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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 15th March 2022

  • IASbaba
  • March 15, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Microfinance institutions can now set interest rates

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy

Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed microfinance institutions the freedom to set interest rates on the loans that they lend.

Key takeaways 

  • The guidelines will take effect from 1st April 2022.
  • The RBI tweaked the definition of a microfinance loan to indicate a collateral-free loan given to a household having annual income of up to Rs. 3 lakh. 
    • Earlier, the upper limits were Rs. 1.2 lakh for rural borrowers and Rs. 2 lakh for urban borrowers.
  • There shall be no prepayment penalty on microfinance loans.
  • Penalty, if any, for delayed payment shall be applied on the overdue amount and not on the entire loan amount.

Microfinance institutions

  • Microfinance offers a solution to small business owners, who do not have access to banking and associated services. 
  • These institutions offer services similar to that of a bank.
  • They do charge interest on loans but the interest rate is lower than that charged by most banks in the country.
  • They help small- and medium-sized businesses scale up with access to funds at the right time.
  • They worked as an alternative, with an aim to create financial equality. 
  • In India, there are two channels through which microfinance operates:
    • SHG – Bank Linkage Programme (SBLP)
    • Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)

News Source: TH


Rs. 19,000-crore afforestation plan launched

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Environment 

Context:  The Centre envisages a Rs. 19,000–crore project to rejuvenate 13 major rivers by planting trees.

Key takeaways 

  • The rivers are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Luni, Narmada, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Cauvery funded by the National Afforestation & Eco-development Board.
  • Trees shall be planted on both sides of these rivers and their tributaries.

Significance of the project

  • increase cumulative forest cover in the vicinity of these 13 rivers.
  • help achieve national goals related to climate change and sustainable development.
  • help recharge groundwater
  • reduce sedimentation
  • generate Rs. 449.01 crore from non-timber and other forest produce 
  • provide employment
  • reduce erosion

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of India

  • Declines by 10 points
  • India on verge of achieving SDG target of Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of 70/ lakh live births by 2030
  • Remarkable decline of more than 15% in MMR reported by Kerala, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh
  • States that have achieved Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target increase from 5 to 7

PM-DevINE for North East

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Indian Economy

Context: A news scheme has been launched in the Union Budget 2022 – Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North-East, PM-DevINE.

  • Will be implemented through the North-Eastern Council
  • An initial allocation of Rs. 1,500 crore will be made for the new scheme. 

Objective: 

  • It will fund infrastructure, in the spirit of PM GatiShakti, and social development projects based on needs of the North-East. 
  • Enable livelihood activities for youth and women, filling the gaps in various sectors. 

PM GatiShakti

A Rs. 100 lakh-crore project for developing ‘holistic infrastructure’ – Will encompass the seven engines for multi-modal connectivity for the states with speedier implementation of development projects through technology to facilitate faster movement of people and goods through Rs 20,000 crore financed by the government to speed up this project

  • To reduce the logistics cost – a transformative approach, driven by roads, railways, ports, airports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure. All seven engines will pull the economy forward in unison
  • Unshackle bureaucratic entanglements and end inter-ministerial silos that delay infrastructure projects and drive up costs
  • Sets sectoral targets to be completed by 2024-25 in areas such as expanding national highways and increasing cargo capacity by the railway and shipping ministries

Significance: Currently, the logistics cost in India is about 13% of the GDP whereas in other developed countries it is to the extent of 8%. Government is committed to reduce the cost of logistics to ensure 

  • Competitiveness of our manufacturing sector, 
  • Better realisation of prices to farmers 
  • Availability of goods at cheaper prices to consumers

News Source: PIB


India Cooling Action Plan

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Climate Change

Context: The India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) provides an integrated vision towards cooling across sectors encompassing, inter alia, reduction of cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options by 2037-38 through forging synergies with on-going programmes/ schemes of the Government.

  1. With regard to reduction of cooling and energy demand in Space Cooling in building sector, a list of action points have been finalised after mapping of the recommendations of the India Cooling Action Plan with the ongoing government programmes/ schemes of the various Ministries. 
  2. Towards promoting passive cooling in buildings, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has brought out the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) for all large commercial (non-residential) buildings and Eco-Niwas Samhita (ECBC-R) for the residential buildings.
  3. Studies on promoting non-Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) and low Global Warming Potential based technologies in Cold Chain, Building sector and Public Procurement have been undertaken and reports have been published.
  4. To promote indigenous development of low global warming potential refrigerants, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has funded a research project to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)- Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad.
  5. Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, in collaboration with Bureau of Indian Standards has undertaken a simulation study for developing safety standards for flammable refrigerants in the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector.
  6. Up-skilling and certification of 43,450 Refrigeration and Air-conditioning (RAC) service technicians has been undertaken under the national skill qualification framework (NSQF) of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).  In addition, 29,000 RAC service technicians are being trained as part of implementation of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) phase out Management Plans under the Montreal Protocol.

