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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 29th July 2019

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  • July 29, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 29th July 2019

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


RCEP negotiations

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS- II – International Relations

In News:

  • Australia is leading a negotiation team of RCEP countries so as to convince India to commit to the deal (Free Trade Agreement) by this year end.

About RCEP:

  • Regional Comprehensive Cooperation agreement – is a proposed free trade agreement between 10 members of ASEAN and its five FTA partners (China, India, Australia, Japan, New Zealand)
  • RCEP negotiation was formally launched in 2012, whose member states together account for 3.4 billion people and approximately 40% of world’s GDP.

Do you know?

Members of Indian Industry are resisting RCEP due to following concerns 

  • Flooding of the market with Chinese goods impacting domestic manufacturers
  • Lack of access to Indian services in the RCEP countries (Services is India’s strong area and has huge potential to tap into RCEP market)

Cyber security – Agent Smith

Part of: Mains GS III- Challenges to internal security through communication networks

In News:

  • Agent Smith is the latest malware to creep into android phones.
  • This malware can replace apps on android phones with malicious versions without the user’s knowledge.
  • As of now Agent Smith is only infiltrating mobile phones with the intention of throwing up advertisements (sudden rise) for other apps.
  • However, once the malware has control over a cell phone, it can do anything, including stealing banking details or other sensitive data, liable to its misuse.
  • It is estimated to have already impacted 25 million devices, Indian constituting nearly 60% of them.
  • Users are thus advised against downloading third party apps and keep their operating system updated.

Railway reforms

Part of: Mains GS III- Infrastructure: Railways

In News

  • Government is contemplating to start import of complete train sets from foreign suppliers if they agreed to establish the coach manufacturing facility in India.
  • Railways would evolve standard eligibility criteria for propulsion systems as was done by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs that operates the Metro Railway.

Do You Know?

  • Centre plans to corporatize production units of Indian railways like – Integral Coach Factory in Chennai (Largest such facility in the world) , Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli, and Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala.
  • Corporatization is the process of transforming government assets into corporations.
  • In this case, the production units of Indian Railways will be converted into government-owned company
  • Advantages of corporatization: Managerial autonomy, superior operational efficiency, attract investments, bring in start-of-the-art technology and export capability
  • Opposition to Corporatization: Opposition by trade unions due to increased vulnerability of their jobs, considered as first step of privatization which would increase cost for consumers

Himalayan conclave at Mussorie

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS II-  issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

In News

  • Himalayan states gathered together and made the following demands to the centre
    • A separate Union ministry to deal with problems endemic to them
    • A green bonus in recognition of their contribution to environment conservation.
  • Rationale behind such demands
    • Most of the country’s rivers originate in the Himalayan states and thus they have to play significant role in water conservation efforts
    • Also large part of their land fell into eco-sensitive zones where developmental activities are severely restricted
    • A green bonus is thus needed to compensation for their disadvantages

Do You Know?

  • 11 Himalayan states of India are – Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakahand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagalaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur
  • Ministry of Jal Shakti was formed in May 2019 so as to holistically resolve water crisis
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) to be started from September 2019 is a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign.
  • JSA will focus on five aspects – 
    • Water conservation and rainwater harvesting
    • Renovation of traditional and other water bodies
    • Reuse of water and recharging of structures
    • watershed development, and
    • Intensive afforestation

Hurdles in Colistin ban

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS III-  Economics of animal-rearing. 

In News

  • Kerala is gearing to implement the Union Ministry’s ban on Colistin and its formulations, for food producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements.
  • However, the actual implementation of the ban is fraught with challenges due to lack of any control on the imports of Colistin from China

Do you know?

  • Colistin is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves lives in critical care units. 
  • Off-late there has been rise in patients who have exhibited resistance to this drug (ineffective against pathogens)
  • Colistin is highly misused in poultry industry as a growth promoter which is one of reason for increasing antibiotic resistance in India
  • The poultry market in increasing in India due to poultry integration, a kind of contract farming wherein integrators supply chicks, feed, veterinary aid, medication and other  inputs to farmers and then buy back the birds after five weeks.

(MAINS FOCUS)


SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Awareness in the fields of IT
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Ban or regulate crypto currency?

Context

  • An inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that was set up to assess the viability of virtual currencies has recommended that India should ban private crypto currencies such as Bitcoin. 

Concerns:

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government doesn’t consider them legal tender. 
  • The Reserve Bank of India has repeatedly warned the public of the risks associated with dealing with cryptocurrencies. 
  • There have been cases of consumers being defrauded, including in India.

What are virtual currencies?

  • A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as
    • a medium of exchange, and/ or
    • a unit of account, and/or 
    • a store of value, 
  • But, unlike fiat currency like the rupee, it is not legal tender and does not have the backing of a government.
  • A cryptocurrency is a subset of virtual currencies, and is decentralised, and protected by cryptography.
  • There are block chains which are online registers and through these online registers, people can actually buy these currencies and mine the currencies and use them as instrument of exchange. There are about 9-10 crypto currencies in the world right now. 
  • Bitcoins is the largest cryptocurrency in the world because they are computer generated currencies and the codes are completely secret, so nobody masters it.
  • Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, Ethereum, PPcoin, Dogecoin, Coinye, Namecoin etc. are some of the examples of cryptocurrencies.

Important terms related to cryptocurrency:

Distributed Ledger Technologies

  • DLT refers to technologies that involve the use of independent computers (also referred to as nodes) to record, share, and synchronise transactions in their respective electronic ledgers. All virtual currencies use DLT.

Blockchain technology

  • It is a specific kind of DLT that came to prominence after Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that used it, became popular.
  • Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin use codes to encrypt transactions and stack them up in blocks, creating Blockchains. 
  • It is the use of codes that differentiates cryptocurrencies from other virtual currencies

Transactions

  • A transfer of funds between two digital wallets is called a transaction. That transaction gets submitted to a public ledger and awaits confirmation.

Mining

  • In simple terms, mining is the process of confirming transactions and adding them to a public ledger. In order to add a transaction to the ledger, the “miner” must solve an increasingly-complex computational problem (like a mathematical puzzle).

Benefits of cryptocurrencies

  • Ownership: Cryptocurrencies hold the promise of making it easier to transfer funds directly between two parties in a transaction, without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or credit card company
  • Low transaction fee: Fund transfers are done with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by most banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.
  • Identity Protection: Paying with credit/debit cards requires submitting sensitive banking information that could be stolen or compromised. Cryptocurrency can be sent directly to a recipient without any information other than total amount you want to send.
  • Risk-free for sellers: Payments using Cryptocurrency can’t be reversed, which means merchants don’t have to worry about stopped payments. The blockchain makes it difficult for you to be defrauded.

Demerits of Cryptocurrency

  • Accessibility: Since cryptocurrency mining and transactions can only happen on network, illiterate people will find it difficult to understand the working mechanism. Also rural areas that do not have access to internet will not be able to perform cryptocurrency transactions.
  • Threat of hacking: using bitcoins, providing a data structure for this ledger that is exposed to a limited threat from hackers and can be copied across all computers running Bitcoin software
  • Volatility: Cryptocurrency exchange rates can vary greatly, which means the amount you pay or receive one day could be wildly different next day.

What is the IMC’s view on DLT and cryptocurrencies?

The first thing to understand is that the IMC recognises the potential of DLT and Blockchain. 

  • The IMC accepts that internationally, the application of DLT is being explored in the areas of trade finance, mortgage loan applications, digital identity management or KYC requirements, cross-border fund transfers and clearing and settlement systems. 
  • To that extent, it recommends the Department of Economic Affairs (within the Finance Ministry) to take necessary measures to facilitate the use of DLT in the entire financial field after identifying its uses. 
  • The IMC also recommends that regulators — RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA, and IBBI — explore evolving appropriate regulations for development of DLT in their respective areas.
  • The IMC’s view is that it “would be advisable to have an open mind regarding the introduction of an official digital currency in India”. 
  • It noted that the RBI Act has the enabling provisions to permit the central government to approve a “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) as legal tender in India.

Second, scaling up such a currency system over a large population would require crippling levels of energy resources. Currencies such as Bitcoin require humongous processing power. 

