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- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Panel ‘disappointed’ about no data on complaints resolved under PMFBY
- We must not ignore the ease of going elsewhere
- Why are so many sanitation workers deaths uncounted?
- Parliament is abdicating its oversight role
- Criminalisation of politics must be curbed
- Squaring up to India’s education emergency
- Caste in stone
GS Paper 3
- The climate emergency is real for India (On IPCC Report)
- How new guidelines can give wing to drone start-ups?
- How e-RUPI can transform government’s welfare schemes?
- The merits of an RBI digital currency outweigh risks
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Bacteria in Canadian Arctic seawater can help clear up oil spills: Study
- Why ISRO’s launch of Earth-watching satellite failed?
- Common survey to count elephants and tigers
- Fourth edition of dragonfly census across Delhi-NCR
- DPE brings out 60th annual Public Enterprises Survey 2019-20
- India conducts first-ever naval combat exercise with Saudi Arabia
- No need for dedicated force to protect judges, courts: Government
- NITI Aayog Releases Handbook to Guide EV Charging Infrastructure in India
- Fill consumer disputes panel vacancies in eight weeks: SC
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Panel ‘disappointed’ about no data on complaints resolved under PMFBY
Source: Down to Earth
Syllabus: GS2 – Government schemes
Relevance: Issues with PMFBY
Synopsis: Grievance redressal mechanism set up under PMFBY suffers from various issues, thus impairing the overall efficiency of the scheme. A look at the issues involved and measures that can be taken.
The parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture was ‘surprised and disappointed’ to know that there was no data about the complaints resolved by grievance redressal committees (GRC) set up under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
- This is a state and district level grievance redressal mechanism built into the PMFGY.
- District Level Grievance Redressal Committees (DGRC) and State Level Grievance Redressal Committees (SGRC) have been formed under the revised operational guidelines of the scheme starting from the 2018-19 Rabi Season.
- These are mandated to resolve the grievances of farmers, banks, insurance companies and district authority.
- DGRC is headed by the District Magistrate/Collector while a state level GRC is headed by the Principal Secretary/Secretary of the Nodal Department.
|Must read: Parl panel flags Fasal Bima plan woes|
Panel identified following issues with GRC
- No data about the complaints resolved by grievance redressal committees (GRC)
- Non-establishment of GRCs by many of the States and UT’s: According to the report, so far only 15 states and Union territories have notified both DGRCs and SGRCs.
Recommendation of the panel
- GRCs should be formed at different levels in all the remaining states and Union territories to resolve farmers’ grievances
- Member of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies should be nominated to DGRC which will increase accountability and improve acceptability of the scheme among farmers
- A toll-free number of three-four digits should be provided for queries regarding PMFBY, registration of complaints by farmers and information regarding action taken on their complaints
- Timely redressal: Complaints need to be addressed in a time bound manner
We must not ignore the ease of going elsewhere
Source: Live Mint
Syllabus: GS2- Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Relevance: Pandemic & Tourism, Freedom of movement
Synopsis: The way easing how business is done is important similarly easing the cabin fever that covid restraints have given also need attention.
Most of us are now free to move around locally, but the radius of our freedom does not extend all that far. Going out of town is an exercise in confusion due to complexities involved in travelling across a border.
Restriction on freedom of movement
Pandemic period has seen a number of restrictions being imposed on freedom of movement
- First, Indian states and Union territories still demand negative covid-test results even of the fully-vaccinated for entry. For instance, some states like West Bengal still insist on test proof.
- Second, flying overseas is still held back.
- Some countries aimed to keep out tourists from places deemed high-risk, like India.
- For instance, many US college campuses asking for vax certificates of vaccines approved by the World Health Organization or US Food and Drug Administration.
- Third, strict entry and quarantine requirements.
- Popular holiday picks in the east such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia have stricter norms.
- India recently had a disagreement with the EU over its refusal to recognize Covishield as a version of a vaccine already approved for its vax passport scheme.
However, things are changing in some countries;
Barriers are slowly being lowered. Switzerland and the UK citizens are raring to go abroad for a break. Switzerland in competition with the UK for those enthusiastic to go abroad for a break. This rush was set off by London’s change in rules. Now it is clear that demand for holidays is ready to explode.
There is need for global talks to come up with globally-acceptable framework of norms for ease of going elsewhere.
- We can create an ‘ease of going elsewhere’ index. Its starting base can be set on 1 April 2020, right after the pandemic first placed us under house arrest.
Why are so many sanitation workers deaths uncounted?
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2 Government Policies and intervention
Relevance: To understand the issues surrounding the ecosystem handling the manual scavengers.
Uncounted deaths of Sanitation workers
There have been over a million uncounted deaths in the last 50 years in India. Many of which occurred during the Corona pandemic.
