Daily Current Affairs 16-04-2024

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    Syllabus: GS1/Geophysical Phenomena; GS3/Agricultural Resources

    • Recently, India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast ‘above normal’ rains in the country after a gap of eight years.
    • The IMD has predicted that the country will receive 106% of the long-term average rainfall (LPA) this season, with a model error of approximately 5%.
    • The LPA for the period between June and September is 87 centimetres (870 mm), and is calculated as the average rainfall between 1971-2020.
      • By this calculation, it means that there would be 92.2 cm of rainfall across India.
    About IMD

    – It is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
    – It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology.
    – It is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
    – It releases the long range forecast in two stages in April and June.

    IMD Categorisation Method of Monsoon:

    Long Period Average (LPA):  LPA of rainfall is the rainfall recorded over a particular region for a given interval (like month or season) averaged over a long period like 30 years, 50-years etc.
    a. It acts as a benchmark while forecasting the quantitative rainfall for that region for a specific month or season.

    Categories of Rainfall

    – Large Excess: ≥60% of  LPA.
    – Excess: 20% to 59% of LPA.
    – Normal:  -19% to +19% of LPA.
    – Deficient: -59% to -20% of LPA.
    – Large Deficient:  – 99% to -60% LPA.

    Predicting the Monsoon

    – Monsoon season is from June to September in India as a whole, the long period average (LPA) is 88 cm and standard deviation is 9 cm (about 10% of mean value).
    – Therefore, when the rainfall averaged over the country as a whole is within ±10% from its LPA or 90% to 110% of LPA, the rainfall is said to be ‘normal’ and when the rainfall is <90% of LPA it is considered to be ‘below normal’ and when it is >110% of LPA, the rainfall is said to be ‘above normal’.
    • Retreat of El Nino, and Favourable La Nina Conditions: El Nino conditions, currently prevailing over the equatorial Pacific region and generally responsible for warmer temperatures in many places around the world including in India, were likely to weaken to neutral El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions during the early part of the monsoon season.
      • The warming phase of the ENSO cycle is known as El Nino and its cooling phase as La Nina.
    • La Nina conditions are likely to develop during the second half of monsoon season.
      • It is characterised by the unusual cooling of the central and east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean.
    • Other key factors influencing the Indian monsoon are Positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), and Reduced Snow Cover in the Northern Hemisphere.
    Indian Monsoon

    – The term ‘monsoon’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘mausim’, which means season. Monsoons are characterised by a seasonal reversal of wind direction.


    – The onset and retreat of the monsoon have profound implications for the country’s climate, agriculture, and economy.

    Monsoon Onset (Arrival):

    – The winds blow from the South-West during the summer months (June to September).
    – It typically arrives in the southern state of Kerala around the first week of June and gradually progresses northwards, covering the entire country by mid-July.
    – The IMD officially declares the onset of the monsoon based on specific criteria, including rainfall, wind field, and Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) values.

    Monsoon Progress:

    – After its onset over Kerala, the monsoon progresses northwards and covers the entire country in about a month and a half.
    – The progress of the monsoon is closely monitored as it has significant implications for agriculture, particularly the sowing of kharif (monsoon) crops.

    Monsoon Retreat (Withdrawal):

    – It marks the transition from the rainy season to the dry winter season.
    – The monsoon begins to retreat from the northwestern states of India around early September and withdraws completely from the country by early October.
    – The retreat of the monsoon is not as abrupt as its onset.
    a. It’s a more gradual process, with the monsoon maintaining its presence over the southern and northeastern parts of the country well into October.

    Impact on Agriculture and Economy

    – The Indian summer monsoon plays a crucial role in India’s agriculture and affects the livelihood of a fifth of the world’s population.
    – About 80% (about 70% from south – west branch of monsoon) of the annual precipitation over India occurs during the summer period, supplying water to crops during the prime agricultural season.
    a. The southwest monsoon Agriculture accounts for about 14% of the country’s GDP.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Indian Economy

