Daily Current Affairs for UPSC – 17th August 2023

GS 1

Kerala likely to face drought due to deficit monsoon

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGS0BKF7MQ-3926112.ece

Context: Kerala is facing the possibility of drought due to a widening monsoon deficit.

Relevance: GS -1 Geography

Monsoon Deficit and Drought Concerns:

  • The southwest monsoon has been significantly deficient, with a 44% shortfall in overall rainfall.
  • Rainfall in the first two weeks of August is only 25.0 mm, a 90% shortfall from the usual pattern of 240.2 mm.
  • Alarming water levels in reservoirs add to the drought concerns.

Unfulfilled Predictions and Reservoir Storage:

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had initially predicted an above-normal southwest monsoon for Kerala.
  • However, the actual situation is worrisome, particularly considering the low water levels in key reservoirs.
  • As of August 14, reservoirs managed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) are only at 37% of their total storage capacity.
  • Power generation capacity is significantly lower compared to the same period in the previous year.

Inadequate September Rainfall:

  • Kerala typically receives only 13% of its seasonal average rainfall of 2,018.7 mm in September.
  • Even normal rainfall in September would be insufficient to make up for the deficit.
  • Extreme rainfall events are needed to compensate, but current meteorological conditions make this unlikely.

El Niño and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) Impact:

  • El Niño conditions are being observed, with sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific exceeding thresholds.
  • Climate models suggest that these El Niño conditions are likely to continue until early 2024.
  • While a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) could mitigate El Niño’s impact, the IOD is currently neutral.
  • This indicates the potential for a dry monsoon period in Kerala in the coming weeks as well.

Historical Context and El Niño Effects:

  • Kerala has experienced deficient monsoons only 14 times since 1901, with the last occurrence in 2016.
  • Among the 15 El Niño years since 1951, only five years have affected the state (1965, 1972, 1987, 2002, and 2015).
  • El Niño typically leads to reduced rainfall on the Indian subcontinent.

PM announces new housing scheme for urban poor; low interest rate loans on offer

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGS0BKF7J7-3926143.ece

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new scheme to aid the urban poor in building houses within cities.

Relevance: GS -1 urbanisation, their problems and their remedies.

Addressing Urban Challenges:

  • In his Independence Day address from the Red Fort, PM Modi acknowledged the challenges faced by weaker sections living in cities.
  • He highlighted the aspirations of middle-class families to own their homes, and emphasized the government’s plans to help those living in rented houses, slums, chawls, and unauthorized colonies.

Government Assistance for Homeownership:

  • The Prime Minister assured assistance to individuals in this section who wish to construct their own homes.
  • The government will provide relief in interest rates and loans from banks, enabling them to save significant amounts of money.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U):

  • PMAY-U, launched in 2015, is an existing government scheme to address urban housing shortages for economically backward sections, including slum dwellers.
  • Administered by the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, the mission aims to provide a pucca house to all eligible urban households by 2022.

Progress of PMAY-U:

  • The scheme has made substantial progress, with a total of 75.51 lakh houses completed.
  • Among the completed houses, 71.39 lakh have been occupied.
  • States like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have performed well in terms of the number of houses completed.
  • The scheme’s implementation period has been extended until December 2024 to complete all sanctioned houses.

Central Assistance and Funding:

  • The Centre has released a substantial ₹1.48 lakh crore to assist the States in implementing the PMAY-U scheme.

Urban Housing Goals:

  • PM Modi’s new scheme complements the ongoing efforts to provide housing to the urban poor.
  • It aims to alleviate the challenges faced by urban dwellers living in inadequate housing conditions and rented accommodations.

GS 2

Why is the Cauvery water sharing issue flaring up again?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGS0BKF7L3-3926132.ece

Context: The Tamil Nadu government sought the Supreme Court’s intervention to make Karnataka immediately release 24,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) from its reservoirs and ensure the availability of the specified quantity of water at Biligundlu on the inter-State border for the remainder of the month.

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Water Resources Inter-State Relations

Cauvery River and Dispute Overview:

  • The Cauvery (Kaveri) River is the largest river in the state and originates at Talakaveri in Karnataka’s Brahmagiri hills in the Western Ghats.
  • It is often referred to as the “Dakshina Ganga” or “Ganges of the South” and holds significance as a sacred river in India.
  • The river’s origin near Madikeri in Coorg is a popular pilgrimage and tourist destination.

