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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS | 12 March , 2024

New Era of Trade Relations: India and EFTA Countries Set Investment Goals and Job Creation Targets        

 UPSC CSE Mains Question     

Examine the significance of the India-EFTA Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) in the context of India’s broader trade strategy. Discuss the potential economic, social, and environmental impacts of this agreement on India.

Why in the News?  

India has entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with four European countries— Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, collectively known as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This agreement aims at fostering $100 billion in investments in India and creating one million jobs within 15 years.  

Background  

This Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with the EFTA countries is significant as it is only the second full-fledged FTA India has signed, following the agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The agreement promises to reduce tariffs significantly, enhance market access, and simplify customs procedures. Notably, it includes a chapter on human rights and sustainable development, a first in such agreements for India.

Key Points of the News

  1. Economic and Job Growth:
    • The agreement aims to bring in $100 billion in investments and generate one million jobs in India over 15 years, promoting economic growth and employment.
  2. Investment Promotion and Cooperation:
    • Chapter 7 of TEPA focuses on increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) from EFTA states into India, setting ambitious targets for the coming years.
  3. Human Rights and Sustainable Development:
    • The inclusion of a chapter dedicated to human rights and sustainable development underlines the agreement’s broader commitment to ethical and sustainable economic practices.
  4. Private Sector Involvement:
    • The realization of the investment and job creation goals largely depends on the private sectors of the EFTA countries, emphasizing the role of favorable investment climates over direct governmental investment mandates.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Free Trade Agreement (FTA):
    • An agreement between two or more countries to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
  2. European Free Trade Association (EFTA):
    • A regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
  3. Tariff:
    • A tax imposed by a government on goods or services imported from other countries.
  4. Sustainable Development:
    • Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Way Forward

Both India and EFTA countries must work towards creating an environment conducive to achieving the investment and employment targets. This includes facilitating dialogue between governments and the private sector, ensuring policy stability, and monitoring progress towards the goals set in the agreement.

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Which of the following countries is not a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that signed the TEPA with India?

a. Finland
b. Iceland
c. Norway
d. Switzerland
Answer: a. Finland
2. What unique chapter does the TEPA between India and EFTA include, marking a first in such agreements for India?
a. Digital Trade
b. Human Rights and Sustainable Development
c. Intellectual Property Rights
d. Agricultural Cooperation
Answer: b. Human Rights and Sustainable Development

Nutritional Neglect: The Growing Epidemic of ‘Zero-Food Children’ Amidst India’s Urbanization               

UPSC CSE Mains Question    

Why in the News?   

A recent study highlights the concerning issue of ‘zero-food children’ in India, with a significant focus on Uttar Pradesh. This term refers to children aged six months to 23 months who have not consumed any food with substantial calorific content for 24 hours.     

Background

The phenomenon of zero-food children has been linked to rapid urbanization and the shift towards nuclear families, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. The state is reported to have the highest percentage of such children in India, a country already ranked third globally for the prevalence of zero-food children.

Key Points of the News

  1. Prevalence and Impact:
    • India has a high percentage of zero-food children, with over six million affected. Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for nearly 28.4% of the country’s total.
  2. Socioeconomic Factors:
    • Poverty, alcoholism, and the pressure on women to work outside the home contribute significantly to this issue. The lack of a supportive family structure due to nuclearization exacerbates the problem.
  3. Nutritional Awareness:
    • There is a notable lack of awareness about the nutritional needs of children, compounded by social misconceptions and the absence of extended family support.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Zero-Food Children:
    • Children who have not eaten any substantial calorific content food for 24 hours.
  2. Rapid Urbanization:
    • The quick movement of people from rural to urban areas, leading to the growth of city populations and changes in family structures.
  3. Nuclear Families:
    • A family group consisting of parents and their children, as opposed to extended family.   

Way Forward  

Efforts must be intensified to educate caregivers on child nutrition, improve access to affordable, nutritious food, and create support systems for working parents. Additionally, policies should aim at tackling the root causes of poverty and urban migration to ensure that economic growth translates into improved well-being for vulnerable populations.  

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Which state in India accounts for the highest percentage of zero-food children according to a recent study?

a. Bihar
b. Uttar Pradesh
c. Maharashtra
d. Rajasthan
Answer: b. Uttar Pradesh
2. What significant socio-economic factor contributes to the high number of zero-food children in India?
a. Exclusively breastfed children
b. Rapid urbanization and nuclear family structures
c. Lack of government nutrition programs
d. Inadequate healthcare facilities
Answer: b. Rapid urbanization and nuclear family structures

The New Frontier of Genetic Engineering: Asexual Reproduction in Fruit Flies         

UPSC CSE Mains Question

 Discuss the potential ethical, ecological, and evolutionary implications of genetically modifying organisms to change their natural reproductive behaviors. Use the example of inducing parthenogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster as a case study.

Why in the News?

A significant scientific breakthrough was achieved by researchers from Cambridge University and the California Institute of Technology, who successfully modified Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly species known for sexual reproduction, to enable asexual reproduction (parthenogenesis).   

Background  

The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has been a key organism for genetic research for over a century, contributing extensively to our understanding of biology and evolution. This latest achievement underscores the potential of genetic manipulation to induce major biological changes.  

Key Points of the News

  1. Genetic Engineering for Asexual Reproduction:
    • By identifying and modifying specific genes in D. melanogaster, researchers were able to induce parthenogenesis, a notable shift from its strictly sexual reproduction mode.
  2. Implications for Pest Control:
    • This research may influence pest control strategies, which often involve releasing sterilized males to reduce population levels. The discovery could lead to new methods that exploit asexual reproduction mechanisms.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Parthenogenesis:
    • A form of asexual reproduction where offspring are produced by females without the genetic contribution of a male.
  2. RNA Sequencing:
    • A technique used to determine the quantity of RNA in a biological sample, giving insights into which genes are actively being expressed.
  3. Genome:
    • The complete set of DNA, including all of its genes, in an organism.
  4. Polar Bodies:
    • Cells produced along with the female gamete (egg) during oogenesis. They usually do not participate in reproduction.   

Way Forward

Further research is needed to explore the potential applications of this discovery in pest management and to understand the long-term ecological and evolutionary consequences of artificially inducing asexual reproduction in species traditionally reliant on sexual reproduction.  

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the significance of modifying the genes polo, Myc, and Desat2 in Drosophila melanogaster?

a. It increases the fruit fly's lifespan.
b. It changes the fruit fly's color.
c. It induces parthenogenesis in the fruit fly.
d. It enhances the fruit fly's resistance to pesticides.
Answer: c. It induces parthenogenesis in the fruit fly.
2.Why is the ability to induce asexual reproduction in traditionally sexual species significant for pest control strategies?
a. It allows for the creation of more potent pesticides.
b. It enables the release of sterile males without the need for irradiation.
c. It could reduce progeny numbers by exploiting natural asexual reproduction mechanisms.
d. It increases the genetic diversity of pest populations.
Answer: c. It could reduce progeny numbers by exploiting natural asexual reproduction mechanisms.

Kerala Tops Indian States in Issuing Passports to Women           

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

Analyze the socio-economic implications of the increasing trend of educational migration from Kerala, with a focus on the role of women in this shift. Discuss how this trend impacts Kerala’s economy and social structure.     

Why in the News?     

Kerala has emerged as the leading state in India for issuing passports to women, highlighting a significant shift in migration patterns, especially among young women pursuing higher education abroad.  

Background

Traditionally, migration from Kerala has contributed significantly to its economy, with a substantial portion of its population living abroad, primarily in the Middle East. However, recent trends indicate a diversification in migration destinations, particularly towards Western countries for educational purposes. This shift is notably driven by an increasing number of women from the state seeking overseas education opportunities.

