Last Week in Current Affairs for UPSC IAS (Week 4, Sep 2021) -The Hindu & Indian Express Explained

  • Airspace map of India - Science and technology
  • Why cartelisation can be even worse than monopoly? - Governance
  • Landsat 9 - NASA's new eye in the sky - Science and Technology
  • Dismantling of Ordinance factory board - Economy
  • Dance of the Lamas 1 Art and culture
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: AIRSPACE MAP OF INDIA

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III –  Aviation and Security  

    Sub Theme:  Airspace map of India | UPS
    Context - The Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched an airspace map of India for drone operations — allowing civilian drone operators to check the demarcated no-fly zones or where they need to undergo certain formalities before flying one.
    Drones offer tremendous benefits to almost all sectors of the economy.  These include – agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement to name a few.  Drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their reach, versatility, and ease of use, especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas.

     

    Key facts about the recently released airspace map:
    Launched by.  : Ministry of civil aviation
    Developed by  : Private firms – a)Map my India & b)Happiest minds
    Available on.   : Director general of civil aviation’s (DGCA) “Digital sky platform”
    Features           : 1) Interactive map and modified from time to time by authorities.
                              2) Entire country divided into three zones – Red, Yellow and Green.
    Green zone  : No permission required for drones weighing upto 500 kg.
    Yellow zone: Permission required from air traffic control authoroties like airport authority of India (AAI), Indian airforce (IAF), Indian navy, Hindustan aeronautics ltd etc.
    Red zone    : ‘no-drone zone within which drones can be operated only after a permission from the Central Government.
    3) The limits of these zones vary in different areas. For example - Green zone is the airspace up to 400 feet that has not been designated as a red or yellow zone, and up to 200 feet above the area located between 8-12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.
    4) Anyone planning to operate a drone should mandatorily check the latest airspace map for any changes in zone boundaries.
    5) The drone airspace map is freely available on the digital sky platform to all without any login requirements.

    DRONE RULES 2021:  
    1. The airspace map for drone operations shall be designed to be programmatically accessible through a machine-readable Application Programming Interface

    1. Based on a premise of trust, self-certification and non-intrusive monitoring.
    2. Several permissions and approvals abolished.  
    3. Digital sky platform being developed as a user-friendly online single-window system
    4. No security clearance required before issuance of any registration or licence.
    5. Coverage of drones under drone rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg.  This will cover drone taxis also.
    6. No restriction on foreign ownership in Indian drone companies. 
    7. No requirement of import clearance from DGCA.
    8. Maximum penalty for violations reduced to INR 1 lakh
    9. Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
    10. Drone promotion council to be set up by government with participation from academia, startups and other stakeholders.


    UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: WHY CARTELISATION CAN BE EVEN WORSE THAN MONOPOLIES?

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity and Governance  

    Sub Theme:  cartelization | Monopoly | UPSC
    Context: Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found that three beer companies had colluded to fix beer prices between 2009-2108. Consequently CCI slapped a penalty of Rs 873 crore on the companies as well as the All India Brewers Association (AIBA) and 11 individuals for cartelisation in the sale and supply of beer in 10 states and Union Territories. In this analysis let us understand about cartels and also the role of Competition Commission of India to regulate anti-competitive practices.

    The mandate of Competition Law in India is three fold namely:

    1. To check Anti-Competitive agreements
    2. Prohibit Abuse of dominance by strong companies over weak organisations, and
    3. To regulate Mergers and Acquisitions or Takeovers taking place in the market.

    Competition Act provides for the establishment of a Competition Commission for the following

     

    • To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition, 
    • To promote and sustain competition in markets, 
    • To protect the interests of consumers and 
    • To ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in Indian market.     

     

    COMPETITION ACT, 2002

    CARTEL

    MONOPOLY

    The Act defines cartel as an association of producers, sellers, distributors, traders or service providers who, by agreement amongst themselves, limit, control or attempt to control the production, distribution, sale or price of, or, trade in goods or provision of services. 

    A market structure characterized by a single seller, selling a unique product in the market. In a monopoly market, the seller faces no competition, as he is the sole seller of goods with no close substitute.   


    Competition Commission of India (CCI) views monopoly as a dominant position enjoyed in the market. Accordingly, CCI can inquire and investigate into such aspects of monopoly or dominant position as it distorts competition in the market. 