This can be understood from the following data. In the last 5 years:
- Over than 9k people, who are employed in the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging and cleaning insanitary latrines, have died from multiple chronic conditions.
- Over 600 have died in the hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
- It is estimated that there are over 18-20 % unreported cases in both these categories.
What should the government do?
Till now, the government has reached only 5% of the total population of manual scavengers & 20% of the total area of India in its identification-related surveys. So:
- Government should focus on expanding the categories of manual scavengers like dry latrine workers, daily sweepers, hospital sanitation workers, bone scavengers etc
- It should properly estimate the death of sanitation workers of all categories
- It should understand the lapses that have occurred in the implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual scavengers and Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act.
When it comes to manual scavengers, we need to quickly provide estimates for:
- Number of deaths of sanitation workers
- Lapses in implementation of Manual scavenger Act.
Challenges in identification of manual scavengers
- Despite numerous appeals, municipal authorities and panchayats have failed to properly identify them.
- District magistrates and appointed inspectors have also failed to comply with the act.
- When sanitation workers insist on identification, they are often threatened.
- This is how states claim that they have no manual scavengers employed.
- Even seizure of records would not yield much, as the workers are not on record.
Challenges in implementation of the Act
- Non-compliance is hardly ever penalized
- Compensation and promises of one-time case assistance are only provided in around 40 per cent of “all recorded cases”.
- The government is using a loophole in the Manual Scavenging Act 2013 – “that when a person is employed to clean excreta with the help of such devices using protective gears then the person will not be deemed as a manual scavenger”, the question remains about what these devices are and are they actually provided.
- Due to a lack of data, it is difficult to identify the death of manual scavengers owing to an occupational hazard. This makes it difficult to provide relief to family members of the deceased.
- There is an urgent need to work on the identification of manual scavengers if we are to truly benefit from the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act.
Parliament is abdicating its oversight role
Syllabus: GS-2 Parliament & its functioning
Relevance: The article signifies how the frequent disruptions lead to improper functioning of the house
The recent session of Parliament: This session has ended abruptly, and before its scheduled date. This is the 4th straight session that ended ahead of its original schedule, other than the cancelled winter 2020 session. This led to non-discussion of various important issues like Chinese incursion into Ladakh, Farmers issue, Covid-19 response and strategy, Pegasus controversy etc
Functioning of Parliament
- Frequent disruption of both of the houses also affects its working timing. LS (Lok Sabha) works for just 19% of its scheduled time while RS (Rajya Sabha) for 26%
- Out of 20 bills, 18 bills were passed without any discussion in LS apart from 1 bill on Schedule Tribes (Order) Amendment bill, which saw discussion of 15 minutes
- Most of the bills were passed without any scrutiny as they were passed in the same session in which it was introduced.
- During the 15th LS, 18% of bills were passed in the same session. In 16th LS, the count rose to 33% & is at 70% halfway through the current Parliament
- Also, there was no discussion in LS on any policy issue. In RS, only one discussion was seen related to the management of COVID.
Scrutiny of the bills
A sharp downward trend can be seen in referring the bill to Parliamentary committees. From 71% in 15th LS to 27% in 16th and 12% in the present one. In the current session, none of the 15 bills introduced were referred to any Parliamentary committee.
Even the amendment moved in RS to refer the Tribunal Reform Bill to the selected committee was rejected by the house.
Crucial Bills: Some important bills passed in the session (2021) are:
- 127th Amendment bill: Passed to allow states to frame their own OBC list for reservation. This negates the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, which ordered only GOI can identify OBC groups. Also, 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provides constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
- The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021: It amended the Income Tax Act, 1961. It prevents the income tax department from raising tax demands retrospectively.
- General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Bill: It seeks to remove the mandatory requirement of the Central government holding not less than 51% of the equity capital in a specified insurer. It seeks to provide for greater private sector participation in the public sector insurance companies which are regulated under the Act.
- Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC Bill): It provides account holders access to up to Rs 5 lakh funds within 90 days of a bank coming under a moratorium.
- Tribunal Reforms Bill: It replaced an ordinance that specified the process of appointment of members and their tenures and service conditions
Rather than physical infrastructure for Parliament, we need to make the functioning of Parliament (the temple of democracy) more effective.
Terms to know
Criminalisation of politics must be curbed
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
Relevance: This article explains the recent Supreme Court steps to stop the criminalisation of politics.
While the Supreme Court issued steps to stop the criminalisation of politics. The legislature and political parties remain reluctant to curb it.
Recently, the Supreme Court issued few steps to weed out the criminalisation from legislators. These include
The SC asked ECI “to create a dedicated mobile application containing information published by candidates regarding their criminal antecedents”.
About the case:
The supreme court observed that criminalisation in the Indian political system is growing day by day. The Court also observed that “Persons involved in the criminalisation of the political system should not be permitted to be the lawmakers.”
