Current affairs October 11, 12, 2021

Enriched uranium

  • Enriched uranium is a type of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation.
  • Naturally occurring uranium is composed of three major isotopes: uranium-238 (238U with 99.2739–99.2752% natural abundance), uranium-235 (235U, 0.7198–0.7202%), and uranium-234 (234U, 0.0050–0.0059%).
  • 235U is the only nuclide existing in nature (in any appreciable amount) that is fissile with thermal neutrons.
  • Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation.







  • Kalapani is a territory disputed between India and Nepal, but under Indian administration as part of Pithoragarh district in the Uttarakhand state.
  • It is marked by the Kalapani river, one of the headwaters of the Kali River in the Himalayas
  • The valley of the Kalapani forms the Indian route to Kailash–Manasarovar, an ancient pilgrimage site.
  • Kalapani is a territory disputed between India and Nepal, but under Indian administration as part of Pithoragarh district in the Uttarakhand state.
  • It is marked by the Kalapani river, one of the headwaters of the Kali River in the Himalayas
  • The valley of the Kalapani forms the Indian route to Kailash–Manasarovar, an ancient pilgrimage site.
  • The Treaty of Sugauli signed by Nepal and British East India Company in 1816 defines the Kali River as Nepal’s western boundary with India.
  • However, what is meant by “Kali River” in the upper reaches is unclear because many mountain streams come to join and form the river. British India conducted the first surveys of the upper reaches in 1870s.
  • From 1879 onwards, the survey maps show the stream that flows down from the Lipulekh Pass (called the Lipu Gad or Kalapani River) as the Kali River. This stream has served as the border between India and Nepal until India’s independence.


US and china in Taiwan

  • If the rising confrontation between the United States and China erupts into a clash of arms, the likely arena may well be the Taiwan Strait
  • The U.S. has declared that it will “maintain the ability to come to Taiwan’s defense” while not committing itself to do so.
  • This is the policy of “strategic ambiguity”.
  • China, on the other hand, is committed to pursuing peaceful unification but retains the right to use force to achieve the objective. This is its own version of strategic ambiguity.
  • With China itself adopting market oriented reforms since 1978 and becoming, over a period of time, a significant economic and commercial opportunity globally, Taiwan business entities have invested heavily in mainland China and the two economies have become increasingly integrated.
  • Taiwanese attempts to reduce the island’s economic exposure to China have not been successful so far.
  • China hopes that the considerable economic benefits that Taiwan business and industry enjoy through a burgeoning relationship with China would weaken opposition to unification
  • Taiwan has two major political parties.
  • The KMT, dominated by the descendants of the mainlanders who came to the island along with Chiang Kaiskek in 1949, remains committed to a one-China policy and does not support the independence of Taiwan.
  • The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, is more representative of the indigenous population of the island, and favours independence.
  • China feels more comfortable with the KMT and is hostile to the DPP.
  • Ever since the DPP under TsaiIng-wen won the presidential elections in 2016, China has resorted to a series of hostile actions against the island, which include economic pressures and military threat
  • While the U.S. does not support a declaration of independence by Taiwan, it has gradually reversed the policy of avoiding official-level engagements with the Taiwan government.
  • The recent crystallization of the Quad, of which India is a part, and the announcement of the Australia-U.K.- U.S. alliance, AUKUS, with Australia being graduated to a power with nuclear-powered submarines, may act as a deterrent against Chinese moves on Taiwan.
  • But they may equally propel China to advance the unification agenda before the balance changes against it in the Indo-Pacific.
  • For these reasons, Taiwan is emerging as a potential trigger point for a clash of arms between the U.S. and China.
  • In pursuing its Indo-Pacific strategy, India would do well to keep these possible scenarios in mind.



  • Pegasus is a highly invasive malware that once installed on an individual’s phone, can collect and transmit data, track activities such as browsing history, and control functionalities such as the phone camera.
  • In the aftermath of the Pegasus revelations, certain countries such as France and Morocco ordered immediate investigations.
  • If a person whose mobile phone has been hijacked by a military-grade spyware that is only sold to governments, and
  • Person has the right to know why this has been done to him, and at whose behest.
  • And with the inability of Parliament to hold the executive to account the only place where the individual can seek answers is the court.