    • The Centre has directed all gas-based power generating stations to operationalise their plants from May 1 to June 30 in view of rise in electricity demand due to an early onset of the heat wave this summer.
    • The Central Electricity Authority under the Ministry of Power, monitors 62 gas based power stations, with a total capacity of 23,845 MW using gas as primary fuel.
    • India’s natural gas demand is expected to rise by 6 percent in 2024 with a rise in consumption in fertiliser units, power generation and industrial sectors, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
    • India is the 4th largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
    • Significance: Gas-based power plants offer several advantages, including lower emissions and quicker ramp-up times compared to coal-based plants. 
      • However, the share of gas-based power generation in India’s total power mix remains relatively small compared to coal and renewable energy sources.
    Gas Based Power Generation in India
    • Cleaner Energy Source: Gas-based power generation emits fewer pollutants compared to coal-based power plants, making it a cleaner option, especially in urban areas where air quality is a significant concern.
    • Flexibility and Efficiency: Gas-based power plants are highly efficient and offer greater operational flexibility compared to coal-based plants.
    • Reduced Dependence on Coal: India heavily relies on coal for electricity generation, but diversifying the energy mix with gas can reduce this dependence, enhancing energy security and reducing vulnerability to supply disruptions.
    • Rapid Deployment: Gas-based power plants can be constructed relatively quickly compared to large-scale coal or nuclear plants.
      • This rapid deployment capability makes them a viable option for meeting short-term increases in electricity demand.
    • Import of Natural Gas: India has limited domestic natural gas reserves, and the majority of its natural gas consumption is met through imports.
      • Despite efforts to explore and exploit domestic reserves, India still relies heavily on imported natural gas, primarily from countries like Qatar, Australia, and the United States.
    • Infrastructure Constraints: The development of infrastructure, including pipelines, LNG terminals, and city gas distribution networks, is essential for the efficient transportation and distribution of natural gas.
      • However, the expansion of infrastructure in India has been hampered by factors such as land acquisition issues, regulatory hurdles, and funding constraints.
    • Competitive Pricing: Natural gas competes with other energy sources such as coal, renewable energy, and imported liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in India.
      • The pricing of natural gas relative to these competing fuels influence its attractiveness for various applications, including power generation, industrial use, and transportation.
    • Environmental Concerns: While natural gas is considered a cleaner alternative to coal and oil, its extraction, transportation, and combustion still produce greenhouse gas emissions. 
      • Addressing environmental concerns related to methane leakage, air pollution, and carbon emissions is crucial for the sustainable development of the gas-based energy sector.
    • Infrastructure Development: A total of 23,391 km of the natural gas pipeline is operational and about 4,125 km of the gas pipeline is under construction as of Feb 2024.
      • Target to increase the pipeline coverage by ~54% to 34,500 km by 2024-25 and to connect all the states with the trunk natural gas pipeline network by 2027.
    • Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga (PMUG): Launched in 2016, PMUG aims to develop the natural gas pipeline infrastructure in eastern India, connecting gas sources and major demand centers.
      • The project involves the construction of a pipeline connecting Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal, passing through Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
    • City Gas Distribution (CGD) Network Expansion: The government has been promoting the expansion of CGD networks across India to increase access to piped natural gas (PNG) for households, industries, and commercial establishments.
      • Under the CGD bidding rounds, licenses are awarded to entities for developing CGD networks in geographical areas identified by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB).
    • Natural Gas Marketing Reforms: The government has introduced reforms in the marketing of natural gas to enhance transparency, promote competition, and attract investment in the sector.
    • Gas Price Rationalization: Reforms such as the New Domestic Gas Pricing Guidelines (2014) and the introduction of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) have aimed to provide pricing incentives for domestic gas producers while balancing the interests of consumers.
    • Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund (NGIDF): The government has set up the NGIDF to provide financial support for the development of natural gas infrastructure in India. 
    • Promotion of LNG Imports and Terminals: The government has encouraged investment in LNG import terminals to diversify gas supply sources and enhance energy security. 

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    • Tamil Nadu is India’s No.1 state in terms of economic complexity, measured by the diversity of its gross domestic product (GDP) and employment profile.
    • About 45.3% of TN’s farm Gross Value Added (GVA) comes from the livestock subsector, the highest for any state and way above the 30.2% all-India average.
    • TN is home to India’s largest private dairy company (Hatsun Agro Product), broiler enterprise (Suguna Foods), egg processor (SKM Group) and also “egg capital” (Namakkal).
    • Development of Clusters: TN’s economic transformation has been brought about not by so-called Big Capital as much as medium-scale businesses with turnover range from Rs 100 crore to Rs 5,000 crore.
      • Its industrialisation has also been more spread out and decentralised, via the development of clusters. Many cluster towns are hubs for multiple industries. 
    • Employment Generation: Most of these clusters have come up in small urban/peri-urban centres, providing employment to people from surrounding villages who may otherwise have migrated to big cities for work.
      • They have, moreover, created diversification options outside of agriculture, reducing the proportion of TN’s workforce dependent on farming.
    • Entrepreneurship: TN’s early industrialists were mainly Nattukottai Chettiars and Brahmins.
      • The disruptions from World War II and the Burmese nationalist movement led many to redirect their investments back home.
      • The remarkable thing about TN’s entrepreneurial culture is its percolation among diverse communities and in a range of industries.
      • The drivers of TN’s more recent decentralised industrialisation have been entrepreneurs from more ordinary peasant stock and provincial mercantile castes.
    • The entrepreneurship from below combined with its high social progress indices from public health and education investments explains Tamil Nadu’s relative success in achieving industrialisation and diversification beyond agriculture.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Space