The Supreme Court has, however, stopped short of drastic steps to combat this problem. The SC also rejected the suggestion to direct the Election Commission to bar political parties that fail to comply with criminalisation protocols. The SC might be cautious and not infiltrating the domain of the legislature.
|Read more: The Criminalisation of politics and Supreme Court – Explained, pointwise|
Two reasons cited by the political parties to dilute the issue:
- “Winnability” of candidates: Political parties think a criminally charged person can win election by doing good for the people. This is an attempt to shift the blame of sending a criminally charged candidate to Parliament solely on the voter.
- Innocent until proven guilty system of Indian law: This is somewhat acceptable. But there is a blatant double standard for this argument.
- There were 4.78 lakh prisoners (as of December 2019) of whom 3.30 lakh were under trial, i.e. not yet proven guilty. Their fundamental rights — their right to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation, and right to dignity — are curbed completely. Even a peon cannot be appointed in government service if even a minor criminal case is pending against him.
- But a person charge-sheeted with murder or rape can become a legislator and even a minister.
- Further, an “innocent” undertrial cannot vote, but a man charge-sheeted for murder can even contest election from jail.
- These blatant double standards are a clear violation of Article 14, which guarantees to all citizens’ equality before the law.
Suggestions of Election Commission to avoid criminalisation of politics:
The EC demanded to restrict the person from conducting elections, in the following conditions.
- Offences that carry imprisonment of at least 5 years can be considered as a criterion.
- The Criminal cases against the candidate should have been filed at least six months before the scheduled elections.
- A competent court must have framed the charges.
Suggestions by the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court had sent a directive in 2014, directing that cases against political candidates must be completed within a year, failing which the matter should be reported to the Chief Justices of the respective High Court. But there is no positive developments occur in this regard. This also needs immediate attention.
Squaring up to India’s education emergency
Source: The Hindu and Livemint
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education
Relevance: This article explains the global Stringency Index and India’s school education system during the pandemic.
In making up for months of lost formal learning, there needs to be a strong government response to improve school education.
The Oxford Stringency Index’s school closure indicator shows that 404 days in India between March 5, 2020, and July 20, 2021, were characterised as being at the most severe policy response (requiring the closure of all types of educational institutions). As a result, about 265 million schoolchildren have been taught exclusively through so-called “remote learning”, the largest number in any country for the longest period of time.
|Read more: Our children need education. How much longer can schools remain shut?|
About the Index:
The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker has created a global Stringency Index. This index tracked the closure of educational institutions across all countries since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This indicator is one of eight “containment and closure” indicators and a health information indicator used to calculate the index.
|Read more: Let’s chalk out a plan to reopen our schools before it gets too late|
Key findings of the Index:
Within a few months of the first lockdown of schools in March 2020, pandemic-hit Europe began resuming in-person schooling for certain groups of children or certain localities.
The Oxford Stringency Index shows that less affluent countries, such as Uruguay and Vietnam also took a more measured approach.
India’s education policy response was similar to that of Brazil. This is significant as India faced less severity during 2020 than in Brazil.
|Read more: India’s schoolchildren need their childhood back|
By March 2021, 51 countries had resumed in-person education. In another 90 countries, including many in Africa, resorted to “hybrid” schooling models (i.e., a combination of in-person and remote teaching). Similar strategies were not systematically tried in India.
|Read more: Why are government schools not the first choice?|
Suggestions to reopen schools in India:
Kerala provided basic access to remote learning by June 2020 to its four million students through the KITE VICTERs educational TV channel, which broadcast classes for all subjects in each grade. The government can initiate steps like that at the pan India level.
Once the schools reopen, offering a few standardised “bridge” courses and “remedial classes” may seem like a facile antidote to the months of lost formal learning.
An ‘Education Emergency Room’ should be set up in every district to coordinate, implement and monitor local plans.
|Read more: A pandemic-optimized plan for kids to resume their education|
Caste in stone
Source: Busines Standard, TOI
Syllabus: GS2- FR, Policy, the welfare of weaker sections
Relevance: To understand the impact of the 127th Amendment act.
Synopsis: Recently GoI passed legislation to enable states to declare their own OBC list. Many argue that it strengthens federalism, but we must also consider the socio-political turmoil it may cause.
- Article 340 provided special protection and benefits to SC/ST. Further, it also provided a clause of socially and economically backward classes (SEBC) which was used to extend quota to OBC’s. Further, Article 15(4), 15(5), 16(4) empower states to identify SEBC’s (Socio-economic Backward Class)
- But the 102nd amendment act granted this power to the centre. The immediate backdrop was the SC ruling that struck down the Maharashtra government’s move to grant quota to Maratha citing that the 102nd amendment act gives this power to the President, based on the recommendation of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
- As a response, GOI passed the 127th amendment bill. The bill seeks to rectify Article 338B, (Inserted by 102nd Amendment Act 2008), which created NCBC as a constitutional entity.
