(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-III -Environment
Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the equity infusion of Rs.1500 crore in Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) recently.
- This equity infusion will help in employment generation of approximately 10200 jobs-year and CO2 equivalent emission reduction of approximately 7.49 Million Tonnes CO2/year.
- It will also enhance the specialized non-banking finance agency’s net worth, which will help it in additional financing.
- IREDA is a Public Limited Government Company established as a Non-Banking Financial Institution in 1987
- It is engaged in promoting, developing and extending financial assistance for setting up projects relating to new and renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency/conservation.
- IREDA has been awarded “Mini Ratna” (Category -I) status in 2015 by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
- IREDA’s Motto is “Energy for Ever”.
- It offers a credit enhancement guarantee scheme to support the issuance of bonds by wind and solar energy project developers.
Do you know?
- At COP26 in Glasgow last November, Indian Prime Minister announced India’s aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 and also committed to achieving 500 GW of installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
- The country has installed electricity generation capacity of 392 GW, constituting 209 GW of coal and 104 GW of renewables.
News Source: ET
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy
Context: India has emerged as the largest exporter of gherkins in the world.
- India has crossed the USD 200 million mark of export of agricultural processed product, – pickling cucumber, in the last financial year.
- It is globally referred to as gherkins or cornichons.
- Gherkin cultivation started in India during the early 1990s in Karnataka and later extended to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- Nearly 15% production of the world’s gherkin requirement is grown in India.
- Apart from its export potential, the gherkin industry plays a key role in the creation of rural employment.
- In India, cultivation of gherkins is carried out under contract farming by around 90,000 small and marginal farmers with an annual production area of 65,000 acres.
News Source: ET
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Conservation
Context: Tiger census will commence at Bandipur and at Nagarahole as part of the All-India Tiger and Mega Herbivore Estimation.
- This is part of the nation-wide enumeration that is held once in four years and is the fifth such exercise being taken up — the earlier ones being held in 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018.
Do you know?
- Nagarahole Tiger Reserve is located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka.
- Bandipur National Park is located in Chamarajnagar district, Karnataka
- It was established as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1973. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve since 1986.
- This year’s enumeration exercise entails the use of MSTRIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) app.
- Apart from the tiger counts, the exercise will also throw up data on mega herbivores, including elephants and gaurs.
- The use of apps ensures that the data is not only digitised but is uploaded on a real-time basis and is robust.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy
Context: French luxury fashion brand Hermès is suing an American digital artist who created the MetaBirkins series of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), a rapidly growing part of the cryptoworld.
- An NFT is a unique, irreplaceable token that can be used to prove ownership of digital assets such as music, artwork, even tweets and memes.
- The term ‘non-fungible’ simply means that each token is different as opposed to a fungible currency such as money (a ten-rupee note can be exchanged for another and so on).
- Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are also fungible, which means that one Bitcoin can be exchanged for another.
- But an NFT cannot be exchanged for another NFT because the two are different and therefore unique.
- Each token has a different value, depending on which asset it represents.
- NFT transactions are recorded on blockchains, which is a digital public ledger, with most NFTs being a part of the Ethereum blockchain.
- NFTs became popular in 2021, when they were beginning to be seen by artists as a convenient way to monetise their work.
What are the other reasons for which NFTs are in high demand?
- NFTs are a part of a new kind of financial system called decentralised finance (DeFi), which does away with the involvement of institutions such as banks.
- For this reason, decentralised finance is seen as a more democratic financial system because it makes access to capital easier for lay people by essentially eliminating the role of banks and other associated institutions.
News Source: IE
(News from PIB)
Part of: Mains GS-1: Social Empowerment
- Celebrated on: 24th January
- Objective: To provide support and opportunities to the girls of India
- Aims towards promoting awareness about the rights of the girl child and to increase awareness on the importance of girl education, and their health and nutrition and also to promote the girls position in the society to make their living better among the society. Gender discrimination is a major problem that girls or women face throughout their life.