  • According to a report by the Bank of International Settlement, Bitcoin processing already uses as much energy as is used by Switzerland; it called this an environmental disaster.

Third, the IMC is worried that if private cryptocurrencies are allowed to function as legal tender, the RBI would lose control over the monetary policy and financial stability, as it would not be able to keep a tab on the money supply in the economy

Fourth, the anonymity of private digital currencies make them vulnerable to money laundering and use in terrorist financing activities while making law enforcement difficult.

Fifth, there is no grievance redressal mechanism in such a system, as all transactions are irreversible.

The inter-ministerial committee believes it is, going so far as to draft a law that mandates a fine and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the offences of mining, generating, holding, selling, dealing in, transferring, disposing of, or issuing cryptocurrencies.

Conclusion:

  • An outright ban on cryptocurrency may not be a good idea. If new currency is popular, it would be wise to take note of it, accept the advent of technology, recognize the rise in popularity of cryptocurrency and then introduce safeguard, measures and regulatory structure by which people do not feel that they should have something to fall back on.
  • The government will see opportunities for revenues as large number of people have made gains through cryptocurrency.

Connecting the dots:

  • Cryptocurrencies are bound to fail as a medium of exchange for its speculative nature and digital existence. Comment.
  • What are crytpocurrencies ? what are the risks associated with crytptocurrency?Discuss India’s stand on cryptocurrencies.

SECURITY/BORDER MANAGEMENT

TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas

Army’s first Integrated Battle Groups

Context:

  • The new concept of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) which the Army plans to create as part of overall force transformation is close to implementation,

More about Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs):

  • IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations, which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.
  • IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three T s.
  • The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive. 
    • While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes
    • Defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.
  • The concept of IBGs has already been test-bedded by 9 Corps. 
  • They will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hrs based on the location
  • They need to be light so they will be low on logistics,
  • A command is the largest static formation of the Army spread across a defined geography, a corps is the largest mobile formation. Typically each corps has about three brigades. 
  • The idea is to reorganise them into IBGs which are brigade-sized units but have all the essential elements like infantry, armoured, artillery and air defence embedded together based on the three Ts
  • An IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from an IBG operating in the mountains.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat has initiated four major studies to undertake overall transformation of the force.

Aim: The aim is holistic integration to enhance the operational and functional efficiency, optimise budget expenditure, facilitate force modernisation and address aspirations.

  1. Restructuring of Army Headquarters
  2. Force restructuring which includes creation of Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)
  3. The cadre review of officers and 
  4. Review of the terms and conditions of Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks

Conclusion

  • The overall transformation will also see a reduction in the size of the 1.3 million Army
  • After the Parliament attack, the Indian military undertook massive mobilisation but the formations which were deep inside took weeks to mobilise losing the element of surprise.
  • IBG Groups to be structured by end of next month

Connecting the dots:

  • What in your opinion should be the selection principle in critical organisations like defence? Critically evaluate.
  • Do you think that the Integrated battle groups serves the purpose in overall transformation of the force. Critically analyse.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) Which of the following countries are part to RCEP negotiations

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. China
  2. USA 
  3. Japan
  4. Singapore
  5. South Korea

Select the correct answer from the codes given below

  1. 1,2 and 3 only
  2. 1,2,3 and 4 only
  3. 1,3,4 and 5 only
  4. 1,3 and 4 only

Q.2) Agent Smith recently seen in news is related to which of the following?

  1. Espionage
  2. Humanoid robot
  3. Mobile malware
  4. AI application for Crime reporting

Q.3) Which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Integral Coach Factory in Chennai is the largest coach making facility in the world
  2. Metro Railway comes under Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

Select the correct answer from the codes given below

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.4) Arrange the following cities from South to North?

  1. Chennai
  2. Rae Bareli
  3. Varanasi
  4. Kapurthala
  5. Patiala

Select the correct answer from the codes given below

  1. 1-2-3-4-5
  2. 1-3-2-4-5
  3. 1-3-2-5-4
  4. 1-2-3-5-4

Q.5) Which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Ministry of Jal Shakti was formed by merging Ministry of Water resources, River development and Ganga rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking water and sanitation
  2. Water is under the concurrent list of Indian Constitution

Select the correct answer from the codes given below

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

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