IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Policies and interventions
Context The central government has decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) until March 2022.
What is Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana?
- Forms a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat to supply free food grains to migrants and the poor.
- 5 kg free wheat/rice per person / month along with 1 kg free whole chana to each family per month.
- Wheat has been allocated to 6 States/UTs, – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi and Gujarat.
- Rice has been provided to the remaining States/UTs.
- This is over and above the regular monthly entitlements under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).
- Beneficiaries include Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Household (PHH) cardholders.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5
Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health
Context National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5 was recently released.
- It has captured population health indicators in 2017-19.
Key findings of the survey
- Institutional births: Births in institutional facilities, such as a hospital, improved by nearly 8 percentage points.
- Stunted growth: Stunted Children or showing signs of wasting only dropped by a maximum of 3 percentage points.
- Total Fertility Rate (TFR): It has reduced to 2.0 from 2.2 (NFHS-4).
- According to the United Nations Population Division, a TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility.
- If this fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself.
- Contraceptives: Use of contraceptives improved from 53.5% to 66.7%
- Sterilisation: An increase in female sterilisation. Continued stagnation in male sterilisation uptake.
- It shows that the onus of family planning still lies with women.
- Full vaccination: Fully vaccinated Proportion of children (12-23 months) improved from 62%-76%.
- Exclusive breastfeeding: Improvement In Children under six months who were exclusively breastfed from 54.9% to 63.7%.
- Nutritional gains: Minimal improvement in children.
- Gains in women and men (15-49) with below normal BMI dropped roughly four percentage points.
- Those with higher BMI than normal increased by around 4 percentage points.
- Abnormal BMIs are linked to an increase in obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCD)
- Anaemia: The proportion of anaemic children (6-59 months) increased from 58% to 67%.
- Anaemic Women (15-49 years) increased from 53% to 57%.
- Anaemic Men of the same age increased from 29% to 31%.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International relations and GS-III – Mineral exploration
Context Chinese companies have begun “on-site inspections” of possible projects to tap lithium deposits in Afghanistan.
- Afghanistan also has significant reserves of copper, gold, gemstones, beryllium, iron ore, marble, oil & gas, and rare earth elements.
- Recent estimates suggest the worth of untapped minerals could be as high as $3 trillion.
- A 2010 US study revealed that Afghanistan could have among the world’s largest deposits of lithium.
- Lithium is considered key to global agenda of switching to electric vehicles
- Uses: Rechargeable batteries
- ceramics and glass
- Lubricating greases
- Polymer production
- Lithium consumption for batteries has increased significantly in recent years
- The world has an identified lithium reserves of 80 million tonnes.
- Countries with Highest deposits: Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and USA.
Israel and Morocco ink defence pact
Part of: Prelims and GS-II- International Relations
Context Israel and Morocco signed a landmark agreement that lays the foundation for security cooperation, intelligence sharing and future arms sales.
- Morocco established formal relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.
- Morocco, UAE, Bahrain and Sudan signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the Trump administration.
- The northwesternmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa.
- It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west
About Abraham Accords
- A joint statement between Israel, UAE, and USA, reached on August 13, 2020.
- The term was also used to refer collectively to agreements between Israel, UAE and Bahrain.
Full-stack ‘digital banks’
Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Economy
Context NITI Aayog recently proposed setting up of full-stack ‘digital banks’.
- Such banks would principally rely on the Internet and other immediate channels to offer their services and not physical branches.
- The proposal was made to mitigate the financial deepening challenges being faced in the country.
- Such Digital banks will issue deposits, make loans and offer the full suite of services that the Banking Regulation Act empowers them to.
(News from PIB)
Light-touch regulation of PM-WANI framework
Part of: Prelims
In News: Light-touch regulation of PM-WANI framework will encourage entrepreneurs to set up public wifi hotspots and generate additional revenue.
- Launched by: Department of Telecommunications
- Aims to setup Public Wi-Fi Networks by Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) to provide public Wi-Fi services through Public Data Offices (PDOs) spread across length and breadth of the country to accelerate proliferation of Broadband Internet services.
- As per the National Digital Communication Plan, the Central government has set a target of setting up of 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots by 2022 and the PM-WANI scheme will facilitate this.
- The proliferation of public Wi-Fi networks in the country through PM WANI will accelerate the proliferation of public broadband services through Wi-Fi networks and it will enable local entrepreneurs such as chaiwalas, kirana stores and eateries to earn additional revenue.
News Source: PIB
Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)
Part of: Main GS-III: Climate Change and Conservation
In News: Cabinet approves continuation of the umbrella scheme “Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)”
By: Ministry of Earth Sciences
Aim: Stepping up ocean research and setting up early warning weather systems, with the objectives for providing forecast and services based on the continuous observation of our oceans, development of technologies and exploratory surveys for sustainable harnessing of our oceanic resources (both living and non-living)
- India’s recognition as Pioneer Investor with International Seabed Authority (ISA) for conducting extensive research on deep sea mining of Poly Metallic Nodules (PMN) and hydrothermal sulphides in the allotted area of the India Ocean.
- The technology development for desalination using low temperature thermal desalination installation of such facility in Lakshadweep islands is also a significant achievement.
- Moreover, India’s ocean related activities are now extended from the Arctic to Antarctic region covering large ocean space which have been monitored by through in-situ and satellite-based observation.
- India has taken leadership role in implementing Indian Ocean component of Global Ocean Observing System in Intergovernmental.
- The present decade has been declared as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development by the United Nations (UN) and continuation of the scheme would strengthen our stand in the global oceanographic research and technology development.
- This continuation of the scheme would contribute significantly towards national policy on blue economy for effective and efficient use of the vast ocean resources in a Sustainable way.
- Efforts towards achieving United Nations sustainable Development Goal-14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources are being covered through the coastal research and marine biodiversity activities.
- Significant contribution to the national GDP is being made and to be continued through the ocean advisory services and technologies developed benefiting communities and several sectors working in the marine environment, particularly in the coastal states of India.
News Source: PIB
- GS-3: Infrastructure
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Bharat Gaurav Scheme
Context: To promote and attract tourism business, the Indian Railways recently launched Bharat Gaurav trains that will be operated by private players and run on theme-based circuits.
- Through this policy, which offers operators the “Right of Use” of its rakes and infrastructure, the Railways has liberalised and simplified a part of operations that was otherwise carried out mostly by IRCTC.
- While any entity can run these trains, including state governments, it is implied that the policy is targeted at tour operators.
What is the Bharat Gaurav policy?
- Leasing on theme based circuit: According to the Bharat Gaurav policy, any operator or service provider, or virtually anyone, can lease trains from Indian Railways to run on a theme-based circuit as a special tourism package.
- Security of tenure: The tenure of the arrangement is a minimum of two years and maximum of the codal life of the coach.
- Freedom of Operations: The operator has the freedom to decide the route, the halts, the services provided, and, most importantly, the tariff.
- The IRCTC runs such theme-based tourist trains, for instance, the Ramayana Express, which goes on a tour of several places connected to Lord Ram.
- In such packaged tours, typically the passengers stop over at a place, stay at hotels, undertake sightseeing, etc. — all organised by tour operators.
- No Eligibility: Anyone can approach Railways to lease the 3033 conventional Integral Coach Factory-design coaches earmarked for this segment. In fact, if the operator finds it feasible, then it can even purchase rakes from Indian Railway production units and run them.
- Obligation on operator: The operator has to, however, take care of end-to-end, comprehensive service like hotel stay, local arrangements, etc. These trains cannot be used as ordinary transport trains between an origin and destination.
How will the Railways process such applications?
- Creation of Special Unit: There will be a special unit created in each zonal railway to process such applications and also handhold applicants, and see end-to-end procedural requirements for the operators.
- Single Window System: These special units will help operators in creation of itineraries, public outreach, carrying out necessary approvals and the likes. The idea is to provide the operators a place to go to, like a single-window for all their needs when they interact with railways, and not run from pillar to post.
What can the operators do within the contract?
The spirit of the policy is to give operators complete freedom to run the business and develop a business model in which Indian Railways will only physically run the trains, maintain them and charge a fee.
- Freedom of Interior design: The operator can carry out its own furnishings of the interiors of the trains if it wants within safety norms. It can decide what kind of interiors or berth composition it wants. However, it cannot tinker with or dismantle critical parts of the coach that has a bearing on safety and operation.
- Naming Freedom: It can name the circuit, the train and sell advertisement space. It can carry out branding on the exterior and interior of the train.
- Business Tie–ups: It can tie up with agencies and entities for business development and logistics, etc. It can decide the food and entertainment to add to the experience of the passengers.
- Legal Restrictions: However, it has to be ensured that things that are not allowed by railway laws are also not carried out onboard these trains. For instance, the operator cannot serve alcohol, states the policy.
What will Indian Railways do?
- Staff: It will provide staff to drive the trains, guards and also maintenance staff on board for the coaches. Other staff, like housekeeping and catering, etc, will be deployed by the operator.
- Safety: It will also ensure that its entire infrastructure is in place to safely and efficiently host the train in its network.
- Priority in Operations: It will also give these priority in its paths, like the Rajdhanis and premium trains, so that these trains are not held up or sidelined to make way for regular trains.
How much will it cost the operator?
The money works out to be substantial as it is a sum of registration fee, security deposit for the rake, “Right of Use” charges, haulage charges and stabling charges payable by the operator to the Railways.
- All these charges are linked to use of various components of railway resources, like fuel, manpower, depreciation, maintenance, lease, etc.
- To begin with, the Railways will take a one-time online registration fee of Rs 1 lakh from the applicant. The zonal railway concerned will revert after processing the application within10 days.
- Thereafter, after allotment of the rake, there is a security deposit of Rs 1 crore per rake (the physical assets comprise a collection of coaches pulled by an engine), irrespective of the size of the rake, for the duration of the Right of Use period.
- The annual ‘Right of Use’ charges calculated on the basis of the type of coach taken and the duration.
- Delay in payment would result in a penalty equivalent to the bank’s prevailing interest rate plus 3% as administrative fee. If it is not paid within 30 days, the Right of Use may be terminated.
- The yearly Right of Use charge for one AC coach varies from Rs 3.5-1.4 lakh depending on class and age. A pantry car’s Right of Use charge is between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 65,000 depending on the age and type.
Connecting the dots:
- Bibek Debroy Committee on Railways
- National Rail Plan for Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges
- GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Context: The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, listed for introduction in Parliament’s Winter Session starting November 29, seeks to create a facilitative framework for the creation of the official digital currency to be issued by RBI.
- The Bill seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India, however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.
- Prices of cryptocurrencies on local exchanges crashed overnight after the news broke, even though they remained largely unchanged in global markets.
- There was panic- selling by crypto holders fearing an impending ban or restriction.
- There is currently no regulation or ban on cryptocurrencies in India; however, national responses to defining and regulating virtual currencies vary widely in jurisdictions around the world.
How are cryptocurrencies regulated in countries around the world?
- The stance of countries and regulators has ranged from a total ban on these financial assets, to allowing them to operate with some regulations, to the other extreme of allowing virtual currency trading in the absence of any guidelines.
- Governments and regulators remain divided on how to categorise it as a currency or asset — and how to control it from an operational point of view.
- As stated above, the regulatory and policy response can vary from complete openness of the kind seen in countries like El Salvador, which has approved bitcoin as legal tender, to a total clampdown like in China, which has imposed stringent regulations on both cryptocurrencies and service providers.
- Countries such as India are somewhere in between — still in the process of figuring out the best way to regulate cryptos after some policy and regulatory experimentation.
- USA and EU have been proactive in trying to pin down the regulatory mandate, while discussions continue.
- Among the countries that haven’t issued detailed regulations, there are those that have recognised and defined these currencies.
CANADA for example, through its Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations, defines virtual currency as:
- (a) a digital representation of value that can be used for payment or investment purposes that is not a fiat currency and that can be readily exchanged for funds or for another virtual currency that can be readily exchanged for funds; or
- (b) a private key of a cryptographic system that enables a person or entity to have access to a digital representation of value referred to in paragraph (a).
- It is to noted that Canada has been among the early adopters of crypto, and the Canada Revenue Authority (CRA) generally treats cryptocurrency like a commodity for purposes of the country’s Income Tax Act.
ISRAEL, in its Supervision of Financial Services Law, includes virtual currencies in the definition of financial assets.
- The Israeli securities regulator has ruled that cryptocurrency is a security subject, while the Israel Tax Authority defines cryptocurrency as an asset and demands 25% on capital gains.