Read more: Lok Sabha passes Constitution amendment Bill to restore states’ powers on OBC list
Changes brought by the current bill:
- It enables States and UT’s to frame their own list
- They can do this without consulting NCBC
- Political parties are further arguing for a caste census as a result of SECC was not published.
The consequences of such a move could be dangerous:
- Till now this exercise was carried out by a constitutional process and constitutional bodies, now it may become a political exercise.
- Numerous sub-castes will scramble for quotas, leading to socio-political turmoil.
- Any group which has sufficient socio-economic power can demand and get quotas. e.g. Patidars, Marathas, Jats etc.
- Soon caste will begin to demand sub-categorization – i.e. Quota within quota.
- This may shift the political narrative from employment generation to seeking/granting quotas.
- Proportional quota, where the quantum of quota is based on the proportion of their population will better meet the requirements of affirmative action than just granting blanket quota to any group that demands it.
Terms to Know
GS Paper 3
The climate emergency is real for India (On IPCC Report)
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS3 – Environment
Relevance: Fighting climate change in light of new revelations made by the IPCC report.
Synopsis: Climate change-induced extreme weather events are already happening, and some have started to happen. India needs to adapt to this reality. Detailing few such events in India and steps that can be taken at policy level.
The climate has changed forever and will remain so for centuries, if not a few thousand years into the future. Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for it, and our current mitigation strategies are insufficient to stop it from changing further. The global mean temperature will cross the 1.5 °C limit in the current decade or next, and the 2 °C mark during 2040–2060.
Changes that have occurred
In the above context, following are some irreversible climate change and extreme weather events in India, that have already set in and are going to intensify further.
1]. Warming of tropical ocean: Since the 1950s, the tropical ocean has been warming faster than other regions, with the tropical Indian Ocean warming even faster than the rest of the tropical ocean basins. This has already put immense pressure on the Indian subcontinent, particularly the coastal regions.
- Sea level rise: Water expands and increases in volume with the heat, contributing to the sea level rise along the Indian coast.
- Intensification of monsoon: The monsoon and the cyclones source their moisture and energy from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, and they have intensified. With the rapid ocean warming, we see a threefold rise in extreme rains causing floods across India—while the total monsoon rainfall has declined in some regions.
- Increased frequency of cyclones: Cyclones in the Arabian Sea increased by more than 50%, with very severe cyclones increasing by 150%.
2]. Compound events: The recent IPCC reports also warn us about multiple extremes overlapping. These compound events are already happening in India. With cyclones Tauktae and Yaas in May 2021, we witnessed storm surges to the height of 5 m and above, pushing water on to the land. The storm surge flooding over the coast was aggravated by the heavy rains from the cyclones and a background rising sea level.
3]. Impact on rural India: During the Maharashtra floods in July 2021, the India Meteorological Department recorded 1,074 mm of rain at the Mahabaleshwar hill station in just two days. This station has been monitoring rainfall for over a century, and the recent rains broke all-time records. All that water ran down the hills causing landslides and overflowing the rivers, thereby flooding the downstream towns, killing more than 200 people.
4]. Migration of communities: Climate hazards are also leading to the migration of marginal agricultural communities from northern states of India to the Indian megacities like Mumbai that are facing bigger threats due to climate change.
What needs to be done?
- Curbing emissions is essential so that we don’t accelerate climate change further
- We need urgent measures to evaluate and adapt to the increased risk due to intense cyclones, floods, and heatwaves in the near future.
- Identify local challenges: While climate change is global, the challenges are always local. The IPCC reports provide only a large-scale assessment, and it is our task to identify the local challenges and disaster-proof those regions where the risk and vulnerability are the highest.
- Empowering citizen-science networks: Sometimes citizen science networks can help, where government agencies cannot reach. There are several examples from Kerala and Maharashtra where citizen networks are monitoring the rains, rivers and landslides, and sending flood alerts to people in vulnerable areas. This can work beautifully with the assistance of scientists, engineers, and government bodies. Evidence shows that this has saved lives. We need to empower and make every district of India climate-equipped.
How new guidelines can give wing to drone start-ups?
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology
Relevance: On drone rules, 2021 and start-ups in the drone sector
Synopsis: India has fewer start-ups in the drone technology space than the US and China; it also lags most other economies in funding. Drone rules 2021 are a step forward, but more needs to be done to evolve other policies in tandem.
The government recently announced new draft guidelines for drone operations in India. The Drone Rules, 2021, are a major revision to the drone policy in the country. While the government has made revisions to drone policy every year since 2018, it has not formalised any guidelines until now. Meanwhile, start-ups in the sector have multiplied.
|Must Read: Draft Drone Rules, 2021 – Explained|
Increased usage of drones
the government has been using drones for mapping and banks have been relying on the technology for insurance
Various state government took help of drone-startups during pandemic.
