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Daily UPSC Current Affairs and Latest Daily News on IAS Prelims Bits

G.S II - Bilateral/International Relations

India-Austria Relations


Why in News?

Recently, the Indian Prime Minister made a historic visit to Austria, the first by an Indian leader in 41 years since Indira Gandhi.

What are the key highlights of the PM’s visit to Austria?

  • Commitment to peace and democracy- Both vowed to strengthen cooperation on bilateral, regional, and international levels for a more stable and prosperous world.   
  • Enhanced partnership- Joint projects in green and digital technologies, infrastructure, renewable energy, and many more.
  • India invited Austria to join the International Solar Alliance.
  • The Start-Up Bridge initiative and the exchange of start-ups between India and Austria were highlighted.
  • Skill development and worker mobility- They welcomed the bilateral Migration and Mobility Agreement to facilitate exchanges and combat irregular migration.
  • Respect for international laws Both leaders affirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, respecting international maritime laws.
  • They discussed recent developments in Europe and West Asia, emphasizing peace and adherence to international law.
  • Support for UN seatsIndia supported Austria’s UNSC candidature for 2027-28, and Austria supported India’s candidature for 2028-29.
  • Condemnation of terrorism – They mutually condemned terrorism in all forms, urging decisive action against terrorists, including through UN sanctions.
  • Cultural exchanges and tourism- They appreciated the rich tradition of cultural exchanges and the growing interest in yoga and Ayurveda in Austria.
  • Efforts to promote bilateral cultural ties and tourism, including expanding direct flight connectivity, were encouraged.  
  • The India-Middle East-Europe Corridor initiative and Austria’s interest in it were also discussed.

What are the pillars of India-Austria Relationship?

Austria

  • Political relations- Diplomatic relations were formally established in 1949.
  • India intervened in favour of Austria during its negotiations with the erstwhile USSR that resulted in the independence of Austria in 1955.  
  • 2024 marks the 75th year of establishment of bilateral relations.
  • In 1955, Jawahar Lal Nehru became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Austria and the previous last was by Indira Gandhi in 1983, her second visit there as Prime Minister, the first being in 1971.
  • In 2021, a Parliamentary delegation from India led by the Speaker Lok Sabha including Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha visited Vienna for the Fifth World Conference of the Speakers of Parliament.
  • Institutional mechanisms- It is through the Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) and the Joint Economic Commission (JEC).
    • While the 16th India & Austria Joint Economic Commission (JEC) held in Vienna, the 7th round of Foreign Office Consultations were held in New Delhi in 2023.
  • It includes discussions like trade, consular, skilling, migration, culture and people to people contacts.
  • Both sides also discussed regional and multilateral issues including UNSC reforms, Ukraine issue and India’s G20 presidency.
  • Economic cooperation- The bilateral trade is balanced.
  • According to the Statistik Austria, for 2021, Indian exports to Austria were USD 1.29 billion and imports were USD1.18 billion.
  • The total bilateral trade for this period was USD 2.47 billion.
    • Indian key exports to Austria – Electronic Goods, Apparels, Textile, Footwear, Rubber articles, Vehicles & Railways parts, Electrical machinery and Mechanical appliances.
    • India’s key imports from Austria – Machinery, Mechanical appliances, Railway parts, Iron and Steel.
  • Technological cooperation- Jesuit Father Josef Tieffenthaler who is known as the "Father of Modern Indian Geography," was a notable figure.
  • He created the first exact cartographic records of the middle Ganges River and was an internationally renowned Sanskrit scholar, teaching at the Jesuit College in Agra from 1740 to 1770.
  • Space sectorAustria’s first two satellites TUGSAT-1/BRITE and UniBRITE were launched by India’s PSLV–C20 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in 2013.
  • Crime and Security – In 2022 in New Delhi, India handed over the INTERPOL flag to Austria that organized the 91st ITERPOL General Assembly in Vienna in 2023.
  • Cultural relations- It dates back to 16th century when Balthasar Springer traveled in 1505 to India along with the Portuguese fleet.
  • Between 1825-1920, the Austrian tradition of Indology emerged.
  • In 1845, the teaching of Sanskrit was started at Vienna University and in 1880 an independent chair for Indology was founded.
  • Ayurveda, the Indian traditional system of medicine has been widely acknowledged and practiced in Austria.
  • There are many Yoga schools in Vienna and other Austrian cities.