- Initiated in 2008 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The typical life cycle vulnerabilities of a girl child in India –
The discrimination against the girl child is systematic and pervasive enough to manifest in many demographic measures for the country.
- For the country as a whole as well as its rural areas, the infant mortality rate is higher for females in comparison to that for males.
- Usually, though not exclusively, it is in the northern and western states that the female infant mortality rates are higher, a difference of ten points between the two sex specific rates not being uncommon.
- The infant mortality rate is slightly in favour of females in the urban areas of the country (as a whole) but then, urban India is marked by greater access to abortion services and unwanted girl children often get eliminated before birth.
- Sustainable well-being can be brought about if strategic interventions are made at critical stages. The life cycle approach thus advocates strategic interventions in periods of early childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, with programmes ranging from nutrition supplements to life skills education. Such interventions attempt to break the vicious intergenerational cycle of ill health.
- The vulnerability of females in India in the crucial periods of childhood, adolescence and childbearing is underscored by the country’s sex wise age specific mortality rates.
- From childhood till the mid-twenties, higher proportions of women than men die in the country. In rural India, higher proportions of women die under thirty.
- Health is socially determined to a considerable extent. Access to healthcare, is almost fully so. This being so, the ‘lived experiences’ of women in India are replete with potential risk factors that have implications for their lives and well-being.
- The multiple roles of household work, child rearing and paid work that women carry out has implications for their physical and mental health.
- In recent years, studies on domestic violence in the country have systematically debunked the myth of the home as a safe haven.
- Violence against women in India cuts across caste, class and other divides.
- In general, women in India are restricted in matters of decision making, freedom of mobility and access to money, though wide variations exist depending on the socio- demographic context.
The schemes and programs meant for addressing those vulnerabilities: The following policy recommendations are offered to address the situation –
- Adopt comprehensive and gender sensitive primary healthcare to address women’s diverse health needs and to overcome the many limitations that they experience in accessing healthcare.
- Strengthen public healthcare. For the poor and the marginalised, the public sector is the only sector that can potentially provide qualified and affordable care. In the rural interiors of the country, it is usually the only sector having qualified personnel.
- Regulate the private sector: For a sector that is the dominant provider of curative services in the country, it is indeed surprising that it operates with so little accountability. The private sector should be subject to controls with regards to the charges levied, minimum acceptable standards for practice, geographical dispersal of services, etc that would make access to the sector more equitable for groups across this vast country. Equitable distribution of services is a non-negotiable and will greatly facilitate access.
- Make the health systems gender sensitive: Health systems should be sensitised to the multiple and interrelated health needs of women and the gendered nature of their existences. A gender sensitive health system will not only encourage women to seek care but will also respond to their needs appropriately.
- Institute community health insurance schemes that would be bulwarks against catastrophic health events. It is imperative that such schemes be need based and cover vulnerable groups in the country and not be a privilege of a few. In a society where resources can be so inequitably distributed within and outside the family, it needs to be emphasised that community health insurance schemes should protect the interests of women.
- Strengthen civil society initiatives that advance women’s ‘practical’ and ‘strategic’ interests, for the two are intricately intertwined in women’s lives.
Measures taken by Government for welfare of girl child:
- Improving sex ratio– Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao Scheme, Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act are meant to prevent sex selective abortions and improve sex ratio in the country.
- Female education– Sukanya Samridhi Yojana creates a fund for the future education of the girl child and Udan for higher education of girl child.
- Child Marriage– Prohibition of Child marriage Act 2006 has been enacted to prevent marriage of girls below 18 years of age.
- Health and nutrition– Supplying iron and folic acid tablets, Kishori Shakti Yojana, POSHAN abhiyan, Mid-day meal scheme have been undertaken to provide sufficient nutrition to girl child.
- Hygiene– Ujjwala sanitary napkin at minimal cost under Suvidha scheme will support menstrual hygienic among girls.
- Child labour– The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 has been enacted to make sure girls are not indulged in child labour practices and instead get education.
- Sexual abuse– Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 provides strict punitive action in case of sexual abuse against the child.
- Human trafficking– Ujjawala scheme to prevent, rescue and rehabilitate trafficked girl.
News Source: PIB
SCIENCE & TECH/ GOVERNANCE
- GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Context: The rollout of the 5G C-band spectrum (3.7 GHz-3.98 GHz) in the U.S., on January 19, 2022 — led to several major airlines, including Air India, temporarily cancelling their flights to the U.S. over fears of spectrum interference with crucial aircraft navigation systems.
- An aircraft type largely affected in this was the Boeing 777.
- The two major telecom firms concerned, Verizon and AT&T, also took cognisance of the worries of airlines and agreed to delay 5G deployment around key airports.
How 5G services in Europe and parts of Asia have hardly led to any disruptions to aviation unlike the near panic that has set in the U.S.?
- An aviation expert said the main worry is of ‘radio emissions’ at the top of the C-band’s 3.98 GHz frequency ‘bleeding over’ into the 4.2 GHz-4.4 GHz band used by civil aircraft radio altimeters.
- USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aid that there are differences in the way 5G technology has been deployed in other countries.
- These include lower power levels; frequencies that are ‘of a different proximity to frequencies that are used by aviation equipment’ and a different placement of antennas in the vicinity of airports.
- In Europe, 5G services are in the 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz range.
- In Korea, they are in the 3.42 GHz-3.7 GHz range.
- In U.S. airspace, the initial stages of 5G use will try and mirror the safeguards used in France. But even here, there are differences. In France, for example, the 5G power level (on average, 631 Watts) is still lower than what it would be in the U.S. (on average, 1,585 Watts).
- Also the planned buffer zones around airports in the U.S. will protect only the last 20 seconds of the flight.
- France also has a condition that the antenna angle has to have a downward tilt to limit potential interference.
- The height of a 5G antenna and the power of the signal are the factors that determine how close it can be allowed near an airport or a flight path.
- Japanese institute had conducted a study on 5G interference with radio altimeters, which submitted its findings to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in March 2021.
- One of the findings was that there would need to be “at least 60 MHz” of what was called a ‘guard band’ to avoid interference with radio altimeters.
- It also made a finding of locating the high-power 5G base station 200 metres away from the approach path of an aircraft.
- The buffer zones around an estimated 50 U.S. airports will be designed to try and keep 5G signals and aircraft separate.
What has the FAA been doing?
- FAA has collaborated with airlines ‘on how they can demonstrate altimeters are safe and reliable in certain 5G C-band environments’.
- An altimeter or an altitude meter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level.
- FAA has also issued approvals clearing commercial fleet of airlines to perform low-visibility landings at airports where the 5G C-band is in use.
Connecting the dots:
- GS-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, the aggregate outlay on food and fertilizer subsidy fell, both in absolute terms (from Rs 211,834 crore to Rs 189,813 crore) and as a share of the Centre’s total expenditure (from 11.8% to 7.1%).
- A further drop, to Rs 186,879 crore and 6.1%, was projected in the Budget for 2020-21.
- That declining trend has, however, since completely reversed.
- The combined food and fertiliser subsidy bill in the revised estimates for 2020-21 was a massive Rs 556,565 crore, representing 16.1% of the Centre’s entire Budget (Refer image below)
What are the reasons for the reversal in 2020-21?
First reason is government coming clean in food & fertilizer subsidy bill
- The first has to do with the Centre, until 2021, not providing fully for the subsidy, arising from FCI’s subsidies and fertiliser firms selling nutrients at below cost to farmers.
- In the case of food, the Centre wasn’t wholly funding the difference between the FCI’s economic cost and its average issue price, multiplied by the quantities sold.
- FCI’s economic cost includes costs of procuring, handling, transporting, distributing and storing grain.
- To bridge the gap, FCI had to borrow heavily, especially from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF), with interest rates ranging from 7.4% to 8.8% per annum.
- FCI’s borrowings from NSSF in 2019-20, at Rs 110,000 crore, exceeded the food subsidy of Rs 108,688 crore provided through the Budget.
- Similarly in fertilizer sector, the industry was owed Rs 48,000 crore of subsidy dues at the start of 2020-21.
- But in the revised estimates for 2021-22, Finance Minister allocated an additional Rs 3,69,687 crore towards food and fertiliser subsidy. As a result, all outstanding NSSF loans to FCI got repaid and the fertiliser subsidy dues cleared at one go.
- This exercise of coming clean — the Centre owning up its expenditures, rather than transferring to the balance sheets of FCI and fertiliser companies — also meant a huge one-time spike in the subsidy bill.
Second reason is COVID
- The second source of overshooting has been Covid (in respect of food subsidy) and soaring international prices (vis-à-vis fertilisers).
- The post-Covid crisis led the Centre to not only distribute, but also procure, unprecedented quantities of grain. 5 kg of free grain/ person/ month was given under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), apart from the regular 5 kg quota of wheat or rice at Rs 2 and Rs 3/kg, respectively.
- In 2020-21, a record 93.11 million tonnes (mt) of rice and wheat was sold through the PDS (62.19 mt, 65.91 mt and 60.37 mt in previous three years)
- A similar overshooting, despite no pending past dues, is expected in fertiliser subsidy. The primary reason is global prices. Urea imports into India are taking place now at $900-1,000 per tonne (nearly $300 in 2019-20) and di-ammonium phosphate at $900 (nearly $400 in 2019-20).
What is the way ahead for rationalising subsidy bill?
- Hiking PDS issue prices
- Capping grain procurement
- Decontrolling urea and providing a fixed per-tonne nutrient-based subsidy similar to that for other fertilisers.
Connecting the dots:
(Sansad TV: Perspective)
Jan 22: Pakistan’s National Security Policy – https://youtu.be/DuSZ9Xvbqes
- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood
Context: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan recently launched his country’s National Security Policy.
- Prepared after seven years of consultations, it is being flaunted as the first policy document with guidelines for achieving national security goals.
- Stipulates, inter alia, economic security as the core of national security, an expansion of the economic pie, supplementing geostrategy with geoeconomics, making Pakistan a trade and connectivity hub, curbing extremism and terrorism, and inculcating a culture of introspection and pragmatism in defining national security interests.
Pakistan’s Economic Security takes centre stage
The primary push behind putting out the document seems to be the economic crisis faced by Pakistan, which experts attribute to poor fiscal management.
- Foreign investors have also been staying away because Islamabad has not been tough on militants. The policy document, though, claims the government has a zero-tolerance policy for groups involved in terrorist activities.
- Since 1950 Pakistan has been bailed out by the IMF 22 times including in November 2021, that time to the tune of a US$6 billion loan.
- In December the World Bank also loaned the country US$195 million to improve its electricity distribution.
The National Security Policy
The National Security Policy document is an effort to codify the Bajwa Doctrine into an actionable statement of purpose and a strategy for its realisation.
- Defence and territorial integrity: Special attention is required to manage lingering border disputes which continue to pose security threats, particularly along the Line of Control and Working Boundary where ceasefire violations by India threaten civilian lives and property while endangering regional stability.
- Strategic stability: Nuclear deterrence has a “critical role” in South Asia’s security calculations. Pakistan’s nuclear capability deters war through full spectrum deterrence within the precincts of credible minimum nuclear deterrence in concert with our conventional military capabilities and all elements of national power.
- Internal Security: Extremism and radicalisation based on ethnicity or religion challenges society. It asserted that “swift and uncompromising” action would be taken against those producing and disseminating hate speech and material.
- On China and Pakistan, the document talks about deep-rooted historical ties, shared interests, mutual understanding and strategic convergence. The mega infrastructure project ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ is described as one with support across Pakistan and one that can jump-start Pakistan’s economy and domestic growth.
- Regarding the US, there seems to be an attempt to ignore the current strain in bilateral ties. Although the Pakistani Prime Minister has not received a call from US President Joe Biden since he assumed office, the document talks about the long history of bilateral cooperation between the two sides. It also describes the US as “critical” for regional peace and stability and glosses over its current tussle with China. The document acknowledges that cooperation between the US and Pakistan has narrowed down to counterterrorism only, and hoped other areas can also be worked on together soon.
The Policy on Relations with India
- J&K: On relations with India, the document stated that Pakistan wants to improve relationship with India but adds that a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains at the core of the bilateral relationship.
- Dilution of Article 370 of the Indian constitution related to the autonomous status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s pursuit of unilateral policy actions on outstanding issues are attempts to impose one-sided solutions that can have far reaching negative consequences for regional stability.
- On Indian army and activities: Pakistan is concerned by “growing Indian arms build-up, facilitated by access to advanced technologies and exceptions in the non-proliferation rules”.
- It is a reference to the 2008 exemption granted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group as a result of the India-US nuclear deal, which has been consistently criticised by Pakistan. Besides impacting regional stability, such policies of exceptionalism also undermine the global non-proliferation regime.
- Pakistan’s deterrence regime is “aimed at regional peace”. The expansion of India’s nuclear triad, open-ended statements on nuclear policy, and investments in and introduction of destabilising technologies disturb the strategic balance in the region.
- Internal Indian politics: Pakistan’s immediate security is impacted by the rise of Hindutva-driven politics in India. The political exploitation of a policy of belligerence towards Pakistan by India’s leadership has led to the threat of military adventurism and non-contact warfare to our immediate east.
- Trade ties: There is no reference to trade ties with India. The only place where India was mentioned in proximity to economic issues was about Pakistan’s location and connectivity. Pakistan had never understood that for India, trade relationship was more of a “confidence-building measure” rather than a necessity to tap into a market.
The Way Forward
One of the most dangerous moments for a regime is when it wants to change course. When there is a significant alteration of internal or external circumstances, change becomes an urgent necessity. But in seeking major change, the sovereign takes considerable political risks. But not changing carries even bigger risks. That is the kind of moment that the Pakistani state finds itself in today.
- However, the present document comes across as more of a part academic and part bureaucratic exercise – almost like the output of a think tank. There does not seem to have been any political input into it, which is an obvious and major weakness.
- Though, there’s also the fact that it did not centre Pakistan’s “national security around India alone and takes a wider view of national security including in it non-traditional elements”.
- But there is an inherent dichotomy in Pakistan’s strategy of pursuing a geoeconomic strategy to encourage regional trade, particularly with India, while also pushing an adversarial relation with India, which is regarded as its main source of threat.
Pakistan needs to resolve this dichotomy “before expecting trade and economic cooperation in the region to take-off”. Unless and until all institutions in Pakistan work together to define the statecraft in liberal terms and the secular elite stops forging unholy alliances with Islamists who keep on fostering an image of India as an “eternal enemy”, a change seems unlikely. India should definitely watch, and be prepared to react accordingly.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Does Pakistan’s national security policy signal a rethink on India? Discuss.
- Pakistan geo-economic transition can’t succeed without shift in its India policy. Comment
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Which of the following is/are true regarding Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA)?
- IREDA is a Public Limited Government Company established as a Non-Banking Financial Institution in 1987
- IREDA has been awarded “Mini Ratna” status in 2015 by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
Select the correct answer:
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Non-Fungible Tokens are associated with which of the following?
- Fungi resistant to multiple drugs
- Renewable energy
- Defence weapons procurement
Q.3 Bandipur National Park, a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, is located in which of the following state of India?
- Tamil Nadu
- All of the above
ANSWERS FOR 25th Jan 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On impact of school closure:
On dealing with the macroeconomic uncertainties:
On India’s challenges in European geopolitics: