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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 5th November 2021

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  • November 5, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Covaxin gets WHO’s emergency use nod

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, was granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What is Covaxin?

  • Covaxin is a whole virion-inactivated vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, developed in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, Pune. 
  • It has been granted EUL for use in persons 18 years and above, over two doses spaced four weeks apart.
  • It has been formulated to enable shipping and long-term storage at 2-8ºC. 
  • It is also formulated to adhere to a multi-dose vial policy, thereby reducing open vial wastage, saving money to procurement agencies and governments.

Key takeaways 

  • The EUL is a prerequisite for the COVAX initiative in vaccine supply, and allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
  • With validation from WHO, countries can now expedite their regulatory approval processes to import and administer Covaxin. 
  • UNICEF, Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), GAVI COVAX facility, will be able to procure Covaxin for distribution to countries worldwide
  • The move is expected to ease international travel for Indians who have opted for the vaccine 

Smart anti-airfield weapon

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

Context The Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Indian Air Force have jointly carried out two flight tests of the indigenously- developed smart anti-airfield weapon.

  • In both the tests, the intended target was hit with high accuracy.

What is DRDO’s smart anti-airfield weapon?

  • The DRDO Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) is a long-range precision-guided anti-airfield weapon.
  • Developed by: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). 
  • It is designed to be capable of engaging ground targets with high precision up to a range of 100 km.
  • In September 2020, the SAAW was approved for procurement by the Indian Government for the Navy and the Air Force.

Ayushmaan CAPF

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health 

Context Union Home Minister Amit Shah launched the ‘Ayushmaan CAPF’ Scheme health cards at the national level in New Delhi.

Key takeaways 

  • ‘Ayushmaan CAPF’ Scheme was earlier launched on pilot basis in Assam in January this year to provide health care services to all Central Armed Police Force (CAPFs) personnel and their dependents.
  • It is a joint initiative of the Home Ministry, Health Ministry and National Health Authority (NHA).
  • The health card distribution will be undertaken in all CAPFs and the number of cards distributed will be displayed on the website of Home Ministry on a daily basis. 
  • The distribution of about 35 lakh cards will be completed by December this year.

About CAPF

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to seven security forces in India under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • Assam Rifles (AR)
    • Border Security Force (BSF)
    • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
    • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
    • Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
    • National Security Guard (NSG)
    • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)
  • Each of the seven has its own cadre of officers, but they are headed by officers of the Indian Police Service.

RBI issues revised PCA framework for banks

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Economy

Context The RBI has issued a revised Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework for banks to enable supervisory intervention and act as a tool for effective market discipline.

About the revised framework:

  • The revised PCA framework will be effective from January 1, 2022.
  • Earlier three parameters for monitoring were Capital (Capital Adequacy Ratio), Asset Quality (NPA) and Return on Assets (profit). 
    • Now the three parameters are Capital (Capital Adequacy Ratio), Asset Quality (NPA) and Leverage (equity capital/total assets of bank). 
  • Earlier PCA framework was applicable on all Scheduled Commercial Banks except Regional Rural Banks. 
    • Now it is applicable on all Scheduled Commercial Banks except Regional Rural Banks, Payment Banks and Small Finance Banks.

What is Prompt Corrective Action (PCA)?

  • Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) is a supervisory framework of RBI where it uses various measures/tools to maintain sound financial health of banks. 
  • Once these parameters cross a certain level RBI puts the bank under PCA. And then it can take discretionary actions against the bank.

Once a bank comes under PCA framework, what actions RBI can take on the bank?

  • RBI can put restrictions on Branch expansion, distributing dividends, capping compensation and fees of management and directors. 
  • In extreme cases, banks may be stopped from lending and there can be a cap on lending to specific sectors/entities. 
  • May increase the provisioning requirement for banks
  • Steps can be taken to bring in new management/Board, appoint consultants for organizational structuring, change of ownership, merger of the bank.

RBI panel on ARCs

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Economy

Context To streamline the functioning of asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), the Reserve Bank panel has come out with a host of suggestions.

Background:

  • The RBI had set up a committee headed by Sudarshan Sen to undertake a comprehensive review of the working of asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) in the financial sector ecosystem and recommend suitable measures for enabling them to meet the growing requirements.

Suggestions:

  • Create an online platform for the sale of stressed assets.
  • Allow ARCs to act as resolution applicants during the IBC process.
  • The scope of Section 5 of the SARFAESI Act be expanded to permit ARCs to acquire financial assets from all regulated entities.
  • For accounts above ₹500 crore, two bank-approved external valuers should carry out a valuation to determine liquidation value and fair market value.
  • Also, the final approval of the reserve price should be given by a high-level committee that has the power to approve the corresponding write-off of the loan.

What is an Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)?