India’s philosopher-poet Rabindranath Tagore visited twice to Vienna in 1921 and 1926.

  • People to people connect- There are an estimated over 31,000 Indians (majority from Kerala and Punjab) living in Austria.
  • There are over 500 Indian students pursuing their higher education in Austria and the number is set to rise.    

What is the significance of Austria for India? 

  • Access to European markets – Austria is a key partner in Europe's central region, providing India with access to European markets and fostering stronger diplomatic ties within the EU.
  • Boosts economy – Bilateral agreements on migration and mobility facilitate the exchange of skilled workers, benefiting both economies and enhancing human capital development.    
  • Supports India’s growth - Austria's advanced technology and expertise in sectors like renewable energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing complement India's growth needs.
  • Drives innovation – Joint ventures and projects in green and digital technologies enhance India's technological capabilities, driving innovation and sustainable development.
  • Promotes India’s global status – Austria's support for India's candidature in international organizations like the UNSC and collaboration in multilateral platforms boost India's global influence and diplomatic reach.

References

  1. The Indian Express| Indian PM Visit to Austria in 41 years
  2. Ministry of External Affairs | India-Austria relations
  3. ORF | India's strategic diplomacy in Austria

Environment Pollution and Degradation

Tree Planting for Restoring Ecosystem


Why in news?

According to the World Bank, the world has lost about 10 million square kilometres of forests since the 20th century due to uncontrolled and unsustainable practices, severely degrading forest landscapes.

What is Forest degradation?

  • Forest – It is a large geographical area dominated by trees, animals of various species, aquatic biomes and microorganisms.
  • Forest degradation – It refers to the reduction in a forest's capacity to provide goods and services due to human activities or natural disasters.
  • Causes – It primarily caused by environmental and anthropogenic changes, has the potential to wipe out the whole forest cover and biodiversity.
    • Forest degradation, for example, can occur when acid rain or wildfires devastate a forest region.
  • Illegal Logging- Uncontrolled logging for timber, firewood, and charcoal significantly degrades forests.
  • Agricultural Expansion- Clearing forests for cash crops and cattle rearing leads to substantial deforestation.
  • Mining and Infrastructure- Mining and infrastructure projects cause tree loss and forest degradation.
  • Climate Change- Rising temperatures, shifting rainfall, and extreme weather contribute to forest decline.

Status of Forest degradation

  • India-According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), India lost 668,000 hectares of forest per year between 2015 and 2020, which was the second highest rate of deforestation in the world, after Brazil.
  • Globally- Since 1990, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost to other land uses.
  • Deforestation declined from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to an expected 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020.

What is Ecosystem restoration?

  • Ecosystem restoration – It involves assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.
  • Objective- It aims to restore natural habitats and also to ensure that ecosystems can sustain their functions and services over time, benefiting both nature and human well-being.
  • Methods of restoration
    • Reforestation- Planting native trees in areas where forests have been cut down or degraded.
    • Afforestation- Planting trees in areas where there were no previous forests, creating new forested areas.
    • Wetland Restoration- Restoring natural hydrology, removing invasive species, and reintroducing native vegetation to revive wetland ecosystems.
    • Soil Restoration- Using techniques like contour plowing, terracing, and the application of organic matter to restore soil health and prevent erosion.

Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

  • Decade on Ecosystem Restoration - year 2021 to 2030
  • Declared by- United Nations (UN)
  • Target- It target for the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land to generate $9 trillion in ecosystem services and sequester an additional 13 gigatons-26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Significance- Ecosystem restoration is key to achieving multiple SDGs, such as climate action, life below water, life on land, and poverty alleviation.

What is Tree planting?

