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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd April 2022

  • IASbaba
  • April 22, 2022
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(Prelims Focus)


India Post Payments Bank launches ‘Fincluvation’

Part of: Prelims and GS-III: Indian economy

Context: India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), a 100% government-owned entity under the Department of Posts (DoP) announced the launch of Fincluvation– a joint initiative to collaborate with the Fintech Startup community to co-create and innovate solutions for financial inclusion.

  • Startups are encouraged to develop solutions aligned with any of the following tracks-
    • Creditization – Develop Innovative & Inclusive credit products aligned with the use cases of target customers and take them to their doorsteps through the Postal network.
    • Digitization – Bring convenience through the convergence of traditional services with Digital Payment Technologies such as making the traditional Money Order service an Interoperable Banking service.
    • Any Market-led solutions that can help solve any other problem relevant to IPPB and/or DoP in serving the target customers

The intersection of technology with financial services coupled with traditional distribution networks is opening up a new set of business opportunities.

About India Post Payments Bank

  • Established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication
  • Set up with the vision to build the most accessible, affordable, and trusted bank for the common man in India.
  • The fundamental mandate of IPPB is to remove barriers for the unbanked and under-banked and reach the last mile by leveraging a network comprising 160,000 post offices (145,000 in rural areas) and 400,000 postal employees.

Parliamentary Panel for body to address human-animal conflict

Part of: Prelims and GS-III: Conservation

Context: The Environment Ministry must constitute an advisory body of experts to tackle growing instances of human-animal conflict, according to a report by the Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change.

Background

The report analyses the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2021.

  • The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, management of their habitat and the regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and their parts and products.
  • While it has been amended several times, the latest set of proposed amendments by the Environment Ministry were to make it more compliant to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which India is a signatory. CITES regulates international trade in over 38,700 species of wild animals and plants.
  • One of the clauses proposed by the Ministry was to have a Standing Committee of the State Board for Wild Life (SBWL) to make the functioning of the body “more purposive”.
    • But the report points out that several independent experts and bodies had expressed their concern that such a body would be packed with official members, exercise all powers of the SBWL and take decisions independent of the SBWL itself and “end up being a rubber stamp for faster clearances of projects.
    • The report instead suggests that were such a body to be constituted, it should have at least one-third of the non-official members of the SBWL, at least three institutional members and the Director of the Wildlife Institute of India or his/ her nominee.

Recommendations

  • A HAC Advisory Committee to be headed by the Chief Wild Life Warden, who can consult the committee to act appropriately.
  • The Committee also urged the government to remove a controversial clause in the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 that allows the “transfer and transport” of live elephants while recommending that the government could bring in additional checks to allow sale and purchase by religious institutions.

Reasons for man-animal conflict:

  • Expansion of human settlements into forests – expansion of cities, industrial areas, railway/road infrastructure, tourism etc.
  • Allowing livestock to graze in forest areas
  • Land-use transformations such as the change from protected forest patches to agricultural and horticultural lands and monoculture plantations are further destroying the habitats of wildlife.
  • Unscientific structures and practices of forest management in the country
  • Infestation of wildlife habitats by invasive exotic weeds leads to decreased availability of edible grasses for wild herbivores
  • Decreased prey base caused by poaching of herbivores has also resulted in carnivores moving out of forests in search of prey and to indulge in cattle lifting.
  • Due to uncontrolled mining activity, the stressed elephants are angry and enter villages in search of food, killing locals in the process. Every mining proposal in dense forests that are elephant habitats and feeding grounds has been cleared by the department.

About CITES

  • It came into force in July 1975 and currently has 183 signatories
  • Aim: Ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP and is located at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather, it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
  • The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a consortium of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank and the World Customs Organization has been established to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

Must Read: No Wild, No Life


India’s operational research stations at the South Pole 

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Context: One of India’s research stations in Antarctica, Maitri, which has been operational for over 35 years, needs urgent upgradation, work towards which is being done by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR).

  • India has two operational research stations at the South Pole — Maitri and Bharati.
  • Dakshin Gangotri, the first station built before 1985, is now operating as a base transit camp mainly for supplying goods.
  • Built during 1988-1989 to operate for a period of ten years, Maitri is an important station that allows scientists to collect geological, meteorological and geophysical data. This data is useful in understanding and drawing timely inferences about climate change and other scientific areas.

