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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 11th November 2021

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  • November 11, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Policies and interventions

Context The Union Cabinet has restored the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) that was suspended in April 2020 during the remaining part of Financial Year 2021-22 and to continue MPLADS up to 2025-26, co-terminus with the period of 15th Finance Commission.

  • Currently, It is a partial rollback. The MPs will get Rs. 2 crore instead of the annual approved Rs. 5 crore.
  • Criticism of suspension: Opposition leaders had pointed out that the Government so far has not given a record of how it spent the savings from suspending the scheme for a year.

Impact

  • Will restart the community developmental projects / works in the field which are halted / stopped due to lack of funds under MPLADS.
  • Will restart fulfilling the aspirations and developmental requirements of the local community and creation of durable assets, which is the primary objective of the MPLADS.
  • Help in reviving the local economy.

What is MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) Scheme or Sansad Nidhi Yojana?

  • It is a central sector scheme for MPs to recommend works of developmental nature in their constituencies
  • It was launched in December, 1993
  • The emphasis is on creating durable community assets based on locally felt needs.
  • Parent Body/Ministry: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) 
  • The funds – Rs. 5 crore/annum/MP – under the scheme are non-lapsable.
  • Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.
  • MPs have only recommendatory role and the district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works, select the implementing agencies and monitor it.

Incentives for sugar cane, cotton, jute farmers

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Economy

Context The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a slew of measures that will support farmers growing sugar cane, cotton and jute.

Key takeaways 

  • The CCEA increased the price of ethanol extracted from sugar cane juice for blending in petrol. Ethanol blending with petrol is expected to reach 10% next year and 20% by 2025.
  • The rate for ethanol extracted from C-heavy molasses has also been increased.
  • Oil marketing companies buy ethanol from sugar mills and distilleries at the rate set by the Government.
  • Implication of the hike:. The rate hike is expected to reduce pending arrears  of the mills in payment to sugar cane farmers.
    • The ethanol blending programme also reduced the dependence on crude oil imports.

Price support to CCI

  • The CCEA also approved a committed price support of Rs. 17,408.85 crore to the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) as reimbursement for its losses in procuring crops from farmers at minimum support prices (MSP) over the past seven years.
  • Function of CCI: The CCI is mandated to procure all Fair Average Quality grade cotton from farmers without any quantitative ceiling, as and when prices follow below the MSP rates set by the Centre, in a bid to protect farmers from distress sales. 
    • Over the last two seasons during the pandemic, the CCI procured a third of the country’s cotton production, paying 40 lakh farmers more than Rs. 55,000 crore.

Reservation norms for Jute in packaging

  • The CCEA also approved reservation norms for the mandatory use of jute in packaging this year, stipulating that 100% of foodgrains and 20% of sugar must compulsorily be packed in jute bags. 
  • Such reservation consumed two-thirds of the total raw jute production last year. 
  • Support to farmers: As the Centre itself purchases jute sacking bags worth approximately Rs. 8,000 crore a year to pack grains, it also ensures a guaranteed market for the produce of 40 lakh jute farmers, mostly in eastern India, and supports 3.7 lakh jute mill workers, largely in West Bengal.

Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations and GS-III – Defence and security

Context As part of efforts for co-production and co-development of defence equipment under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), India and the U.S. agreed on a revised Statement of Intent (SOI) to strengthen the dialogue by “pursuing detailed planning and making measurable progress” on several specific projects.

What is the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)?

  • Created in 2012, under the Obama administration. 
  • Aim: To enhance cooperation between India and the USA in the defence production and trade sectors by overcoming impediments due to “unique national bureaucratic structures, acquisition models, and budget processes.
  • It involves bilateral dialogues and engagements between senior-level representatives from India and the US.

Four Joint Working Groups 

  • Four Joint Working Groups focused on land, naval, air and aircraft carrier technologies had been established under the DTTI to promote mutually agreed projects.
  • The two sides recently signed the first project agreement for Air-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle under the Joint Working Group Air Systems.

Defence Industry Collaboration Forum

  • A virtual expo of the Defence Industry Collaboration Forum was also conducted
  • This forum offers an opportunity for Indian and U.S. industries to be directly involved in DTTI and facilitates dialogue between government and industry on issues that impact industrial collaboration.

Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) 2021: Closing remarks

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Defence and security

Context The Navy demonstrated its submarine rescue capability, available with very few countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), to delegations of Indian Ocean countries during the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) 2021.

Closing remarks at GMC

  • Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral proposed “four guiding principles for the future editions: 
    • iterative and incremental gains, 
    • harnessing complementarities, 
    • synchronisation and focussed operations, 
    • upskilling and upscaling the existing capabilities.

Common Maritime Priorities

  • India and 12 other nations have adopted a declaration on “Common Maritime Priorities” that will include surveillance, patrolling and common goals of ensuring safe seas.

MoU between India and Singapore

  • India and Singapore have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to exchange practices on submarine rescue and discussions were on with more countries to have arrangements for them to utilise this mechanism.

Deep-submergence rescue vehicle

  • The Navy has procured two DSRVs from the U.K., of which the first one was operationalised at the end of 2018 in Mumbai and the second at Visakhapatnam in early 2019.
  • The system can go to a maximum depth of 650 metres and rescue 14 people in one go.
  • The DSRVs are designed to be agile and easily transportable to far-off places
  • The DSRV, attached to mother ship INS Sabarmati, could be transported by heavy transport aircraft like IL-76 and C-17

(News from PIB)


E-Amrit Portal on EVs

Part of: Prelims 

In News: India today launched ‘E-Amrit’, a web portal on electric vehicles (EVs), at the ongoing COP26 Summit in Glasgow, UK.

  • E-Amrit is a one-stop destination for all information on electric vehicles—busting myths around the adoption of EVs, their purchase, investment opportunities, policies, subsidies, etc.
  • E-Amrit intends to complement initiatives of the government on raising awareness on EVs and sensitizing consumers on the benefits of switching to electric vehicles. 

Background

  • In the recent past, India has taken many initiatives to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport and adoption of electric mobility in the country. 
  • Schemes such as FAME and PLI are especially important in creating an ecosystem for the early adoption of EVs.
  • NITI Aayog intends to add more features and introduce innovative tools to make the portal more interactive and user-friendly.
  • The portal has been developed and hosted by NITI Aayog under a collaborative knowledge exchange programme with the UK government and as part of the UK–India Joint Roadmap 2030, signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries.

News Source: PIB


Nutrition Smart Village

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Government policies

In News: Government has launched a Nutrition Smart Village program.

Aims to reach out to 75 villages across India through the network of All India Coordinated Research Project on Women in Agriculture (AICRP-WIA) which is in operation at 13 centres in 12 States of India to strengthen the Poshan AbhiyanMalnutrition free villages

  • Promoting nutritional awareness, education and behavioural change in rural areas involving farm women and school children, 
  • Harnessing traditional knowledge through the local recipe to overcome malnutrition
  • Implementing nutrition-sensitive agriculture through homestead agriculture and Nutri-garden
  • Awareness among the women farmers will also be created about their legal rights in all walks of life.

News Source: PIB


Miscellaneous

101st member country of the International Solar Alliance: The United States of America

Janjatiya Gaurav Divas: 15th November, the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Birsa Munda

  • Revered as Bhagwan by tribal communities across the country. 
  • Birsa Munda fought bravely against the country against the exploitative system of the British colonial system and spearheaded movement against British oppression giving a call for ‘Ulgulan’ (Revolution). 
  • The declaration acknowledges the glorious history and cultural heritage of tribal communities. 
  • The day will be celebrated every year and would recognize the efforts of the tribals for preservation of cultural heritage and promotion of Indian values of valour, hospitality and national pride.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 

Demonetisation: Narratives & Failure

Context: Popular narratives play a much bigger role in economic policymaking

Popular Narratives & Economic Policies

  • Narratives are often intertwined in the cultural belief systems of the society. They create myths which endure despite rational appeal to facts.
  • Thus, the Great Depression of the 1930s came to be associated with the excesses of the “roaring twenties”, though many economic factors were responsible. 
  • The Weimar hyperinflation of 1921-24 is so deeply embedded in the German consciousness, that even now, nearly 100 years after the event, German society treasures financial stability and distrusts public debt. 
  • Fiscal conservatism remains the dominant narrative and has inhibited the post-2008 recovery in Europe.

Demonetisation & Popular Narrative

The demonetisation of high-value currency in India in 2016 is a classic case of policy based on faulty narratives. 

  • The demonetisation story in India is based on popular myth that ill-gotten wealth is stored in stacks of currency notes and gold, hoarded in safes, boxes, or concealed cupboards. The dramatic action of demonetisation was considered powerful blow against this wealth because it was believed that this money was now rendered useless.
  • Such an action on black money was deeply satisfying psychologically as the narrative of black money is almost always in deeply moral terms. 
  • The narrative ignores the fact black money is not really kept in cash except in small quantities but mostly accumulated through real estate and other assets.
    • Although income from corruption or criminal activities is by definition black money, most black money is earned through perfectly legal activities though not declared to the tax authorities.
  • Also, the narrative included that such a measure will solve terrorism by stopping terror financing (old notes no more valid & terrorists cannot exchange it)
  • The way the narrative was framed made it hard for critics to explain their opposition. To denounce it outright would suggest that they have a vested interest in defending black money and corruption.
  • The narrative started to change the focus from black money and fake currency to digital/cashless payments, as time passes and it was realised that it was a failure. 
  • Appeals to nationalism and patriotism was also invoked to sustain the narrative.
  • The act (of demonetisation) was considered as an act of collective sacrifice. The people in long queues were reminded of the sacrifices of the soldiers guarding the nation’s borders and not to think of their own suffering.
  • The moral high ground claimed by the demonetisation narrative overshadowed the economic criticism of the policy and the observed reality.
  • Paradoxically, the failure of demonetisation policy does not appear to alter the narrative and, consequently, there is very little price to pay for its failure

Why is demonetisation considered as failure?

  • Demonetisation was done on two previous occasions, in 1946 and 1978, with poor results. But, unlike the limited impact of the previous events, the demonetisation in 2016 caused widespread disruption in the economy. 
  • Very little of 2016 demonetisation’s declared objectives — of eliminating black money, corruption, moving towards a “less cash and more digital economy”, or increased tax compliance — were achieved
  • Expectations of windfall gains of some ₹2 trillion-3 trillion failed to materialise as more than 99.3% of the cancelled notes returned to the banks. 
    • According to RBI report, after verification and reconciliation, the total value of the ₹ 500 and ₹,1000 as on November 8, 2016,  the day before note ban came into effect, was R₹15,417.93 lakh crore. The total value of the such notes returned from circulation was ₹15,310.73 lakh crore by August 2018.
  • If black money had existed as stockpiles of illegal cash, clearly all of it was very efficiently laundered.
  • By every measure, demonetisation as economic policy was a gross failure. But, as a narrative, it succeeded in creating a favourable or positive view of the policy. 
  • Despite personal hardship, long queues, and the loss of income and savings, there was a degree of ambiguity in criticising the decision. 
  • Most tended to distinguish the intention from the reality. That the policy was good but perhaps not implemented well seemed to be the main theme. 

Conclusion

  • It is clear that where narratives succeed there is very little political cost. A failed policy that carries no cost is likely to generate more such policies. 

Connecting the dots:


FEDERALISM/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues with Federalism
  • GS-2: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. 

General consent for CBI

Context: The Supreme Court this week expressed concern over a submission by the CBI that since 2018, around 150 requests for sanction to investigate have been pending with eight state governments that have withdrawn general consent to the agency.

What is general consent?

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by The NIA Act, 2008, has jurisdiction across the country. But the CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.
  • The consent of the state government can be either case-specific or general.
  • A “general consent” is normally given by states to help the CBI in seamless investigation of cases of corruption against central government employees in their states. 
  • Almost all states have traditionally given such consent, in the absence of which the CBI would have to apply to the state government in every case, and before taking even small actions.

Which states have withdrawn general consent, and why?

