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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th March 2022

  • IASbaba
  • March 16, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Central Bank Digital Currency

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy

Context: The Minister of State for Finance has informed Rajya Sabha that Reserve Bank of India is currently working towards a phased implementation strategy for introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

What is Digital Currency?

  • It is a payment method which exists only in electronic form and is not tangible.
  • It can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.
  • Although it is similar to physical currencies, digital money allows borderless transfer of ownership as well as instantaneous transactions.
  • Digital currency is also known as digital money and cybercash.

About CBDC

  • CBDC is a digital form of Fiat Currency which can be transacted using wallets backed by blockchain and is regulated by the central bank. 
    • Fiat money is a government-issued currency that is not backed by a commodity such as gold. 
    • Fiat money gives central banks greater control over the economy because they can control how much money is printed.
  • It is a legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form.

News Source: Newsonair


Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II International relations

Context:  U.S. and others in the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies would end normal trade relations, known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia as it pursues its invasion of Ukraine.

  • PNTR is USA’s version of Most Favored Nation (MFN).
  • In international trade, MFN status (or treatment) is awarded by one nation to another.
  • Most Favoured Nation status designation means two countries have agreed to trade with each other under the best possible terms: low tariffs, few barriers to trade and the highest possible imports allowed.
  • A nation with MFN status will not be discriminated against and will not be treated worse than any other nation with MFN status.
  • In USA’s case, granting of permanent normal trade relations status is automatic, except where specifically denied by law.

About G-7

  • G7 is a forum of the world’s seven largest developed economies whose government leaders meet annually to discuss international economic and monetary issues.
  • It is an informal gathering
  • G-7 has its roots in an informal meeting of the finance ministers of France, West Germany, the U.S, Great Britain, and Japan (the Group of Five) in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
  • With addition of Canada & Italy, first G7 was held in 1976
  • In 1998, Russia was added to form G8. However, in 2014, Russia was suspended from the group after the annexation of Crimea and tensions in Ukraine.
  • Since then, meetings have continued within the G7 process
  • It does not have a permanent headquarters.
  • The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.

News Source: TH


International Arbitration Centre

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Law & Policy

Context: The foundation stone for the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Hyderabad was laid by Chief Justice of India N.V.Ramana recently.

Key takeaways 

  • IAMC-Hyderabad is India’s first arbitration centre for alternative dispute resolution.
  • Although arbitration centres have already been set up in India, most prominently in Delhi and Mumbai, domestic and international parties still appear to prefer the foreign arbitration Centres. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms

  • ADR is a mechanism of dispute resolution that is non adversarial, i.e. working together co-operatively to reach the best resolution for everyone.
  • ADR can be instrumental in reducing the burden of litigation on courts, while delivering a well-rounded and satisfying experience for the parties involved
  • Arbitration: The dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision (an “award”) on the dispute that is mostly binding on the parties.
  • Mediation: In mediation, an impartial person called a “mediator” helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.
  • Arbitration and mediation have a long history in India. 
    • Recently they have acquired prominence across the world as methods of dispute resolution.
  • Alternative dispute resolution methods are beneficial to the parties due to various reasons
    • low-cost speed 
    • more control over timelines and process
    • autonomy of parties 
    • a more comfortable environment 
    • a non-adversarial nature

(News from PIB)


Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)

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

Context: The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying is implementing a flagship scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) with a highest ever investment of Rs. 20,050 crore for a period of 5 years. 

  • Provides livelihood and nutritional support for socio-economically backward active traditional fisher’s families during the fishing ban/lean period 
  • PMMSY also provides support for insurance to fishers and insurance premium subvention for fishing vessels under its Centrally Sponsored scheme component. Insurance coverage for fishers includes
  • Rs.5,00,000/- against accidental death or permanent total disability
  • Rs.2,50,000/- for permanent partial disability
  • Insurance coverage for hospitalization expenses in the event of accident for a sum of Rs. 25,000/-. 

The Department of Fisheries has no proposal for providing weather-based index insurance scheme to cover the loss suffered by the fishermen due to adverse climatic changes. The draft National Fisheries Policy recommends for insurance of life, craft and gear and other assets of fishers from the vagaries of nature.

News Source: PIB


Record of Rights under SVAMITVA scheme

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

Context: “SVAMITVA” aims to provide the ‘Record of Rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited areas (Abadi) in villages with issuance of legal ownership rights (Property cards/Title deeds). 

  • Under the scheme, the land parcels in rural inhabited area of all the villages of the country are surveyed. 
  • It is being implemented with the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Survey of India (SoI), State Revenue Department, State Panchayati Raj Department and National Informatics Centre.

Till now,

  • So far, the Property Cards have been prepared in around 31,000 villages in the country. The scheme is envisaged to be completed by March 2025.
  • Drone flying has been completed in 2270 villages of 18 districts in the State and property cards have been distributed in 836 villages so far.

Note: Land and Land Records is state subject.

News Source: PIB


MISCELLANEOUS

Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY) under which free of cost assistive devices are provided to those senior citizens who suffer from age related disabilities/infirmities, and belong to BPL category. 

  • Since 2020-21 senior citizens who have a monthly income upto Rs. 15,000/- can also avail the benefit.
  • As per 2011 Census, total number of Senior Citizens in the country is 10.38 Crore.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019: For protection of rights of transgender people and their welfare

  • SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise includes sub scheme – ‘Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons’. The focus of the sub-scheme is on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities and intervention, counseling, education, skill development, economic linkages to the transgender persons.
  • National Council for Transgender Persons was constituted to advise Government on policies, programmes, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons.
  • National Portal for Transgender Persons: Any Transgender applicant can obtain Certificate of Identity and Identity Card without any physical interface with the office of issue. The person who has been issued a certificate of identity are entitled to change the first name in the birth certificate and all other official documents relating to the identity of such person.
  • Initiated 12 pilot shelter homes namely ‘Garima Greh’: Shelter Home for Transgender Persons. The main aim of these shelter homes is to provide safe and secure shelter to Transgender persons in need.
  • PM-DAKSH – a skill development scheme under SMILE

(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

India’s solar capacity: Milestones and challenges

Context: India added a record 10 Gigawatt (GW) of solar energy to its cumulative installed capacity in 2021.  

  • India has now surpassed 50 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity, as on 28 February 2022. 
  • This is a milestone in India’s journey towards generating 500 GW from renewable energy by 2030, of which 300 GW is expected to come from solar power. 

Do You Know?

  • Of the 50 GW installed solar capacity:
    • 42 GW comes from ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, 
    • 6.48 GW comes from roof top solar (RTS) (far short on the Union Government’s target of 40 GW of RTS by end 2022)
    • 1.48 GW from off-grid solar PV.
  • India’s capacity additions rank the country fifth in solar power deployment, contributing nearly 6.5% to the global cumulative capacity of 709.68 GW.

What are the challenges to India’s solar power capacity addition?

  • Slow pace of growth: Despite significant growth in the installed solar capacity, the contribution of solar energy to the country’s power generation has not grown at the same pace. In 2019-20, for instance, solar power contributed only 3.6% (50 billion units) of India’s total power generation of 1390 BU.
  • Inefficiencies: The utility-scale solar PV sector continues to face challenges like land costs, high T&D losses and other inefficiencies, and grid integration challenges. 
  • Environmental Concerns: There have also been conflicts with local communities and biodiversity protection norms. 
  • Neglect of Decentralised Approach: One of the primary benefits of solar PV technology is that it can be installed at the point of consumption, significantly reducing the need for large capital-intensive transmission infrastructure. However, the policy has neglected Roof Top Solar(RTS) segment.
    • There is limited financing for residential consumers and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who want to install RTS. 
    • There is also lukewarm response from electricity distribution companies (DISCOMS) to supporting net metering for RTS.
  • Backward integration in solar value chain is absent: India has no capacity for manufacturing solar wafers and polysilicon. In 2021-22, India imported nearly $76.62 billion worth solar cells and modules from China alone, accounting for 78.6% of India’s total imports that year.
  • Consumers Costs Unaltered: Also, while India has achieved record low tariffs for solar power generation in the utility-scale segment, this has not translated into cheaper power for end-consumers.

What’s the state of India’s domestic solar module manufacturing capacity?

  • Low manufacturing capacities, coupled with cheaper imports from China have rendered Indian products uncompetitive in the domestic market.
  • This situation can, however, be corrected if India embraces a circular economy model for solar systems. 
  • This would allow solar PV waste to be recycled and reused in the solar PV supply chain. 
  • By the end of 2030, India will likely produce nearly 34,600 metric tonnes of solar PV waste. 
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that the global value of recoverable materials from solar PV waste could exceed $15 billion. Currently, only the European Union has taken decisive steps in managing solar PV waste. 
  • India could look at developing appropriate guidelines around Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which means holding manufacturers accountable for the entire life cycle of solar PV products and creating standards for waste recycling. 
  • This could give domestic manufacturers a competitive edge and go a long way in addressing waste management and supply side constraints.

Way Ahead

  • Governments, utilities, and banks will need to explore innovative financial mechanisms that bring down the cost of loans and reduce the risk of investment for lenders. 
  • Increased awareness, and affordable finance for RTS projects could potentially ensure the spread of RTS across the scores of SMEs and homes around the country. 
  • Aggregating roof spaces could also help reduce overall costs of RTS installations and enable developing economies of scale.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA) can bring countries together to facilitate collaboration on issues such as mobilising investments, capacity building, program support and advocacy and analytics on solar energy. 
  • Technology sharing and finance could also become important aspects of ISA in the future, allowing a meaningful cooperation between countries in the solar energy sector.

Connecting the dots:


SECURITY/ INTERNATIONAL

  • GS-2: International Relations
  • GS-3: Security

Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS)

Context: On March 13, United States President Joe Biden approved a $200-million arms package for Ukraine, which would include U.S. made Stinger Missiles, which are a type of shoulder-fired Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS). 

  • More than 17,000 anti-tank weapons and 2,000 Stinger missiles have already been sent by the U.S. and NATO in the first week of March itself. 

What are MANPADS? 

  • Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems are short-range, lightweight and portable surface-to-air missiles that can be fired by individuals or small groups to destroy aircraft or helicopters. 
  • They help shield troops from aerial attacks and are most effective in targeting low-flying aircrafts. 
  • MANPATs or Man-Portable Anti-Tank Systems work in a similar manner but are used to destroy or incapacitate military tanks. 
  • MANPADS can be shoulder-fired, launched from atop a ground-vehicle, fired from a tripod or stand, and from a helicopter or boat. 
  • Weighing anywhere between 10 to 20 kilograms and not being longer than 1.8 metres, they are fairly lightweight as compared to other elaborate weapon systems, making them easy to operate by individual soldiers.
  • Operating MANPADS requires substantially less training. 
  • MANPADS have a maximum range of 8 kilometres and can engage targets at altitudes of 4.5 km. 
  • Most MANPADS have passive or ‘fire and forget’ guidance systems, meaning that the operator is not required to guide the missile to its target, enabling them to run and relocate immediately after firing. 
  • The missile stays locked-on to the targeted object, not requiring active guidance from the soldier. 
  • The missiles are fitted with infrared (IR) seekers that identify and target the airborne vehicle through heat radiation being emitted by the latter. 

When were MANPADS used in the past?

  • The first MANPADS were introduced by the United States and Soviet Union in the 1960s. Russian and U.S. MANPADS were also used during the Vietnam war. 
  • The U.S. supplied MANPADS to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which the latter used against the Soviet forces. 
  • Countries such as India, Pakistan, Germany, U.K., Turkey and Israel have also used MANPADS in their defence efforts.
  • As of 2019, 20 countries had developed the wherewithal to manufacture MANPADS and have together made 1 million such systems for defence and export purposes.
  • Over time, non-state actors such as rebel and terrorist groups have also illicitly acquired MANPADS, using them during civil wars and other high-intensity conflicts. 
    • MANPADs have been used in the Syrian war and in Libya. Non-state groups in African countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Somalia and Congo have also acquired and used MANPADs. 
  • Russia is by far the biggest exporter of MANPADs, having sold over 10,000 such systems between 2010 and 2018 to various countries including Iraq, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Libya. 

What are the common variants of MANPADs?

  • The most common make of MANPADs is the U.S.-made Stinger missiles. These weigh about 15 kg, have a range of 4,800 metres or 4.8 km, and can engage low-flying aircrafts at an altitude of 3,800 metres. They have a passive guidance system, which uses infrared technology. 
  • Stinger’s Russian or Soviet-made counterparts are the Igla MANPADS, which also employ infrared technology. They were used in Iraq when it was invaded by the U.S. in 2003. They have also been used by India, for instance, as part of Operation Trishul Shakti of 1992, during the Siachen conflict. 
  • Starstreak, the British army’s equivalent of the Stinger missiles and U.K. is formulating a plan to provide Ukraine with a shipment of Starstreaks. 
  • Sweden makes the RBS-70 MANPADS series while China’s version, FN-6, is akin to the Stinger. 

How effective are MANPADs in the Ukraine crisis?

  • Ukraine still has some of Soviet era longer-range air-defence systems that can target Russian aircraft, which is why Russia is flying them at low altitudes, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to short-range systems like MANPADS. 
  • Reports show that at least 20 Russian aircraft — both helicopters and jets — being downed in Ukraine since the current conflict started. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, has said that it has shot down 48 Russian planes and 80 helicopters. 
  • Kyiv-based National Institute for Strategic Studies, an institute advising the Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on security issues, said that anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems are “precisely” what Ukraine needs right now. 

What are the concerns around MANPADS?

  • Many observers have pointed out that sending MANPADS to Ukraine may have its share of not so positive effects. The U.S. has also mentioned the ‘risks’ involved in sending such weapons to Ukraine. 
  • Ukraine is believed to have one of the largest arms trafficking markets in Europe. 
  • After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, weapons supplied by other countries to aid Ukraine ended up in the wrong hands in multiple cases. 
  • Reports indicate that weapons in the state arsenal were illicitly acquired and smuggled by criminal and non-state rebel groups. 
  • Meanwhile, the Small Arms Survey of 2017 pointed out that Ukraine has 1.2 million legal firearms and around 4 million illegal weapons, a lot of them fully-automatic military weapons. 
  • Thus, observers fear that sending lightweight ground-based MANPADS to Ukraine may contribute to intensifying the network of illegal weapon trade. 
  • In other conflict-hit states as well, there is widespread evidence of MANPADS ending up with non-state and terrorist groups; the most prominent cases being Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. 
  • Another concern around MANPADS is civilian attacks. As per studies, more than 60 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS since the 1970s, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 civilians.

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth: Governance)


March 15: Yes, India can prevent trafficking; here is how – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/yes-india-can-prevent-trafficking-here-is-how-81949 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: Government schemes and policies

Yes, India can prevent trafficking; here is how 

Context: Trafficking continues to adversely influence global harmony and security, disrupting economies and compromising the well-being and security of all countries including India. Trafficking of wildlife, cultural heritage, drugs and humans has been recorded globally. 

Trafficking in Wildlife and Biodiversity

Offences related to trafficking of wildlife and biodiversity are often not considered serious despite the fact that poaching and dealing of natural life is seen as a terrible crime. Hence, weaker penal measures are observed.

  • This lack of interest and weaker enforcement has prompted tremendous hunting and dealing in wildlife over the last two decades, which permitted  business sectors such as the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, to thrive.
  • Our ecosystems are being destroyed beyond repair due to such crimes and several wildlife species are being pushed to the edge of extinction. 

The Global Illegal Trade in Wildlife 

It is now worth $19 billion annually. It is the fourth-biggest illegal market after drugs, counterfeit and human trafficking.

  • The trade-chain starts in forests and natural habitats. It includes locals, poachers and transporters, who are responsible for moving the wildlife across and out of a country.
  • Interest in curbing illegal wildlife trade and strengthening international frameworks has increased in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent focus on zoonotic diseases. Bats, pangolins and human beings are not natural co-habitants, as all but the latter are wild.

Preventing Trafficking

  • Systematic action: This illicit trade will continue unless stringent correction measures are taken within the system. The coordination of all agencies and authorities should be the first step. All departments should work efficiently but independently. Unless they pool their operations and make an effective action plan, there will not be any visible change in the current scenario.
  • Reliable data: The lack of authentic global data makes it hard for governments and international organisations to battle trafficking successfully. There has to be an immediate strengthening of the information collection system and encouragement of countries to acknowledge and report crimes diligently.
  • International cooperation: There must be strong international cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different countries and citizens committed to stopping the illicit trafficking of valuable art and antiquities, in-order to bring to light, various hidden deals. The return of a 900-year-old sculpture to India, by UK authorities, in August 2018, was an excellent example of this.
  • Inter-departmental convergence: As the number of investigating departments increase so do gaps in performance. It is difficult to coordinate and perform effectively unless they operate in convergence for all cases. Either a nodal agency to handle all the cases from facts to real time data, or a team comprising one or two members from each investigating authority can be formed for a strategic scrutiny of all cases.
  • Stringent punishments: There have to be stringent laws and legal actions against such crimes. The relatively low risk of trials has led to the increase of organised criminal groups utilising the gaps in the legal framework and feeble law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
  • Raise awareness: Information available on illicit trade has to be brought to light to alert people of how serious the concern is. This gradually shall enable policymakers and investigation agencies around the globe to create strong foundations of effective policy enforcement and an action plan can be formulated for their immediate response to such crimes accordingly.
  • Incentivising communities: There are many small-scale, opportunistic traders who are leads to bigger networks. These local traders are easily recognisable among their community and thus the role of locals and communities is inevitable and can be of great help to identify these networks. Incentivising communities can encourage them to work in association with the authorities and help in making legal efforts more effective.

Conclusion

There is no foolproof action plan yet to stop this illicit trade permanently. Unless all governments come together for the security of their own countries, this illegal trade shall thrive.

  • Undoubtedly, all governments have taken sufficient action to fight illicit trade. But they are mostly unorganised or inefficiently executed. 
  • To add to that, with time, criminal associations and networks have been able to respond swiftly and dynamically to avoid detection and get around law enforcement. Now, it has reached a situation alarming enough for governments to re-evaluate their institutional capacities to counter illicit trade.

These suggestions mentioned are small steps. But they can bring promising change to the current situation and thereby help us reach the goal of recognizing and destroying transnational criminal trade associations and ending this trade chain permanently.


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Digital Currency:

  1. It is a payment method which exists only in electronic form and is not tangible.
  2. It can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.

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 Which of the following is not a member of G7?

  1. Italy
  2. Canada
  3. France 
  4. Russia  

Q.3 India’s first arbitration centre for alternative dispute resolution in which of the following city of India? 

  1. Hyderabad
  2. Kochi
  3. Gorakhpur
  4. Mumbai

ANSWERS FOR 16th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 A

Must Read

On inflation:

The Hindu

On impact of Ukraine Crisis on sovereign equality:

The Hindu

On Special Situation Funds:

Indian Express

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