Cauvery’s Tributaries:

  • The river is fed by several tributaries, including Harangi, Hemavathi, Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Shimsha, Arkavati, Suvarnavathi (Honnuholé), Bhavani, Lokapavani, Noyyal, and Amaravati.

Cauvery Water Dispute:

  • The Cauvery water dispute involves the sharing of the river’s water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry.
  • It revolves around allocation for various uses, including irrigation, drinking water, and industries.

Historical Background:

  • The dispute dates back to British colonial times, with the first conflict arising in 1892 between the Madras Presidency and the Princely State of Mysore.
  • An agreement was reached in 1924, but it ceased to be enforced in 1974.
  • Karnataka’s unilateral water diversion in the 1970s escalated the conflict in post-independence India.

Formation of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT):

  • In 1990, the CWDT was established under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act.
  • After 17 years, the CWDT issued its final award in 2007, specifying water allocations for the states.

Water Allocation by CWDT:

  • The CWDT allocated water as follows:
    • Tamil Nadu: 419 TMC
    • Karnataka: 270 TMC
    • Kerala: 30 TMC
    • Puducherry: 7 TMC
    • Reserved for environmental purposes: 10 TMC
    • Reserved for outlets into the sea: 4 TMC

Dispute Resolution and Supreme Court’s Role:

  • The Supreme Court upheld the CWDT’s decision in 2018 and declared the Cauvery a national asset.
  • Karnataka was allocated 284.75 TMC, Tamil Nadu 404.25 TMC, Kerala 30 TMC, and Puducherry 7 TMC.
  • The Cauvery Management Scheme was notified, establishing the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC).

Recent Developments:

  • Tamil Nadu’s request for Karnataka to release water as per the CWMA decision has led to a dispute.
  • The CWMA’s request for 10,000 cusecs of water for 15 days sparked disagreement between the states.
  • Karnataka cited lower rainfall in the Cauvery catchment as a reason for poor water inflow into its reservoirs.

On I-Day, Stalin seeks transfer of education back to State List

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/on-i-day-stalin-seeks-transfer-of-education-back-to-state-list/article67197311.ece#:~:text=Tamil%20Nadu%20Chief%20Minister%20M.K.,the%20centralised%20examinations%20like%20NEET.

Context: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin called for moving education back to the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Relevance: GS 2 Education

  • A call has been made to move education back to the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, aiming to abolish centralized exams like NEET.
  • The shift from the Concurrent List to the State List is being advocated to restore greater autonomy in educational matters.

Historical References:

  • Previous leaders’ perspectives on State autonomy, particularly in the area of education, are being recalled in the ongoing discussions.
  • Past leaders’ opinions on the significance of State control over education are being revisited.

Social Welfare Initiatives:

  • Plans are underway to establish a welfare board for workers associated with service providers operating in urban areas.
  • The expansion of existing schemes, like the Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme, to cover more educational institutions is in progress.
  • Additional support is being extended to specific groups, such as women autorickshaw drivers, through subsidy schemes.

Enhancing Support and Benefits:

  • The allocation for specific pension plans, such as for freedom fighters and their families, is set to be increased to enhance their financial assistance.
  • An emphasis on improving support systems for various sections of society, as demonstrated by these schemes, is evident.

Independence Day Address:

  • These policy initiatives were highlighted during the Independence Day celebration, where the focus was on advocating for autonomy and delivering direct benefits to citizens.

GS 3

Consumption-based poverty estimates have relevance

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGS0BKF7LV-3926118.ece

Context: The NITI Aayog’s recent report highlights a decrease in the percentage of the poor from 25% in 2015-16 to 15% in 2019-21.

Relevance: GS Paper – 3 Poverty

NITI Aayog Report on Multidimensional Poverty:

  • Approximately 135 million people were lifted out of poverty during this period.
  • The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index report by the UNDP and OPHI also indicates a decline in the multidimensional poverty index from 27.5% in 2015-16 to 16.2% in 2019-21.