India and Oceans:

India is among the few nations to have dedicated ocean missions.

  • Two years ago, India announced a Rs 4,000-crore Deep Ocean Mission to be spearheaded by the MoES.
  • India has also announced projects that will contribute to the Blue Economy, envisioned over the next decade.

Note:

  • The US, UK, France, Chile, Belgium, Australia, and Germany are among the leading nations with multiple research stations at the South Pole.
  • With the United Nations has declared 2021–2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, there are a number of initiatives, including improving coastal livelihoods, protecting sea and ocean, ocean literacy, and restoring coral reefs, aimed at increasing the resourcefulness of the oceans.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • 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 and employment

Battery Swapping Policy

Context: Government think-tank Niti Aayog has prepared a draft battery swapping policy and has put up for public consultation.

 What is battery swapping?

  • Battery swapping is a mechanism that involves exchanging discharged batteries for charged ones.
  • This provides the flexibility to charge these batteries separately by de-linking charging and battery usage, and keeps the vehicle in operational mode with negligible downtime.
  • Battery swapping is generally used for smaller vehicles such as two-wheelers and three-wheelers with smaller batteries that are easier to swap, compared to four-wheelers and e-buses, although solutions are emerging for these larger segments as well.

 What are some of the key proposals?

  • Tax Cuts: The draft policy has suggested that the GST Council consider reducing the differential across the tax rates on Lithium-ion batteries (18%) and electric vehicle supply equipment (5%).
  • Equal Treatment: The policy also proposes to offer the same incentives available to electric vehicles with a fixed battery to electric vehicles with swappable batteries.
  • Subsidy: An appropriate subsidy can be allocated to battery providers operating in battery swapping ecosystems.
  • Ease of registration: Transport Departments and State Transport Authorities will be responsible for easing registration processes for vehicles sold without batteries or for vehicles with battery swapping functionality.
  • Unique Identification: The policy also proposes to assign a unique identification number (UIN) to swappable batteries at the manufacturing stage to help track and monitor them. Similarly, a UIN number will be assigned to each battery swapping station.
  • Charging Infrastructure: The policy also requires state governments to ensure public battery charging stations are eligible for EV power connections with concessional tariffs especially during off-peak periods. Municipal corporations will be responsible for planning, zoning permissions and land allocation for battery swapping stations. It also proposes to install battery swapping stations at several locations like retail fuel outlets, public parking areas, malls, kirana shops and general stores etc
  • Battery-as-a-service (BaaS) Model for Interoperability: Battery swapping will fall under BaaS business model, and such models would have to ensure interoperability between EVs and batteries for a successful mainstreaming of battery swapping as an alternative.
  • Data Sharing to enable peer-to-peer networks: Major battery providers will be encouraged to sign data-sharing agreements to provide information on battery health and performance, and to enable more flexibility to consumers through peer-to-peer roaming networks.
  • Battery Safety: To ensure a high level of protection at the electrical interface, a rigorous testing protocol will be adopted to avoid any unwanted temperature rise at the electrical interface.
  • Advanced Technologies: Additionally, for better protection of assets, swappable batteries will have to be equipped with advanced features like IoT-based battery monitoring systems, remote monitoring and immobilisation capabilities.
  • Phased Implementation: All metropolitan cities with a population of more than 40 lakh will be prioritised for the development of battery swapping networks under the first phase, which is within 1-2 years of the draft policy getting finalised.

What are the advantages of having such a policy?

  • It reduces upfront costs of purchasing EVs.
  • The policy is targeted at supporting the adoption of battery-swapping, primarily for battery swapping systems used in electric scooters and three-wheeler electric rickshaws.
  • It drives adoption of EV among buyers.
  • It was also required amid several instances of EVs erupting into flames, raising concerns about their safety.

Conclusion


INTERNATIONAL/ HUNGER

  • GS-2: International Events

Drought Emergency in Somalia

Context: A joint statement by the U.N. FAO, OCHA, UNICEF, and WFP stated that nearly six million people in Somalia — roughly 40% of its population — are now facing extreme levels of food insecurity with pockets of famine conditions in certain areas.