- Tamil Nadu government was struggling to sanitize areas, they had to rely on a Chennai-based drone start-up, Garuda, to disinfect hospitals. In the following months, Garuda was employed by various other states to carry out the same task.
- Maharashtra also announced that it would be experimenting with the delivery of medicines in rural areas using drones.
While the usage of drones is increasing since the government first launched its drone policy in 2014, many obstacles still remain.
Current scenario of drone-startups
India lags developed countries in this emerging sector.
- Less number of drone-startups: The US, the UK and China have more drone start-ups. While India has 157 companies running drone operations, China has 204 start-ups in the space, and the UK has 192 start-ups. The US, which is the breeding ground for most innovations, has five times more start-ups than India.
- Small funding size: Although Australia and Israel have fewer start-ups than India, data indicates that they outrank the country in terms of funding. The top 10 drone companies in India have been able to garner average funding of $5.1 million. Israel may only have 69 start-ups in the space, but their average funding size is $33.5 million. The funding size of Chinese start-ups is $107 million.
What more needs to be done?
The new draft drone rules, 2021, seem to address the shortcomings. By relaxing norms in the registration of drones and removing the need for licenses in certain categories, the government plans to open the sector for more innovation.
But, policy in other areas needs to change too.
- Changes in geospatial policy: The new geospatial policy, released in February 2021, requires freeing specific drone regulations and a liberal approach in AR/VR space.
- Changes in import norms: Similarly, while the government is allowing operations of drones in the country, the import of drones and drone components will still be controlled by the Director-General of Foreign Trade. As India does not have sizeable domestic drone manufacturing firms, most are imported and assembled in India. Stricter norms on imports shall mean more restrictions for the sector.
How e-RUPI can transform government’s welfare schemes?
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
Relevance: Effective service delivery of Public goods
Synopsis: e-RUPI opens up a world of opportunities to the government, people, and businesses to provide, avail and pay for services seamlessly.
What is e-RUPI?
How e-RUPI can be used by corporates?
- Facilitation of cashless service at paid Covid vaccination centres (CVCs). For instance, corporates and philanthropies can buy services in bulk to vaccinate employees and those in need.
- Help in mitigating problems of delivering cash subsidies and ensuring their end-use.
- The private sector will also find it helpful to disburse non-cash benefits to employees and support CSR programmes
- Other Corporate applications of e-RUPI include disbursement and easy compliance of providing employee benefits with tax implications such as meals, education, travel and health.
How e-RUPI can be used in various govt programmes?
- In cash transfers: Cash transfers are considered ineffective, given their problems, like lack of banking facilities, loss of working days of the poor etc. However, e-RUPI could solve this by making cash transfers purpose- and person-specific. It can free them from dependence on bank accounts.
- In PDS programme: e-RUPI could make the PDS programme more efficient. The inefficiency of the programme is due to high overhead costs, leakages, exclusion and inefficiencies. A food-specific e-RUPI voucher will allow beneficiaries to buy rations from an outlet of their choice. The value addition beyond the One Nation, One Ration Card will come from removing price distortion and the redemption of the voucher at market price by merchants within and outside the PDS network.
- In streamlining fertilizer subsidies: e-RUPI could be used to streamline fertiliser subsidies to farmers. e-RUPI will enable farmers to buy fertiliser at nominal prices with direct credit of the subsidy amount into the account of the authorised dealers. Further, the e-RUPI will be able to remove apprehensions about creating an IT infrastructure, managing nearly 3,00,000 fertiliser sale points, the collapse of dealer network and a complex system of timely credit.
- In school-voucher programmes: e-RUPI is almost custom-designed for school voucher programmes. Identified students can receive vouchers to pay school fees and expenses at empanelled institutions of their choice, public and private. It benefits students and schools while enhancing transparency and accountability.
- In basic income support: Another application is in basic income support. The lockdowns to contain the pandemic exposed the poor to acute distress, due to loss of means of livelihood. e-RUPI can mitigate their stress by rapidly distributing food and cash vouchers at scale.
- In Ayushman Bharat: A similar application of e-RUPI can be envisaged for the Ayushman Bharat healthcare initiative. Beneficiaries will receive e-RUPI vouchers of designated value tenable at empanelled healthcare facilities, providing them portability and facility choice. The service provider will benefit from the immediate payment.
The adoption of e-RUPI in various government programmes will enhance business efficiency, simplicity, transparency, and accountability in these programmes.
Incentives need to be given to increase the distribution and acceptance of e-RUPI. Light regulation and the opening of e-RUPI to competition will spur innovation and adoption. All banks, small and big, NBFCs, non-bank PPI issuers, and telcos may be allowed to issue it later.
The merits of an RBI digital currency outweigh risks
Source: Live Mint
Syllabus: GS3 – Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.
Relevance: Future of Central bank Digital currencies in India
Synopsis: Launching a CBDC by RBI entails many risks while offering many opportunities too. A thorough assessment is the need of the hour. An analysis of the risks, concerns and benefits of CBDCs.
Does India need a CBDC?
Justification for a CBDC in India is given on the following two grounds:
1]. Helps in becoming more globalized: First, becoming more globalized in terms of international trade and investment are critical to India’s national interests. With more than 50 countries looking into the possibility of introducing their own CBDCs, the future of globalization is CBDC-based.
- Shifting from SWIFT: Also, the current international payments system based on SWIFT is costly in terms of both time and money. So, within no time the international trade, investment and even remittances will look to shift to multi-country CBDC networks. In order to remain globally competitive under these circumstances, India will need to have a CBDC.
2]. Helps in domestic digitalization: An Indian CBDC can also help domestic digitalization. Current efforts at financial inclusion have seen very limited participation by private-sector banks, with the bulk of the burden being placed on public sector banks at considerable loss to them. Since the for-profit NUE mechanism is also bank-account-based, it might strengthen the divide. This will make inclusive digitalization a challenging project. CBDCs may provide an alternative to the NUE (New Umbrella Entities) by working outside the banking sector, like through the postal system.
- Domestic demand for other CBDCs:The possibility of CBDCs of other countries becoming international currencies is a real concern. This may lead to substantial domestic demand for these currencies in India, resulting in possible dollarization-like scenarios.
- Data security issues: Given India’s recent conflicts with China, the rise of a cross-border digital yuan could also present issues of data security, as digital currencies might provide their issuer with detailed information of transactions.
- Disintermediation risks: Risks of disintermediation of the banking sector and the possibility of bank runs in the event CBDCs prove to be more attractive than bank deposits.
- Disintermediation means reduction in the use of intermediaries between producers and consumers.
- Liquidity problems: A move away from bank deposits, leaving banks with liquidity constraints, would require more interventions by the central bank by way of liquidity provisions.
- Further, while CBDCs are expected to provide a safer alternative to private virtual currencies, it is still unclear how this will be achieved. Would such private currencies be prohibited, or would the CBDC coexist as a competitor to them?
The best way to deal with this is to establish global protocols on the cross-border use of CBDCs. In order to have a say in these international settlements, it will be very useful for India to have a credible and working CBDC.
The adoption of CBDCs is the only economic development that is happening at a global scale without any historical precedent to fall back on. Hence, it is very important that every aspect of this development is scrutinized before implementation.
Terms to know:
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Bacteria in Canadian Arctic seawater can help clear up oil spills: Study
Source: Down to Earth
Relevance: Bioremediation using bacteria to address oil spills in the ocean
What is the news?
A new study has confirmed that bacteria with nutrients in the cold seawaters of the Canadian Arctic can help decompose diesel and other petroleum oil after oil spills. These accidents deteriorate the coastal water quality and choke marine ecosystems and poses health hazards for the indigenous population who depend on seafood.
Bioremediation using bacteria
- Scientists found that bioremediation using bacteria such as Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira, Thalassolituus Zhongshania and some others helped remove several classes of contaminants.
- A fraction of the leaked fuels sink to the bottom of the sea and settles on the floor. Stimulating the benthic microbes that live at this depth of the ocean is important for effective decomposition of the pollutants present there.
What is an oil spill?
Oil spill is a form of pollution described as the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activities.
Impact of an oil spill
Oil trade through the sea route and potential production have made spills common.
- These accidents deteriorate the coastal water quality and choke marine ecosystems.
- Spilled oil can penetrate into the structure of the plumage of birds and the fur of mammals, reducing their insulating ability and making them more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and much less buoyant in the water
- Oil pollution poses health hazards for the indigenous population who consumer fish as part of their diet.
Below are some examples of other such oil-cleaning bacteria:
- NY3: The “NY3” has an “extraordinary capacity” to produce rhamnolipids that can help break down oil and then degrade some of its most serious toxic compounds.
- Geobacter bacteria: They were the first organisms found to oxidise organic compounds to carbon dioxide. They can convert the organic compounds in oil spills into carbon dioxide.
- Alcanivorax borkumensis: This rod-shaped microbe lives in all the world’s oceans with a special preference for oil-polluted areas, as it uses hydrocarbon molecules for food.
- Oilzapper: Developed by TERI & partly supported by the DBT (Department of Biotechnology), the Oilzapper is essentially a cocktail of five different bacterial strains that are immobilized and mixed with a carrier material (powdered corncob). The Oilzapper feeds on hydrocarbon compounds present in crude oil and oily sludge (a hazardous hydrocarbon waste generated by oil refineries) and converts them into harmless CO2 and water.
Terms to know:
Why ISRO’s launch of Earth-watching satellite failed?
Source: Mint, India Express, The Hindu
What is the news?
Recently, ISRO’s attempt to put EOS-03 satellite using GSLV-F10 into the orbit failed.
What went wrong?
The upper stage, powered by a cryogenic engine fuelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen at very low temperatures, failed to ignite. The rocket lost the power to carry on & most likely fell off somewhere in the Andaman Sea.
This stage uses a cryogenic engine to generate thrust to reach the desired location in space.
- Cryogenic engine uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen which takes rocket into the orbit. It is more efficient than solid stage and liquid stage since it generates more thrust and higher specific impulse.
Challenges in cryogenic stage
Cryogenic stage is very challenging because it involves a very complex system.
- Maintenance of very low temperature: The fuel (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) needs to be kept at very low temperatures. The fuel is then pumped by using turbo pumps running at around 40000 rpm.
- Complex ground support system needed: It also requires complex ground support system, making Cryogenic stage a challenging procedure.
Note: GSLV Mk-II and GSLV Mk-III both uses cryogenic engine while GSLV Mk-III uses an indigenously-developed cryogenic engine in the upper stage.
- On future missions: Missions like Gaganyaan and Chandrayaan-3 will be launched on GSLV Mk-III, which is more advanced version of the GSLV rocket designed to carry much heavier payloads into space. The cryogenic engine used in GSLV Mk-III, called CE20, uses a different process to burn fuel which is simple and ISRO scientists have a much better grip on its technology. Therefore, it might not directly impact the schedule of Gaganyaan or Chandrayaan-2
- On NISAR mission– It is a collaboration between NASA and ISRO for a joint earth-observation satellite. It is the most important mission till date, involving the GSLV Mk-II rocket. The recent failure is a setback to this mission, and is likely to force a thorough investigation into the cryogenic stage of the GSLV Mk-II rocket.
Terms to know:
Common survey to count elephants and tigers
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
On World Elephant Day, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has announced that population estimation of elephants and tigers will be done together in 2022.
What is the present practice? Currently, the Tiger and Elephant Census are conducted separately:
All India Tiger Census:
- The All India Tiger Census is usually held once in Four Years.
- Conducted by: National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in collaboration with the State Forest Departments, Conservation NGOs and coordinated by the Wildlife Institute of India(WII).
- Method: The tigers are counted based on sightings in camera traps and indirect estimation methods.
- According to the most recent 2018-19 survey, there were 2,997 tigers in India.
- The Elephant Census is conducted once in five years.
- Method: It largely relies on States directly counting the number of elephants. In recent years, techniques such as analysing dung samples have also been deployed to estimate birth rates and population trends in elephants.
- According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India.
Why is the Tiger and Elephant Census being conducted together in 2022? It is being conducted together because:
- Firstly. To improve and harmonize the population estimation methods along more scientific lines in various states across India.
- Secondly, 90% of the area occupied by elephants and tigers is common. Hence, having a common survey can significantly save costs.
- IUCN Red List: Endangered
- CITES: Appendix I.
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
Note: More than 60% of the world’s elephant population is in India
Fourth edition of dragonfly census across Delhi-NCR
What is the News?
The Fourth Edition of the Dragonfly Census 2021 will start from Delhi-NCR.
DragonFly Census 2021:
- Conducted by: World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF-India) in partnership with Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS), United Nations Environment Programme, Zoological Survey of India and others.
- Aim: To spread awareness about the importance of the Dragonfly species to the overall ecosystem.
- First Census: The first Dragonfly census was carried out in 2018 which revealed a total of 51 different species of these insects in New Delhi and NCR.
- Dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata. They are most commonly found near freshwater habitats throughout most of the world.
- Significance: Dragonflies act as important bio-indicators of the ecological health of an area. As they feed on mosquitoes and other insects that are vectors to life-threatening diseases like Malaria and Dengue.
- Bioindicators are living organisms such as plants, plankton, animals and microbes which are used to assess the health of the natural ecosystem in the environment. For instance,
- Lichens are powerful Bioindicators of air quality.
- Algae blooms are often used to indicate large increases of nitrates and phosphates in lakes and rivers among others.
DPE brings out 60th annual Public Enterprises Survey 2019-20
What is the News?
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Ministry of Finance has released the Annual Public Enterprises Survey 2019-20.
Brief history of the Public Enterprises (PE) survey:
- The Estimates Committee in its 73rd Report (2nd Lok Sabha) in Financial Year 1959-60 recommended that there should be a detailed report highlighting the performance of CPSEs.
- The Bureau of Public Enterprises under the Ministry of Finance (now Department of Public Enterprises in the Ministry of Finance) drafted the first Public Enterprises Survey in the Financial Year 1960-61.