    Understanding Cartels & the process of Cartelisation

    • According to International Competition Network (ICN) (global body dedicated to enforcing competition), there are three components of Cartels: 1. An Agreement 2. Between Competitors & 3. Restrict Competition.
    • Agreements forming cartel need not be formal or written and mostly involve secret conspiracies. 

    What Constitutes Anti-competitive Agreements?

     

    • Any association of enterprises, person or association of persons entering into any agreement in respect of production, supply, distribution, storage, acquisition or control of goods or provision of services, which causes or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.    
    • Bid Rigging - means any agreement, between enterprises or engaged in identical or similar production or trading of goods or provision of services, which has the effect of eliminating or reducing competition for bids or adversely affecting or manipulating the process for bidding.      
    • Predatory price - means the sale of goods or provision of services, at price which is below the cost, as may be determined by regulations, of production of the goods or provision of services, with a view to reduce competition or eliminate the competitors.           

     

    Impact of Anti-competitive Agreements

    • Can create artificial demand by holding supplies
    • Raising prices in a collaborative manner.
    • Impacts choices for consumers and distorts market conditions
    • Consolidates positions of cartels in the market – at the cost of its competitors 
    • Cartels indirectly, undermine overall economic efficiency and innovations. 

    Why is cartelisation considered worse than monopolies?

    • Cartels unlike monopolies neither have any incentive to invest in research aimed at improving their product nor do they see any reason why they should boost investments towards making the methods of production more efficient.  
    • Due to the explicit agreement of non-competition and profit guarantees among cartels, any incentive to improve one’s product is removed.   
    • Cartels by synching their pricing or productive actions rule out the possibility of allowing some new firm from upstaging the whole arrangement.      
    • Cartels by eliminating competition 


    UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: LANDSAT 9: NASA’S ‘NEW EYE IN THE SKY’ THAT WILL HELP STUDY CLIMATE CHANGE

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Science and Technology |    

    Sub Theme:  Landsat | NASA Space Mission | UPSC

    NASA has launched an earth monitoring satellite, Landsat 9, on September 27 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This is a joint mission of NASA and the US Geological Survey. 

    • The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972.
    • Landsat satellites have collected images of our planet and helped understand how land usage has changed over the decades.
    • In 2008, it was decided that all Landsat images will be free and publicly available and the policy has helped scores of researchers, farmers, policy analysts, glaciologists, and seismologists. 
    • Landsat images have been used to study the health of forests, coral reefs, monitor water quality and melting glaciers.
    • The Landsat 9 joins Landsat 8 that was launched in 2013 and the satellites together will collect images of Earth’s surface. 
    • It takes 8 days to capture the whole Earth.
    • Landsat 9 is the most technologically advanced satellite of the series. It can see more colour shades with greater depths, helping scientists capture more details about our ever-changing planet.
    • The instruments aboard Landsat 9 are the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2). They will measure different wavelengths of light reflected off the Earth’s surface.
    • OLI-2 captures sunlight reflected off Earth’s surface and studies the visible, near-infrared, and short wave infrared portions of the spectrum.
    • TIRS-2 capture thermal radiation and help study the Earth’s surface temperature.
      • Earth emits in the thermal infrared range. 
    • Scientists are now developing computer programs that would use Landsat and other satellite data to automatically warn lake recreation managers when blooms pop up.
    • Landsat images have helped glaciologists study the melting ice sheets of the Antarctic and Arctic regions. The images can help track cracks in the glaciers, movement of glaciers, and decode how further global warming will impact them.
    • Working in tandem with the other Landsat satellites, as well as our European Space Agency partner’s Sentinel-2 satellites, it is giving a more comprehensive look at Earth than ever before and observations of any given place on our planet can happen every two days. This is incredibly important for tracking things like crop growth and helping decision-makers monitor the overall health of Earth and its natural resources. 
    • Sentinel Satellites are dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level. 
    • It is a Joint collaboration of the European Space Agency (ESA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with contributions from France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
    • The satellite will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help in measuring the sea surface height. It will also measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.


    UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: DISMANTLING THE ORDINANCE FACTORY BOARD

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Economy 

    Sub Theme: OFB | Ordnance Factory Board | UPSC

    Context: 

    • The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the first of whose industrial establishments was set up in 1801, will cease to exist from October 1, and the assets, staff, and operations of its 41 ordnance factories will be transferred to seven defence public sector units (DPSUs).
    • Also in the OFB tent are nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres, and five regional controllers of safety. The government has gone through with the corporatisation in the face of strong opposition from workers’ federations, including the one affiliated to the RSS.

    ORDINANCE FACTORY BOARD

    Weapons, ammunition, and supplies used by the armed forces, and paramilitary and police forces, come from OFB-run factories. 

    The recommendation to Corporatize the OFB to improve its efficiency was made by the MoD-appointed Kelkar Committee in 2005 but it remained in limbo till it was resurrected by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May last year as a part of the package to repair the pandemic-savaged economy.

    Now Coporaization is continuation of reforms agenda under Liberalization being pursued since last three decades. This also forms the part of the syllabus

    • Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

    In this regard, we are going to understand 

    • Reasons for Corporatization
    • Challenges which will be faced in this reform

    Reasons for Corporatization:

     

    • Recommended by committees

     

        • The TKS Nair Committee (2000), Vijay Kelkar Committee (2005), and Vice Admiral Raman Puri Committee (2015). 
      • High expenses on Non-Core Activities: 
        • Most of the expenses incurred by OFB go into Overheads and not in R&D to develop new products. 
        • Overhead expense refers to an ongoing expense of operating a business.
          • The major contributors being supervision costs and indirect labour costs.

     

    • Inefficient Functioning 

     

        • More than half the inventory (52%) was store-in-hand, procured for manufacture but not used within the year by the factories. 
      • Monopoly: 
        • OFB’s monopoly has led to innovation drying up, apart from low productivity, high costs of production, and lack of flexibility at the higher managerial levels.

     

    • High and persistent Losses: 

     

      • The OFB and its factories could not retain profits, and thus had no incentive to work towards increasing them. 
    • Delayed Production: 
      • The Ordnance factories achieved production targets for only 49% of the items.

    Hence, the step would lead to improvements in efficiency, make products cost-competitive, and enhance their quality.

    Challenges:

      • Difficult to integrate the scattered firms:
        • While a few clusters of ordnance factories are co-located at one station, as in the case of the group of five factories located at Kanpur, several of them are located at isolated stations like Chandigarh, Dehradun, Muradnagar and Nalanda. It is not going to be easy to integrate them into viable companies in terms of geographical spread and core competence, complete all the legal formalities and constitute appropriate Boards of Directors, without which administrative, production, and cost efficiencies cannot be achieved.

     

    • Corporatization can be a first step towards Privatization 

     

      • Employees are concerned that corporatisation (government ownership and management) may lead to privatisation in the future (transfer of ownership and management rights to the private player).
    • Massive Investments needed 
      • Huge investments may also be required to upgrade and modernise the factories for them to be able to manufacture state-of-the-art defence materiel and compete with the private sector in India and the foreign manufacturers in the export market. This may turn out to be a problem for an impecunious MoD.


    UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: DANCE OF LAMAS: THE HINDU

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims – Art and Culture 

    Sub Theme: Lamas | Buddhist Religion | UPSC

    • Who are Lamas: These are the priest in Buddhist religion.
    • Cham Dance: it is performed by the Lamas as a mean to achieve meditation. The purpose of this meditation is for the Lama (priest) to be able to free himself entirely from his own ephemeral personality. “He selects a deity upon whom to meditate until the qualities of the deity grow within him and fill him completely. At that point, he is no longer the Lama ji, but has become the deity. 
    • Cham is one of the very few living examples of the role of dance in ancient India both from the point of view of the practitioner and also the society for which it is performed.
    • The Yogachara School of Buddhism was founded in Kashmir in the 4th century by Asanga and Vasubandhu. This developed into the sophisticated Vajrayana form of Buddhism, which incorporated the Cham dance. From Ladakh till Mongolia, the Cham is the deepest form of meditation of the Lamas. 
    • The costumes and masks are an integral part of the dance. “The masks are used to cover the ordinary, day-to-day nature of men and present qualities of divinity in them. So there are masks with peaceful and evil expressions. Finally, both symbolise the emptiness of the ultimate nature of all appearances. 
    • All sounds in the Cham are sacred mantras. 
    • The drum is a reminder of the deep sound at the beginning of creation and at the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
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