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[Mission 2022] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 15 October 2021

 

 

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically. 

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

 

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. World Bank Doing Business report.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. G7 guidelines for central bank digital currencies.

2. NASA’s Perseverance rover.

3. India will ban single-use plastics next year.

4. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Tiananmen Square massacre.

2. Border Security Force (BSF) jurisdiction extended.


 

World Bank Doing Business report:

GS Paper 2

Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Context- What has happened?

The World Bank, in mid-September, announced that it was set to discontinue publishing its Doing Business report.

 

Why?

This announcement came on the back of an independent investigation that, reportedly, found “data irregularities” that prevailed in the 2018 and 2020 reports.

 

What’s the issue?

In August 2020, World Bank paused the publication of Doing Business reports following a number of irregularities were reported regarding changes to the data.

  • The irregularities in Doing Business reports had affected four countries: China; Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates; and Azerbaijan.
  • A probe of data irregularities cited “undue pressure” by top bank officials, including then-Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva, to boost China’s ranking in 2017.
  • This raised ethical matters involving former bank staff and board officials.

 

Why does the report matter?

The World Bank’s annual report matters to several nations, especially developing ones, since it greatly influenced investor decisions by releasing a ranking of economies based on how easy it is to open up, and operate, a business. But while the report was hugely popular among investors, it was heavily criticized by many governments for its methodology that, leaders said, inaccurately captured the realities on the ground.

 

About Doing Business project:

  • It provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies and selected cities at the subnational and regional level.
  • Started in 2002, it looks at domestic small and medium-size companies and measures the regulations applying to them through their life cycle.
  • It ranks countries on the basis of Distance to Frontier (DTF) score that highlights the gap of an economy with respect to the global best practice.

opening_business

What does the report provide?

Each year, the EoDB rankings mapped whether, and by how much, a country had improved on a number of big and small parameters, such as how long it takes to start a business, or how costly it is to get a construction permit, or how many procedures one has to go through to enforce a contract etc.

 

How reliable are the rankings?

Even before this controversy, it was openly known that there are several gaps in the rankings.

  • Reliability of data: For example, in India, which had registered a massive jump in the last few years, all the data to construct the ranking was taken from just two cities — Mumbai and Delhi. Any ranking based on such a small sample ignored how remarkably the “ease” of doing business varied once one moved away from these two metros.

 

How can the ranking methodology be improved?

Following are the key recommendations made by an external panel review of EoDB methodology:

  1. A substantial methodological shift away from hypothetical case studies and in favour of more data collection from representative samples of “actual” business owners and operators on their de facto experiences of doing business.
  2. Include the government functions that provide essential public goods to the private sector: transport and communications infrastructure, a skilled workforce, law and order, etc.
  3. Do not rank countries on their tax rates. From a societal standpoint, collecting taxes is necessary, and thus lower tax rates are not necessarily better.
  4. Eliminate the indicators “Protecting Minority Shareholders” and “Resolving Insolvency.”
  5. Make the “Contracting with Government” indicator more relevant.
  6. Restore and improve the “Employing Workers” indicator, but do not rank countries based on this information.
  7. Improve the transparency and oversight of Doing Business.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the Report.
  2. Indicators.
  3. Overview of 2018 and 2020 reports.

Mains Link:

Comment on the concerns associated with the Doing Business report of the World Bank.

Sources: Indian Express.

G7 guidelines for central bank digital currencies:

GS Paper 3

Topics Covered: Awareness in technology.

 

Context:

G7 finance leaders have laid out guidelines for central bank digital currencies.

 

The guidelines include:

  1. Any digital currency issued by a central bank must “support and do no harm” to the bank’s ability to fulfil its mandate on monetary and financial stability, and must also meet rigorous standards.
  2. Currencies must be issued in a way that do not infringe upon the central banks’ mandates, and meet rigorous standards of privacy, transparency and accountability for protection of user data.
  3. Any central bank digital currency (CBDC) should be grounded in long-standing public commitments to transparency, rule of law and sound economic governance.

 

What is the CBDC or National Digital currency?

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), or national digital currency, is simply the digital form of a country’s fiat currency. Instead of printing paper currency or minting coins, the central bank issues electronic tokens. This token value is backed by the full faith and credit of the government.

 

How can CBDC be used in the Indian context?

  1. ‘Fit-for-purpose’ money used for social benefits and other targeted payments in a country. For such cases, the central bank can pay intended beneficiaries pre-programmed CBDC, which could be accepted only for a specific purpose.
  2. CBDCs could be used for faster cross-border remittance payments. International collaboration among the major economies of the world, including India, could help create the necessary infrastructure and arrangements for CBDC transfer and conversion.
  3. Payment instruments could be made available for payment transactions to be made via CBDC. Furthermore, universal access attributes of a CBDC could also include an offline payment functionality.
  4. Instant lending to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in India can be possible with the help of CBDC.

 

Need for CBDC:

  1. An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter-bank settlement.
  2. India’s fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC — to the extent large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.
  3. The need for inter-bank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another.

 

Challenges in rolling out National Digital Currency:

  1. Potential cybersecurity threat.
  2. Lack of digital literacy of the population.
  3. Introduction of digital currency also creates various associated challenges in regulation, tracking investment and purchase, taxing individuals, etc.
  4. Threat to Privacy: The digital currency must collect certain basic information of an individual so that the person can prove that he’s the holder of that digital currency.

 

SC Garg Committee recommendations (2019):

  1. Ban anybody who mines, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form.
  2. It recommends a jail term of one to 10 years for exchange or trading in digital currency.
  3. It proposed a monetary penalty of up to three times the loss caused to the exchequer or gains made by the cryptocurrency user whichever is higher.
  4. However, the panel said that the government should keep an open mind on the potential issuance of cryptocurrencies by the Reserve Bank of India.

 

Insta Curious:

Do you know what the IOTA Tangle is? Read Here

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a blockchain?
  2. What are Cryptocurrencies?
  3. Which countries have issued Cryptocurrencies?
  4. What is a Bitcoin?

Mains Link:

Discuss the pros and cons of CBDC.

Sources: Economic times.

/ 15 Oct CA, Today Article

NASA’s Perseverance rover:

GS Paper 3

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

 

Context:

The first scientific analysis of images taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover has now confirmed that Mars’ Jezero crater — which today is a dry, wind-eroded depression — was once a quiet lake, fed steadily by a small river some 3.7 billion years ago.

  • The images also reveal evidence that the crater endured flash floods. This flooding was energetic enough to sweep up large boulders from tens of miles upstream and deposit them into the lakebed, where the massive rocks lie today.

current affairs

About Perseverance Rover:

It was launched in 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V.

  • On February 18, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed on the floor of Jezero crater.

 

Why is this mission significant?

  1. It carried a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time manufactured molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere (ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft).
  2. It carried Ingenuity, the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.
  3. It is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life.

 

These are some of the key mission objectives:

  1. Look for signs of ancient microbial life.
  2. Collect Martian rock and dust samples for later return to Earth.
  3. Deliver an experimental helicopter.
  4. Study the climate and geology of Mars.
  5. Demonstrate technology for future Mars missions.

 

What is the reason for the near-term interest in Mars?

  1. Mars is located in the very near backyard (about 200 million km away).
  2. It is a planet that humans can aspire to visit or to stay for a longer duration.
  3. Mars had flowing water and an atmosphere in the distant past: and perhaps conditions to support life.
  4. It also has implications for commercial travel.

 

Insta Curious:

Know about Mars in brief – the history, atmosphere, gravity and explorations click here

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Missions to Mars.
  2. Perseverance- objectives.
  3. Instruments onboard.
  4. About the UAE’s Hope and China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft.
  5. Pathfinder mission.
  6. About the UAE’s Hope and China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft.
  7. Pathfinder mission.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of the mission.

Sources: Indian Express.

India will ban single-use plastics next year:

GS Paper 3

Topics Covered: Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

Context:

India will ban most single-use plastics by next year as part of its efforts to reduce pollution — but experts say the move is only a first step to mitigate the environmental impact.

 

Background:

The government announced the ban in August this year, following its 2019 resolution to address plastic pollution in the country.

  • The ban on most single-use plastics will take effect from July 1, 2022.

 

Way ahead?

Enforcement is key for the ban to be effective.

  • The government also needs to address important structural issues such as policies to regulate the use of plastic alternatives, improve recycling and have better waste segregation management.
  • In addition to improving recyclability, investment in research and development for alternatives should also be a priority.

 

What are single use plastics?

Single-use plastics refer to disposable items like grocery bags, food packaging, bottles and straws that are used only once before they are thrown away, or sometimes recycled.

 

Why plastics?

  • As plastic is cheap, lightweight and easy to produce, it has led to a production boom over the last century, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming decades, according to the United Nations.
  • But countries are now struggling with managing the amount of plastic waste they have generated.

About 60% of plastic waste in India is collected — that means the remaining 40% or 10,376 tons remain uncollected.

 

Background:

In 2019, the Union government in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022, had laid out a multi-ministerial plan to discourage the use of single-use plastics across the country.

 

The strategy:

A government committee has identified the single use plastic (SUP) items to be banned based on an index of their utility and environmental impact. It has proposed a three-stage ban:

  1. The first category of SUP items proposed to be phased out are plastic sticks used in balloons, flags, candy, ice-cream and ear buds, and thermocol that is used in decorations.
  2. The second category, proposed to be banned from July 1, 2022, includes items such as plates, cups, glasses and cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays; wrapping and packing films used in sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packets; stirrers and plastic banners that are less than 100 microns in thickness.
  3. A third category of prohibition is for non-woven bags below 240 microns in thickness. This is proposed to start from September next year.

 

Challenges ahead:

  1. It is not going to be an easy task given that close to 26,000 tons of plastic waste is generated across India every day, of which more than 10,000 tons stays uncollected.
  2. A significant amount of plastic ends up in rivers, oceans and landfills.

 

What needs to be done?

  1. The government has to do a thorough economic and environmental cost-benefit analysis.
  2. The plan has to take into account social and economic impacts for the ban to be successful.
  3. We need better recycling policies because resources are poor and there needs to be a much broader strategy.

 

Insta Curious:

Do you know about Plastic eating Bacteria? Can it solve the rising problem of Plastic pollution? Read Here: 

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are single use plastics?
  2. Uses.
  3. India’s targets.
  4. Other countries which are planning to phase out the use of single use plastics.

Sources: Indian Express.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act:

GS Paper 3

Topics Covered: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

 

Context:

Former Supreme Court judge Rohinton F Nariman, who quashed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act in 2015 for having the “chilling effect” on the right to freedom of speech, has called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act a “draconian legislation” that requires to be scrutinised by the apex court.

  • He has urged the top court to strike down Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sedition and offensive parts of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).

 

About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act:

Passed in 1967, the law aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.

The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.

  • It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.

 

Key points:

Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.

  • It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.
  • Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.

 

As per amendments of 2019:

  • The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
  • The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.
  • It also included the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.

 

Delhi High Court defines the contours of UAPA:

In June 2021, delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA), the Delhi High Court laid down some important principles upon the imposition of Section 15, 17 & 18 of the Act.

 

Sections 15, 17 and 18 of UAPA:

  1. S. 15 engrafts the offence of ‘terrorist act’.
  2. S. 17 lays-down the punishment for raising funds for committing a terrorist act.
  3. S. 18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy etc. to commit a terrorist act or any act preparatory to commit a terrorist act’.

 

Key observations made by the court:

  1. “Terrorist Act” Should not be used lightly so as to trivialise them.
  2. Terrorist activity is that which travels beyond the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with under ordinary penal law (Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hitendra Vishnu Thakur).

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Definition of unlawful activity.
  2. Powers of Centre under the act.
  3. Is judicial review applicable in such cases?
  4. Changes brought about by amendments in 2004 and 2019.
  5. Can foreign nationals be charged under the act?

Mains Link:

Do you agree that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act could prove catastrophic for fundamental rights? Is sacrificing liberty for national security justified? Discuss and provide for your opinion.

Sources: Indian Express.

Facts for Prelims:

Tiananmen Square massacre:

The University of Hong Kong has ordered the removal of the Tiananmen Square massacre statue (Pillar of Shame statue) that commemorates the protestors killed in China’s 1989 crackdown.

  • The Pillar of Shame statue was made in remembrance of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, which is referred to as the June 4 incident by Chinese authorities.
  • The statue shows 50 bodies — with anguish-ridden faces — piled up together commemorating unarmed student protestors who were killed as Chinese troops opened fire on them.

What is the Tiananmen Square massacre?

  • On June 4, 1989 Chinese troops cracked down on pro-democracy protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. No official death toll has ever been released, but rights groups estimate hundreds, if not thousands were killed. The massacre made headlines around the world but it particularly resonated in Hong Kong, which was then eight years away from being handed over from British to Chinese control.

 

Border Security Force (BSF) jurisdiction extended:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) up to 50 km inside the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
  • At the same time, the Ministry has reduced BSF’s area of operation in Gujarat from 80 km from the border, to 50 km.
  • The government said it was exercising the powers under the Border Security Force Act of 1968.
  • The BSF’s powers — which include arrest, search and seizure — were limited to up to 15 km in these states.

Background: In its 2014 notification, the MHA had outlined BSF’s jurisdiction as “the whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and so much of the area comprised within a belt of eighty kilometres in the State of Gujarat, fifty kilometres in the State of Rajasthan and fifteen kilometres in the States of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India”.

Powers of BSF: BSF has powers in respect of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, the Passport Act, 1967, the NDPS Act, Arms Act, Customs Act and certain other laws.


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