Daily Current Affairs for 2nd Sep 2021

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20 years of America in Afghanistan

Why in News

For the first time since October 2001, there are no American troops in Afghanistan.

Key Points

  • While defending his decision to pull back the forces, U.S. President stated that they were left with only two options after the withdrawal agreement the Trump administration signed with the Taliban in February 2020, either honour the deal or renege on it and send in more troops to continue the war.
  • So, the forever war has come to an end.


  • Recently, U.S. invaded Afghanistan not because it was ruled by the Taliban but because the September 11 attacks originated from Afghanistan.
  • In early July, America didn’t go to Afghanistan to nation-build. America’s primary objectives were to disrupt al-Qaeda and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
  • The argument is that the Taliban were not America’s main enemy and defeating them was not its primary objective.
  • While it’s true that America went to Afghanistan because the 9/11 attacks originated from that country, Mr. Biden’s assessment of the Taliban was not shared by his predecessors, as their actions suggest.
  • The Taliban had offered to surrender on modest terms in December 2001, but President George W. Bush rejected the offer.
  • America did not pull back from Afghanistan after the Taliban regime fell. America did not withdraw after bin Laden was killed in 2011 either.
  • The U.S. stayed in Afghanistan, propping up the Islamic Republic because American leaders were of the view that a return of the Taliban to power would derail the global war on terror.
  • While it’s still debatable whether the Taliban have changed over the past 20 years, American foreign policy thinking has clearly changed during this period.
  • If the U.S. saw the Taliban, which hosted al-Qaeda, as part of the problem in 2001 and removing them from power as a key goal of the war on terror, in 2021, it extricated a victorious Taliban from the war on terror.

War on terror

  • When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it was touted as the first step in what Mr. Bush called a global war on terrorism.
  • In 2001, al-Qaeda was largely concentrated in Afghanistan. The U.S. invasion and the fall of the Taliban led to al-Qaeda’s disintegration.
  • The terrorist outfit was driven underground, but was not defeated. Over the years, new branches of al-Qaeda sprang up in different parts of the world.
  • Of them, the deadliest was al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • The Jordan-born terrorist was killed in a U.S. strike in 2006, but the AQI transformed into the Islamic State of Iraq, which later became the dreaded Islamic State (IS) that declared a Caliphate and established a proto-state across Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Modest gains

  • The IS’s physical infrastructure was destroyed by both coordinated and separate war efforts by a group of powers, including the U.S., Iran, Iraq, Kurdish and Shia militias, Syria and Russia.
  • But the rump of the outfit continues to operate in parts of Syria and Iraq. The IS has also established provinces in other parts of the world, including the IS West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the IS Khorasan Province (ISKP) that claimed responsibility for the August 26 Kabul blasts in which about 200 people were killed, including 13 Americans.
  • Al-Qaeda has also established a strong presence in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, where they have carried out dozens of attacks in recent years, killing hundreds.
  • So, if al-Qaeda was an organised terrorist machinery concentrated in Afghanistan in 2001, it’s now a decentralised amalgam that has metastasised across the world.
  • The U.S. can take credit for disrupting al-Qaeda’s networks in Afghanistan, which it thinks has neutralised the terrorists’ capability to strike the American mainland, and for killing bin Laden.
  • But the question American policymakers and public faces is whether it was required to stay 20 years in Afghanistan, spend over $2 trillion and lose over 2,300 soldiers to meet these modest objectives.


Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report

Why in News

According to the Air Quality Life Index, air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians by more than nine years.

Highlights of the report

  • According to the report, more than 480 million people living in the vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including the capital, New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels.
  • High levels of air pollution of India have expanded geographically over time. Pollution has increased drastically in the western state of Maharashtra and the central state of Madhya Pradesh as well.
  • Report says that, about 40% of its population now on track to lose more than nine years of life expectancy.
  • India’s average particulate matter concentration was 70.3 microgram per cubic metre in 2019, the highest in the world and seven times the WHO’s guideline of 10 g/m3.
  • Northern India has the most extreme levels of air pollution in the world and if these pollution levels persist, the residents of this region are likely to lose more than nine years of life expectancy.
  • For the third consecutive year, New Delhi was ranked the world’s most polluted capital in 2020 by IQAir.
  • In 2020, New Delhi had shown a significant reduction in air pollution in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown. But the air turned toxic again in winter due to a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.

Reason behind high pollution level in South Asia

  • As per the Air Quality Life Index, South Asia is consistently the most polluted region in the world, accounting for 58% of total life years lost due to particulate pollution exceeding the WHO guideline.
  • Because of high pollution levels, the lives of people living there are being shortened by an average of 5 years, and even more in the most polluted parts of the region like northern India.
  • Increasing number of vehicles, higher consumption of fossil fuels and more industrial activities are mostly reason for the rising particulate pollution, which the report described as the world’s greatest threat to human health.
  • While the number of vehicles on the road has increased about four-fold In in India and Pakistan since the early 2000s, electricity generation from fossil fuels tripled from 1998 to 2017 in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan combined.
  • Crop burning, brick kilns, and other industrial activities have also increased leading to rising air pollution in the region.

National Clean Air Program

  • In 2019, India launched ‘National Clean Air Program (NCAP)’ to rein in dangerous pollution levels with the objective to reduce pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities by 20%-30% by 2024 by reducing industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust and dust pollution, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning, as well as establishing better monitoring systems.
  • By “achieving and sustaining” the NCAP goals, India would be able to raise the overall life expectancy of its people by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi 3.1 years.
  • According to the EPIC’s findings, average life expectancy across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan could be raised by 5.4 years if the countries improve air quality to levels recommended by the WHO.


Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System

Why in News

Recently, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully conducted the first hot test of the System Demonstration Model (SDM) of the Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.

Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System

  • The Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System is a part of the Gaganyaan Orbital module of the Gaganyaan Mission, which is India’s first human spaceflight mission.
  • It is located below the crew module and it remains attached to it until re-entry.
  • It consists of a unified bi-propellant system, which further consists of five 440 N thrust engines and sixteen 100 N Reaction Control System (RCS) thrusters with MON-3 and MMH as Oxidizer and Fuel respectively.
  • On 14th July, 2021 ISRO conducted the third long-duration hot test of the liquid propellant Vikas Engine for the GSLV Mk III launch vehicle for the Gaganyaan Mission.

System Demonstration Model (SDM)

  • The System Demonstration Model (SDM) of the Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System was prepared to qualify the propulsion system performance in the ground.
  • It consists of five 440 N engines and eight 100 N thrusters.

Gaganyaan Mission

  • The Gaganyaan Mission was launched by the Prime Minister on 15th August, 2018 with an ambitious space programme by the Indian Space Research Organization.
  • ISRO aimed to send 3 people on spacecraft into the low orbit of Earth for 7 days by the year 2022. Four astronauts have undergone training at the Russian Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS).
  • So far, ISRO has conducted three long-duration hot tests of the liquid propellant Vikas Engine for the GSLV MkIII launch vehicle. Before sending humans on the spacecraft, ISRO will send two non-crewed GSLV-Mk III rockets into space.

Significance of Gaganyaan Mission

  • Gaganyaan Mission is the first spaceflight manned-mission of India.
  • The mission is a step forward towards boosting the role of India in the space industry.
  • The mission has already enhanced the level of a global collaboration of India with other countries:
  • Russia is offering training to Indian astronauts and
  • France has signed an MoU with India for providing equipment and train flight physicians and mission control teams.
  • India is holding talks with Australia to set up a ground station at Cocos Island for monitoring the mission.
  • With this, India will become the 4th country to launch a human space mission.
  • The mission will generate approximately 15,000 job opportunities in the Indian private sector for space missions and boost the Research and Technology Development sectors in India in the space industry.


Botanic Gardens Conservation International

Why in News

According to the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, around 18% of India’s tree species stare at the possibility of extinction.

Key Points

  • India has 2,603 tree species, of which 650 are endemic or native to certain parts of the country; and 469 of them are threatened.
  • The Global Tree Assessment found that 30% of tree species around the world are threatened with extinction.
  • It also found that at least 142 tree species are already extinct in the wild. The report has warned of concerns related to ecosystem collapse globally due to increasing tree diversity loss and mass mortality of trees in certain regions.
  • The main threats to tree species are forest clearance for various projects; other forms of habitat loss including exploitation for timber, medicine, etc; and the spread of invasive pests and diseases. Climate crisis also has a measurable impact.
  • In the Indo-Malaya region, which covers India, 41 tree species are extinct, the highest globally compared to other regions. Around 3,819 species are threatened and 1,068 species are near threatened, among 13,739 species in the region.

Global landscape

  • The largest number of tree species are in the Neotropics (Central and South America, 23,631 tree species), followed by Indo-Malaya (tropical Asia, 13,739 species) and the Afrotropic (Africa south of the Sahara, including Madagascar, 9,237 species).
  • The country with highest tree diversity is Brazil with 8,847 tree species, followed by Colombia.
  • New Zealand, Madagascar and New Caledonia have the greatest proportion of endemic tree species with over 90% of species.
  • Larger megadiverse countries (Brazil, China, Colombia, Indonesia, etc) have a large number of tree species and also a large number of threatened species.
  • India’s proportion of threatened tree species is also higher than the global average of 11%.

A biodiversity crisis

  • The world is facing a biodiversity crisis and around a million animal and plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction as per evaluations by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in 2019.
  • The rapid decline of dominant tree species currently evaluated as of ‘Least Concern’ may also trigger ecosystem collapse in wide areas as with the mortality of Pinus tabuliformis across 0.5 million ha in east central China, and extensive mortality of Nothofagus dombeyi in Patagonian South America.
  • Unlike species extinction, ecosystems that have collapsed do not disappear, but transition into some other type of ecosystem due to anthropogenic pressures and stress.

Way Forward

  • The ever-increasing human population, expansion of agriculture, demand for natural resources and linear development projects “pose serious threats” to safeguard India’s biodiversity.
  • Maintaining the sanctity of PAs and adhering to the principles of green infrastructure are a must to safeguard India’s biodiversity.


Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)

Why in News

The manufacturing recovery of India lost momentum in August with the survey-based Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) sliding to 52.3. from July’s 55.3.

Key Points

  • Growth in new orders softened, pushing the expansion below the long-term average.
  • A score below 50 on the IHS Markit index indicates a contraction. The PMI had slipped to 48.1 in June, as the second COVID-19 wave took its toll.
  • Manufacturers’ cost burdens have now been rising for 13 straight months, and were linked by producers to raw material scarcity and transportation problems.

Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)

  • Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity, both in the manufacturing and services sectors.
  • It is a survey-based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before.
  • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.
  • It derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample, running into hundreds of firms, are asked whether key indicators such as output, new orders, business expectations and employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them.

Purchasing Managers’ Index implications for the economy

  • The PMI is usually released at the start of the month, much before most of the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth becomes available.
  • It is considered a good leading indicator of economic activity. Economists consider the manufacturing growth measured by the PMI as a good indicator of industrial output, for which official statistics are released later.
  • Central banks of many countries also use the index to help make decisions on interest rates.

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