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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd December 2021

  • IASbaba
  • December 22, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Standing committee

Part of: Prelims and GS-II -Polity 

Context The Lok Sabha has sent the Bill which seeks to raise the age of marriage for women to 21 to a standing committee.

What are Parliamentary Committees?

  • The parliamentary committee is a committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker.
  • It works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat.

Different types of committees:

  • ‘Standing’ committees: They are usually reconstituted on an annual basis.
    • It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business
    • They are further divided into financial committees and departmentally-related standing committees (DRSCs).
    • The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
  • ‘Select’ committees are formed for a specific purpose. That select committee ceases to exist once the Bill is disposed of.

Anti-national

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Polity and Governance

Context The word ‘anti-national’ has not been defined in statutes, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has informed the Lok Sabha. 

Key pointers from the Ministry

  • It added that ‘anti-national activity’ was inserted in the Constitution during the Emergency in 1976 but was removed later.
  • There are criminal legislation and various judicial pronouncements to sternly deal with unlawful and subversive activities which are detrimental to the unity and integrity of the country.
  • Public Order’ and ‘Police’ were State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The responsibility of maintaining law and order rested primarily with the respective State government.

NCRB data

  • In 2019, when the National Crime Records Bureau released the annual Crime in India report for 2017, it included for the first time a new chapter on “Crime Committed by Anti National Elements”. 
  • The chapter listed “North East insurgents, Left Wing Extremists and Terrorists (including Jihadi terrorists)” as the three anti-national elements.

Chillai Kalan

Part of: Prelims and GS-I- Geography

Context Kashmir is in a deep freeze as the 40-day harshest spell of winter, locally called ‘chillai kalan’, started on December 21, 2021.

  • The minimum temperature already reached sub-zero in the entire Valley.

What is Chillai Kalan?

  • Chillai Kalan is a Persian word which literally means forty days of intense cold.
  • It is the local name given to 40 day period of harsh winter in Kashmir.
  • It is the coldest part of winter, starting from 21 December to January 29 every year.
  • Chillai-Kalan is followed by 20-day long Chillai Khurd (small cold) and a 10-days long Chillai Bachha (baby cold).
  • Impact of Chillai Kalan on daily life of Kashmiris: Use of Pheran (Kashmiri dress) and a traditional firing pot called Kanger increases. 
    • Due to subzero temperature, tap water pipelines freeze partially during this period and world-famous Dal Lake also freezes.

Drones in Agriculture

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Economy

Context Union Agriculture Minister released Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for use of Drone in Pesticide Application for Crop Protection and for spraying Soil and Crop Nutrients.

Key takeaways

  • The SOP for drone regulation for pesticide application covers important aspects like statutory provisions, flying permissions, etc.
  • The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) commonly known as drones have great potential to revolutionise Indian agriculture and ensure the country’s food security.
  • The National drone policy has been notified and the Drone Rules 2021 have been made significantly easier for people and companies in the country to now own and operate drones.

Use of drones in Agriculture

  • Multi-features: Drones are well-equipped with many features like multi-spectral and photo cameras.
  • Monitor: It can be used in many areas of the agriculture sector such as monitoring crop stress, plant growth, predicting yields, and delivering props.
  • Assessment: Drones can be used for assessing the health of any vegetation or crop, field areas inflicted by weeds.
  • Optimisation: Based on this assessment, the exact amounts of chemicals needed to fight these infestations
  • Planting systems: Drone planting systems have also been developed which allow drones to shoot pods. This technology increases consistency and efficiency of crop management.
  • Mitigating attacks: The drones were also used for the first time in warding off the locust attacks in various states.

Compassionate job not a vested right: Supreme Court

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Judiciary

Context The Supreme Court has held in an order that compassionate employment is not a vested right.

  • The SC said that the compassionate employment scheme was intended to enable a bereaved family tide over financial crisis caused by the untimely death of a breadwinner while in service.
  • It said the authorities were allowed to use their discretion to evaluate the financial position of the family.

(News from PIB)


National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP)

Part of: Prelims and GS- III – Food processing and related industries in India

Context: The National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) has been launched with the aim to augment the availability of edible oil in the country by harnessing area expansion, increasing crude palm oil production with the aim to reduce the import burden.

  • Objective: To ensure self-sufficiency in edible oil production.
  • Aim: To reduce import dependence from 60% to 45% by 2024-25, by increasing domestic edible oil production from 10.5 million tonnes to 18 million tonnes which is a 70% growth target. 
  • Farmers will get all needed facilities, from quality seeds to technology. 
  • Along with promoting the cultivation of oil palm, this mission will also expand the cultivation of our other traditional oilseed crops. 

What is the need for such schemes? 

  • India is the largest consumer of vegetable oil in the world. 
  • India’s Palm oil imports are almost 60% of its total vegetable oil imports.
  • Recently, India’s dependence on expensive imports has driven retail oil prices to new highs.
  • In India, 94.1% of its palm oil is used in food products, especially for cooking. Thus, palm oil is extremely important to India’s edible oils economy.
  • The oil is used in food manufacturing, in beauty products, and as biofuel. 
  • Palm oil accounted for about 33% of global oils produced from oil crops in 2014.
  • Top consumers: India, China, and the European Union (EU).

Note: No forest land is recommended for oil palm cultivation.

News Source: PIB


PLI scheme for manufacturing of Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC)

Part of: Prelims and GS- III – Economy; Manufacturing sector

In News: The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of Department of Heavy Industry for implementation of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme ‘National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery Storage’.

Key takeaways 

  • Aim: To achieve a manufacturing capacity of 50 GigaWatt Hour of ACC and five Giga Watt Hour of Niche ACC with an outlay of 18,100 crore.
  • ACCs are the new generation of advanced storage technologies that can store electric energy either as electrochemical or as chemical energy and convert it back to electric energy as and when required. 
  • It will also give a big push to electric mobility, benefiting three-wheelers, four-wheelers and heavy vehicles.
  • India is currently importing Battery Storage Equipment 
  • The scheme will be helpful in making the country self-reliant (Atmanirbhar).

Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme: To promote the use of electric vehicles in the country. Presently, Phase-II of FAME India Scheme is being implemented for a period of 5 years.

Steps taken for adoption of electric vehicles in the country:

  • Approved a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing of Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) in the country in order to bring down prices of battery in the country. Drop in battery price will result in cost reduction of electric vehicles.
  • Electric Vehicles are covered under Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Automobile and Auto Components
  • GST on electric vehicles has been reduced from 12% to 5%; GST on chargers/ charging stations for electric vehicles has been reduced from 18% to 5%.
  • Battery-operated vehicles will be given green license plates and be exempted from permit requirements.
  • SMoRTH issued a notification advising states to waive road tax on EVs, which in turn will help reduce the initial cost of EVs.

News Source: PIB


Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF)

Part of: Mains GS-II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Context: Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) was implementing Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) Programme (District component) during the period 2006-07 to 2014-15. 

  • It provided financial resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows into identified districts to bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other development requirements. 
  • BRGF Programme has been delinked from the budgetary support of the Central Government since 2015-16 consequent upon the implementation of the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission.
  • Earlier the share of States in the net proceeds of the Union taxes was significantly enhanced from 32% to 42% that allowed the States with greater autonomy for financing and designing the developmental schemes, especially for the backward regions.

Enters Aspirational Districts Programme

  • Implemented by: NITI Aayog
  • Aim: Rapid transformation of 112 Aspirational Districts which shows relatively less progress in key social and economic indicators such as Health and Nutrition, School Education and Basic Infrastructure, Agriculture etc. 
  • The broad strategy of the Aspirational Districts Programme rests on the 3 Cs 
    • Convergence (between Central and State Schemes)
    • Collaboration (between Centre, State, District Administration, Development Partners and Citizens)
    • Competition (between Districts)
  • Every month, districts are ranked on the basis of progress made on the key performance indicators mentioned above, and this instills them with a sense of competition which results in rapid improvement.

News Source: PIB


Miscellaneous

Digital transactions in India

  • There has been a growth of 88% in volume of digital transactions during the last 3 years since 2018-19

  • India’s own payment platform, UPI has emerged as the country’s favourite digital payment choice, with over 22 billion transactions registered during FY 2020-21, showing 4 times growth over the last 3 years.
  • 31.17 crore RuPay debit cards have been issued to PMJDY account holders

(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Linking voter rolls to Aadhaar

Context: Rajya Sabha passed by voice vote The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, enabling “the linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem” as the Opposition walked out in protest. The Bill had been passed by Lok Sabha.