 ‘’Right to health’’ as constitutional right

  • Protectors of our fundamental right to life. Yet, the majority remain at a loose end when it comes to their own rights and well-being, and that of their families.
  • Without an anchor during times of severe illness or disease, generations of children of small and landless farmers, and unorganized, migrant and seasonal workers are thrown into bondage and debt by having to pay for medical costs from their limited earnings.
  • Employment benefit schemes do not reach them, and the ones that do are mostly on paper.
  • The implementation of the right to health can provide simple, transparent and quality health care to those who are most in need of such care.
  • Women bear a disproportionate burden of the gaps in our healthcare system.
  • The taboos and patriarchal expectations surrounding their health lead to immense avoidable suffering.
  • In addition, social and economic challenges prevent them from freely and openly accessing the little care that is available.
  • A ‘Right to Health’ would mean that services reach the woman where and when she needs them
  • A large number of children who belong to the poorest and most marginalized communities of our country grow up working in hazardous situations be it fields, mines, brick kilns or factories.
  • They are either not enrolled in schools or are not able to attend it due to the pressing financial needs of the family often because of unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • A constitutional ‘Right to Health’ will transform not only the health and well-being of our people but will act as a leap for the economic and developmental progress of the nation.
  • Presently, any investment in health care fails to translate into a sense of security and sanctuary for the people of India.
  • Instead, the complex and often corrupt means of accessing even existing health care only adds to the suffering instead of alleviating it.
  • The vision for Ayushman Bharat will be strengthened with a constitutional ‘Right to Health’.
  • The immediate financial security that will come with the constitutional ‘Right to Health’ will be seen as a measurable impact on family savings, greater investment, and jobs creation on the one hand, and in the long-term emotional, psychological and social security of people.



‘Digne resolution’ and geodiversity

  • Like social diversity, India’s geodiversity, or variety of the geological and physical elements of nature, is unique.
  • India has tall mountains, deep valleys, sculpted landforms, long winding coastlines, hot mineral springs, active volcanoes, diverse soil types, mineralized areas, and globally important fossil-bearing sites.
  • It is long known as the world’s ‘natural laboratory’ for geo-scientific learning
  • Broken loose from a supercontinent 150 million years ago, the Indian landmass, with all its strange-looking plants and animals, drifted northwards all by itself for 100 million years until it settled under the southern margin of the Asian continent.
  • It got entwined with the world’s youngest plate boundary.
  • The geological features and landscapes that evolved over billions of years through numerous cycles of tectonic and climate upheavals are recorded in India’s rock formations and terrains, and are part of the country’s heritage.
  • For example, the Kutch region in Gujarat has dinosaur fossils and is our version of a Jurassic Park. The Tiruchirappalli region of Tamil Nadu, originally a Mesozoic Ocean, is a store house of Cretaceous (60 million years ago) marine fossils.
  • To know how physical geography gets transformed into a cultural entity, we need to study the environmental history of the Indus River Valley, one of the cradles of human civilization.
  • India offers plenty of such example
  • Lack of interest in the government and our academic circles towards geological literacy is unfortunate at a time when we face a crisis like global warming.
  • As the climate of the future is uncertain, decision-making is difficult.
  • Learning from the geological past, like the warmer intervals during the Miocene Epoch (23 to 5 million years ago), whose climate can be reconstructed using proxies and simulations, may serve as an analogue for future climate.
  • The importance of the shared geological heritage of our planet was first recognized in 1991 at an UNESCO-sponsored event, ‘First International Symposium on the Conservation of our Geological Heritage’.
  • The delegates assembled in Digne, France, and endorsed the concept of a shared legacy: “Man and the Earth share a common heritage, of which we and our governments are but the custodians.”
  • This declaration foresaw the establishment of geo-parks as sites that commemorate unique geological features and landscapes within their assigned territories; and as spaces that educate the public on geological importance.
  • These sites thus promote geo-tourism that generates revenue and employment
  • In the late 1990s, in what may be considered as a continuation of the Digne resolution, UNESCO facilitated efforts to create a formal programme promoting a global network of geoheritage sites.
  • These were intended to complement the World Heritage Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme. UNESCO provided guidelines for developing national geo-parks so that they become part of the Global Geoparks Network.
  • Today, there are 169 Global Geoparks across 44 countries.
  • Countries like Vietnam and Thailand have also implemented laws to conserve their geological and natural heritage. Unfortunately, India does not have any such legislation and policy for conservation.
  • Though the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified 32 sites as National Geological Monuments, there is not a single geo-park in India which is recognized by the UNESCO.
  • This is despite the fact that India is a signatory to the establishment of UNESCO Global Geoparks
  • Despite international progress in this field, the concept of geo-conservation has not found much traction in India.
  • Many fossil-bearing sites have been destroyed in the name of development
  • For example, the high concentration of iridium in the geological section at Anjar, Kutch district, provides evidence for a massive meteoritic impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. This site was destroyed due to the laying of a new rail track in the area.
  • Similarly, a national geological monument exhibiting a unique rock called Nepheline Syenite in Ajmer district of Rajasthan was destroyed in a road-widening project.
  • The Lonar impact crater in Buldhana district of Maharashtra is an important geo-heritage site of international significance.