  • Eight states have currently withdrawn consent to the CBI: Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Mizoram. All except Mizoram are ruled by the opposition.
  • At the time of withdrawing consent, all states alleged that the central government was using the CBI to unfairly target the opposition.
    • After the 2018 amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Centre has come to exercise power over the CBI not just administratively, but also legally.
    • The amendments made it mandatory for the CBI to seek the Centre’s permission before registering a case of corruption against any government servant.
    • The 2018 amendment virtually means the agency can investigate only the officers that the government of the day wants investigated. 
    • In fact, corruption cases registered by the CBI dropped by over 40 per cent between 2017 and 2019.
  • It is not that states started denying consent only after the present government came to power. States, including Sikkim, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, have done this throughout the history of the agency. It is not a new phenomenon.

What does the withdrawal of general consent mean?

  • It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving officials of the central government or a private person in the state without the consent of the state government.
  • With consent, CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.
  • Calcutta High Court recently ruled in a case of illegal coal mining and cattle smuggling being investigated by the CBI, that the central agency cannot be stopped from probing an employee of the central government in another state. The order has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
  • In Vinay Mishra vs the CBI, Calcutta HC ruled in July 2021, that corruption cases must be treated equally across the country, and a central government employee could not be “distinguished” just because his office was located in a state that had withdrawn general consent.
  • The HC also said that withdrawal of consent would apply in cases where only employees of the state government were involved.

So where does the CBI currently stand in these eight states?

  • The agency can use the Calcutta HC order to its advantage until it is — if it is — struck down by the Supreme Court.
  • Even otherwise, the withdrawal of consent did not make the CBI defunct in a state — it retained the power to investigate cases that had been registered before consent was withdrawn.
  • Also, a case registered anywhere else in the country, which involved individuals stationed in these states, allowed the CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.
  • There is ambiguity on whether the CBI can carry out a search in connection with an old case without the consent of the state. But the agency has the option to get a warrant from a local court in the state and conduct the search.
  • In case the search requires an element of surprise, Section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) can be used, which allows a police officer of one jurisdiction to ask an officer of another to carry out a search on their behalf.
  • And should the first officer feel that a search carried out by the latter may lead to loss of evidence, the section allows the first officer to conduct the search himself after giving notice to the latter.
  • Finally, consent does not apply in cases where someone has been caught red-handed taking a bribe.

But what about fresh cases?

  • Again, the CBI could use the Calcutta HC order to register a fresh case in any state. Alternatively, it could file a case in Delhi and continue to investigate people inside these states.
  • In an order passed on October 11, 2018, Delhi High Court ruled that the agency could probe anyone in a state that has withdrawn general consent, if the case was not registered in that state
  • In sum, avenues remain available to the CBI to proceed even without consent. The CBI could register cases in Delhi if some part of the offence is connected with Delhi, and still arrest and prosecute individuals in these states.

Can you answer this question now?

What are the various constitutional and statutory bodies constituted to address corruption in public life? How effective have these bodies been? Examine.


(ORF: Expert Speak)


Nov 10: India’s COP26 pledges: Ambitious, but ambiguous

https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/indias-cop26-pledges-ambitious-but-ambiguous/

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Climate Change

Context: India’s COP26 pledges are commendable, but will they be feasible in the long run?

India has surprised observers within and outside India with the following ambitious and what at this point appear to be unconditional pledges on India’s decarburization at COP26:

  1. Increase non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW (gigawatts) by 2030.
  2. Meet 50 percent of energy requirements from renewable energy (RE) by 2030.
  3. Reduce the total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes (BT) by 2030.
  4. Reduce the carbon intensity of the economy by less than 45 percent.
  5. Achieve net zero carbon by 2070.

Many environmentalists hailed these five pledges (“Panchamrit”) 

  • It is expected to put India on a firm path towards decarbonisation
  • For commercial entities betting on green investments to pay-off handsomely, the announcements offer the comfort of certainty that government policy will protect their returns. 

Ambiguities

  1. Increase non-fossil energy (electricity?) capacity to 500 GW (gigawatts) by 2030: The term energy is used in the translation of the PM’s speech, but it is very likely that the reference was made to electricity. This pledge is probably linked to the existing pledge to increase RE installed capacity for power generation to 450 GW by 2030. If so, India has pledged to more than triple current non-fossil fuel capacity of about 154 GW to 500 GW in the next 9 years.
  2. Meet 50 percent of energy (electrical?) requirements from renewable energy (RE) by 2030: This pledge is difficult to interpret but again if the reference is to electricity rather than primary energy, then India must increase the consumption of RE (currently about 10 percent of power generation) by five times in the next nine years to meet this goal. If the reference is to primary energy, then the challenge is almost unachievable because the current share of RE in primary energy consumption is less than 2 percent.
  3. Reduce the total projected carbon emissions (in the business-as-usual scenario for 2030?) by 1 BT by 2030: This is a radical pledge as it promises an absolute reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030.  CO2 emission from India is expected to increase from about 3 BT to about 2.9 BT by 2030 under current policies.  If India were to reduce this by 1 BT, India will effectively return to CO2 emissions in 2007.  This would mean a reduction in overall energy consumption or a spectacular increase in consumption of RE.  
  4. Reduce the carbon intensity of the economy by less (at least?) than 45 percent (compared to carbon intensity in 2005?): This is probably the least ambiguous of the five pledges made. One of India’s ongoing NDC commitment is to reduce India’s CO2 intensity by 33-35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. According to government statements, India’s CO2 intensity has fallen by 28 percent compared to 2005 levels in 2020.  If the drivers behind India’s reduction in COemissions in the last three decades such as the shift towards less energy intensive service sector, shift in household cooking fuel from inefficient biomass to efficient petroleum and natural gas-based fuels, increase in industrial energy efficiency continue, India can achieve this goal.  However, if India’s current industrial policy that is oriented towards increasing domestic manufacturing succeeds, meeting this goal will also become somewhat difficult. Manufacturing is energy intensive and consequently also carbon intensive.
  5. Achieve net zero carbon by 2070: This is probably the only pledge that was expected from India at COP26 because many top CO2 emitters, especially China and the USA the largest and second largest emitter of CO2 have made net zero pledges (China by 2060 and USA by 2050).

Issues

  • India committing to “net-zero” at COP26 was unavoidable from a geo-political perspective but the offer of far more radical pledges with no “quid pro quo” is puzzling.  The quick answer is probably that it is in India’s interest to protect itself against the impact of climate change by limiting carbon emissions deeply and quickly. But climate change is a global commons problem and unless all large polluting nations reciprocate with radical pledges to limit carbon emissions, the climate will change for the worse. Ideally, India’s pledges should have been hedged with the condition that other large polluters achieve net zero before 2050 and make the necessary funds available to India.
  • A complete switch from coal to natural gas will pose serious economic challenges to India as imported natural gas is the most expensive fuel (for power generation) at the margin. Imported gas will also mean geo-political and external trade related risks to India’s energy security.

India’s COP26 pledges are ambitious and ambiguous, and hopefully also aspirational (non-binding), in which case there is nothing wrong in aiming high.

NOTE: Net Zero –

  • The idea of “net zero” was promoted in a 2018 special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which demanded that countries bring greenhouse gas emissions to “net-zero” by 2050 to keep global warming to within 1.5 °C of pre-industrial levels. 
  • Though net-zero was the universal language for policymakers’ intent on sealing a deal at COP26, net zero is also seen as the means to perpetuate a belief in technological salvation to diminish the sense of urgency over climate calamity. 
  • As the concept of “net zero” has built-in ambiguities, it was the safest promise a country or company could make.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. India’s COP26 pledges are commendable, but will they be feasible in the long run? Discuss. 
  2. What are the reasons behind the crisis that the Indian coal sector is undergoing? Examine. 

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1 Which of the following is incorrect about MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) Scheme or Sansad Nidhi Yojana?

  1. It is a central sector scheme for MPs to recommend works of developmental nature in their constituencies
  2. It was launched in 2020 to give employment to people who had migrated back to their states
  3. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) is the parent body for the scheme
  4. Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.

Q.2 Consider the following statements:

  1. The CCI is mandated to procure all Fair Average Quality grade cotton from farmers without any quantitative ceiling, as and when prices follow below the MSP rates set by the Centre, 
  2. The CCEA has mandated that 100% of foodgrains and 20% of sugar must compulsorily be packed in jute bags. 
  3. Ethanol blending in petrol is being encouraged by India As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

Q.3 Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) is established between India and which of the following countries?

  1. China
  2. Israel
  3. USA
  4. Russia

ANSWERS FOR 10th Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 C
3 B

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