  • They sought an immediate injection of funds to scale up life-saving assistance in Somalia.
  • As per the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit’s (FSNAU) estimates, 4.1 million people in Somalia would require urgent humanitarian assistance between February and June 2022.

 How did Somalia reach this position? 

  • The country in the Horn of Africa has been struggling with a multi-season drought since late 2020.
    • Somalia experiences two bouts of rainfall — between September/October and December in the Deyr season, and the Gu season between April and June.
  • Rains in Somalia have ‘faltered’ for three consecutive seasons, with some areas experiencing it on as many as four occasions till date.
  • The cumulative rainfall was 40-60% below average across most parts of southern, central, and adjacent parts of northern Somalia.
  • This resulted in massive crop failures in central Somalia, below-average crop production in southern and north-western Somalia, and the third-lowest Dyer harvest since 1995 in southern Somalia.
  • The ensuing drought has exposed Somalia to famine-like conditions accompanied by skyrocketing food prices and huge funding shortfalls.
  • The harvest season led to increased migration in search of food, water, and pasture, spurring pressure and depletion of resources in less drought-affected areas
  • Also, persistent insecurity, conflict, and unresolved political tensions, particularly in central and southern Somalia, accompanied by global supply and price shocks are exacerbating the food security situation.

 What is the near-term outlook?

  • Food security:
    • If the upcoming March-April-May (MAM) rain season fails, this would lead to a historic four-season drought that would suppress critical food and income sources through mid-to-late 2022.
    • Humanitarian assistance is presently mitigating the severity of food insecurity; however, taking into account the rise independent population, it could outpace current and planned assistance levels.
    • Also, the impact on production and supply chains owing to the conflict in Ukraine could further push food prices upward.
  • Pastoralists:
    • Poor pastoralists in Somalia are unable to cope with the rising costs of water and food and, in turn, keep their livestock in shape.
    • With fewer livestock births expected in the current calendar year, reduced income from their sales, and low availability of milk for both adults and children, poor households would be subjected to large gaps in food consumption through mid-2022.
    • This applies for agropastoral communities, too, in the event of an erratically distributed rainfall or conflict.
  • Urban poor:
    • Food consumption gaps could be the story for the urban poor as well, considering the slowdown in economic activities in urban areas and the increasing price of food and other essential items.
    • The urban poor’s ability to absorb the impact of further rise in food prices is limited. As per its estimates, they presently spend 60-80% of their income on food.
  • Population displacement:
    • Worsening drought conditions and persistent food insecurity could lead to increased displacement from rural to urban areas and existing settlements through mid-2022, in case humanitarian assistance is not adequately scaled up.
    • This would result in displaced people experiencing moderate to large consumption gaps through mid-2022.
    • As per reports, more than 572,000 people have been displaced internally due to the drought between October 2021 and February 2022 — almost double the figure for the comparable period in 2016-17.
  • Measles Outbreak and Increased child mortality
    • Overcrowded settlements of the displaced populations, poor water and sanitary conditions could result in further outbreaks of measles and acute watery diarrhoea (AWD), affecting mostly children under five years of age.
    • The levels of acute malnutrition could rapidly increase to 30% or more Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) which is one of the thresholds for Famine (IPC Phase 5) classification.

Connecting the dots:


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1) Consider the following statements about ‘Fincluvation’.

  1. It is launched by the Reserve Bank of India.
  2. It promotes innovative solutions in collaboration with fintech startups to accelerate financial inclusion among the underserved and unserved population.

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

Q.2) Consider the following statements

  1. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 prohibits the killing and not poaching of wild animals.
  2. The Wildlife Protection Act is applicable to aquatic animals too.

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3) ‘Somalia’ is not bordered by

  1. Ethiopia
  2. Djibouti
  3. Kenya
  4. South Sudan

ANSWERS FOR 21st APRIL 2022 – TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 b
2 b
3 d

Must Read

On the China-Solomon island security pact:

The Hindu

 On India’s opportunity in the Ukraine crisis:

The Hindu

 On insolvency & bankruptcy code:

Indian Express


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