Public Enterprises Survey 2019-20
- The Public Enterprises Survey 2019-20 is the 60th publication in this series. It provides essential statistical data for all CPSEs from various perspectives.
- Sectors Covered: The Survey divides CPSEs into five sectors namely:
- Mining & Exploration
- Manufacturing, Processing & Generation
- Enterprises Under Construction.
Findings of the Survey:
- Out of the total 366 CPSEs as of March-end 2020, 256 were operational, 96 were under construction, and 14 were under liquidation.
- The net profit of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) has decreased by 34.6% year-on-year (YoY) in the financial year 2019-20 (FY20). This was mainly attributed to a sharp reduction in the profits of petroleum refiners.
India conducts first-ever naval combat exercise with Saudi Arabia
What is the News?
India and Saudi Arabia conducted their first-ever naval exercise named “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021” exercise.
Exercise Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021:
- Exercise Al-Mohed Al-Hindi is a bilateral naval exercise between India and Saudi Arabia.
- Purpose: The exercise will showcase the reflection of growing defence and military cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia.
- Features: The exercise comprises a number of shore and sea-based drills between the two navies. From the Indian side, INS Kochi participated in the exercise.
- INS Kochi is an indigenously designed and built Kolkata class stealth guided missile destroyer of the Indian Western Naval Fleet.
- Constructed by: The ship was constructed by the Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai.
No need for dedicated force to protect judges, courts: Government
What is the News?
The Government of India has told the Supreme Court that there is no need to create a dedicated security force to provide protection to judges. Instead, a special unit or branch should be formed within the state police for this purpose.
What is the issue?
- A petition was filed in the Supreme Court in 2019 seeking measures to improve the security conditions in court premises in view of instances of attacks that took place in many district courts and High Courts (HCs) in the last decade.
- The petitioner has asked for a special security force for the judiciary on the lines of the Railway Protection Force.
- The petitioner said that a special force for judiciary already exists in countries like Australia and the US. So the petitioner demanded the same should be done in India as the police force is not capable of providing foolproof security due to excessive workload.
What did the Supreme Court say?
- The Supreme Court told the Government of India to submit its response to this petition.
What was the Government of India’s Response?
- The Central Government has told the Supreme Court that there is no need to create a dedicated security force to provide protection to judges.
- It is the responsibility of the state governments to provide security, as ‘public order’ and ‘police’ come within their purview.
- Hence, a special unit or branch should be formed within the state police for this purpose.
- Moreover, the Central Government has framed guidelines and sent to all states/UTs on providing security to the judiciary. The guidelines said that there should be a specialised unit/branch within the state police to look after the security of judges/ courts.
NITI Aayog Releases Handbook to Guide EV Charging Infrastructure in India
What is the News?
NITI Aayog has released a report titled “The Handbook for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Implementation”.
Prepared by: NITI Aayog, Ministry of Power (MoP), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), and World Resources Institute (WRI) India.
- To guide state governments and local bodies to frame policies and norms towards setting up charging networks for electric vehicles (EV).
- To enhance charging infrastructure and facilitate a rapid transition to electric mobility in the country.
Key Findings of the report:
Electric Vehicles Charging Station:
- Electric Vehicles(EV) Charging is a piece of equipment that supplies electrical power for charging plug-in electric vehicles.
- The Central Nodal Agency for the establishment of Charging Infrastructure for EVs in India is the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).
The target for Electric Vehicles(EV) Charging:
- Ministry of Power(MoP) has set a national target of having at least one charging station for every 3*3 grid, or for every 25 km on a highway.
Approach towards Electric Vehicles Charging:
- Discoms to play a pivotal role: EV charging is a new type of power demand for discoms. Hence,discoms will play a pivotal role in providing a seamless power supply for charging facilities.
- Planning of EV charging networks requires a distinct approach: Electric vehicles can be charged at any location, provided charging points are available. But this requires a distinct approach. Local authorities need to set targets for the required scale of public charging infrastructure and ensure that it is covered in planning processes.
Fill consumer disputes panel vacancies in eight weeks: SC
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has given the Centre and the States eight weeks to fill the vacancies in the consumer disputes redressal commissions.
What is the issue?
- The court was hearing a suo motu case on inaction in appointing president and members/staff of Districts and State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and inadequate infrastructure across India.
- It highlighted that vacancies are hurting consumers by delaying the redressal of disputes. Hence, it has directed Central and State Governments to fill up the vacancies within 8 weeks.
- Moreover, the court has also asked the Central Government to conduct a comprehensive “legislative impact study” on the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Click Here to Read about Consumer Protection Act,2019
- National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC) is a quasi-judicial commission that was set up in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. Its head office is in New Delhi.
- The commission is headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.
About Legislative impact assessment:
Legislative impact assessment is an informed law-making process under which social, economic, environmental and institutional impacts of legislative proposals are made.