant is not accountable for his decisions, transparency would not fulfil the purpose.

Importance of accountability with transparency:

  • Accountability lead to the obligation of an individual or an organisation (either in the public or the private sectors) to accept responsibility for their activities, and to disclose them in a transparent manner. This includes the responsibility for decision-making processes, money or other entrusted property.
  • Accountability result in answerability (the duty of an individual or organisation to answer to their decisions and actions) and punishments in case of malpractice.
  • If citizens are to hold their government accountable, they must be able to find out what it is doing.
  • High levels of corruption and poor quality of public services, especially in developing countries, enhanced the demand for accountability from the civil society.
  • Social accountability has been highly valued to curb corruption, especially in countries with a systematic problem of corruption and weak institutional systems.

Transparency and accountability must go hand in hand. Many measures have been undertaken in handling corruption and inefficiency in the Government like RTI Act, Citizens’ Charter, etc. to ensure good governance and better service delivery for the citizens.

 

2.  Economic Boycott of China – Editorial

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS Paper-II – Economy
Sub Theme: Strategies for Economic boycott China | Challenges – Strategies | UPSC

Context: The Government has recently decided to impose Anti-Dumping duty on 5 goods imported from China to protect the domestic industries from cheaper imports. This is not the first time that India has resorted to such policies. Such a measure should be seen as part of India’s quest for Aatma Nirbhar Bharat and to economically boycott China. However, certain economists have highlighted that economic boycott of China would be extremely challenging for India.

In this regard, let us focus on the following dimensions:

  1. Formal/ Informal Strategies adopted by India to Economically boycott China
  2. Challenges associated with such strategies
  3. Is India well-equipped to attract global MNCS from China?

Formal/Informal Strategies to Economically boycott China

  • Vocal for Local Campaign: Exhort Indians to buy only Locally manufactured Goods and refrain from buying Foreign made Goods (which in a way targets Chinese Goods).
  • Boycott of Chinese Goods: India had a total merchandise trade deficit of around $ 102 bn in 2020-21. Out of this, China alone accounted for trade deficit of around $ 44 bn. The higher trade deficit with India is on account of entry of cheaper Chinese Goods into the Economy. These Chinese Goods range from high-end electronic Goods such as Mobile phones to Ganesha Idols and Diwali lights. The entry of such cheaper Goods into India is undoubtedly benefitting China and adversely affecting the domestic manufacturing, So, one way to inflict harm on the Chinese Economy is to boycott these Chinese Goods and instead promote domestic manufacturing.
  • Stringent FDI Norms to prevent the hostile takeovers of Indian Companies by Chinese Companies.
  • Imposition of higher tariffs on Chinese Goods to boost domestic manufacturing.

Challenges associated with such strategies

The strategies highlighted above would obviously make it difficult for the Chinese goods and Chinese companies from entering into Indian domestic market. But the question which arises here is Would India gain from such a strategy? Would we be able to inflict substantial harm on Chinese Economy to soften its stance towards Border disputes? To answer these questions, we need to dig deeper by considering facts and figures and nature of trade between India and China.

Minimal Impact on Chinese Economy: India accounts for only around 3.1% of China’s exports. Similarly, China’s FDI in India stands at hardly around $ 2.3 bn out of the total $ 50 bn annual FDI inflows into India. Hence, boycott of Chinese Goods would have minimal impact on Chinese Goods and Companies. Further, we must also realize that Chinese Goods and Companies have made deep inroads into other countries, including Africa. So, there is always a scope for China to enhance their exports to other countries if its imports to India decrease.

Adverse Impact on Indian Economy: The boycott of Chinese Goods and imposition of higher tariffs on such Goods may have an adverse impact on domestic manufacturing and Job creation within India (as shown in the figure below) on account of nature of trade between the two countries.

Boycotting of Chinese Goods will impose additional manufacturing costs and lead to loss of jobs. At the same time, we should be mindful of the fact that in some of the cases, we do not have other alternative suppliers. For example, China accounts for almost 3/4th of the global battery manufacturing capacity and hence India’s ability to adopt electric vehicles is critically dependent on China.

