9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 23, 2021

Good evening dear reader

Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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We know for a fact that learning without evaluation is a wasted effort. Therefore, we request you to please go through both our initiatives i.e 9PM Briefs and Factly, then evaluate yourself through the 10PM Current Affairs Quiz.

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Future of Cryptocurrencies in India

Source: Click Here 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Money and Banking

SynopsisThe Government is planning to ban all private cryptocurrencies in India while supporting an RBI-backed cryptocurrency.

Background:

  • The proposed Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 bans all private cryptocurrencies. 
    • It lays down the regulatory framework for the launch of an “official digital currency”. 
    • Further holders of private cryptocurrencies will have a 3-6 month exit period before banning the trading, mining, and issuing of cryptos.
  • The Reserve Bank of India is also working on a Central Bank digital currency (CBDC) using DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology).
    • DLT is a digital system for recording the transaction of assets. It records the transactions and their details in multiple places at the same time. 
    • Unlike traditional databases, distributed ledgers have no central data store or administration functionality.

Rationale behind such proposals:

  • Check on Volatility: Private Cryptocurrencies are too volatile and pose a threat to India’s financial stability. A fiat currency shouldn’t portray such volatility. For instance, Bitcoin’s price has risen more than 10-fold over the last year due to:
    • Increased institutional exposure to Bitcoin
    • Global progress in fostering a friendlier legislative environment for cryptocurrencies
    • Supply reduction coupled with increasing demand.
  • Curb Illegal Activities: In April 2018, RBI banned banks and other regulated entities from supporting crypto transactions after digital currencies were used for frauds. In March 2020, the Supreme Court clarified that crypto transactions were not illegal in India.
  • Ascertaining the Magnitude of Undisclosed Holdings: Once private currencies are banned, then all investors would have to declare their true digital holdings in order to exit within the permissible window.
    • As per an unofficial estimate, Indian investors hold around $1.5 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) in digital currencies.

Way Forward:

  • The government needs to clear the uncertainty regarding the legal status of cryptocurrencies in the minds of Indian investors.
  • Further, it also needs to ascertain the economic and social impact of closing startups that function on private cryptocurrencies like Unocoin, Zebpay, etc.

China Model to Contain Pandemic

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis:  The Centre should step in to coordinate policy measures across states to contain the Pandemic, rather than putting the onus on the states. China’s model to contain pandemic should be studied and replicated in India

Background

  • The central government recently adopted decentralised decision-making approach, to contain the spread of Covid second wave.
  • The government has given free hand to the states to decide on lockdowns and other measures.
  • Further, Prime Minister in his recent speech appealed to the youth to form small committees to ensure adherence to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • However, the China model centralised planning along with local mobilization shows a different story. It was immensely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19.

How the China Model functioned?

China Model included the Residential Committees (RC) at the grass-root level and the Central leadership to assist the RCs with resources.

About Residential Committees

  • RCs were officially not part of the state and defined as institutions of self-governance. It had a large number of voluntary Youths and college students.
  • They had to perform administrative tasks, implement policy, mediate local disputes. Also, they had a task to assist government agencies with maintaining public surveillance, health, and sanitation, etc.,
  • After the outbreak of the Pandemic, the RCs were the main authorities that enforced rules and assisted people with their necessities. For example,
    • They strictly enforced rules of entry and exit. No residents were allowed to leave, and no non-residents were allowed to access the community area other than for essential medical needs.
    • Also, they assisted people by providing home delivery of daily food necessities, tracing contacts, registering and visiting each individual, etc.,

Role of Central Leadership

  • Further, the central leadership quickly acknowledged the efforts of the “first line of defence” the Residential Committees.
  • The government also supported the RC workers with subsidies, provision of health equipment, insurance, publicity, and other institutional support.

The China Model though had certain challenges the epidemic has been successfully contained.

How the China Model can be replicated in India?

  • In urban India, many have residential associations and local governments that can undertake similar mobilization like RCs in China.
  • Through the support from Central leadership and a centralised plan of action, it can support them through resources and authority from central to local organisations.
  • This will help in the effective mobilization of volunteers for better information dissemination, service delivery, and promoting social distancing.

Allowing states to their own means will only increase policy inconsistency and unequal access between states with different fiscal capacities and healthcare infrastructure. The need of the hour is for the central leadership to step up and coordinate policy measures across the country.


Criteria for Selection of Experts in Tribunals Needs More Clarity

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Synopsis: Centre needs to enact rules for selection of Experts in NGT Tribunals with clarity and objectivity.

Background

  • The Criteria used for the appointments of NGT members are not clearly defined by the central government, giving way to litigations.
  • Recently, the appointment of former IAS officer, Girija Vaidyanathan, as Expert Member in the Southern Bench of the NGT was challenged in the Madras High court.

Why Tribunals are formed?

  • One, the need for specialisation and expertise to decide complex cases of a technical nature. Experts appointed to these tribunals bring in special knowledge and experience.
  • Two, tribunalisation’ of justice will be cost-effective, accessible.

What are the criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the tribunal?

As per the NGT act there are two criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the NGT tribunal. A candidate has to fulfil only one of them.

  1. One based on qualifications and practical experience: a masters’ or a doctorate in science, engineering or technology, with 15 years’ experience in the relevant field, including five in environment and forests in a national level institution, is needed. The fields include pollution control, hazardous substance management and forest conservation.
  2. Two, administrative experience in the field: This condition is not clearly defined. It merely stipulates 15 years’ experience, of which five should have been in “dealing with environmental matters” in either the Centre or the State or any reputed institution.

Why the appointment of Girija Vaidyanathan has been challenged?

  • In Ms. Vaidyanathan’s case, she has served in Environmental related sectors for only 28 months that is less than the prescribed criteria of 5 years.

What did the court say?

  • The court opined that the appointment is valid considering her tenure as Health Secretary.
  • However, the court declined to interfere with the appointment, as the jurisdiction of this matter comes under the domain of Parliament.

What is the way forward?

  • One, government should redefine the criteria for appointments through administrative experience with clarity and objectivity.
  • Two, need to implement Supreme Court directions to constitute a National Tribunals Commission to supervise the appointment and functioning of tribunals.

Making Education Accessible and Affordable

Source: GS-2

Syllabus: click here

Synopsis: The AIR and DD, and Internet service providers are some possible solutions for making education accessible and affordable.

Introduction

Access and affordability continue to impact teachers and students. Teachers and policymakers are working, but the results are not encouraging.

  • Exams have lost their reliability and learning has taken a back seat. The health of students and teachers is suffering due to continuous exposure to screens. Some of them suffer financially as well.
  • Access to education is entirely dependent on online classes. Internet penetration in India is 50% which is one reason for the less than efficient performance in the online education sector.

What are the possible solutions to improve the access to education?

Almost everyone has experienced poor connectivity. In rural areas, online access remains an aspiration. However, the government can come up with a solution. The Indian Government has its own airwaves.

  • Firstly, Prasar Bharati is India’s broadcasting corporation that handles both radio and television in India. All India Radio (AIR) has 470 broadcasting centres which cover 92% of the country’s geographical area and 99.19% of the population.
  • Secondly, Doordarshan (DD) handles television, online and mobile broadcasting in India and in the world. It has 34 satellite channels, 17 well-equipped studios in State capitals and 49 studio centres in other cities.
    • AIR and DD can be used to broadcast lessons. Education is one of the three functions of the two agencies under the Prasar Bharati Act. These two agencies can be used to satisfy the needs of the education sector.
  • Thirdly, educational broadcasts for classes 10, 11 and 12 can be done in the ratio of 4:1 (four hours of radio and one hour of TV). The courses in which demonstration and where physical activity is needed can be broadcast on TV. This will require some training and effort.
    • If implemented well, there will be less strain due to screen time for our teachers and students. The heavy strain on financial resources will be drastically reduced as DD and AIR are free.
  • Fourthly, teachers should be involved in the planning of policies. Training can be provided to teachers by a set of trainers for scriptwriting and programming.
  • Fifthly, Further, after training, these teachers can create appropriate tools for evaluation over radio and TV. The Central and State educational boards should support, monitor and provide feedback to improve the system.
  • Sixthly, If regular radio is not enough, digital radio can also be used.  
  • Lastly, the government can ask Internet Service Providers to offer many hours of free Internet usage to teachers and students. This will not be easy, but the government should call the shots and make a decision that is in the interest of the people.

National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM)

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3 – Energy and Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Synopsis – Challenges and suggestion to enhance commercial scale operation of green hydrogen in India.