India and its initiatives

  • India is a signatory to major global environmental conventions and treaties including, inter alia,  
    • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 
    • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 
    • Convention on Biological Diversity, 
    • Paris Agreement, 
    • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 
    • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 
    • Minamata Convention on Mercury, 
    • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 
    • Convention on the Conservation of  Migratory Species of Wild Animals, etc.   
  • India has taken ambitious targets in support of global environmental goals as evidenced in its Nationally Determined Contributions for combating Climate Change under the Paris Agreement, ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons, restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and conserving 30% of land and oceans by 2030.  
  • India engaged constructively with all member states in the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in 2022 to develop consensus on the resolution for driving global action on plastic pollution.
  • India has also hosted the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in 2019 and Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in 2020.

News Source: PIB


Protection of Great Indian Bustards

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Conservation

The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is one of the heaviest flying birds, and is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent. Barely 150 of these birds are estimated to be surviving now globally Today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. 

  • Scientific Name: Ardeotis nigriceps.
  • Physical description: Black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. 
  • They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles.
  • Distribution: India, effectively the only home of the bustards, today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small population also occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is the State bird of Rajasthan. Along with chick-rearing centre for GIB in Jaisalmer, Sorsan in Rajasthan has been identified as the most conducive site for their rearing, due to availability of grasslands, access to roads and well suited climatic conditions
  • The GIB is a flagship species of the grassland; it determines the health of the grasslands, on which many other species of birds and animals, and even the dairy industry is dependent on.

Issues: 

  • Unhindered grazing and installing of windmills and power stations on grasslands, thereby encroaching upon the breeding and wintering ground of the GIB.
  • Large parcels of grassland are converted to agricultural land.
  • The changing agricultural pattern that is moving away from traditional crops is another reason. With the disappearance of the traditional Bajra and Jowar crops, whose by-products served as fodder, their food has been on the decline.
  • An increase in the use of pesticides has further depleted the population of insects like the beetle, which the GIB and other birds feed on.
  • Attacks by dogs & foxes
  • Poaching
  • Presence of high voltage power lines 

Conservation status:

  • Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972,
  • Listed in Appendix I of CITES
  • Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

News Source: PIB


Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)

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

Context: The Global Pandemic is once in a life-time disruption that has created serious adverse impacts on lives and livelihood in economies all around the world. Government of India responded with a series of calibrated measures aimed at protecting the lives and livelihoods of most vulnerable and small businesses like the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) segment. India has become third largest start-up ecosystem in the world after US and China with over 60,000 start-ups. India created 42 Unicorn in the year 2021 alone.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 

  • It is an international project which seeks to provide information on the entrepreneurial landscape of countries. 
  • GEM carries out survey-based research on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world and is being led by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad.
  • As per Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) India Report (21-22), India’s entrepreneurial activity expanded in 2021, with its Total Entrepreneurial Activity rate (percentage of adults (aged 18–64) who are starting or running a new business) increased to 14.4% in 2021, up from 5.3% in 2020.

Initiatives by the Ministry

  • Pilot project, ‘Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs and Startups by Women (WEE)’ is being implemented in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Germany to pilot incubation and acceleration programmes for women micro entrepreneurs, enabling them to start new businesses and scale up existing enterprises in Maharashtra and other States, viz.Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and North Eastern region of the country.
  • Pilot Project on Entrepreneurship Development (PM YUVA) has been launched in November, 2019 for creating an enabling ecosystem through entrepreneurship education, training, advocacy and easy access to entrepreneurship network, for students and alumni of skill training institutes viz. Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), Polytechnics, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK) and Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS). The scheme covers 10 States including Maharashtra and 2 Union Territories.
  • Entrepreneurship Promotion and Mentoring of Micro and Small Businesses in Six Holy Cities: The project seeks to catalyse local entrepreneurial activities through involvement of potential and existing entrepreneurs, through entrepreneurship awareness, education and mentoring in Pandharpur, Puri, Varanasi, Haridwar, Kollur and Bodh Gaya.
  • In order to enhance the employability of female workers, the Government is providing training to them through a network of Women Industrial Training Institutes, National Skill Training Institutes, PMKVY Centers and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

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

National Land Monetisation Corporation

Context: Last week, the Union cabinet approved the creation of a National Land Monetisation Corporation to monetise the surplus land holdings of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and other government agencies. 

What are the advantages by creating a land monetisation corporation? 

  • Database of Land: A detailed and comprehensive inventory of the state’s land holding across the country will be created.
  • Investor Friendly: Properly marked land parcels with geographical identifiers, boundaries clearly demarcated, and the legality of title well established, will provide greater clarity and certainty to private investors. This will help in creation of a database of potential investors.
  • Better Utilisation of assets: Collating large swathes of unused/under used land under a single entity will lead to a more efficient monetisation drive, and better utilisation of these assets. For ex: Total vacant land available with Railways is estimated at around 1.25 lakh acres.
  • Increases Government revenue: Proceeds from the monetisation of these assets will help generate additional resources, boosting government coffers.
  • Helps reduce Land Prices: Auctioning off surplus land will increase the supply of land, which may address the issue of the “artificial” scarcity of land that exists in certain areas. This could reduce prices and thus have a moderating effect on costs of projects.
  • Need for specialised agency: Land monetisation is a complex process that requires “specialised skills and expertise” in areas such as “market research, legal due diligence, valuation, master planning, investment banking and land management.” A dedicated entity with specialised skills is better suited for this task.

What are the challenges that this corporation might face?

  • Reluctance to declare: The estimation of surplus land may be a contentious issue. Ministries, departments, and public sector entities may be reluctant to demarcate land parcels as “surplus”.
  • Legal- administrative Challenges: The corporation will have to grapple with issues such as the absence of clear titles, ongoing litigation, and muted investor interest. There is also the issue of the encroachment of government land to contend with.

Conclusion

While this monetisation drive should lead to more efficient outcomes, it does raise questions over the management of commons, and whether public purpose can be better looked after by more effective management of public land by the state.

Connecting the dots:


SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-1: Social Empowerment

Manual Scavenging

What is manual scavenging?

  • The Manual scavenging is the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks. 
  • India banned the practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR). 
  • The Act bans the use of any individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.
  • In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks. 
  • The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a “dehumanizing practice,” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”

Issues with Manual Scavenging

  • Manual scavengers are at risk of death from asphyxiation due to poisonous gases and are often exposed to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, jaundice, skin disorders and even cardiovascular diseases. 
  • They often lack access to proper safety gear and equipment.   
  • Lack of precautions, such as taking lamps down in sewers with a large concentration of methane gas, is responsible for accidents
  • Manual scavengers are usually from caste groups customarily relegated to the bottom of the caste hierarchy. Their caste-designated occupation reinforces the social stigma that they are unclean or “untouchable” and perpetuates widespread discrimination. 

Why is manual scavenging still prevalent in India?

  • The lack of enforcement of the Act is one of the reason why the practice is still prevalent in India.  While the central government enacts laws, representatives at local level too often not only fail to implement prohibitions on manual scavenging by private households, but also perpetuate the practice.
  • A 2019 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) said “weak legal protection and lack of enforcement” of the laws, as well as the poor financial status of sanitation workers, contributes to the practice still prevailing.”   
    • The Mumbai civic body charges anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 to clean septic tanks. The unskilled labourers, meanwhile, are much cheaper to hire and contractors illegally employ them at a daily wage of Rs 300-500
  • Many who refuse to work as scavengers face coercion and threats from dominant castes, according to a Human Rights Watch report published in 2014.   
  • People remain unaware of their right to refuse this role, and those who do refuse may face intense social pressure, including threats of violence and expulsion from their village, often with the complicity of local government officials. 
  • Some states including Delhi have launched the use of sewage cleaning machines for this purpose. However, they are not widely used across the country. Moreover, narrow lanes prevent access for larger machines while poorly designed septic tanks make it difficult for machines to function.     

What measures are required to end this inhuman practice?

  • Identify all individuals currently engaged in manual scavenging and those who have engaged in the practice since it was outlawed under the 1993 Act (so the latter are entitled to benefits under the 2013 Act). 
  • Ensure that rehabilitation entitlements under the 2013 Act—including financial assistance, scholarships, housing, alternative livelihood support, and other important legal and programmatic assistance—are available to manual scavenging communities. 
  • Take immediate steps to ensure that officials effectively intervene to stop communities from being coerced to practice manual scavenging.
  • Strictly enforce the law against local government officials who themselves employ people to work as manual scavengers. 

Connecting the dots:

  • SC/ST atrocities law
  • National Commission For Safai Karamcharis

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Microfinance institutions:

  1. Microfinance offers a solution to small business owners, who do not have access to banking and associated services. 
  2. They do charge interest on loans but the interest rate is lower than that charged by most banks in the country.

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 The river on which the reservoir for Indira Gandhi Canal has been built is

  1. Ravi
  2. Luni
  3. Jhelum
  4. Sutlej 

Q.3 PM-DevINE scheme deals with which of the following? 

  1. Development Initiative for pilgrimage sites of India 
  2. Development Initiative for North-East
  3. Development Initiative for spiritual centers in India
  4. None of the above

ANSWERS FOR 15th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 B

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