/* Start the Loop */

Current Affair – July 5, 2021

Arctic Last Ice Area

  • A part of the Arctic’s ice called “Last Ice Area”, located north of Greenland, has melted before expected.
  • In a paper published in the journal “Communications Earth & Environment”, researchers note that in August 2020 the area where the Last Ice Area (LIA) is located experienced a record low concentration of sea ice.

What is the Last Ice Area?

  • In an article published in 2015, the National Geographic noted that while climate projections forecast the total disappearance of summer ice in the Arctic by the year 2040, the only place that would be able to withstand a warming climate would be this area of ice called the “Last Ice Area”.
  • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that climate change is shrinking the extent of Arctic summer sea ice, which is not only important for animals but also the local Inuit communities.
  • While this piece of ice above northern Canada and Greenland was expected to last the longest time, it is now showing signs of melting.

Importance of the area

  • The area is important because it was thought to be able to help ice-dependent species as ice in the surrounding areas melted away.
    • The area is used by polar bears to hunt for seals who use ice to build dens for their offspring.
    • Walruses too, use the surface of the ice for foraging.

What are the reasons that explain the change?

  • Sea ice concentration was at a record low of 50%, as of August 14, 2020.
  • The results of this study cannot be applied to the entire region considering there are some unknowns, such as how more open water in the region would affect ice-dependent species over the short and long term.   About 80% of thinning can be attributed to weather-related factors such as winds that break up and move the ice around. The remaining 20% can be attributed to longer-term thinning of the ice due to global warming.
  • During the winter and spring of 2020 there are patches of older, thicker ice that had drifted into there, but there was enough thinner, newer ice that melted to expose Open Ocean. This open ocean then began a cycle of absorbing heat energy which then melted more ice in spite of the fact that there was some thick ice.
Source: Indian Express

Goal to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy by 2026-27

  • The Centre’s new mission to ensure that every Class 3 child has foundational literacy and numeracy within five years will be rolled out on July 5, 2021.
  • Although the National Education Policy had included a 2025 deadline to achieve the goal, the Centre has pushed back the target date to 2026-27, given that COVID19 has already disrupted two academic years.

NIPUN Bharat Mission

  • The vision of NIPUN Bharat Mission is to create an enabling environment to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, so that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27.
  • A 5 tier implementation mechanism will be set up at the national, State, district, block and school levels.
  • NIPUN Bharat is likely to emphasise goal setting and accountability for State governments, and provide guidelines for teacher training, assessment and the creation of printed resources, according to people who helped develop the mission.
  • For 2021-22, the budget estimate for Samagra Shiksha was ₹31,050 crore, a 20% drop from the previous year’s estimate of ₹38,750 crore, although the revised estimate for 202021 was just ₹27,957 crore, with poor utilisation due to COVID19 disruptions.   It will be funded through Samagra Shiksha itself, thus there is no additional allocation being made.

Samagra Shiksha

  • Samagra Shiksha is an umbrella scheme, and this year it has been revised.
  • According to that revision, a provision has been kept for FLN (foundational literacy and numeracy).
Source: The Hindu

Relocation of Crocs

  • As many as 194 crocodiles have been relocated from a lake near the Statue of Unity in Narmada district, Gujarat in the last two years.
  • The Panchmuli lake, situated the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Kevadia, a major tourist attraction, had a large number of crocodiles. The relocation is a step for the safety of tourists who come to enjoy boat rides there
  • The crocodiles were shifted to two rescue centers in Gandhinagar and Godhra. There were still many crocodiles in the lake.

Panchmuli Lake

  • The Panchmuli lake is also known as ‘Dyke3’ of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
  • It was developed for tourists visiting the Statue of Unity.
Source: The Hindu

Argument for Cutting cess on fuel prices

  • Ratings agency ICRA recently postulated that the government could cut cess levies on retail prices of petrol and diesel, thereby easing prices.

Room to cut cess levies

  • With an increase in the mobility of the population and economic recovery after the easing of curbs and accelerating pace of COVID19 vaccinations, consumption of petrol and diesel would grow at about 14% and 10%, respectively, in the financial year 2021-22 (from the low base in a national lockdown-hit 2020-21) — ICRA.
  • Aggregate revenue from such taxes on these two fuels is likely to expand by about 13% in FY22 from the previous year, assuming that the total cesses on unbranded petrol and diesel remain unchanged at ₹32.9/litre and ₹31.8/litre, respectively.
  • That is, the forecast for government revenue from the cesses imposed on these two fuels is ₹3.6 lakh crore this fiscal. It is about ₹40,000 crore more than in the last financial year.
  • The ICRA argues that if the government decides to forgo the additional revenue that could accrue with higher fuel consumption, it would be able to cut up to ₹4.50 per litre for petrol and diesel each.

How much tax do we pay on a litre of petrol?

  • As of June this year, taxes accounted for close to 58% of the price of petrol in Delhi. Between May 2014 and June 2021, the Centre’s share of taxes on the retail price of petrol rose 216%, even though the base price of the fuel declined 24%.
  • In its June analysis, the ICRA highlighted that the current fuel prices reflect the higher cesses that have been imposed by the Centre since March 2020 and an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) rates by more than ¾  of the State governments.

How can lower fuel prices make it easier for the RBI to balance economic growth and inflation?

  • Retail inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) has been persistently higher than the RBI’s medium- term target of 4%, which, however, allows for a range of 2%-6%.
  • While the RBI has been trying to maintain a growth supportive stance by retaining an accommodative monetary stance that includes keeping benchmark interest rates substantially low and unchanged in response to the pandemic, its monetary policy committee (MPC) has been repeatedly warning of upside risks to the inflation trajectory from “international commodity prices, especially of crude, together with logistics costs”.
  • Lower pump prices of the transport fuels would ease some pressure on retail inflation and thus allow the RBI a little more elbow room to continue to keep the cost of borrowings lower. This, in turn, could facilitate more demand for credit to both consume and invest in new business activity, spurring growth.
Source: The Hindu