National Hydrogen Energy Mission NHEM-

Indian prepares to launch the National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM).

    • The global target is to produce 1.45 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2023.
    • India currently consumes approximately 5.5 million tonnes of hydrogen, which is mainly derived from imported fossil fuels. With NHEM, India will be able to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel imports.
    • Steel, chemical, and transportation industries are among the industries that will benefit from the NHEM. Owing to the amount of fossil fuels they consume, which can be directly substituted with hydrogen, they contribute to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.

What is green hydrogen?

Green Hydrogen is pure hydrogen generated by using renewable energy such as solar power and wind energy. The by products are water and water vapour.

Challenges-

  • Transportation cost – Majority of low-cost renewable energy resources are located far from potential demand centres. As a result, the cost of transportation from the plant to the demand centre rises.
  • High cost of production – The technology used in production of green hydrogen is still in its early stages and is costly, which raises the cost of production.
  • Storage related issues

Recommendations for scaling up commercial scale operation of green hydrogen in India-

  • First, Decentralized hydrogen production – Decentralization must be promoted through open access of renewable power to an electrolyser (which splits water to form H2 and O2 using electricity).
        • This can be done by transporting renewable energy directly from the plant to the refinery, which will reduce transportation costs by 60% compared to shipping hydrogen through trucks.
  • Second, Continuous access to renewable energy for decentralized hydrogen production.
  • Third, Need to blend green Hydrogen into existing conventional hydrogen process-
      • This would also aid in the development of a scientific understanding of the processes involved in large-scale hydrogen handling.
  • Forth, Investment for R&D on green Hydrogen technology is required– Green hydrogen processing technology is still in its early stages, requiring extensive research and development to advance.
      • This requires substantial investment in the research and development of hydrogen technologies. Policymakers need to facilitate investments.
  • Lastly, Focus on domestic manufacturing –
      • Need to establish an end-to-end electrolyser manufacturing facility.
      • Needs to secure supplies of raw materials.
      • Need manufacturing strategy that integrates with the global value chain and can maximize existing strengths.
  • Way forward-

With decentralized hydrogen production, continuous access to renewable energy, increased investment in R&D, capacity building, compatible legislation, and the ability to create demand among its vast population, India can be in a unique position to benefit from the green Hydrogen.


Important of Stepping Up National Climate Action Plans

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: Governments must effectively step up their national climate action plans. There is an opportunity to bring consensus for that in the upcoming Leaders’ Summit hosted by the United States.

Introduction 

It is time for bold climate action. We need to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius to stop the climate crisis from becoming a permanent disaster.

  • Reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century is needed. Every country, city, business, and the financial institution needs to join this league and adopt solid plans for reaching net-zero.
  • The governments should be able to match this long-term ambition with solid actions to re-engineer our future.
  • Under the Paris Agreement, all countries are committed to set their own national climate action plans and strengthen them every five years. To achieve them, decisive and effective actions are required.

What actions should be taken?

The new national plans must reduce global greenhouse gas pollution by at least 45 percent by 2030. Clearer policies should be set up to adapt to the effects of climate change and lift access to renewable energy. 

  • Firstly, governments must step up their ambitions, mainly the biggest-emitting countries. Removing coal from the electricity sector is a very important step to achieve the 1.5-degree goal. 
    • Global coal use in electricity production must reduce by 80 percent below 2010 levels by 2030. This means developed nations have to phase out coal by 2030 and other countries must do this by 2040.
  • Secondly, no new coal plants should be built anywhere. One-third of the global coal task force is more costly to run than building new renewables and storage. COP26 must indicate an end to coal.
  • Thirdly, workers in affected industries and the informal sector should be supported as they switch jobs. Women and girls must be supported to drive transformation.
  • Fourthly, the developed nations should commit to provide and assemble $100 billion yearly by: 
    • Doubling current levels of climate finance.
    • Devoting half of all climate finance to adaptation.
    • Stopping the international funding of coal.
    • Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  • Fifthly, the G7 Summit in June provides an opportunity for the world’s richest nations to step up the needed financial commitments. It will confirm the success of COP26.
  • Lastly, the decision-makers everywhere have an important role to play. By COP26, all multilateral and national developments banks must have clear policies in place to fund the COVID recovery and change into strong economies in developing countries.
    •  This should be done taking into account crippling debt levels and huge pressures on national budgets.

 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 23 Apr, 2021

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