    • Gopi Thotakura, an Indian entrepreneur and aviator, is set to make history as the first Indian space tourist and will join five other crew members on the NS-25 mission of Blue Origin.
    • Space tourism is essentially a section of the aviation sector which seeks to provide tourists with the opportunity to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes.
    • If the mission is successful, Thotakura would be the second Indian to go into space.
      • The first one was Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, who flew to the Salyut 7 Space Station on a Soviet spacecraft in 1984.
    • Sub Orbital: Sub-orbital spacecraft take passengers just beyond the Kármán line — nearly 100 kilometres from earth and considered to be the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
      • The passengers get to spend a few minutes in outer space and then come back to Earth.
    • Orbital: Orbital tourism, on the other hand, entails remaining in space for at least one full orbit.
      • This is a major focus of governmental agencies and private space companies, all of which have the long-term goal to inhabit the moon and Mars.
    • According to media reports, in 2023, the space tourism market was valued at $848.28 million.
      • It is expected to grow to $27,861.99 million by 2032.
    • However, there are several challenges, such as high cost, and environmental concerns, that may limit the industry’s growth.
    • There are now six major space companies that are arranging or planning to arrange touristic flights to space: Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Boeing, Axiom Space, and Space Perspective.
    • While the first two (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin) are focused on suborbital flights, Axiom and Boeing are working on orbital missions.
      • SpaceX, in its turn, is prioritising lunar tourism in the future.
    • High Costs: Currently, space tourism is an expensive venture, accessible only to the wealthier sections of society.
      • A passenger generally has to pay at least a million dollars to reach outer space.
      • This high cost leads to social inequity and elitism, as it limits access to a privileged few.
    • Safety Concerns: The weakening of bones and muscles due to lack of gravity (atrophy), potential damage to spacecraft from extreme temperatures and collisions with space debris, and health problems from extended space travel and radiation exposure are all risks associated with space tourism.
    • Environmental Impact: Several studies have pointed out that space tourism may lead to environmental damage as rockets emit gaseous and solid chemicals directly into the upper atmosphere.
      • Scientists worry that growing numbers of rocket flights and the rise of space tourism could harm Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
    • Legal and Regulatory Challenges: The regulatory framework for space activities is complex, with numerous international treaties and agreements governing space activities and national laws and regulations varying between countries.
      • There is an urgent need to draft new treaties to regulate the space tourism industry.
    • Infrastructure Limitations: Limited infrastructure for space travel and tourism is another challenge that needs to be addressed.
      • As more companies invest in developing spacecraft and launch infrastructure, there will be an increased demand for engineers, technicians, pilots, and other specialised professionals.
    • Space tourism represents a new frontier in human exploration. It not only offers the promise of space travel to ordinary people but also has the potential to drive technological innovation and inspire a new generation of explorers.
    • The high cost of space travel and the potential environmental impact are significant hurdles that need to be addressed.
      • Moreover, the physical and psychological effects of space travel on humans are still not fully understood.
    • As we stand on the cusp of this new era, it is clear that space tourism will play a significant role in shaping the future of human space exploration.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In Context

    • India is the top producer and exporter of Ashwagandha with states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh emerging as leading producers

    About Ashwagandha 

    • Ashwagandha is also known as Indian Ginseng or Withania somnifera or Winter Cherry. It is among a group of herbs called ‘adaptogens’ and has a long history of use in Ayurveda. 
    • It is an evergreen herb mostly found in India, Africa and the Middle East. 
    • Ashwagandha has active substances called withanolides and alkaloids. Withanolides are organic compounds which are known to have medicinal properties. Alkaloids are also organic compounds (compounds of carbon), which are generally known for their soothing effect.

    Source: BL

    Syllabus: GS1/Geography

    Context

    • Researchers have discovered a gigantic reservoir of water 700 km beneath the planet’s surface in a rock known as ringwoodite.

    About

    • The size of this subterranean ocean is triple the volume of all the planet’s surface oceans combined.
    • By analyzing the speed of the seismic waves generated by earthquakes, scientists inferred the composition of the Earth’s inner layers.

    What is ringwoodite?

    • Ringwoodite is a mineral that exists in the Earth’s transition zone. It has a unique crystal structure that allows it to absorb water and hydrogen, acting like a sponge.
    • This mineral can hold a significant amount of water.

    Source: TOI

    Syllabus: GS2/Polity and Governance

    Context

    • Recently domicile as a requirement for a parliamentary candidate was in news, as Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani became an elector from her Lok Sabha constituency.

    Constitutional Provision

    • As per Article 84 of the Constitution, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha candidates must be citizens of India. 
    • While for the Lok Sabha, they need to be at least 25 years of age, the minimum age limit for the Upper House is 30. 
    • The Article also says that the candidates should possess “such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament”.
    • Article 84 also says that on being elected, the MPs must take an oath or affirmation as per the Third Schedule, which prescribes the format of the oath.

    Other Provisions

    • The Representation of the People Act, 1951, lays down that candidates for the Lok Sabha should be enrolled as electors, from any constituency.
      • The nomination papers that candidates fill out require them to attach the extract of the electoral roll where they are enrolled.
    • However Domicile is not a criterion for parliamentary candidates, who are allowed to contest from multiple seats.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment

    Context

    • The SBTi recent declaration of allowing companies to utilize carbon offsets to fulfill their climate commitments has gathered widespread criticism

    About

    • The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a corporate climate action organization that enables companies and financial institutions worldwide to play their part in combating the climate crisis.
    • SBTi perform various function such as;
      • Defines and promotes best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science.
      • Develops standards, tools and guidance to enable companies and financial institutions to set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.
      • Through its validation services arm, it assesses and validates companies and financial institutions targets.

    What is a carbon offset?

    • A carbon offset refers to a way by which organizations or individuals can cut down on their carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. 
    • These reductions are achieved through projects that either capture and store carbon or prevent emissions from occurring in the first place, such as through renewable energy projects, reforestation initiatives, and methane capture from landfills.
    • Companies or individuals purchase carbon offsets to compensate for their own carbon emissions, thereby “offsetting” their environmental impact and contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. 

    Source: TOI

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    Context

    • The Indian stock market extended losses for the third straight session.
      • Escalating tension in the Middle East due to the Israel-Iran conflict is one of the reasons for the stock market fall as the situation has resulted in geopolitical uncertainty in the region. 

    About

    • Sensex is the benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in India. 
    • It was launched on January 1, 1986 as a basket of 30 stocks representing the country’s largest, financially-sound companies listed on the BSE.
    • The term ‘Sensex’ is a blend of words ‘Sensitive’ and ‘Index’ and was coined by stock market expert Deepak Mohoni. 
    • If the Sensex value increases it means that there is a general increase in the prices of shares. On the other hand, if the value of Sensex declines, it means that there is a general decrease in share prices.
    • Since sensex comprises companies from all key sectors of the economy, it truly reflects the sentiment of the stock market in India.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment

    Context

    • South Florida researchers are using biodegradable drinking straws to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming fish food.

    About

    • The small biodegradable cage that’s made in part with drinking straws boosts the survival rate of transplanted coral to over 90%.
      • The coral cage consists of a limestone disc surrounded by eight vertical phade brand drinking straws. 

    What are Corals?

    • Corals are invertebrates that belong to a large group of animals called Cnidaria.
      • Corals are formed by multiple small, soft organisms known as polyps. 
      • They secrete a rocky chalk-like (calcium carbonate) exoskeleton around themselves for protection. 
      • Coral reefs are therefore created by millions of tiny polyps forming large carbonate structures.
    • Appearance: Corals range in colour from red to purple and even blue, but are most commonly shades of brown and green.
      • They get most of their colours from the millions of microscopic algae that grow inside each polyp’s tissues.
    • There are three types of coral reefs – fringing reefs, barrier reefs and atolls.
      • Fringing reefs form along shorelines, barrier reefs form in open water and atolls are circular reefs that have formed around sunken volcanos.
    • Significance: They provide food, shelter, resting and breeding grounds to a quarter of all marine life, acting as nurseries and refuges to protect critical biodiversity.
      • They also support more than 1 billion people living in coastal regions around the world by providing food, livelihoods and recreation.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/ Economy

    In News

    • As input prices turn inflationary, the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment can experience shrinkflation.

    About

    • Shrinkflation is the practice by companies of reducing the size or quantity of a product while keeping the same price. For example: reducing the scoops of ice cream in a container or reducing the number of chips in a packet would count as shrinkflation.
    • Causes: Rising production costs, Avoid sensitivity of consumers to price increases.

    Source: FE

    Syllabus: GS/ Places in News

    In News

    • Volcanic vortex rings emerged from a new pit crater on the north side of the southeast crater of the Etna Volcano in Sicily, Italy.

    About Mount Etna

    •  It is an active stratovolcano  volcano on the east coast of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
    •  Etna’s peak is the highest in Italy south of the Alps, and it is Europe’s largest and one of the most active volcanoes of the world. 

    • Its summit has five craters, which are responsible for most of the volcano’s eruptions.
    • It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. 
    • It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013.

    Source: TH