In GERMANY, the Financial Supervisory Authority qualifies virtual currencies as “units of account” and therefore, “financial instruments”.
- The Bundesbank considers Bitcoin to be a crypto token given that it does not fulfil typical functions of a currency.
- However, citizens and legal entities can buy or trade cryptoassets as long as they do it through exchanges and custodians licensed with the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority.
IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, while not considering crypto assets to be currency or money, notes that cryptocurrencies have a unique identity and cannot, therefore, be directly compared to any other form of investment activity or payment mechanism.
IN THE United States, different states have different definitions and regulations for cryptocurrencies.
- While the federal government does not recognise cryptocurrencies as legal tender, definitions issued by the states recognise the decentralised nature of virtual currencies.
While most of these countries do not recognise cryptocurrencies as legal tender, they do recognise the value these digital units represent — and indicate their functions as either a medium of exchange, unit of account, or a store of value (any asset that would normally retain purchasing power into the future).
How would a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) work?
- RBI plans to launch its CBDC, a digital form of fiat currency that can be transacted using wallets backed by blockchain, and which is regulated by the central bank.
- Though the concept of CBDCs was directly inspired by Bitcoin, it is different from decentralised virtual currencies and crypto assets, which are not issued by the state, and lack the ‘legal tender’ status declared by the government.
- CBDCs enable the user to conduct both domestic and cross-border transactions that do not require a third party or bank.
- Since several countries are running pilot projects in this space, it is important for India to launch its own CBDC, making the rupee competitive in international financial markets.
- While CBDC too is a digital or virtual currency, it is not comparable to the private virtual currencies that have mushroomed over the last decade.
- The private virtual currencies sit at odds with the historical concept of money — and they are certainly not currency as the word has come to be understood historically.
Connecting the dots:
- China’s Digital Currency
- Blockchain Technology
(Down to Earth: Health)
Nov 24: Anaemia in women and children on the rise– https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/anaemia-in-women-and-children-on-the-rise-assam-fares-worst-nfhs-5-80357
- GS-2: Health
Anaemia in women and children on the rise
Context: Anaemia continues to remain widespread in India as its prevalence across age and gender groups has increased. Anaemia has increased by 2-9 per cent among children, pregnant and non-pregnant women and men according to data shared in the National Family Health Survey 5 (NFHS-5) released November 24, 2021.
- The largest spike is seen in children between the ages of six and 59 months, where 67.1 per cent are anaemic.
- In rural areas, 68.3 per cent children are anaemic, while the urban load stands at 64.2 per cent.
- The second highest increase is recorded in women between the ages of 15 and 19.
- More young women in rural areas (56.5 per cent) are anaemic as compared to urban areas (60.2 per cent).
- All women between the ages of 15 and 49 years reported a four per cent increase in incidence of anaemia
- Meanwhile, the percentage of pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 49 years who are anaemic has increased to 52.2 per cent now.
- Irrespective of age group, have reported the lowest increase in the incidence of anaemia, at 2.3 per cent for those between the ages of 15 and 49.
- Among them, younger men, between 15 and 19, have shown a 1.9 per cent increase to 31.1 per cent now.
- Figures for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have shown an upward trend in anaemic cases between now and 2015-2016.
- A 2-6 per cent increase has been recorded in all age groups for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, while Rajasthan is the worst among them with a 9-12 per cent increase.
- Assam is among the worst performing states, with a huge spike in anaemic cases.
Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. Haemoglobin is needed to carry oxygen and if you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or not enough haemoglobin, there will be a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. This results in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness and shortness of breath, among others.
The most common causes of anaemia include nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron deficiency, though deficiencies in folate, vitamins B12 and A are also important causes; haemoglobinopathies; and infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and parasitic infections.
Must read: Rice Fortification: A complementary approach to address Nutritional Anaemia
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- 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 countries do not have formal relations with Israel as part of Abraham Accords?
Q.2 Which of the following has the highest deposit of lithium currently?
Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding National Family Health Survey-5
- Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has reduced to 2.0 from 2.2 (NFHS-4).
- Anaemic cases across all gender and age groups have seen tremendous decrease.
Select the correct answer from the following codes:
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
ANSWERS FOR 25th Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Allahabad High Court verdict on child sexual assault:
On Possible Food Crisis:
On ending Child Marriage:
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