 Adaptation strategies and climate crisis

  • The recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report from Working Group I makes a clarion call for climate action.
  • According to the report, the past decade (2011-2020) was warmer by 1.09°C than the period from 1850 to 1900, and the 1.5°C global warming threshold is likely to be breached soon.
  • The IPCC report warns India against more intense heat waves, heavy monsoons and rise in weather extremes in the future.
  • The Global Climate Risk Index (2021) ranked India the seventh-most affected country by weather extremes.


Adaptation strategy

  • India is targeting 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and it has launched mega solar and green hydrogen missions.
  • The Shoonya programme by NITI Aayog, which aims to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, is yet another effort towards adoption of clean technologies.
  • With escalating climatic risks, there is an urgency to adopt adaptation strategies.
  • India has some dedicated initiatives towards adaptation, such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the National Adaptation Fund.
  • However, a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience actions is needed to save hard earned developmental gains and adjust to new climate conditions.
  • To strengthen adaptation and resilience, India can do the following. First, it can be more prepared for climate change with high-quality meteorological data.
  • With improved early warning systems and forecasting, we can tackle the crisis better. Premier research institutes can be roped in to develop regional climate projections for robust risk assessments.
  • Second, for sustainable production systems, it is necessary to develop well-functioning markets for environmentally friendly products and disseminate them for the desired behavioral change.
  • Third, it is important to encourage private sector participation for investment in adaptation technologies and for designing and implementing innovative climate services and solutions in areas such as agriculture, health, infrastructure, insurance and risk management.
  • Fourth, we need to protect mangroves and forests to address climate related risks by blending traditional knowledge with scientific evidence and encourage local and non-state actors to actively participate.
  • Fifth, major social protection schemes must be climate-proofed. We have an opportunity to create resilient infrastructural assets, diversify the economy and enhance the adaptive capacity of rural households.
  • Sixth, for continuous monitoring and evaluation, effective feedback mechanisms must be developed for mid-course correction.
  • Periodic fine-tuning of State Action Plans on Climate Change is crucial to systematically understand micro-level sensitivities, plan resource allocation, and design responses to serve at different levels of intensities of climate hazards.


Nobel Prize in economy

  • The Nobel prize for economics was awarded on Monday to U.S.-based economist David Card for pioneering research that showed an increase in minimum wage does not lead to less hiring and that immigrants do not lower pay for native-born workers, challenging commonly held ideas.
  • The prize was shared with two others for creating a way to study these types of societal issues.
  • Canadian-born Dr. Card of the University of California, Berkeley, was awarded one half of the prize for his research on how minimum wage, immigration and education affect the labor market, while the other half was shared by Joshua Angrist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dutch-born Guido Imbens from Stanford University for their framework for studying issues that can’t rely on traditional scientific methods.