  • The Bill amends the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms.
  • The 1950 Act provides that a person may apply to the electoral registration officer for inclusion of their name. 
  • The amendment Bill says the electoral registration officer may require a person to furnish their Aadhaar number for establishing their identity. If their name is already in the electoral roll, then the Aadhaar number may be required for authentication of entries in the roll, but people will not be denied inclusion in the electoral roll or have their names deleted, if they are unable to show their Aadhaar cards.

What is the government’s argument for bringing the Bill?

  • The government says the Bill incorporates various electoral reforms that have been discussed for a long time.
  • The government says linking Aadhaar with electoral rolls will solve the problem of multiple enrolments of the same person at different places. This will consequently reduce electoral malpractices.
  • Once Aadhaar linkage is achieved, the electoral roll data system will instantly alert the existence of previous registration(s) whenever a person applies for new registration. 
  • This will help in cleaning the electoral roll to a great extent and facilitate elector registration in the location at which they are ‘ordinarily resident’.
  • Indeed, this can also allow for remote voting, a measure that could help migrant voters.
  • The four qualifying dates for revision of rolls will help in faster enrolment of those who turn 18.
  • The incidence of multiple entry could also be eliminated which is required in participative democracy.
  • In Parliament, Law Minister said linking Aadhaar with the voter ID card is voluntary. It is not compulsory or mandatory. 
  • Government held “many meetings” with the Election Commission before the Bill was brought.

What are the Opposition’s objections?

  • Violation of Right to Privacy: There is criticism that the linking of voter IDs and Aadhaar violates the fundamental right to privacy as defined by the Supreme Court in the judgment. There is a view that the Bill could violate secrecy of the vote undermining the principle of secret ballots.
  • May not solve problem of voting by non-Citizens: Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship and it is said so very clearly in the Aadhaar Act. There are doubts on how this will prevent non-citizens (especially Nepalis & Bangladeshis) from voting because non-citizens can have an Aadhar card. The goal of preventing non-citizens from voting will not be solved with Aadhaar.
  • Mirco-Targeting using leaked data: The other concern is that there is a documented case that Aadhaar data was being leaked. It could lay the foundation of targeted political propaganda which is against the model code of conduct as well.
    • In April 2019, the UIDAI complained to police about a Hyderabad-based software company, IT Grids (India) Private Limited, accusing it of illegally procuring details of 7,82,21,397 Aadhaar holders in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and storing these in its databases
  • Voluntary Provision: One of the concerns is whether the Bill’s implementation will be successful if the linkage is not compulsory. The Bill says the election registration officer may require the submission of the Aadhaar number both for new enrolments and those already enrolled. The choice not to submit is linked to a “sufficient cause”, which will be separately prescribed. 
  • Judicial Scrutiny: The tests laid down by the Supreme Court — a permissible law, a legitimate state interest and proportionality has not been rigorously examined due to lack of deliberation in Parliament.
    • If an individual’s refusal to submit the detail is deemed unacceptable, it may result in loss of franchise. Therefore, the measure may fail the test of proportionality.
  • Profiling Concerns: There are allegations that the government would be able to use voter identity details for “profiling the citizens”. 

Can individual votes be tracked that way?

  • While individual identification of voting choices may not be possible with the linkage of Aadhaar with voter IDs, it will lead to profiling. 
  • Verification of a person’s identity is separate from the capturing of the identity which is already happening in booths when a person goes to vote.
  • But it may help the government link it to other services where larger schemes may be designed based on the data

Conclusion

If the Government really has no ulterior motive in the form of triggering mass deletions from the electoral rolls, it must invite public opinion and allow deeper parliamentary scrutiny before implementing the new provisions that now have the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

Problems within the UDAN scheme

Context: Government had launched the UDAN scheme nearly five years back with the aim to take flying to the masses. While over 400 routes have been launched by airlines, some of them have been discontinued.

  • The first flight under UDAN was launched by PM Modi in April 2017.

What is the UDAN scheme?

  • Flying of masses: The Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme is a low-cost flying scheme launched with the aim of taking flying to the masses. 
  • Air connectivity beyond metros: It is also known as the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) as it seeks to improve air connectivity to tier-2 and tier-3 cities through revival of unused and underused airports. 
  • Competitive Bidding Process: Airlines are awarded routes under the programme through a bidding process and are required to offer airfares at the rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight. At least 50% of the total seats on an aircraft have to be offered at cheaper rates. 
  • Subsidy by Government: In order to enable airlines to offer affordable fares they are given a subsidy from the Government for a period of three years.
  • Revival of airports: The Government had also earmarked ₹4,500 crore for revival of 50 airports in the first three years.

What is the status of the scheme?

  • A total of nine rounds of bidding have taken place since January 2017. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has set a target of operationalising as many as 100 unserved and underserved airports and starting at least 1,000 RCS routes by 2024. 
  • So far, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has awarded 948 routes under UDAN, of which 403 routes have taken off that connect 65 airports, which include eight heliports. 
  • Out of the total 28 seaplane routes connecting 14 water aerodromes, only two have commenced.
  • However, in reality, some of the routes launched have been discontinued. Though the government in its Lok Sabha reply declined to provide the exact number of the discontinued routes, it provided three reasons why this was happening. 
    • Failure to set up airports or heliports due to lack of availability of land
    • Airlines unable to start flights on routes awarded to them or finding the routes difficult to sustain
    • Adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While the Ministry of Civil Aviation undertook interesting initiatives within the scheme to provide improved connectivity to hilly regions and islands through helicopters and seaplanes, as well as linking Assam with certain international destinations in South Asia and South East Asia, these mostly remain on paper.

What have been the challenges?

  • Poor financial health of many smaller, regional carriers have been a bane for the scheme. 
  • Take the example of TruJet, a Hyderabad-based airline, which was among the most successful players under the scheme until the pandemic hit the industry. 
    • It has since seen a change in ownership, but awaits infusion of funds to be able to undertake maintenance of aircraft, pay rentals to lessors, give salaries to its staff, etc. 
    • Of its fleet size of six planes, only one plane is currently air worthy and is being used for connecting eight routes out of the total 42 won by the airline. 
  • Another examples include Air Odisha and Air Deccan which had won 84 out of 128 routes in the first round of bidding shut shop due to financial troubles and the Government reallocated these routes in subsequent rounds. 
  • Many players don’t have more than one or two planes and they are often poorly maintained. 
  • New planes are too expensive for these smaller players. For example, Air Odisha had only two planes and if one plane is grounded due to a glitch it impacts their flights. 
  • Often, they also have problems with availability of pilots and are forced to hire foreign pilots which costs them a lot of money and makes the business unviable. 
  • So far, only those routes that have been bagged by bigger domestic players such as IndiGo and SpiceJet have seen a better success rate.
  • Smaller airlines have to compete with big airlines to get pilots and other manpower who have to be paid on par with what major carriers in the market pay even though the size of our pie is much smaller.

What lies ahead for the scheme?

  • The Government offers subsidy for a route for a period of three years and expects the airline to develop the route during this time so that it becomes self-sufficient. 
  • For example, Kadapa- Hyderabad was launched in 2017. TruJet stopped connecting Kadapa and Hyderabad once the tenure of the subsidy expired. 
  • Airlines like TruJet have sought an extension of the subsidy period by two years. Similarly, the only seaplane flight launched remains suspended. 
  • SpiceJet’s seaplane flight from Statue of Unity in Kevadiya to Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad was launched in October 2020 by the Prime Minister and saw a few flights till April, 2021 but has since been suspended due to rise in COVID cases, travel restrictions and keeping passenger safety in mind.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Dec 21: Chip’ping In For Industry 4.0 – https://youtu.be/3rq2AZrTW48 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Semiconductors and Industry 4.0 

Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved a comprehensive program for the development of sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in the country. 

  • With an outlay of Rs.76,000 crore (10 billion US dollars), the scheme has incentives for every part of supply chain including electronic components, sub-assemblies, and finished goods. 
  • In total, the Government of India has committed support of Rs. 2,30,000 crore (USD 30 billion) to position India as global hub for electronics manufacturing with semiconductors as the foundational building block. 

Significance of the Sector

  • Semiconductor chips are integral parts of the power train, chassis, safety systems, advanced driver assistance systems, and other parts of automobiles. 
  • They are used more in passenger vehicles compared to commercial vehicles or two-wheelers
  • The move to electric vehicles has led to increased demand of chips. For example, a Ford Focus typically uses roughly 300 chips, whereas one of Ford’s new electric vehicles can have up to 3,000 chips
  • With supply of semiconductor chips slowing down, the production in automobile sector is also adversely impacted.

Programme for Development of Semiconductors and Display Manufacturing Ecosystem

  • The program will usher in a new era in electronics manufacturing by providing a globally competitive incentive package to companies in semiconductors and display manufacturing as well as design. 
  • Pave the way for India’s technological leadership in these areas of strategic importance and economic self-reliance.
  • Semiconductors and displays are the foundation of modern electronics driving the next phase of digital transformation under Industry 4.0.
  • Semiconductors and display manufacturing is very complex and technology-intensive sector involving huge capital investments, high risk, long gestation and payback periods, and rapid changes in technology, which require significant and sustained investments. 
  • Give an impetus to semiconductor and display manufacturing by facilitating capital support and technological collaborations.

Semi-Conductor Shortage

There was a global shortage of semiconductor chips that had started making its effect felt in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector in India.

  • Rise in Covid-19 cases in supplying countries, especially those in Asia, led to disruption of production (shutdown of factories) thereby causing the current shortage.
  • An atrocious winter storm in Texas shutdown semiconductor factories, and a fire at a plant in Japan caused similar delays.
  • Also, relatively low margins of Substrate manufacturing have led to its underinvestment and added to the pain of a global chip shortage 
    • Substrates connect chips to the circuit boards that hold them in personal computers and other devices. 
    • Made up of thin copper wire sandwiched in resin, substrates help transmit user instructions to a computer’s chips and relay the answers. 
    • They are necessary because the ultrathin wiring that comes out of chips can’t tolerate a direct soldered connection to a circuit board
    •  Substrate Manufacturing is therefore seen as a backwater of the global chip supply chain.
    • Supplies of substrates is very tight and small disruption in this underinvested sector is causing big worries to chip manufacturers
  • The chief executives of Intel and IBM have both said recently that the chip shortage could last two years.

Consequences of chip shortage on automobile sector:

  • Due to longer lead time — the time between when the order is placed and the shipment is delivered — the automobile sector has been forced to cut down on its production.
  • The slowing down of production by big automotive players has led to reduction in new orders being placed to MSME vendors (who supply parts)
  • The MSMEs who are vendors and sub-vendors of the automobile industry are now working just 8 hours instead of the 12 hours they normally do. This has not only affected their earning but is also making them to migrate to other sectors. 
  • While the local MSME industrial sector was slowly coming back to normal after the second wave of Covid-19, the recovery has been hampered by the high price of raw material and low orders.

Conclusion

Coming at a time when the entire world is facing a shortage of semiconductors, analysts say the move could go a long way in establishing the country as a global hub for electronics goods, besides creating jobs and attracting investments from top firms around the world.

Can you answer the following question?

  1. How will the approved program help India boost its semiconductor capabilities? Discuss.
  2. Enumerate the practical challenges despite the fiscal support, and the technological collaborations required to propel India towards becoming a semiconductor hub.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding ‘Standing’ committees

  1. It is a temporary and regular committee which is constituted according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament.
  2. Financial committees and departmentally-related standing committees (DRSCs) are types of standing committees.

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.2 Chillai kalan is associated with Which of the following?

  1. Rice sowing season
  2. Harshest winter spell of Kashmir 
  3. Mourning month of Shia community
  4. None of the above

Q.3 Which of the following are possible uses of drones in Agriculture

  1. It can be used in many areas of the agriculture sector such as monitoring crop stress, plant growth, predicting yields, and delivering props.
  2. Drones can be used for assessing the health of any vegetation or crop, field areas inflicted by weeds.
  3. Drones can be used to shoot pods which increases consistency and efficiency of crop management.
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 22nd Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 B
3 D

Must Read

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