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16th August Current Affairs

How and why should India deal with Afghanistan now?

(GS-II: International Relations)

In News:

Taliban recently seized more major cities and raced to take full control of Afghanistan with the U.S. and Britain deploying troops to evacuate their citizens.

What is the issue?

Non-governmental player Taliban has been making advances to return to power with sheer display of violence after USA’s decision of withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Significance of Afghan stability:

Can have spill over to Neighbouring central Asian countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekiatan etc

Taliban resurgence will revive extremism in the region and the region can become a safe sanctuary for Let,ISIS etc.

Civil war in Afghanistan will lead to a refugee crisis in Central Asia and beyond.

Afghanistan’s stability will help the Central Asian countries with the shortest access to the seaports of the Indian ocean.

Afghanistan has been an important link in the regional trade, cultural, playing the role of a connecting bridge for Central and the rest of the world.

Why it is imperative now for India to engage with Taliban?

Taliban is now having a significant presence in Afghanistan.

India is already having huge investments in Afghanistan.To secure assets worth $3 billion, India should engage with all parties in Afghanistan.

Taliban engaging with Pak deep state will not be in India’s best interest.

If India does not engage now Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests.

The U.S. has announced a new, surprise formation of a “Quad” on regional connectivity — U.S.-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan that does not include India.

India’s effort to trade with Afghanistan Via Chabahar port in order to increase the economy on scale.

Need of the hour:

  • Urgent need to collectively act for the safety of Afghan civilians by checking violence by Taliban
  • Afghanistan should be given enough space in Central Asian architectures like SCO (Shanghai cooperation organisation)
  • The USA,Iran,China,and Russia should actively involve India to maintain stability in Afghanistan.
  • Unified action for the refugee crisis if it arises.
  • Indian engagement with Taliban to maintain peace with immediate neighbours.

Rice fortification plan to tackle malnutrition

(GS-III: Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management)

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the fortification of rice distributed under various government schemes, including the Public Distribution System (PDS) and mid-day meals in schools, by 2024.

Significance of the announcement:

The announcement is significant as the country has high levels of malnutrition among women and children.

According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.

India ranks 94 out of 107 countries and is in the ‘serious hunger’ category on the Global Hunger Index (GHI).

Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children poses major obstacles in their development.

How many children will benefit from this?

The government distributes over 300 lakh tonnes of rice under various schemes covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013. For 2021-22, the Centre has allocated 328 lakh tonnes of rice under NFSA for schemes such as the Targeted PDS, MDM and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

What is food fortification?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), that sets standards for food items in the country, defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.

Fortified rice:

According to the Food Ministry, fortification of rice is a cost-effective and complementary strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets.

According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice will contain iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram) and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).

In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, with zinc(10 mg-15 mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.

National Hydrogen Mission

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

The launch of the National Hydrogen Mission was announced by PM Modi. The aim is to make India a global hub for the production and export of green hydrogen.

Background:

The proposal for the National Hydrogen Mission was made in the Budget 2021 to launch NHM that would enable the generation of hydrogen “from green power sources”.

What is Hydrogen fuel?

Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.

Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

Occurrence of Hydrogen:

It is the most abundant element in the universe. The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen.

Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element.

Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.

Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs. Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Storage:

Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid.

Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks.

Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.

Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids (by adsorption) or within solids (by absorption).

Potential of clean hydrogen industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

The only by-product or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water — making the fuel 100 per cent clean.

Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel. It is due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency.

In fact, a fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.

Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.

The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

Policy Challenges:

One of the biggest challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.

The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.

Maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly.

The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.

“Gati Shakti” infrastructure plan

(GS-III: Infrastructure)

In News:

Announced by PM Modi on the eve of Independence day.

Highlights the scheme:

Gati Shakti will be a National Infrastructure Master Plan for our country which will lay the foundation of holistic Infrastructure.

This scheme of more than 100 lakh crores rupees will result in new employment opportunities for lakhs of youth.

The plan will help raise the global profile of local manufacturers and help them compete with their counterparts worldwide.

It also raises possibilities of new future economic zones.

About the National Infrastructure Pipeline:

In the budget speech of 2019-2020, Finance Minister announced an outlay of Rs 100 lakh Crore for infrastructure projects over the next 5 years.

What is it?

  • NIP is a first-of-its-kind initiative to provide world-class infrastructure across the country and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
  • It will improve project preparation, attract investments (both domestic & foreign) into infrastructure, and will be crucial for attaining the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by FY 2025.
  • Covers both economic and social infrastructure projects.

Report by Task force:

The task force headed by Atanu Chakraborty on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), in May 2020, submitted its final report to the Finance Minister.

Important recommendations and observations made:

  • Investment needed: ₹111 lakh crore over the next five years (2020-2025) to build infrastructure projects and drive economic growth.
  • Energy, roads, railways and urban projects are estimated to account for the bulk of projects (around 70%).
  • The centre (39 percent) and state (40 percent) are expected to have an almost equal share in implementing the projects, while the private sector has 21 percent share.
  • Aggressive push towards asset sales.
  • Monetisation of infrastructure assets.
  • Setting up of development finance institutions.
  • Strengthening the municipal bond market.