Debate on Methodology:

  • The report explores issues concerning the methodology of the multidimensional poverty index and argues for the continued relevance of consumption-based poverty estimates.
  • It asserts that consumption-based poverty ratios from surveys like the National Sample Survey (NSS) remain essential and cannot be replaced by multidimensional poverty measures.

Relevance of Consumption-Based Estimates:

  • The report compares results from the Global MPI and Indian consumption-based poverty estimates.
  • It emphasizes that the conclusions drawn by the global MPI regarding the reduction of poverty in India are not new, as similar trends were reflected in consumption-based estimates using methodologies by the Tendulkar and Rangarajan committees.
  • Consumption-based poverty estimates align better with income and purchasing power, making them more applicable to defining poverty.

Concerns about Multidimensional Poverty Indices:

  • The report raises concerns about multidimensional indices, pointing out issues with indicators’ measurability, aggregation, and data availability.
  • It suggests that while analyzing non-income indicators like education, health, and sanitation alongside income or consumption poverty is valid, converting them into an index poses challenges.

Role of Public Expenditure:

  • The report references Srinivasan’s view of viewing public services as a dimension of poverty alongside consumption.
  • Critiques are raised against collapsing diverse dimensions into a single index, arguing that arbitrary weighted aggregation does not accurately represent the multifaceted nature of poverty.

Data and Methodology Concerns:

  • The report highlights the necessity for reliable and up-to-date data for accurate poverty assessment.
  • The differences between National Accounts Statistics (NAS) and NSS consumption estimates are noted, and the widening gap requires careful attention and possible suggestions for improvement.

Need for Comprehensive Approach:

  • The report concludes by emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach that combines consumption surveys with the impact analysis of public expenditure on health and education across various income groups.

275 bird species counted during survey at Corbett Tiger Reserve

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGF6BKEJG3-3926104.ece

Context: A survey conducted at Corbett Tiger Reserve revealed the presence of around 275 bird species.

Relevance: GS 3 Conservation

Bird Species Survey at Corbett Tiger Reserve:

  • The survey took place from June 20 to 23 and involved a team of 62 members including ornithologists, conservationists, and volunteers from organisations like WWF India, Tiger Conservation Foundation, and Village Volunteer Protection Force.
  • The survey covered a total of 540 km across 135 forest trails within the reserve, exploring its diverse landscapes including grasslands, dense forests, rivers, and hilly terrains.

Critical and Endangered Species:

  • The survey documented two critically endangered bird species: the whiterumped vulture and redheaded vulture, both listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Additionally, two endangered species were recorded: Pallas’s fish-eagle and Egyptian vulture.

Vulnerable and Near-Threatened Species:

  • Four vulnerable bird species were counted: great hornbill, great slaty woodpecker, grey-crowned prinia, and river tern.
  • Around 10 near-threatened species were also found during the survey, including river lapwing, red-breasted parakeet, oriental darter, lesser fish-eagle, Himalayan griffon, great thick-knee, gray-headed fish-eagle, black-necked stork, Asian woolly-necked stork, and Alexandrine parakeet.

Least Concern Species:

  • Approximately 256 species documented in the survey are considered of least concern by the IUCN, indicating that they are not currently at high risk of extinction.

Compiled Report and NGO Involvement:

  • The compiled report was created by the NGO Oriental Trails, which is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife.
  • The survey results provide valuable insights into the diverse bird species present within the Corbett Tiger Reserve.


Vishwakarma Yojana soon for traditional artisans: PM

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-16/th_delhi/articleGS0BKF7IL-3926148.ece

Context: Prime Minister introduced the “Vishwakarma Yojana,” a scheme aimed at empowering artisans, with an allocation of up to ₹15,000 crore to promote skill development among the youth.

Prime Minister’s Independence Day Announcements:

  • The scheme is intended to benefit families of various professions, including weavers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, laundry workers, and barbers.
  • PM Modi highlighted the government’s focus on empowering women by promising to provide drones for women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to be used for agricultural activities.
  • He emphasized that the Centre is collaborating with women’s SHGs to create two crore “lakhpati didis” (prosperous sisters) in rural areas.
  • Around 15,000 women’s SHGs will receive training and loans for operating and repairing drones to facilitate agricultural work.

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