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UPSC Essentials: Weekly news express with MCQs— Commercial crops to Taiwan and more.

The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the most important topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article.

UPSC, UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS, WEEKLY NEWS FOR UPSC, UPSC WEEKLY NEWS EXPRESS. WEEKLY CURRENT AFFAIRS, UPSC CSE PRELIMS 2023, UPSC CSE MAINS 2022, SARKARI NAUKRI, GOVERNMENT JOBS, UPSC NEWS, CURRENT AFFAIRS TODAY, UPSC ESSENTIALS,CIVIL, IAS CURRENT AFFAIRSEssential weekly news categorised as per UPSC syllabus. (Representative image)

The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the most important topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article.

Shift to commercial crops

Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development

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Mains Examination: General Studies III: Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country

Why in news?

—A combination of lower realisations and good monsoon rains have led farmers to move away from pulses and plant more commercial crops, especially soyabean and cotton that are trading much higher than their minimum support prices (MSP).

Key takeaways

—According to the Union Agriculture Ministry’s latest compiled data as of July 29, farmers have so far sown 106.18 lakh hectares (lh) area under pulses in the current kharif cropping season from June 1. This is above last year’s corresponding area coverage of 103.23 lh.

—However, the picture is different when one looks at individual pulses and state-wise acreages. Arhar/Tur (pigeon-pea), the country’s largest produced kharif pulses crop, has seen a dip in area sown from 41.75 lh to 36.11 lh.

—Moreover, the only major pulses-growing states to have registered significant rise in area are Rajasthan (from 21.65 lh to 32.10 lh), Madhya Pradesh (17.83 to 18.28 lh) and Uttar Pradesh (6.22 to 7.08 lh). Others have seen reductions, notably Maharashtra (20.69 to 17.81), Karnataka (18.32 to 16.94 lh), Telangana (4.11 to 2.21 lh), Gujarat (3.80 to 2.86 lh) and Odisha (3.08 to 2.41 lh).

—There is a clear explanation for the above trend. Arhar is selling at around Rs 7,300 per quintal and soyabean at Rs 6,300 in Maharashtra’s Latur market. Their corresponding MSPs are Rs 6,600 and Rs 4,300 per quintal, respectively. The gap between the ruling market price and MSP is, thus, higher in soyabean.

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—The cumulative all-India acreage under soyabean has gone up from 111.89 lh to 114.69 lh.

—Besides soyabean, pulses have also lost out to cotton, with 117.65 lh being sown under the fibre crop, up from 111.69 lh last year at this time. Maharashtra alone has seen an increase in area from 38.12 lh to 41.21 lh. In Gujarat, cotton has gained acreage (21.77 to 24.50 lh), mainly at the expense of groundnut (18.68 to 16.27 lh).

—Cotton acreage has also gone up because all the main cotton-growing states – in the South, West and Northwest India – have received surplus rainfall this monsoon season. Being a 6-8 month duration crop, typically harvested over 4-5 pickings till December and right up to February, cotton requires more water than soyabean, groundnut or pulses.

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—Commercial crops are grown for sale in the market or are used as raw materials for industries. It is an agricultural crop that is grown for sale to return a profit. It is typically purchased by parties separate from a farm.

Point to ponder: Which are the important cash crops of India? What were the important causes for Commercialisation of crops?

1. MCQ:

Which of the following is/are a commercial crop in India?

1.Mustard

2.Tobacco

3. Jute

4. Wheat

Select the correct code:

(a) 2 and 3 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3 only

(d) 2, 3 and 4 only

India’s unique job crisis

Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development-Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.

Mains Examination: General Studies III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Why in news?

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—According to Amit Basole, who heads the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, the share of India’s working population engaged in farming has fallen quite significantly during the last three decades.

Key takeaways

—In 1993-94, agriculture accounted for close to 62% of the country’s employed labour force. That proportion – based on data from the National Statistical Office’s Periodic Labour Force (previously known as ‘employment and unemployment’) Surveys – dropped almost six percentage points by 2004-05 and even more (9 percentage points) over the next seven years. The declining trend continued, albeit at a slower pace, in the subsequent seven as well.

