Current Affairs October 18, 2021

Cased based politics

  • As a new round of State elections approaches in India, political parties are crafting their electoral strategies.
  • A large part of this exercise consists of constituency mapping, or gathering data about caste and community demographics, information about the local balance of power between groups, and the identification of local caste leaders, with the aim of matching candidates’ selection with a particular reading of the socio-political characteristics of each seat.
  • The incentives for parties and candidates to look at the electorate through the lens of caste are clear: caste makes a complex social and political scene readable.
  • . It spares parties from having to address what individuals want, by clubbing individual aspirations into collective ones, based on their ascriptive identities.
  • Caste politics is the game of a few and not of many.
  • Most castes are too small or too geographically scattered, or too poor, to constitute a core support base for any party or candidate, even locally.
  • Caste-based strategies are also more likely to be effective when the electorate and the party system are highly fragmented.
  • Parties can seek to build minimal caste coalitions at the constituency level to get the minimum number of votes required to garner seats.


Global Hunger index 2021

  • India was ranked 101 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021 from 94 in the previous year, trailing behind its South Asian neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI), which tracks hunger and malnutrition, showed that 18 countries, including China, Brazil and Kuwait, shared the top rank, with GHI scores of less than five.
  • The report was prepared by the Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and Germany’s Welt Hunger Hilfe.
  • The report termed the level of hunger in India as “alarming”.
  • For the 2021 report, data was assessed for 135 countries.
  • Out of these, there were sufficient data to calculate GHI scores for 116 countries (in comparison, 107 countries were ranked in the 2020 report).
  • For 19 countries, individual scores could not be calculated, and ranks could not be determined owing to a lack of data.

The GHI has four components.

  • The first insufficient calorie intake is applicable for all age groups, whereas the remaining three wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age) and mortality are confined to children under five years.
  • The data on deficiency in calorie intake, accorded 33% weight, is sourced from the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Suite of Food Security Indicators (2021).
  • Conceptually, the GHI is largely children-oriented with a higher emphasis on undernutrition than on hunger and its hidden forms, including micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The first component calorie insufficiency is problematic for many reasons.
  • The lower calorie intake, which does not necessarily mean deficiency, may also stem from reduced physical activity, better social infrastructure (road, transport and healthcare) and access to energy-saving appliances at home, among others.
  • Recent analysis establishes that ‘physical disease environment’ at the State level also significantly influences the calorie intake.
  • For a vast and diverse country like India, using a uniform calorie norm to arrive at deficiency prevalence means failing to recognize the huge regional imbalances in factors that may lead to differentiated calorie requirements at the State level.
  • Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height. Stunting is defined as low height-for-age.
  • It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life.
  • India’s wasting prevalence (17.3%) is one among the highest in the world. Its performance in stunting, when compared to wasting, is not that dismal, though.
  • Child stunting in India declined from 54.2% in 1998–2002 to 34.7% in 2016-2020, whereas child wasting remains around 17% throughout the two decades of the 21st century.
  • Stunting is a chronic, long-term measure of undernutrition, while wasting is an acute, short-term measure.
  • Child wasting can manifest as a result of an immediate lack of nutritional intake and sudden exposure to an infectious atmosphere.
  • If India can tackle wasting by effectively monitoring regions that are more vulnerable to socioeconomic and environmental crises, it can possibly improve wasting and stunting simultaneously.


Sir Syed Ahmed khan

  • Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, an iconic social reformer and founder of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which has completed 100 years, was born on October 17, 1817.
  • Sir Syed started his project of educational renaissance, he invited all Indians to come together to join hands in the struggle against illiteracy
  • During the War of Independence of 1857, he remained loyal to the British Raj and was noted for his actions in saving European lives.
  • After the rebellion, he penned the booklet The Causes of the Indian Mutiny a daring critique, at the time, of various British policies that he blamed for causing the revolt.
  • Believing that the future of Muslims was threatened by the rigidity of their orthodox outlook, Sir Ahmad began promoting Western–style scientific education by founding modern schools and journals and organizing Islamic entrepreneurs.
  • Sir Syed laid the foundation of comparative religious studies and revived the spirit of Dara Shikoh’s philosophy to bring major communities of India together by finding commonalities in their religions and assimilate them as a one mighty stream.


Electricity Amendment bill 2020

  • In an energy-dependent country like India, the availability of energy supplies at affordable rates is pivotal for fulfilling developmental priorities.
  • But the energy sector is beset with problems.
  • The distribution sector has for long been the bane of the power sector, consistently making huge losses owing to problems such as expensive long-term power purchase agreements, poor infrastructure, inefficient operations, and leakages and weaknesses in State-level tariff
  • Most discoms are deep into the red as high aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses are chipping into their revenues.
  • AT&C loss is calculated as the difference between the energy input in the distribution network and revenue collected for the same.
  • Against this backdrop, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill of 2020 is a game changing reform.
  • The wide-ranging provisions of the Bill will set the process of de-licensing power distribution after the monopoly of the state is dismantled.
  • This will provide the consumers with an option of choosing the service provider, switch their power supplier and enable the entry of private companies in distribution, thereby resulting in increased competition.
  • In fact, privatization of discoms in Delhi has reduced AT&C losses significantly from 55% in 2002 to 9% in 2020.
  • The question of tariffs needs to be revisited if the power sector is to be strengthened.
  • Tariffs ought to be reflective of average cost of supply to begin with and eventually move to customer category-wise cost of supply in a defined time frame.
  • This will facilitate reduction in cross subsidies.
  • All this will happen when discoms are made autonomous and are allowed by regulatory authorities to revise tariffs without interference from the States.
  • Electrical energy should be covered under GST, with a lower rate of GST, as this will make it possible for power generator/transmission/distribution utilities to get a refund of input credit, which in turn will reduce the cost of power.
  • Other antidotes to the problem include use of technology solutions such as installation of smart meters and smart grids which will reduce AT&C losses and restore financial viability of the sector.
  • The impetus to renewal energy, which will help us mitigate the impact of climate change, is much needed. One option is to encourage rooftop solar plants.
  • Another welcome feature of the Bill is the strengthening of the regulatory architecture of the sector
  • The Bill also underpins the importance of green energy by proposing a penalty for non-compliance with the renewable energy purchase obligations which mandate States and power distribution companies to purchase a specified quantity of electricity from renewable and hydro sources.
  • Some other significant features of the Bill such as the creation of an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority to supervise the fulfilment of contractual obligations under power purchase agreement, cost reflective tariffs and provision of subsidy.


China’s hypersonic missile

  • China’s military has carried out it’s first-ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”.
  • Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles which can deliver nuclear weapons, can fly at more than five times the speed of sound
  • But ballistic missiles fly high into space in an arc to reach their target, while a hypersonic flies on a trajectory low in the atmosphere, potentially reaching a target more quickly.
  • Only the U.S., Russia and China were developing hypersonic glide vehicles, that are launched on rockets and then orbit the earth on their own speed.
  • They are difficult to track because unlike ballistic missiles, they “do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory”