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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 24th March 2022

  • IASbaba
  • March 24, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


2022 Abel Prize: American mathematician Dennis P. Sullivan

Part of: Prelims

  • One of his key breakthroughs is in developing a new way of understanding rational homotopy theory, a subfield of algebraic topology.
  • Topology is a field of mathematics which was born in the nineteenth century and has to do with properties of surfaces that do not change when they are deformed. Topologically, a circle and a square are the same; similarly, surfaces of a doughnut and a coffee mug with one handle are topologically equivalent, however the surface of a sphere and a coffee mug are not equivalent.

Exports cross $400 billion annual target

Part of: Prelims and GS III – Economy

  • India’s annual goods exports crossed the $400 billion mark for the first time ever, buoyed by an increase in shipments of merchandise including engineering products, apparel and garments, gems and jewellery and petroleum products.
  • Exports had reached $331.02 billion in the pre-pandemic fiscal year of 2018-19. Shipments have so far increased by $25.19 billion during the month of March and by March 31, the total figure is expected to be $410 billion

State Jurisdiction on Lottery Tax: SC

Part of: Prelims and GS II- Federalism, GS-III – Economy

In News: The Supreme Court has held that a State legislature has the right to impose tax on lotteries conducted by other States within its jurisdiction.

  • A Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna observed that ‘lotteries’ is a “species of gambling activity”. The court said ‘betting and gambling’ is part of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Since, there is no dispute that lotteries, irrespective of whether it is conducted or organised by the Government of India or the Government of State or is authorised by the State or conducted by an agency or instrumentality of State government or Central government or any private player, is ‘betting and gambling’, State legislatures have the power to tax lotteries under Entry 62 of the State List.

Appeal against HC verdicts

  • The judgment came on appeals filed by the Karnataka and Kerala governments against the decisions of their respective High Courts to quash laws enacted by their legislatures to tax lotteries organised and promoted by the States of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur in Kerala and Karnataka.
  • The High Courts had found the tax laws enacted by the two States invalid and unconstitutional and had even directed Kerala and Karnataka to refund the money collected as tax from lotteries to the north-eastern States.

(News from PIB)


Shaheed Diwas: 23rd March

  • Also known as Martyrs’ Day, honours the valour and commitment of those who sacrificed their lives for the country. 
  • On this day, freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar were hanged to death by the British rulers of India in 1931.
  • The three young revolutionaries were arrested on various charges, including the murder of British police officer John Saunders in 1928. But they didn’t want to kill John Saunders. 
  • Their target was Superintendent of Police James Scott, who had ordered his men to lathi-charge protesters leading to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.

India Semiconductor Mission

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Indian Economy & its challenges

Context: Government is focused on its important objective of building the overall semiconductor ecosystem and ensure that, it in-turn catalyses India’s rapidly expanding electronics manufacturing and innovation ecosystem.

  • A total outlay of INR 76,000 crore for the development of semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in our country has been approved. 
  • The programme aims to provide financial support to companies investing in semiconductors, display manufacturing and design ecosystem. This will serve to pave the way for India’s growing presence in the global electronics value chains.

India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) has been setup to formulate and drive India’s long term strategies for developing semiconductors and display manufacturing facilities and semiconductor design ecosystem.

  • Will enable a multi-fold growth of Indian semiconductor design industry by providing requisite support in the form of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, foundry services and other suitable mechanisms for early-stage startups. 
  • It will also promote and facilitate indigenous Intellectual Property (IP) generation and encourage, enable and incentivize Transfer of Technologies (ToT). 
  • ISM will also enable collaborations and partnership programs with national and international agencies, industries and institutions for catalyzing collaborative research, commercialization and skill development.

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.

News Source: PIB


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS-II- Polity

In News: First of its kind clinical trial in Ayurveda for Rheumatoid Arthritis to be conducted

  • Ministry of Ayush is conducting the world’s first multicenter phase III clinical trial examining the efficacy of Ayurveda in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Will be conducted in accordance with stringent International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use – Good Clinical Practice (ICH- GCP) guidelines and is being closely monitored by Dr. Daniel Erick Furst, a renowned rheumatologist at University of California, Los Angeles in the United States of America.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and damage throughout your body.
  • An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.

MISCELLANEOUS

World Tuberculosis Day: 23rd March

  • Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
  • Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • Treatment: TB is treatable and curable disease. It is treated with a standard 6 month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

Article 355: 

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains GS-II- Polity

  • Article 355 refers to the provision in the Constitution that states that “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
  • Background: On 21st March 2022, there was a violent fight between two groups of the ruling party in Bogtui village in Birbhum district, West Bengal. The Deputy Pradhan, Shri Bhadu Sheikh was killed and in retaliation houses in the area were attacked and set on fire resulting in 12 deaths including that of women and children. All the members belong to the minority community.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

Global Uncertainties, India’s Growth Prospects

Context: On February 28, 2022, the National Statistical Office (NSO) released India’s GDP data for Q3 of 2021-22 along with Second Advance Estimates (SAE) for 2021-22. 

What has been the growth performance of Indian economy?

  • In the COVID-19 year of 2020-21, both real GDP and GVA contracted by minus 6.6% and minus 4.8%, respectively. 
  • The NSO’s SAE show that real GDP and GVA growth are estimated to recover to 8.9% and 8.3%, respectively, in 2021-22. 
  • Despite this improvement, the magnitude of real GDP at ₹147.7 lakh crore in 2021-22 is only marginally higher than the corresponding level of ₹145.2 lakh crore in 2019-20.
  • Revival of demand has been slow
    • The growth of consumption demand measured by private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) in 2021-22 over 2019-20 is only 1.2%
    • The growth of investment demand measured by gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) in 2021-22 over 2019-20 is only 2.6%
    • Growth in the construction sector in 2021-22 was at only 1.9% over 2019-20. 
  • Assuming some base effects to continue in the first two quarters, the annual growth in 2022-23 may not be more than 7%. 

What are the challenges for Indian Economy in coming days?

  • Rise in crude oil prices due to geopolitical conflict in Ukraine. It is estimated that an increase of U.S.$10/ barrel there is reduction in real GDP growth by 0.27% and an increase in CPI inflation by 0.40%. As a result the growth estimates will be brought down to 6.3% for 2022-23 (with CPI inflation of 6%)
  • Alongside, there would be increase in government expenditures related to petroleum and fertilizer subsidies as rising prices will put pressure on government to offer reliefs in forms of reduced tax or increased subsidy.
  • Other economic challenges emanating from global uncertainties may include a worsening of the current account balance due to higher import bills with a depreciating rupee
    • A study by the RBI in 2019 had estimated an increase in the current account deficit (CAD) following a U.S.$10/bbl. increase in global crude price, to be nearly 0.4% points of GDP. As a result, the estimate of CAD at 1.9% of GDP for 2022-23 may have to be revised upwards to 2.9%. 
  • Sectors that draw heavily on petroleum products, such as fertilizers, iron and steel foundries, transportation, construction and coal, would be adversely affected.
  • Due to the discontinuation of transactions through SWIFT, there would be some disruption in trade to and from Russia and Ukraine.
  • There would also be some adverse effects with regard to financial flows. Net foreign portfolio investment (FPI) outflows during October to December 2021 increased to U.S.$6.3 billion. 
    • Net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have also been falling during this period although they have remained positive.
  • As developed countries are being forced to raise their interest rates (to contain their own inflationary pressures) there is increased outflow of U.S. dollars thus putting pressures on RBI to raise its policy rate.

Way Ahead

  • Policymakers may have to exercise a critical choice regarding who bears the burden of higher prices of petroleum products in India among 
    • Consumers (increased cost of fuel & inflation) 
    • industrial users (increased input cost) 
    • oil marketing companies (reduced profits)
    • Government (reduced revenues & increased subsidy burden)
  • If growth is to be revived, maximum attention should be paid to supporting consumption growth and reducing the cost of industrial inputs with a view to improving capacity utilisation.

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

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

National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC)

Context: The Union Cabinet on March 9 approved the creation of the National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC), the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that Finance Minister had announced in the Union Budget 2021-22.

What does monetisation mean? 

  • When the government monetises its assets, it essentially means that it is transferring the revenue rights of the asset (could be idle land, infrastructure, PSU) to a private player for a specified period of time. 
  • In such a transaction, the government gets in return 
    • an upfront payment from the private entity
    • Regular share of the revenue generated from the asset
    • A promise of steady investment into the asset
    • Retaining the title rights to the monetised asset. 
  • There are multiple ways to monetise government assets; in the case of land monetisation of certain spaces like offices, it can be done through a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) — a company that owns and operates a land asset and sometimes, funds income-producing real estate. Assets of the government can also be monetised through the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) model. 
  • Government monetises its assets for the following reasons
    • Creates new sources of revenue for government 
    • Unlocks the potential of unused or underused assets by involving institutional investors or private players. 
    • Generate resources or capital for future asset creation, such as using the money generated from monetisation to create new infrastructure projects. 

 What is the NLMC and what will it do? 

  • The National Land Monetisation Corporation will be a firm, fully owned by the government, to carry out the monetisation of government and public sector assets in the form of surplus, unused or underused land assets. 
  • It will fall under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance and will be set up with an initial authorised share capital of ₹5,000 crore and a paid-up capital of ₹150 crore. 
  • The Corporation will also facilitate the monetisation of assets belonging to PSUs that have ceased operations or are in line for a strategic disinvestment, with the aim of unlocking the value of these land holdings. 
  • The surplus land and building assets of such enterprises are expected to be transferred to the NLMC, which will then hold, manage and monetise them.
  • Besides managing and monetising, the NLMC will act as an advisory body and support other government entities and CPSEs in identifying their surplus non-core assets and monetising them.

What are the merits of having NLMC?

  • The setting of the NLMC will speed up the closure process of the CPSEs and smoothen the strategic disinvestment process.
  • It will also enable productive utilisation of these under-utilised assets by setting in motion 
    • private sector investments
    • new economic activities such as industrialisation
    • boosting the local economy by generating employment 
    • generating financial resources for potential economic and social infrastructure. 

How will the NLMC function? 

  • The firm will hire professionals from the private sector with a merit based approach, similar to other specialised government companies like the National investment and infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Invest India. 
  • This is because asset monetisation of real estate requires expertise in valuation of property, market research, investment banking, land management, legal diligence and other related skill sets. 
  • The NLMC will undertake monetisation as an agency function and is expected to act as a directory of best practices in land monetisation.

How much land is currently available for monetisation? 

  • According to the Economic Survey 2021-2022, as of now, CPSEs have put nearly 3,400 acres of land on the table for potential monetisation. They have referred this land to the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). 
  • As per the survey, monetisation of non-core assets of PSUs such as MTNL, BSNL, BPCL, B&R, BEML, HMT Ltd, Instrumentation Ltd etc are at different stages. 
  • In March 2020, for instance, BSNL had identified a total of ₹24,980 crore worth of properties for monetisation. 
  • The Railways have over 11 lakh acres of land available out of which 1.25 lakh acres is vacant. 
  • The Defence Ministry has in its possession 17.95 lakh acres of land. Out of this, around 1.6 lakh acres fall inside the 62 military cantonments while over 16 lakh acres are outside the cantonment boundaries. 

What are the possible challenges for NLMC?

1. Depends on Government Disinvestment Performance

  • The performance and productivity of the NLMC will also depend on the government’s performance on its disinvestment targets. 
  • In FY 2021-22, the government has just been able to raise ₹12,423.67 crore so far through various forms of disinvestment. 
  • In the budget 2021-22, the government had initially set a disinvestment target of ₹1.75 lakh crore which was later brought down to ₹78,000 crore. 
  • The Life Insurance Corporation IPO, which was supposed to raise ₹60,000 crore is now shrouded in uncertainty owing to the Russia-Ukraine crisis making stock markets volatile. 
  • The procedure to find a bidder for state-owned carrier Air India also took a considerable amount of time and negotiations before the Tata Group came in. 

2. Operational Challenges

  • Identifying profitable revenue streams for the monetised land assets, ensuring adequate investment by the private player and setting up a dispute-resolution mechanism are also important tasks. 
  • Posing as another potential challenge would be the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a monetisation model. 
  • For instance, the results of the Centre’s PPP initiative launched in 2020 for the Railways were not encouraging. 
  • It had invited private parties to run 150 trains of the Indian Railways but when bids were thrown open, nine clusters of trains saw no bidders while there were only two interested bidders for three clusters. 

3. Lack of Competition

  • The presence of just a few serious bidders would also give rise to the possibility of a less competitive space, meaning a few private entities might create a monopoly or duopoly in operating surplus government land. 
  • For instance, questions were raised when the government removed the cap on the number of airports a single entity could bid for, resulting in the Adani Group taking possession of six city airports for ₹2,440 crore from the Airports Authority of India. 

Connecting the dots:


(ORF: Expert Speak)


March 22: The practice of urban agriculture in Indian cities – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-practice-of-urban-agriculture-in-indian-cities/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Agriculture

The practice of urban agriculture in Indian cities

Context: Urban agriculture is the practice of farming in urban and peri-urban areas. Farming connotes a wide range of food and non-food products that can be cultivated or grown, including rearing livestock, aquaculture and bee-keeping. However, in the context of Indian cities, the focus is on the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, and flowers for human consumption. 

  • It is now part of a growing trend in cities globally to look towards locally produced food.
  • Besides city administrations, urban agriculture has started drawing the attention of many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community groups, and citizens. 
  • At the global level, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) believes urban and peri-urban agriculture has a role in food and nutritional security. 
  • The Urban Food Agenda is an FAO flagship initiative to enhance sustainable development, food security, and nutrition in urban and peri-urban areas. It encourages partnerships with different stakeholders such as civil society, academia, international agencies, city entities, and the private sector.

In India,

In several countries, community organisations and individual city residents, facilitated by city administrations, have taken up small-scale agricultural activities on private and public lands. We also have examples of such agricultural pursuits in many cities in India. However, in the context of India, it is worthwhile understanding the limitations that this activity would get subjected to. 

  • The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimated that in 2012-13, around 95 million hectares of land were used for agricultural production in India. 
  • The Government of India’s Ministry of Agriculture also carried out a separate agriculture survey (2010-11) and came up with a much higher figure of 159.6 million hectares. 
  • In percentage terms, the World Bank data puts the country’s agricultural area at 60.4 percent of the country’s physical geography. 
  • India’s total urban area has been estimated at around 222,688 square kilometres which is about 6.77 percent of India’s geographical area. This small area packs around 35 percent of the country’s population.

If we assume that cities should allow for 10 percent of city space for greens, as suggested by several planning guidelines, we would be left with 22, 268 square kilometres of open area. Today, such area is used for crafting public green spaces. Even if half of this area, i.e.,11,134 sq km, is used for urban agriculture instead of parks, gardens, playgrounds, and horticulture, this is a mere 5 percent of all urban area and 0.56 percent of all land under agriculture in the country. Quite clearly, urban agriculture is beset with severe space constraint challenges and is not likely to make any major difference in the overall food production in the country.

Advantages of Urban agriculture:

Despite the limitations, urban agriculture is worth promoting for several reasons. 

  • Firstly, even if the food grown is a small fraction of the total output in the country, a little more of it is welcome, since even this small fraction is bound to provide sustenance to a large number of people. Such small-scale decentralised production can also be done to supplement diets at household or community level. Furthermore, it has local employment value. Being labour-intensive, it can add to the number of jobs and improve livelihood opportunities in the cities and generate some income, especially for the poor. 
  • Secondly, urban agriculture has a significant role in urban environmental management as it can combat urban heat island effects and function as an urban lung in addition to providing visual appeal. Additionally, it brings purposeful recreation that has direct impact on city health.
  • Thirdly, urban agriculture helps city-dwellers to establish linkages with nature and educate them in its richness and diversity. Urban thinkers have been worried about the disconnect of urbanites with nature and have been looking at ways by which that interrelationship could be re-established. Urban agriculture provides a fine opportunity for such engagement and eco-cultural learning. It also helps to develop community bonds and a sense of sharing through community agriculture where people come together and share their stories about their experiences in growing a variety of food. To cover different age groups, pedagogic farms aimed at different age groups and types of people and interests, have proved extremely useful. 
  • Lastly, since cities are struggling with waste management and disposal, urban agriculture can provide some help to deal with it. The use of suitably treated waste water for urban agriculture can reduce demand for fresh water and help in waste water disposal. Moreover, organic waste from the city can be composted and used in food and flower production that can reduce the total quantum of waste and its dumping on land, thereby, reducing the requirement of landfills. It is one of the most advisable forms of waste recycling for cities of the future.

Role of ULBs

Urban local bodies can pro-actively assist this activity in three ways. 

  • First, they can make some of the unutilised public lands that are not likely to be brought under development in the near future available for urban agriculture. These can be leased to private parties through an agreement with mutually beneficial terms and conditions. Indian cities have preferred open spaces to carry ornamental vegetation. However, to promote urban agriculture, public spaces can partly have edible landscapes. Trees can be fruit bearing trees and vegetables could be grown in raised beds, containers, or vertical frames.
  • Furthermore, the civic bodies could zone lands for urban agriculture in their development/master plans for a period during which they are not likely to be pressed into service for other purposes. 
  • Ways should be found of incentivising such activities without financially burdening ULB revenue streams. Likewise, wherever private plots are kept undeveloped and in disuse and not put to agriculture use, a vacant plot tax can be imposed on such plots as a disincentive. Alternately, if such plots are used for urban agriculture, they should be incentivised in innovative ways.
  • Provide technology extension services through soil and water testing laboratories.
  • Additionally, ULBs could provide standards for use of terraces, balconies, open spaces within private/cooperative housing society compounds for urban agricultural use. Rooftop farming is a huge possibility. Singapore, for instance, is already producing about 10 percent of its food through rooftop farming. In heavily populated cities, where availability of land is a constraint, a different approach may be needed to overcome the scarcity of urban space for urban agriculture including developing technologies for vertical farming.

Conclusion

We are already aware that the forces of climate change are throwing up huge challenges, including floods and heat waves. Besides, droughts in the countryside are likely to trigger greater migration to cities. In this background, a vital addition to municipal functions should be urban agriculture. Similarly, urban planning would require to include urban agriculture as a planning item in its land use plan. The future beckons that urban agriculture does not merely remain a marginal esoteric interest but a critical urban function.

Can you answer the following question?

  1. Despite the limitations posed by urban farming, promoting it as a critical urban function will prove to be useful in the long run. Discuss.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

1. Who is the winner of 2022 Abel Prize?

  1. Dennis P. Sullivan
  2. Hillel Furstenberg
  3. Gregory Margulis
  4. Andrew Wiles

2. When was the first caste-based Census conducted in India? 

  1. 2011
  2. 2021
  3. 1931
  4. 1881

3. Which article of the Constitution states that it shall be the duty of the centre to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance?

  1. Article 235
  2. Article 72
  3. Article 355
  4. Article 263

ANSWERS FOR 24th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 C
3 C

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