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—Overall, between 1993-94 and 2018-19, agriculture’s share in India’s workforce came down from 61.9% to 41.4%. That isn’t insignificant. It is estimated that given its level of per capita GDP in 2018 – and comparing with the average for other countries in the same income bracket – India’s farm sector should be employing 33-34% of the total workforce. 41.4% may not be a substantial deviation from the average.

—There’s been a reversal of the trend in the last two years, which has seen the share of those employed in farms rise to 44-45%. This has primarily to do with the Covid-induced economic disruptions. The Periodic Labour Force Survey years are from July to June. The 2019-20 survey results will, hence, also cover the first lockdown period from late-March to end-June 2020. The reverse migration of people back to the farms should be a temporary blip, though, with the surveys from 2021-22 hopefully revealing a restoration of the long-term trend.

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—Secondly, even the movement of workforce from agriculture that India has witnessed over the past three decades or more does not qualify as what economists call “structural transformation”. Such transformation would involve the transfer of labour from farming to sectors – particularly manufacturing and modern services – where productivity, value-addition and average incomes are higher.

—Simply put, the structural transformation process in India has been weak and deficient. Yes, there is movement of labour taking place away from farms – even if stalled, possibly temporarily. But that surplus labour isn’t moving to higher value-added non-farm activities, specifically manufacturing and modern services (the familiar ‘Kuznets Process’ named after the American economist and 1971 Nobel Memorial Prize winner, Simon Kuznets). Instead, as Basole’s work demonstrates, the labour transfer is happening within the low-productivity informal economy. The jobs that are getting generated outside agriculture are mostly in low-paid services and construction; the latter’s share in employment has even overtaken that of manufacturing.

—Weak structural transformation and persistence of informality also explains the tendency, especially by rural families, for pursuing multiple livelihoods.

Point to ponder: How Weak structural transformation is one of the reason behind few people now in agriculture? What is Kuznets theory?

2. MCQ:

Consider the following statements and answer the question below:

1. Considering the importance of the availability of labour force data at more frequent time intervals, Niti Aayog launched Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).

2. One of the objectives of PLFS is to measure the dynamics in labour force participation and employment status in the short time interval of three months for only the urban areas in the Current Weekly Status (CWS).

Which of the following statement is/are correct?

a) only 1               b) only 2

c) Both 1 and 2  d) Neither 1 nor 2

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

Main Examination: General Studies II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Why in news?

—The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022, was passed in Rajya Sabha. The Bill, passed by Lok Sabha in the previous session, was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House.

Key takeaways

—The Bill amends The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005, to provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in line with India’s international obligations.

—The Bill bars persons from financing any prohibited activity related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. To prevent persons from financing such activities, the central government may freeze, seize or attach their funds, financial assets, or economic resources (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly). It may also prohibit persons from making finances or related services available for the benefit of other persons in relation to any activity which is prohibited.

—The 2005 Act prohibited the manufacturing, transport, and transfer of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery.

—According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, the need to amend the Act has arisen from the fact that “in recent times, regulations relating to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems by international organisations have expanded”, and “the United Nations Security Council’s targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have mandated against financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems”.

—The expression “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is usually considered to have been used first by the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1937 to refer to the aerial bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian fascists in support of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.

—The expression WMD entered the vocabularies of people and countries around the world in the early 2000s after the US under President George W Bush and the UK under Prime Minister Tony Blair justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that the government of Saddam Hussain was hiding these weapons in the country. No WMDs were ever found.

NBC weapons

—While there is no single, authoritative definition of a WMD in international law, the expression is usually understood to cover nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, “A weapon of mass destruction is a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device that is intended to harm a large number of people.”

—India’s 2005 WMD Act defines:

* “Biological weapons” as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins…of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or delivery systems specially designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”; and

* “Chemical weapons” as “toxic chemicals and their precursors” except where used for peaceful, protective, and certain specified military and law enforcement purposes; “munitions and devices specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals”; and any equipment specifically designed for use in connection with the employment of these munitions and devices.

Control over use of WMDs

—The use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons is regulated by a number of international treaties and agreements.

—Among them are the Geneva Protocol, 1925, that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons; and the Biological Weapons Convention, 1972, and Chemical Weapons Convention, 1992, which put comprehensive bans on the biological and chemical weapons respectively.