Key Points of the News

  1. Shift in Migration Patterns:
    • The increase in the number of passports issued to women in Kerala signifies a shift from labor migration to educational migration, reflecting broader socio-economic changes.
  2. Educational Aspirations:
    • There’s a growing trend among Kerala’s youth, particularly women, to pursue higher education abroad, supported by the state’s high literacy rates and value placed on education.
  3. Female Participation in Migration:
    • The percentage of women participating in migration from Kerala has more than doubled in recent years, indicating greater autonomy and access to international education opportunities.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Passport:
    • A travel document issued by a country’s government to its citizens that verifies identity and nationality for international travel.
  2. Migration:
    • The movement of people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new location.
  3. Overseas Education:
    • The act of pursuing educational opportunities in foreign countries.

Way Forward  

To support and sustain this trend, it is essential for both state and national governments to provide adequate resources and support systems for students studying abroad. This includes offering scholarships, creating awareness about international education opportunities, and ensuring safety and support for students, particularly women, in foreign countries.

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Which Indian state has the highest number of passport holders among women as of 2023?

a. Maharashtra
b. Tamil Nadu
c. Kerala
d. Gujarat
Answer: c. Kerala
2. What significant shift in migration pattern has been observed in Kerala recently?
a. Increased labor migration to the Middle East
b. Decreased migration due to economic growth
c. Increased educational migration to Western countries
d. Decreased overall migration due to political instability
Answer: c. Increased educational migration to Western countries

Editorial Analysis (I)– Electoral bonds, the State Bank and the art of evasion  

  1. Context
    • Anjali Bhardwaj critiques the electoral bond scheme in India, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court for facilitating anonymous, unlimited political donations. She focuses on the State Bank of India’s (SBI) reluctance to disclose donor information, highlighting the bank’s affidavit which excuses its delay by citing technical and procedural challenges.
  2. Background
    • Electoral bonds were introduced in India as a means to fund political parties anonymously. The scheme has been controversial, criticized for obscuring the sources of political donations and enhancing the influence of undisclosed money in politics. The Supreme Court’s ruling on February 15, 2024, against the scheme underscores the legal and ethical challenges surrounding political funding in India.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Electoral Bonds: Financial instruments for donating to political parties anonymously.
    • Supreme Court: The highest judicial body in India.
    • State Bank of India (SBI): The largest public sector bank in India, authorized to issue and encash electoral bonds.
    • KYC (Know Your Customer): A process used by banks to verify the identity of their clients.
  4. Detailed Analysis
    • The Supreme Court’s Directive: The ruling to stop issuing electoral bonds and the directive for SBI to disclose details of the bonds aims to enhance transparency in political funding.
    • SBI’s Response and Affidavit: SBI’s claim of technical difficulties in disclosing donor information reflects a potential reluctance to transparency, suggesting an evasion of compliance with the court’s order.
    • Centrality of Voter’s Right to Know: The court emphasized the importance of voter information on political funding, linking it to the integrity of electoral and governance processes. The editorial suggests that SBI’s delay undermines this right, potentially affecting the transparency and fairness of the upcoming general election.
  5. Significance
    1. Bhardwaj’s editorial is significant for its critical examination of the electoral bond scheme and the broader implications of political funding transparency on democracy. It highlights the tension between the need for funding political activity and the public’s right to understand the sources of such funding.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • The resistance to disclosing donor information not only challenges the Supreme Court’s authority but also raises questions about the role of state institutions in safeguarding democratic processes. The editorial calls for urgent compliance with the court’s ruling to ensure voter’s rights to transparency before the general elections.
  7. Way Forward   
    • The editorial suggests the Supreme Court must intervene to enforce its directive and ensure that the SBI complies within a reasonable timeframe. This would reinforce the principle that transparency in political funding is crucial for a healthy democracy, emphasizing the importance of the voter’s right to know in making informed decisions at the ballot box.

Editorial Analysis(II) –A Possible Solution for Bengaluru’s Water Crisis     

  1. Context
    • This editorial addresses the critical issue of water scarcity and management in Bengaluru, India. With the city’s rapid growth and expansion, water supply has become a major concern, leading to a situation where the demand far exceeds the official supply from the Cauvery River and groundwater sources. The writers Kulranjan and Palur dissect the problem by analyzing Bengaluru’s water sources, consumption patterns, and the potential of rainwater harvesting versus wastewater management in addressing the crisis.
  2. Background
    • Bengaluru, a city experiencing rapid urban expansion, faces significant challenges in water supply, exacerbated by its reliance on limited sources like the Cauvery River and groundwater. The city’s infrastructure has not kept pace with its population growth, leading to overexploitation of groundwater and underutilization of other water resources. Historically, Bengaluru relied on an extensive network of man-made tanks and lakes for water, but rapid urbanization has led to their encroachment and pollution. The editorial highlights the pressing need for sustainable water management practices, considering the city’s vulnerability to fluctuating rainfall patterns and the urgent need for an efficient water management system.
  3. Important Terminology
    • MLD (Million Litres per Day):
      • A unit of measure indicating the volume of water used or supplied per day.
    • Groundwater recharge:
      • The process by which water from precipitation and runoff is absorbed into the ground, replenishing aquifers.
    • Rainwater harvesting:
      • Collecting and storing rainwater for reuse before it reaches the ground, often to recharge groundwater or for direct use.
    • Wastewater:
      • Water that has been used in homes, industries, and businesses that is not for reuse unless treated.
  4. In-depth Analysis
    • The Growing Demand and Diminishing Supply
      • The editorial underscores the disparity between Bengaluru’s water demand and its supply. The city’s total freshwater demand is pegged at approximately 2,632 MLD, overshadowing the combined supply from the Cauvery River and groundwater sources. This gap underscores the city’s precarious water security, aggravated by reliance on unsustainable water sources and inefficient management practices.
    • The Role of Rainfall and Groundwater
      • Fluctuating rainfall patterns and decreasing groundwater levels highlight the city’s vulnerability to climate change. The editorial notes a significant drop in groundwater levels, particularly in the city’s periphery, stressing the need for measures to enhance groundwater recharge and sustainable usage.
    • Historical Context and Current Challenges
      • The transformation of Bengaluru’s water management from reliance on traditional tanks and lakes to modern piped water and borewells reflects the broader challenges of urbanization. The neglect and pollution of these traditional water bodies have not only led to their diminished capacity to augment the city’s water supply but also increased the risk of flooding.
    • Wastewater: An Underutilized Resource
      • The editorial emphasizes the potential of wastewater treatment as a sustainable solution to Bengaluru’s water woes. By treating and reusing wastewater, the city can significantly reduce its dependence on freshwater sources, especially during periods of low rainfall. However, the current practice of redirecting only a third of the city’s wastewater for reuse points to a significant opportunity for improvement.
  5. Significance
    • This editorial is significant for its comprehensive analysis of Bengaluru’s water crisis, offering a multi-faceted view of the problem from historical, geographical, and policy perspectives. It brings to the fore the critical need for sustainable water management practices, advocating for a shift towards more resilient and adaptive approaches to water supply and consumption.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • The water crisis in Bengaluru is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Rainwater harvesting, while beneficial, cannot alone meet the city’s water needs. The editorial effectively argues that leveraging wastewater as a resource through treatment and reuse could be a game-changer for Bengaluru, offering a sustainable path towards water security.  
  7. Way Forward   
    • The way forward involves a concerted effort to revamp Bengaluru’s water management practices. This includes investing in wastewater treatment infrastructure, promoting rainwater harvesting, and restoring traditional water bodies. Equally important is the need for public awareness and participation in water conservation practices, ensuring that water management becomes a shared responsibility among all stakeholders in the city.
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