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[Mission 2022] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 17 December 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

Table of Contents:

 

GS Paper 1:

1. IMD has predicted a cold wave in Northwest India

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Reimbursement scheme for RuPay Debit Card, BHIM UPI transactions

2. Push for semiconductor manufacturing

3. Cryptocurrencies a challenge for emerging markets, regulation needed: IMF chief economist

4. Land, water resources are at breaking point: Report

5. Delivering Climate action: The road ahead for India after CoP 26

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Assam’s Manohari Gold tea

2. India’s first Green Hydrogen micro-grid project in Andhra Pradesh.


IMD has predicted a cold wave in Northwest India

GS Paper 1:

Topics Covered: changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes

Context:

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a cold wave in parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh over the next few days.

 

Conditions for declaring cold waves:

The IMD records a cold wave when the minimum temperature is equal to or less than 10 degrees Celsius at a weather station in the plains and is 4.5 degrees to 6.4 degrees below the normal temperature for that period.

For hilly regions, a cold wave is declared when the minimum temperature is less than or equal to 0 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperature is 4.5 degrees to 6.4 degrees below the normal.

Reasons for the Cold wave conditions in India:

Current Affairs

  • Impact of Western disturbance: Cold wave conditions form due to lack of western disturbances. Western disturbances create precipitation and bring down day temperatures, but night temperatures remain steady.
  • Snowfall in the upper Himalayas: This creates a wind chill factor for the northern states of India
  • Downward subsidence of cold air: Subsiding air (from the upper Himalayas) further cools down creating low-temperature conditions over North India for a longer period.
  • La Nina is known to favor cold waves in North India.
    • It increases the severity of cold conditions, also the frequency and area covered under the grip of a cold wave become larger e.g. winters of October 2020 were colder than usual (2 degrees Celsius, the lowest since 1962) due to the impact of La Nina in the pacific.

 

Impact of cold wave conditions:

  • Impact on agriculture in North India: It creates a wider gap between day and night temperatures, this creates erratic winter conditions impacting agricultural practices in the Rabi season.
  • Impact on Cash crops: It might also affect the productivity of cash crops such as coffee (Coffee growth is extremely sensitive to variations in temperatures), which grows mainly in south India.
  • Impact on Human life: Cold wave conditions increase the risk of contracting flu, and could also lead to symptoms like nosebleeds and runny nose. It was also said to be responsible for the 2nd wave of COVID 19 in many parts of North India.

Sources: The Indian Express

Insta Curious:

 Analyze the reasons behind the extra cold winters in parts of north India this year. (250 words) Reference

What is Magnetic Reconnection with respect to the sun’s surface? Reference 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Western Disturbances.
  2. La Nina

Mains Link:

How does the La Nina influence the cold wave conditions in winters of north India?


Reimbursement scheme for RuPay Debit Card, BHIM UPI transactions

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Context:

The Union Cabinet announced that it has approved a scheme to provide incentives of small amounts for transactions done through the RuPay Debit Card and BHIM UPI. This will incur an expense of around ₹1,300 crores.

Details: The Government will reimburse transaction charges levied on digital payments made by persons to the merchant as part of the merchant discount rate (MDR)

What is MDR?

MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) is basically a fee that a merchant is charged by their issuing bank for accepting payments from their customers via credit and debit cards

In Budget 2020-21, the government prescribed zero Merchant Discount Rate (MDR), the rate merchants pay to scheme providers, for RuPay and UPI, both NPCI products, to popularise digital payments benefiting both customers and merchants.

 

Digital Payment

Digital payments have found strong ground, especially in India, increasingly relegating all other modes of payments to the background.

It is through a faster system of simultaneous debits and credits that the money value is transferred from one account to the other across banks.

It embraces all kinds of operators (including direct benefit transfer by the government) across the country and even internationally, subject to regulatory forbearance.

According to a report, Indian digital payment industry is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2023.

Evolution of digital payments in India: steered by the RBI:

  1. There is a long and interesting history behind the evolution of digital payments in India, piloted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and succinctly captured in the Payment Systems in India, published in 1998.
  2. A major thrust toward large value payments was affected through the Real Time Gross Settlement System, or RTGS, launched by the RBI in March 2004.
  3. Introduction of National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) and bulk debits and credits to support retail payments around the same time.
  4. Now, NEFT is available round the clock and RTGS will follow from December 2020 only a few countries have achieved this.
  5. Time Bound Settlements: Today, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the market regulator, is contemplating a T+1 settlement (T is for transaction date) because the underlying consideration of the sale proceeds of the shares get exchanged very fast under the payments system.

Fig: Recommendations of Ratan Watal Panel on Digital Payment

Current Affairs

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is MDR?
  2. Various schemes for digitalization of Payment system in India?
  3. Committees constituted for Digital Payments?

Mains Link:

Q. How should India create and transform its digital payment infrastructure? Examine

Source: Live Mint


Push for semiconductor manufacturing

GS Paper 3:

Topic Covered: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Context:

Government approved a ₹76,000 crore scheme to boost semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country, taking the total amount of incentives announced for the electronics sector to ₹2.30 lakh crore.

Details:

  • Aim: “Development of sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in the country” is aimed at making India a global hub of electronic system design and manufacturing.
  • Finance: The scheme would provide fiscal support of up to 50% of the project cost for setting up semiconductor and display fabrication units.
  • Collaboration: Centre would work with the States to set up high-tech clusters with the necessary infrastructure such as land and semiconductor-grade water.
  • India Semiconductor Mission: A specialised and independent ‘India Semiconductor Mission’ will be set up. It will act as the nodal agency for efficient and smooth implementation of the schemes on semiconductors and display ecosystem.
  • “Chips to start-ups” programme: It would develop 85,000 well-trained engineers. Semiconductor designers would be given the opportunity to launch start-ups. The government would bear 50% of the expense under the design-linked incentive scheme.

Importance of the Programme:

  • Strategic: Trusted sources of semiconductors and displays had strategic importance in the current geopolitical scenario and were “key to the security of critical information infrastructure”.
  • Ensure the digital sovereignty of India: The approved programme will propel innovation and build domestic capacities
  • Job Creation: It will also create highly skilled employment opportunities to harness the demographic dividend of the country,” .The entire programme would lead to 35,000 high-quality direct jobs and 1 lakh indirect employment.
  • Potential for India: Electronics manufacturing in the country had increased to $75 billion over the past seven years and was expected to reach $300 billion in the next six years.
  • Increase in FDI: The Programme will attract an investment of ₹1.67 lakh crore and lead to production worth ₹9.50 lakh crore.

Additional Information:

About the PLI scheme for Electronic Manufacturing:

Notified on April 1 as a part of the National Policy on Electronics.

It proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the electronics value chain.

Key features of the scheme:

  1. The scheme shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India and covered under target segments, to eligible companies, for a period of five (5) years with financial year (FY) 2019-20 considered as the base year for calculation of incentives.
  2. The Scheme is open for applications for a period of 4 months initially which may be extended.
  3. The Scheme will be implemented through a Nodal Agency which shall act as a Project Management Agency (PMA) and be responsible for providing secretarial, managerial and implementation support and carrying out other responsibilities as assigned by MeitY from time to time.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is India Semiconductor Mission?
  2. India’s Status in Semiconductor Design and manufacturing?
  3. Key proposals under the National Policy on Electronics.
  4. Production linked incentive scheme- when was it announced?
  5. Who will implement it?

Mains Link:

  1. Growing importance of Semiconductors or chips/integrated circuits (ICs) and China’s experience with the manufacturing and design of the same provides a strong case for focusing on chip designs in India. Comment.  (250 words) Reference

Source: The Hindu


Cryptocurrencies a challenge for emerging markets, regulation needed: IMF chief economist

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Effects of liberalization on the economy

 

Context:

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Economist has made a strong case for regulating cryptocurrencies, saying it will always be a challenge to ban them as they operate from offshore exchanges; and feels it to be more attractive to adopt cryptocurrencies and assets in emerging economies than in advanced economies

 

What is a Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of a computerized database.

It uses strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership. It typically does not exist in physical form (like paper money) and is typically not issued by a central authority.

Cryptocurrencies typically use decentralized control as opposed to centralized digital currency and central banking systems

Significance of Cryptocurrencies

  1. Corruption Check: As blocks run on a peer-to-peer network, it helps keep corruption in check by tracking the flow of funds and transactions.
  2. Time Effective: Cryptocurrencies can help save money and substantial time for the remitter and the receiver, as it is conducted entirely on the Internet, runs on a mechanism that involves very less transaction fees and is almost instantaneous.
  3. Cost Effective: Intermediaries such as banks, credit card and payment gateways draw almost 3% from the total global economic output of over $100 trillion, as fees for their services.
  4. Integrating blockchain into these sectors could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in savings.

 

Concerns of Cryptocurrencies

  1. Sovereign guarantee: Cryptocurrencies pose risks to consumers.  They do not have any sovereign guarantee and hence are not legal tender.
  2. Market volatility: Their speculative nature also makes them highly volatile.  For instance, the value of Bitcoin fell from USD 20,000 in December 2017 to USD 3,800 in November 2018.
  3. Risk in securityA user loses access to their cryptocurrency if they lose their private key (unlike traditional digital banking accounts, this password cannot be reset).
  4. Malware threatsIn some cases, these private keys are stored by technical service providers (cryptocurrency exchanges or wallets), which are prone to malware or hacking.
  5. Money laundering: Cryptocurrencies are more vulnerable to criminal activity and money laundering.  They provide greater anonymity than other payment methods since the public keys engaging in a transaction cannot be directly linked to an individual.
  6. Regulatory bypassA central bank cannot regulate the supply of cryptocurrencies in the economy.  This could pose a risk to the financial stability of the country if their use becomes widespread.
  7. Power consumptionSince validating transactions is energy-intensive, it may have adverse consequences for the country’s energy security (the total electricity use of bitcoin mining, in 2018, was equivalent to that of mid-sized economies such as Switzerland).

 

The Pros and Cons of Cryptocurrency need to be weighed in before going ahead for regulation aspects:

Advantages

  • Potential for high returns – with compounded annualised growth rate of 14.5%
  • Some have cited cryptocurrencies as an alternative hedging instrument to gold in a portfolio context
  • Protection from debased currencies and the threat of rising inflation
  • Growing acceptance and usage

Disadvantages

  • High volatility and potential for large losses
  • Whilst it is true that the number of bitcoins produced will eventually be capped at 21 million and many other cryptocurrencies also have limited supply built into their protocols, there is currently nothing to stop an ever-growing number of new cryptocurrencies from being launched
  • Whilst bitcoin and some other cryptocurrencies are now accepted across a growing number of payment platforms, the number of places where one can exchange cryptocurrencies for real goods or services remains very limited
  • Cryptocurrencies are wide open to being exploited by criminals as a means to scam unwary investors
  • Money Laundering, Drug Trafficking, Terrorist Financing, Weapon Proliferation, Cyber Crime and Sanction evasion are some of the activities for which Virtual currencies are susceptible to misuse.

 

India considering ‘Middle path’ on cryptocurrencies

  • India is not going for an outright ban of cryptos is not being found feasible, in view of large investments in such instruments by Indians, and these unregulated virtual currencies are also unlikely to be allowed as a legal tender
  • While India is already saying no to cryptocurrency, possibilities of how fintech can help maximise its potential need to be explored yet

 

Things to consider before regulating Cryptocurrencies

  • Should digital currencies be taxed as an assets, commodities or capital gains?
  • Countries across the globe have come up with rules and regulations to include the firms dealing in these cryptocurrencies under their RADAR.Balance need to obtained in relevance to this aspect
  • What constitutes a security is that a financial asset which can be traded. But it is still not clear if cryptocurrencies fall into the category of assets without casting any doubt. Government may utilize the existing definition of security or may have to amend the existing laws to include cryptocurrencies into the definition of security

 

Way forward

  • Due to lack of regulations, there is enormous growth of crypto currencies.
    • There are risks of over regulating. There is a misconception in the minds of authorities that the transactions of cryptocurrencies cannot be traced.
    • This is a complete misconception as every transaction forms part of the currency packet.
  • Hence there is a need for educating authorities at every level to understand and prevent misuse of cryptocurrencies.
    • People in India are currently hesitant to invest in cryptocurrencies as there is no regulation in place.
    • However the recent announcement of its government to introduce Central Bank Digital Currency has given a ray of hope to those looking to invest into cryptocurrencies. The sooner its usage is regulated the better for the country

 

Insta Curious

The Governments across the world today, are all moving towards Cryptocurrency regulation. Hence the highlight on India now.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Cryptocurrency
  2. The actions being taken across the Globe
  3. The need for its regulation 

Mains Link:

  1. Weighing in the aspects related to Cryptocurrency, discuss the need for its regulation in India.

 Sources: The Hindu


Land, water resources are at breaking point: Report

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered: Environment and Agriculture

Context:

As per the recently released, ‘The State of the world’s land and water resources for food and agriculture (released by FAO)’, water and land resources are being pushed to limits due to human actions.

More on the news:

Highlights of the report:

  • Sources of fodder (grassland and shrub-covered areas) have declined by 191 million hectares in the past two decades due to the conversion of this to the cropland
  • Due to population increase, agricultural land available per capita for crops and animal husbandry declined by 20 per cent between 2000 and 2017 to 0.19 ha /capita in 2017.
  • It was reported that almost a third of rain-fed cropland and nearly a half of irrigated land are subject to human-induced land degradation which primarily affected the fertility of the soil
  • Over 60 per cent of irrigated areas are degraded in northern Africa, south Asia and the middle east-western Asia.
  • The rapid growth of cities had a significant impact on land and water resources; in 2018, 55 per cent of the world’s population were urban dwellers. This meant encroachment on good agricultural land.
  • Most pressures on the world’s land, soil and water resources are from agriculture due to use of chemical fertilizers, farm mechanization etc.

Challenge going forward:

The degradation of the resources might continue unabated to meet the food security needs of the ever-growing population since by 2050 agriculture will need to produce almost 50 per cent more food, livestock fodder and biofuel than in 2012 to satisfy global demand and keep on track to achieve “zero hunger” by 2030.

Steps to be taken to meet food security without degrading the resources

  • Local consumption and weather patterns need to be kept in mind while formulating the policies. Ex: Avoid growing sugarcane in those areas where water is deficient; encouraging organic farming
  • A meaningful engagement with the key stakeholders – farmers, pastoralists, foresters and smallholders – directly involved in managing soils and conserving water in agricultural landscapes is crucial.
  • Use of technology to reverse the degradation in the resources
  • Reforms in water and land-governance policies.

Some of the steps taken in India to prevent degradation in regard include- soil health card, scientific irrigation methods (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Desert development program, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sampada Yojana etc.)

Insta Curious

Know more about the relationship between land degradation, desertification and Food security

Insta Links

Prelims links:

  1. What is food security?
  2. Major policies and programs related to land and water conservation policies in India

Main links:

  1. How can India manage food security for the future without degradation of land and water resources in the country? Discuss. (15M)

Source: Down-to-earth


Delivering Climate action: The road ahead for India after CoP 26

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered: Environment

 

Context:

The commitment of recent Glasgow Climate Pact to strengthen our commitment to combat climate change by restricting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels

More on the news

India and CoP-26: At CoP26, India pledged to become a ‘net zero’ carbon emitter by 2070, and announced enhanced targets for renewable energy deployment and reduction in carbon emissions.

Some major steps taken by India in recent times to meet climate change targets:

  • The share of renewable energy in India’s energy mix has more than doubled from 11.8 per cent in March 2015 to 25.2 per cent in July 2021
  • India has outlined several programs under its ambitious, ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC)’
  • Setting up ‘International Solar Alliance’ to coordinate effort and institute measures to make use of the abundant renewable energy in the environment
  • FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.
  • UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

Challenges ahead: If India needs to sustain this momentum, the following measures required:

  • Meeting the infrastructure gap of $4.5 trillion dollars (As per NITI AYOG estimation)
  • Technology and financial constrains to increase the share of renewable energy to 50 per cent by 2030.
  • Inadequate shift of policies from the grey to green economy. Ex: Over dependence of fossil fuels, inefficient power grid infrastructure etc.
  • Lack of synergy amongst various institutions in the country.

Measures required to address this challenge:

  • Platforms must adopt a ‘renewable first’ approach as they scale up
  • Creating synergies amongst the various institutions and other countries. Ex: One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG), launched by India at CoP26, this would provide a lot of learning to connect energy grids across borders for renewable energy adoption under OSOWOG.
  • Decarbonize emission-intensive sectors. Ex: Heavy industries like Iron and Steel
  • An ‘ecosystem-based’ approach in implementing policies. Ex: FAME India scheme
  • We need more ‘carbon sinks’ – areas that store carbon, like forests, oceans and wetlands.
  • Inclusion of local people in safeguarding environment
  • Ramping up sufficient resources towards climate adaptation. Ex: The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative launched by India and the United Kingdom in September to generate more resources for climate and green energy projects is a positive step in this direction.

 

Insta Curious link

Know more about: One Solar, One World, One Grid

Insta links:

Prelim link

  • CoP 26 outcomes
  • Major policies and programs related to fighting climate change in India
  • Paris climate change targets

Main link

Discuss the measures required to realize the climate change targets that India had declared to achieve by 2070. (15M)

Source: Down-to-Earth

Facts for Prelims:

Assam’s Manohari Gold tea

Context: One kilogram of this special tea was sold for Rs 99,999. This was 33 percent higher than the price last year when it was sold for Rs 75,000 per kilogram.

  • Benefits of this tea: Many types of antioxidants are found in this tea. Apart from this, they contain bioactive compounds that help in controlling the effects of ageing and obesity.
  • Why it is so expensive: The tea leaves are broken before the sun’s ray’s fall between 4 and 6 in the morning. Its colour is light beige and the leaves are plucked along with the buds. Thereby giving different flavor to the tea.

Current Affairs

 

India’s first Green Hydrogen micro-grid project in Andhra Pradesh.

  • Context: NTPC has awarded a project of “Standalone Fuel-Cell based Micro-grid with hydrogen production using electrolyser in NTPC Guest House at Simhadri (near Visakhapatnam)
  • It would be a precursor to large-scale hydrogen energy storage projects and would be useful for studying and deploying multiple microgrids in various off-grid and strategic locations of the country.
  • The hydrogen would be produced using the advanced 240 kW Solid Oxide Electrolyser by taking input power from the nearby Floating Solar project.

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