Lastly, there is always a possibility of Tit-for-Tat action by China in retaliation to boycott of Chinese Goods. The Chinese Government may impose additional tariffs on Indian Goods entering its domestic market and thus it would affect India’s exports to China.

Is there a silver lining in boycott of Chinese Goods?

According to the estimates put forward by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), almost one-third of the Chinese imports constitute low-tech goods that were either made earlier by Indians or are still being made but in smaller quantities. These Chinese Goods can surely be discouraged and re-replaced by local products and brands.

Accordingly, we can ramp up the production of around 3,000 products such as toys, fabrics, kitchenware, cosmetics within a short period pf time and substitute Chinese products worth $ 13 bn by local products. This would also give a big boost to the MSME sector which has been reeling under the COVID crisis.

The substitution of Chinese Goods with domestic Goods is not a herculean task. For example, within a short period of 2 months, India has become the second largest producer of personal protection equipment (PPE) after China. This gives us a confidence that India can repeat the same feat with respect to other Goods as well.

In the medium and long run, the Government must stick to its stated goal of “Self-Reliant” India and try to reduce its dependence on China.

 

3.  James Webb Telescope (Text & Context)

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: General Science | Mains: GS Paper-III – Science & Technology
Sub Theme: James Webb Space Telescope| Webb Vs Hubble Telescope | UPSC

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was launched on 25th December on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, South America.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.

  • It is considered a successor of the Hubble Telescope.
  • It is the most powerful infrared telescope of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • The telescope is joint collaboration among NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • It is expected to reveal new and unexpected discoveries, and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.

WHY JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE IS CONSIDERED AS REVOLUTIONARY

Earth reflects radiation in the far infrared region. So telescopes cannot operate near this region from ground or low earth orbit. Also the technology to make telescope see the universe in this region is very sophisticated. Hubble telescope – the most power telescope operational till date – is positioned in low Earth orbit and hence can’t operate in infra IR region. James Webb Space Telescope on the other hand will operate in the Far infrared region and will be positioned in L2.

Webb will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before. Webb will gaze into the epoch when the very first stars and galaxies formed, over 13.5 billion years ago. Ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched or “redshifted” by the universe’s continual expansion and arrives today as infrared light. Webb is designed to “see” this infrared light with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity.

Webb will be a powerful tool for studying the nearby universe. Scientists will use Webb to study planets and other bodies in our solar system to determine their origin and evolution and compare them with exoplanets, planets that orbit other stars.

So James Webb Space Telescope will:

  1. See the already known universe with higher sensitivity
  2. See far side of the universe, unknown till date.

Quick Facts

  • INSTRUMENTS: It has four science instruments:
    • Near-Infrared Camera
    • Near-Infrared Spectrograph
    • Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)
    • Near-Infrared Imager
  • WAVELENGTHS: Visible, Near Infrared, Mid Infrared (0.6-28.5 micrometres)
  • LOCATION IN SPACE: Orbiting the Sun around the second Lagrange point (L2).

Using a technique called transmission spectroscopy, the observatory will examine starlight filtered through planetary atmospheres to learn about their chemical compositions.

The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes:

  • The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization – JWST will be a powerful time machine with infrared vision that will peer back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
  • Assembly of Galaxies – JWST’s unprecedented infrared sensitivity will help astronomers to compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and ellipticals, helping us to understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
  • The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems – JWST will be able to see right through and into massive clouds of dust that are opaque to visible-light observatories like Hubble, where stars and planetary systems are being born.
  • Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life – JWST will tell us more about the atmospheres of extrasolar planets, and perhaps even find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. In addition to other planetary systems, JWST will also study objects within our own Solar System.

Webb Vs Hubble Telescope:

Wavelength The JWST will observe primarily in the infrared range and provide coverage from 0.6 to 28 microns.

The instruments on Hubble see mainly in the ultraviolet and visible part of the spectrum. It could observe only a small range in the infrared from 0.8 to 2.5 microns.

The infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum covers the wavelength range from approximately 0.7 to a few 100 microns.

 

Size Webb’s primary mirror has a diameter of 6.5 metres while Hubble’s mirror was much smaller – 2.4 metres in diameter.

So, Webb will have a larger field of view compared to the camera on Hubble.

Webb also carries a large sun shield.

Distance Webb’s near- and mid-infrared instruments will help study the first formed galaxies, exoplanets and birth of stars.

Hubble can see the equivalent of “toddler galaxies” while Webb Telescope will be able to see “baby galaxies”.

 

4.  Kachateevu dispute

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-II – International Relations.
Sub Theme: Problems with Indian Fishermen | Location of Palk Strait and Pal Bay |UPSC

Context- The conflict between the two countries has flared up again with the arrest of 68 Indian fishermen, mostly from the Ramanathapuram and Pudukkottai districts of Tamil Nadu, by the Sri Lankan authorities between December 18 and 20 and the impounding of 10 boats for “poaching” in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka.

Location of Palk Strait and Pal Bay:

  • Palk Bay, an important marine zone between south­ eastern India and northern Sri Lanka, has been a source of dispute for long.
  • It extends from Point Calimere of Nagapattinam district to Mandapam­ Dhanushkodi of Ramanathapuram district over about 250 km.
  • It has a shallow and flat basin with an average depth of about nine metres.

Genesis of the dispute:
Katchatheevu is an uninhabited islet in the Palk Strait that was formed due to volcanic eruption in the 14th century.

Conclusion-
Few specialists favour the creation of an international institution of stakeholders for regulating the fishing sector in the Bay. Further promotion of seaweed cultivation, open sea cage cultivation, seaweed cultivation and processing, and sea/ocean ranching can reduce the dependence of Indian fishermen on Sri Lankan waters.

 

5.  Corbevax and Covovax

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: General Science | Mains: GS Paper-III – Science & Technology
Sub Theme: Corbevax | Covovax | Molnupiravir | Vaccine and its types | UPSC

  • India has approved two more COVID-19 vaccines – Corbevax and Covovax and the antiviral drug Molnupiravir under emergency use authorisation. Currently, India uses Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V for vaccination.
  • Corbevax is a protein subunit vaccine, and Covovax is a nanoparticle-based vaccine.
  • The vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) under its Emergency Use Listing and, therefore, will be available globally as part of the COVAX initiative to ensure that at least 40% of world is vaccinated on priority.
  • Molnupiravir is said to be a promising drug for those with mild and moderate disease and also easily administered as a pill.

VACCINE AND ITS TYPES

  • The primary objective of any vaccination is to train the immune system to recognise an infecting particle and develop antibodies to the same before the actual infection occurs.
  • Vaccine is a substance that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.
Type of vaccine Description Diseases covered
Live attenuated vaccines It contain a version of the living microbe that has been weakened in the lab so it can’t cause disease. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR combined vaccine)
Varicella (chickenpox)
Influenza (nasal spray)
Rotavirus
Inactivated vaccines The virus is first killed with chemicals, heat, or radiation and then used to make the vaccine.

 

Inactivated vaccines usually don’t require refrigeration, and they can be easily stored and transported in a freeze-dried form.

Hepatitis A, Influenza, polio,

rabies

Sub-unit vaccine A piece of the virus that is important for immunity, like the spike protein of COVID-19, is used to make the vaccine. Human papillomavirus vaccines
Toxoid vaccines It contain a toxin or chemical made by the bacteria or virus. They make a person immune to the harmful effects of the infection, instead of to the infection itself. Diphtheria and tetanus
Biosynthetic vaccines  It contain manmade substances that are very similar to pieces of the virus or bacteria. HIV

Nanoparticle-based vaccine – Nanoparticles has shown great potential to address most of the limitations of conventional and subunit vaccines. Recent advancements in chemical and biological engineering allow the design of nanoparticles with a precise control over the size, shape, functionality and surface properties, leading to enhanced antigen presentation and strong immunogenicity.

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