  • It refers to the process of transplanting tree seedlings, usually for forestry, land reclamation, or landscaping purposes.
  • Aim- It aims at restoring forests, increasing green cover, and combating climate change.
  • Purify air – Trees absorb pollutants and produce oxygen, improving air quality.
  • Mitigate global warming – Trees sequester carbon dioxide, helping mitigate climate change.
  • Regulate local weather – They also influence local weather patterns and reduce the urban heat island effect.
  • Preserve water – Trees improve water infiltration into the soil, reducing runoff and preventing soil erosion.
  • They also help maintain groundwater levels.
  • Support biodiversity – They provide habitat and food for various species, supporting wildlife and maintaining ecological balance.
  • Boost economic activities - Tree planting and forestry activities can create job opportunities in rural and urban areas.
  • Challenges - Planting trees in inappropriate areas like grasslands and animal habitats can harm ecosystems, increase wildfire risk, and worsen global warming.

Measures by India for Improving Green Cover

  • India aims to restore 21 million hectares of forest by 2030 through the Bonn Challenge.
  • India’s national forest policy targets 33% tree coverage.
  • National Afforestation Programme (NAP)- Launched in 2000, aims to increase the forest cover in the country through afforestation and reforestation activities.
  • Green India Mission- A part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, focusing on increasing forest cover, enhancing biodiversity, and improving ecosystem services.
  • Tree Plantation Drives – Van Mahotsav (Tree Plantation Day) celebrated in the first week of July.
  • Haritha Haram Program- It is launched by Telangana to increase the green cover of the state through extensive tree planting activities.

In 2023, U.S. President highlighted that India is the only G20 nation meeting its Paris Agreement commitments, achieving a carbon sink of 1.97 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

What lies ahead?

  • Use nature-based solutions, like forest landscape restoration, can help reverse deforestation and degradation, restoring ecological, social, climatic, and economic benefits.
  • Reorient innovations and strategies, supported by public awareness, social media, and community incentives, can transform forest ecosystems.
  • Follow effective post-planting care and monitoring are crucial

References

  1. The Hindu | Pros and Challenges of Tree Planting
  2. IUCN | Deforestation and forest degradation
  3. Live Eo | Forest Degradation

 

Prelim Bits

UPSC Daily Current Affairs | Prelim Bits 20-07-2024


Bhil tribe

The Rajasthan tribal community has reiterated their demand for a new state called 'Bhil Pradesh'

  • Bhil tribe – They are one of the largest indigenous tribal communities in India.
  • Historical origin - They belong to the race of the pre-Aryans.
  • The word "Bhil" is derived from the Dravidian word "Billu," meaning bow, reflecting their traditional skills in archery.
  • Geographic distribution- They are predominantly found in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  • Some population are also found in the north eastern parts of Tripura.
  • Classification – They are classified as:

o Central or pure bills

o Eastern or Rajput Bhils

  • Language- Bhili, a language that has many dialects and variations.
  • Bhili is part of the Western Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages.
  • In different regions, Bhils may also speak the local state languages such as Marathi, Gujarati, or Rajasthani.
  • Economy- Traditionally, the Bhils are forest dwellers and their livelihood is closely linked with the forest.
  • They practice agriculture, hunting, and gathering.
  • Shifting cultivation is common among them.
  •  Festivals- Baneshwar fair is their main festival.
  • Kakad Bhairav – Also known as Bhilat Baba, a stone deity worshipped by the Bhils in Madhya Pradesh’s Bagh was recently proved to be a fossilized dinosaur egg.

Article 3 of the India constitutions states that the Parliament may by law form a new State by separation of a territory from any State or by uniting two or more States completely or in parts or by uniting any territory to a part of any State.

References

  1. Indian Express | Bhils Tribe
  2. Ecoindia | Bhil Tribe

 

South Eastern Coalfields Limited

According to WorldAtlas.com, Gevra and Kusmunda coal mines rank 2nd and 4th among the world’s 10 largest coal mines.

World Atlas is one of the largest publishing resources in geography and other topics it covers, including sociology, demography, environment, economics, politics, and travel.

  • SECL – South Eastern Coalfields Limited is a Government of India undertaking.
  • Body – It is a Public Sector Undertaking, a miniratna company.
  • Parent body Coal India Limited (CIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU).
  • Mission- To produce and market the planned quantity of coal and coal products efficiently and economically in an eco-friendly manner with due regard to safety, conservation and quality
  • Location – It is spread across 2 states operating 65 mines.
    • Chhattisgarh – 39 mines
    • Madhya Pradesh – 26 mines
  • Categorization – For effective administrative control and operation, coal mines at SECL has been divided into 3 groups
    • Central India coalfields (CIC)
    • Korba coalfields
    • Mand Raigarh Coalfields.
  • Significance – It is the highest coal producing company of India.
  • It is one of the leading energy suppliers in the country, by adopting the best practices and leading technology from mine to market.

Gevra and Kusmunda coal mines

  • Location – Chattisgarh
  • Company – South Eastern Coalfields Limited’s (SECL)
  • Type of Mining – Open cast
  • Production – They collectively produce more than 100 million tons of coal annually, accounting for about 10 percent of India’s total coal production.

References

  1. PIB | Coal Mines

SECL | South Eastern Coalfields Limited

 

U-WIN

U-WIN portal is all set for pan-India launch by end of August that aims to maintain electronic records for the routine immunization. 

  • U-WIN – Is a platform to maintain an electronic registry of routine immunizations of every vaccination event under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
  • It is going to be the single source of information for immunization services and slated to become the world's largest immunization registry.
  • Aim – It will ensure timely administration of vaccine doses by digitally recording every vaccination event under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
  • CoverageAll pregnant women and children aged 0-5 years.
  • Ministry Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • Budget Union – Finance Minister has announced in the Interim Budget 2024-2025 along with Mission Indradhanush.
  • National Health Mission (NHM) – India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) is a part of Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) program under National Health Mission (NHM).
  • Co-WIN – U-WIN is a replication of the Covid-19 vaccine management system Co-WIN.   
  • e-certificate – The platform generates uniform QR-based digitally verifiable e-certificate similar to Covid vaccination certificate can be accessed anytime by the citizens.
  • Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) – It facilitates the creation of ABHA IDs for comprehensive health record maintenance.
  • Frontline workers – U-WIN supports the frontline workers to digitally record all vaccination events for children and pregnant women for complete, accurate and easy record maintenance.
  • Frontline workers are employees who interact directly with customers or the public, and are often the first point of contact with clients.
  • Challenges – There is no mechanism of individual tracking.
  • Lack of awareness among beneficiaries especially in urban areas.
  • Vaccines Covers under UIP –

Universal Immunization Programme (UIP)

  • It is high-quality immunization services to all communities to prevent mortality, morbidity and disability from diseases.
  • 12 vaccine preventable diseases are covers under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).
  • Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Rubella, severe form of Childhood Tuberculosis, Rotavirus diarrhea, Hepatitis B, Meningitis & Pneumonia caused by Hemophilus Influenza type B and Pneumococcal Pneumonia and sub-nationally against 1 disease - Japanese Encephalitis (JE vaccine is provided only in endemic districts).

 

Reference

Business Standard | U-WIN

Indian Express | U-WIN

 

Enemy Property

Indian government has begun auction properties belonging to erstwhile citizens of the country who now hold Pakistani and Chinese citizenship.

  • Enemy Property – Is a property of the erstwhile citizens of India, who now hold the passports of Pakistan and china, the enemy countries of India.
  • The ‘enemy properties’ is any property that belongs to and held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject, or an enemy firm.
  • Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEPI) – Is a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The “enemy properties” are vested by the central government under the CEPI.
  • The vested properties are further divide into moveable and immovable enemy properties.
  • Regulation – The enemy properties are regulated by the Enemy Property Act, 1968.
  • The Act enables the state to regulate and appropriate real estate belonging to erstwhile citizens of the country who now hold Pakistani and Chinese passports.

Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of enemy property, followed by West Bengal.

  • Amendment – In 2017, Parliament passed two acts:
    • The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2017, which amended The Enemy Property Act, 1968 and
    • The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.
  • The amendment expanded the meaning of the term “enemy subject”, and “enemy firm” to include:
    • The legal heir and successor of an enemy, whether a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy and
    • The succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.
  • Even if the enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm ceases to be an enemy due to death, the enemy property vests with CEPI.
  • Verdict of Kerala High Court – According to the case Kunji Koya vs. High Court of Kerala, the High Court underlined that “A person working in Pakistan, cannot be called as an enemy”.

Reference

  1. The Hindu | Enemy Property                       
  2. Times of India | Enemy Property
  3. Indian Express | Enemy Property

 

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