  • It is a specialized financial institution that buys the Non Performing Assets (NPAs) from banks and financial institutions so that they can clean up their balance sheets.
  • Banks rather than going after the defaulters by wasting their time and effort, can sell the bad assets to the ARCs at a mutually agreed value.
  • This helps banks to concentrate on normal banking activities. 
  • The ARCs are registered under the RBI.

(News from PIB)


PLI Scheme for White Goods – – Air Conditioners and LED lights sector

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Economy

  • 26 Companies to invest Rs 3898 crore for Air Conditioner Components, 16 Companies to invest Rs 716 crore for LED Component Manufacturing
  • Investments of around Rs. 4,614 crore envisaged creating additional direct employment of about 44 thousand persons
  • Expected net incremental production of more than Rs. 81 thousand crore

Significance

  • The investments in Air Conditioners will lead to manufacturing components across the complete value chain including components which are not manufactured in India with sufficient quantity. 
  • At present, there is insignificant manufacturing of certain high value components of ACs like Compressors, copper tubing and aluminium stock for foils. 
  • Many other components like control assemblies for indoor units (IDU) or outdoor units (ODU), display units, brushless direct current motors, valves etc. are not manufactured in enough quantity. All these components will now be manufactured in India in significant quantities. 
  • Similarly, LED Chip packaging, LED Drivers, LED Engines, LED Light Management Systems, PCBs including metal clad PCBs and Wire wound inductors etc. will be manufactured in India in high quantities. 

White goods

  • A major appliance, also known as a large domestic appliance or large electric appliance is a non-portable or semi-portable machine used for routine housekeeping tasks such as cooking, washing laundry, or food preservation.
  • Such appliances are sometimes collectively known as white goods, as the products were traditionally white in colour, although a variety of colours are now available.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

5G: Roadblocks & Way Ahead

Context: Commercial 5G networks began to be deployed in 2020 and are expected to reach 12% of world mobile connections (1.1 billion) and generate revenues up to U.S.$1.3 trillion by 2025 for operators

Advantages of 5g:

  • Improved data transfer speed 
  • Reduce latency time
  • Will shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution by enabling Internet of Things
  • Leads to more data-intensive, digital economy.

Roadblocks

  • India’s Telecom sector is under stress in recent times due to intense competition unleashed by Jio’s entry
  • Moreover, the Supreme Court of India’s ruling on AGR dues estimated to be more than ₹90,000 crore has further exacerbated the financial condition of telecom companies.
  • The number of telecom operators has come down to a handful from around 15 a few years back.
  • In this scenario, the huge investment required in deployment of fibre cables for 5G may add to the worries of Telecom companies.

What Needs to be done?

  • Identification of basic ingredients: The immediate priority for India will be in identifying end users and population to be covered, identification of cities for the 5G roll out, working out an investment model for 5G deployment.
  • Creating a level-playing field through market mechanism such as facilitating, simulating, auctioning, ensuring competition, functioning markets, etc. 
  • Spectrum Roadmap: TRAI should prepare a foolproof spectrum road map with a predictable renewal process which will compensate the huge investment required for deployment and ensure coverage. 
  • Spectrum Sharing: Global trial runs show that the key areas for 5G deployment are harmonisation of 5G spectrum bands, pricing and sharing of the spectrum. In this light, sharing of available spectrum needs to be promoted.
  • Government Financial Incentive: As the deployment of 5G network is expensive, both the Central and State governments need to consider measures which stimulate fibre investment, attract investment through PPPs and facilitate investment funds on a nominal interest basis.
  • Allowing 100% foreign direct investment in the telecom sector under the automatic route along with these policy reforms augurs well for the sector to attract investment. 
  • Conscious of Digital Divide: The negative implication of 5G is furthering the ‘digital divide’. Therefore, Government policies should also focus on affordable coverage through synchronisation of bandwidth.

Conclusion

As India has already witnessed digital revolution even in its remotest areas due to cost-effective 4G technology, the use of 5G can play a vital role in enhancing this sector and also facilitating India’s goal to emerge as a manufacturing and innovation hub.

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Infrastructure & Power sector
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Issues with DISCOMs

Context: The power sector in India is at an inflection point. Three developments are triggering a shift.

  1. Change in Centre’s approach in distribution segment
  • Till now, it was nudging the states to turn around the operational performance and financial position of power distribution companies (discoms) through tripartite agreements or regulation of coal supplies.
  • Now, Centre is trying to use coercive measures to rectify the situation of discoms.
  1. Pressure on government finances
  • COVID has impacted government revenues and there are demands for greater welfare spending and GST compensation from States (that will end in 2022)
  • In this context, the ability of government to continue to support discoms will increasingly be tested.
  1. Alternate Sources of Supply
  • Until now, consumers had little recourse to alternate sources of supply. Consequently, discoms, which are essentially geographical monopolies, were able to charge higher tariffs from commercial and industrial consumers to cross-subsidise agricultural and low-income households.
  • But the situation appears to be changing with emergence of captive power plants, decentralised solar power generators.
  • Solar, in particular, is being pushed by government with benefits from both explicit and implicit subsidies — land at concessional rate, exemption from interstate transmission charges, discounted wheeling charges, cross-subsidies for open access etc.
  • And as more renewable capacity comes online, and storage costs decline, the shift of most cross-subsidising consumers away from discoms seems almost inevitable.

Conclusion

A business as usual scenario will no longer suffice. Short of outright privatisation, market pricing of tariffs, options seem limited.

Connecting the dots:

  • Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana  (UDAY)
  • PM Saubhagya Scheme

(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Nov 3: Towards Clean Energy – https://youtu.be/hTMctHJmmLM

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Climate Change
  • GS-3: Energy

Towards Clean Energy

Context: Electricity drives our lifestyles. Everything from a computer to a television to refrigerator needs energy. 

  • The energy supply sector (electricity, heat, and other energy) is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for approx. 35% of total emissions. 
  • Switching to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power, also means less pollution and new and better jobs. 
  • To get back on track for the 1.5°C goal, emissions from the energy sector need to be halved by 2030 and eliminated by 2050. 

Launch of the `one world, one sun, one grid’ initiative at the COP 26 Climate Meet in Glasgow

Envisioning a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy green grids

Challenge: Solar energy is totally clean and sustainable. Challenge is that this energy is only available during the daytime and is dependent on the weather. ‘One Sun, One World & One Grid’ is the solution to this problem. Through a worldwide grid, clean energy can be transmitted to anywhere & anytime

It will – 

  • Reduce storage needs
  • Enhance the viability of solar projects
  • Reduce carbon footprints and energy cost
  • Bring together a global coalition of governments, international financial and technical organisations, legislators, power system operators and knowledge leaders to accelerate the construction of the new infrastructure needed for a world powered by clean energy

Main areas of work of the initiative will be: 

  • Investing in solar, wind, storage and other renewable energy generation in locations endowed with renewable resources for supporting a global grid
  • Building long-distance cross-border transmission lines to connect renewable energy generators
  • Developing and deploying cutting edge techniques and technologies to modernise power systems
  • Supporting the global transition to zero emission vehicles through incorporating the role of electric vehicles to help improve grid flexibility
  • Attracting investment into solar mini-grids and off-grid systems to help vulnerable communities gain access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy
  • Developing innovative financial instruments, market structures for solar grid infrastructure.

Green Grids Initiative 

Objective: Trading energy from sun, wind and water across borders to deliver more than enough clean energy to meet the needs of everyone on Earth.

  • The initiative was endorsed by more than 80 countries.
  • The ISRO has developed an application that could compute the potential solar energy at any point on earth and help decide if it would be suitable for solar energy installations.
  • A Ministerial Steering Group will work towards accelerating the making of large solar power stations and wind farms in the best locations, linked together by continental-scale grids crossing national borders.
    • The Ministerial Steering Group includes France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, and will also have representatives from Africa, the Gulf, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Other initiatives taken by the Government

India’s Commitment: India has also made a commitment at COP 26 Summit that by 2030 it will fulfill 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy and bring its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.

Regional Power Grid: Connecting more neighbouring countries through a regional power grid which can be used to supply electricity to surrounding nations without adequate number of power plants. 

International Solar Alliance (ISA): India has already initiated the International Solar Alliance (ISA) which aims to deploy over 1,000 GW of solar generation capacity globally and mobilise investment of over $1 trillion towards by 2030.

  • It is a treaty-based inter-governmental Organisation. 
  • It aims to mobilise investment of over $1 trillion by 2030. 
  • Headquarter: Gurgaon
  • It was established following the Paris Declaration as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
  • It has become India’s calling card on climate change and is increasingly being viewed as a foreign policy tool

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. If the world has to move to a clean and green future, these interconnected transnational grids are going to be critical solutions. Discuss.
  2. International Solar Alliance is India’s gift against Global Warming. Critically 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 COVAX initiative is led by which of the following?

  1. Gavi
  2. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) 
  3. World Health Organisation (WHO)
  4. All of the above

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)?

  1. It is a specialized financial institution that buys the Non Performing Assets (NPAs) from banks and financial institutions so that they can clean up their balance sheets.
  2. The ARCs are registered under the SEBI.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

Q.3 Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) is associated with which of the following?

  1. Banking system
  2. National Education Policy
  3. GST
  4. India and China bilateral relations

ANSWERS FOR 3rd Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 B
3 D

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