—India has signed and ratified both the 1972 and 1992 treaties. There are very few non-signatory countries to these treaties, even though several countries have been accused of non-compliance.

—The use and proliferation of nuclear weapons is regulated by treaties such as Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Point to ponder: How does the WMD bill address the issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

3. MCQ:

Which of the following statements is not true?

a) Non Proliferation Treaty can be described to have three objectives of non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

b) New START Treaty is a treaty between the United States of America and China on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.

c) Geneva Protocol of 1925 banned the use of chemical and biological weapons.

d) India has ratified Biological Weapon Conventions and Chemical weapon Convention.

Taiwan issue and India’s stand on One China policy

Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance

Main Examination: General Studies II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Why in news?

—On August 2nd, US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan.

—This triggered a fresh round of tension that risks pushing US-Chinese relations to a new low and brings into focus China’s threat of using force o control the island. Nancy Pelosi has been a vocal critic of China over the years.

Where is Taiwan?

—Earlier known as Formosa, Taiwan is a tiny island off the east coast of China, separated from the mainland China by the Taiwan straight.

—It is a part of what is called the “first island chain”- a string of islands nations/territories, including Japan, South Korea and Philippines that are seen as pro-US.

—Taiwan is also located close to the South China Sea, a region where many east Asian countries have contested claims.

What is the tussle between China and Taiwan?

—While China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, Taiwan sees itself as independent. Taiwan has stood against China’s reunification goal. Only 15 countries most of them small island nations, recognize Taiwan.

What is One China Principle and One China Policy?

—It is important to distinguish between the One China Principle and the One China Policy to understand the cross-Taiwan Strait problems.

—The PRC follows the One China Principle, a core belief that sees Taiwan as an inalienable part of China, with its sole legitimate government in Beijing. The US acknowledges this position but not necessarily its validity.

—The US instead follows the One China Policy — meaning that the PRC was and is the only China, with no recognition for the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) as a separate sovereign entity. At the same time, the US refuses to give in to the PRC’s demands to recognise Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan — it only acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is a part of China.

—Warren Christopher who was US Deputy Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter said,“the word ‘acknowledge’ is determinative for the US,” told a Senate hearing when the Chinese attempted to change it to “recognise”.

—The US has stuck to this position ever since — and used the “strategic ambiguity” that it creates to maintain the status quo and preserve stability in the Taiwan Strait.

What is the US Position?

—While US maintains ties with Taipei and sells weapons to it, it officially subscribes to PRC’s ” One China Policy”- where Taiwan does not exist as a sperate entity. This position is premised on Beijing not invading taiwan. It is this delicate diplomatic balance that Pelosi’s visit may have disturbed.

—On October 1, 2021, during the 72nd anniversary celebrations of PRC, China flew over 100 fighter jets into Taiwan air defence identification zone, setting off alarm bells. Every spike in China – Taiwan tension worsens the already strained US-China relationship.

What has been India’s position?

—India does not have any formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet as it subscribes to the One China Policy.

—India has an office in Taipei for diplomatic functions — India-Taipei Association (ITA) is headed by a senior diplomat. Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center (TECC) in New Delhi. Both were established in 1995.

—Their ties focus on commerce, culture and education. Now in their third decade, these have been deliberately kept low-profile, owing to China’s sensitivities.

—For example, parliamentary delegation visits and legislature-level dialogues have stopped since 2017, around the time the India-China border standoff happened in Doklam.

—But as its ties with China have come under stress of late, India has been playing up its tension withTaiwan.

—In 2020, after the Galwan clashes, New Delhi handpicked diplomat Gourangalal Das — then jointsecretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs — to become its envoy in Taipei.

—The Taiwan government is keen on expanding areas of cooperation with India as it is one of the priority countries for Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy. So far, it’s been largely an economic and people-to-people relationship.

Point to ponder: What is the difference between One China Policy and One China Principle? What is India’s stand on the issue of Taiwan?

4. MCQ:

Consider the following statements and answer the question below:

1. China follows One China Principle while US follows One China Policy.

2. India does not subscribes to One China Policy and maintains diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Which of the statements is/are true?
a) Only 1            b) Only 2

c) Both 1 and 2 d) Neither 1 nor 2

Govt gives nod to stronger climate targets for 2030

Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

Mains Examination: General Studies III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Why in news?

-At The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) last year, PM Narendra Modi promised to strengthen India’s climate commitments.

-He made five promises, and called it the ‘Panchamrit’.

-Nine months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made those promises at Glasgow, the government, has now, converted two of those into official targets, which would now be part of India’s international climate commitments for 2030.

Key takeaways:

—India’s NDC, or nationally determined commitments, have been updated with these two promises, both of which are enhancements of existing targets, and would be submitted to the UN climate body.

—NDCs or nationally determined commitments embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

—The 2015 Paris Agreement requires every country to set self-determined climate targets which have to be progressively updated with more ambitious goals every few years. India’s first NDC was submitted in 2015, just before the Paris Agreement was finalised.

What are the three main targets of India’s original NDCs?

—India’s original NDC contained three main targets for 2030:

* A 33 to 35 per cent reduction in emissions intensity (or emissions per unit of GDP) from 2005 levels

* At least 40 per cent of total electricity generation to come from non-fossil renewable sources

* An increase in forest cover to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent

Which targets have been converted into official targets?

—At the Glasgow meeting last year, Modi promised to strengthen India’s climate commitments. He made five promises, and called it the ‘Panchamrit’, the nectar that Indians prepare using five ingredients. Two of these were upward revision of existing targets, the ones that have been made official and put in the updated NDC .

Accordingly,

* India will now reduce its emission intensity by at least 45 %, instead of just 33 to 35 %, from 2005 levels by 2030.

* Also, it would now ensure that at least 50 % of its total electricity generation, not just 40 %, would come from renewable sources by 2030.

* The forestry target has not been touched.

Which two targets have not been converted into official targets?

—PM had said that at least 500 GW of India’s installed electricity generation capacity in 2030 would be based on non-fossil fuel sources.

—Also, he had promised that the country would ensure avoided emissions of at least one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between now and 2030.

—These two promises have not been converted into official targets.

—But these are closely linked with others, and any progress on official targets would get reflected in these goals as well.

—Also, to be noted that PM had also announced a net zero target for India for the year 2070.

—Net zero is a situation in which a country’s greenhouse gas emissions are offset entirely, either by absorption of carbon dioxide through natural processes like photosynthesis in plants, or through physical removal of greenhouse gases using futuristic technologies.

-But net zero is a long-term target and does not qualify to be included in the NDC which seeks five to 10 year climate targets from countries.

What has been India’s progress so far in achieving its targets?

—Two climate targets — those relating to reductions in emissions intensity and proportion of non-fossil sources in electricity generation — do not come as a surprise.

—India is on way to achieve its existing targets well ahead of the 2030 timeline.

—India’s emissions intensity was 24 % lower than the 2005 levels in the year 2016 itself, the last year for which official numbers are available. It is very likely that the 33 to 35 % reduction target has already been achieved, or is very close to being achieved. A further reduction of 10-12 % from here, to meet the new target, does not appear too challenging, even though these reductions get progressively tougher to achieve.

—The other target — having at least 40 percent of electricity coming from non-fossil fuels — has officially been reached.

—According to the latest data from the power ministry, 41.5 % of India’s current installed electricity capacity of 403 GW is now powered by non-fossil fuels. Renewables (wind, solar and others) alone account for more than 28 % of this capacity while hydropower contributes over 11 %.

—With most of the new capacity additions happening in the renewable energy sector, a 10 per cent rise in the share of non-fossil fuels in electricity generation is not a unrealistic target.

Point to ponder: Why do you think that 2 out of the 5 panchamrit targets have not been made official?

5. MCQ:

Which of these Panchamarita promises have been converted into official targets or NDCs by the GOI?

1. A net zero target for India for the year 2070.

2. At least 500 GW of India’s installed electricity generation capacity in 2030 would be based on non-fossil fuel sources.

3. India will reduce its emission intensity by at least 45 % from 2005 levels by 2030.

a) 1, 2 and 3          b) Only 2

c) Only 3               d) 2 and 3

Answer to the MCQs: 1 (c) , 2 (b) , 3(b) , 4 (a) , 5 (c)

First published on: 06-08-2022 at 03:49:47 pm
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