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[Mission 2023] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 04 March 2023

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 ina 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

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  1. Steps taken to boost the Indian tea industry

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. Clean-tech as the next big thing in rural India
  2. ILO–UNICEF joint report on social protection for children

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Our forests are under threat – here’s how they are certified
  2. A plateau? Global CO2 emissions rose less than initially feared in 2022, says IEA

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  • WHO India: Against hearing disability
  • Value-based education in Sports

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Salt flats around the world are covered in a similar pattern of ridges
  2. Select central govt employees get a one-time option to opt for an old pension scheme
  3. ‘K-shaped’ economic recovery
  4. Liberalised Remittance Scheme funds
  5. SC names panel to review investor protection norms
  6. Samarth Scheme
  7. Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog
  8. Russian bots to boost Instagram reach
  9. Phytoplankton blooms

 

 

Steps taken to boost the Indian tea industry

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Indian Geography, Cropping Pattern

 

Source: PIB

 

Context: India has taken several steps to boost the output, create a niche brand for Indian tea and ensure the welfare of the families associated with the tea industry.

  • Indian tea exports are expected to achieve more than 95% of its target of about US $ 900 million

 

Tea in India
AboutTea is a popular beverage made from the Camellia sinensis plant and is the second most consumed drink in the world.
OriginTea is believed to have originated in northeast India, north Myanmar, and southwest China, with evidence of consumption in China over 5,000 years ago.
Growth ConditionsTea requires a hot and humid climate, temperatures of 20°-30°C, and 150-300 cm of well-distributed annual rainfall. It grows well in slightly acidic soil with porous subsoil in the hill ranges.
Health BenefitsTea consumption can promote health and wellness due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and weight-loss effects.
International Tea DayIt is observed on May 21st every year and was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019.
ProductionIndia is the second-largest producer of tea globally (largest black tea producer), with the majority of its annual tea production coming from Assam and West Bengal. The southern part of India also produces tea.
ConsumptionIndia is among the world’s top tea-consuming countries, with 80% of its production consumed domestically.
ExportIndia is 4th largest tea exporter globally and exports to over 25 countries. The majority of tea exported is black tea, with Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri tea being among the finest in the world.
Geographical Indication (GI) TagDarjeeling tea, known as the “Champagne of teas,” was the first GI tag product.
RegulatorThe Tea Board of India (a statutory body under the Ministry of Commerce) is responsible for developing and promoting the tea industry in India.

·         HQ: Kolkata, formed in 1953

·         Foreign Offices: Dubai and Moscow

EmploymentIndian tea Industry is employing 1.16 million workers directly and an equal number of people are associated with it indirectly

 

 

Initiatives by the Tea Board of India:

  • Promotion for packaged Tea of Indian origin: Financial reimbursement – up to 25% of the cost is given
    • Speciality Tea Logos are displayed prominently at all important forums and events
  • Subsidies for Domestic Exporters to participate in International Fairs and Exhibitions.
  • Tea Development and Promotion Scheme ( period of 2021-26): To enhance the productivity and quality of production in India through— Plantation development of small tea farmers; Supporting the tea producers and traders in market promotion activities; Worker’s welfare; Online Licensing System; Chai Sahyog Mobile App
  • Formation of 352 Self Help Groups (SHG), 440 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) and 17Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs)
  • The assistance of education stipend to the wards of Small Tea Growers

 

 

Conclusion: You can write the keyword “AROMA” for Tea promotion:

‘AROMA’

  • A= Assistance to small growers
  • R= Re-energise to create infrastructure and augment exports and focus on high-value markets
  • O= Organic: Promote organic and GI tea
  • M= Modernisation: Strengthen local supply chains.
  • A= Adaptability: Make tea plantations meet the challenges of climate change.

Insta Links

Mindmap: Tea Industry in India

 

Mains Links

Q.Tea industry is facing a number of problems resulting in low production of tea and tea leaves. Examine. (250 Words)

 

Prelims Links

With reference to the “Tea Board” in India, consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2022)

  1. The Tea Board is a statutory body.
  2. It is a regulatory body attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  3. The Tea Board’s Head Office is situated in Bengaluru.
  4. The Board has overseas offices in Dubai and Moscow.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 3
(b) 2 and 4
(c) 3 and 4
(d) 1 and 4

Ans: D

 

Consider the following States: ( UPSC 2022)

  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Kerala
  3. Himachal Pradesh
  4. Tripura

How many of the above are generally known as tea-producing States?

(a) Only one State
(b) Only two States
(c) Only three States
(d) All four States

 

Ans: C

 

According to the Tea Board of India Annual Report 2019-2020, generally known tea producing States are Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh.

Clean-tech as the next big thing in rural India

GS Paper 2/3

Syllabus: S&T/Government Programmes/Role of Women and Women’s Organization

 

Source: TH

 Context: Women from rural India are adopting clean energy-based livelihood technologies (from solar refrigerators to silk-reeling machines) to catalyse their businesses and transform women’s livelihoods at the grassroots.

 

Highlights of a study (by CEEW):

  • Out of the 13,000 early adopters of clean tech livelihood appliances, more than 80% are women.
  • Distributed renewable energy (DRE)-powered technologies provide an additional advantage to women farmers by enhancing income opportunities through mechanisation.
  • They also free women from several gender-assigned manual activities that are laborious.
  • By 2030, India is expected to see 30 million women-owned MSMEs employing around 150 million people.

 

Challenges in scaling up these accomplishments:

  • Novelty and a high starting price of these technologies
  • Perceived as high-risk purchases, especially by women users
  • The relatively lower risk appetite of rural women due to socioeconomic reasons
  • Limited avenues to avail financing
  • Lack of established market linkages
  • Limited mobility/networks of women outside their villages

 

Way ahead – How to scale up this impact?

  • Leverage the experience of early women adopters.
  • Organise hyperlocal events and demos – create spaces for women to network, and become aware.
  • Enable easy finance to purchase products. Financiers should consider the technologies themselves as collateral while easing the loan application process.
  • Ensure adequate after-sales services and buy-backs.
  • Support backwards and forward market linkage – finding and connecting producers to consumption hubs in urban areas.
  • Collectivising women or establishing business models that enable them to sell to an intermediary can ensure a regular revenue stream.
  • Enable policy convergence. Efforts towards promoting livelihoods for women from State rural livelihood missions, agriculture departments, etc., must be converged.
  • Leveraging the reach of government institutions is imperative.

 

Best practice: Kissan Dharmbir, an energy-efficient food processor manufacturer, engaged an Agra-based micro-entrepreneur using the processor to produce jams, as a demo champion.

 

Conclusion: Similar to how it takes a village to raise a child, a village of politicians, investors, financiers, and technology promoters, is required to fully realise the potential of rural women and clean technologies.

 

Insta Links:

Schemes for women farmers

 

Mains Links:

Examine the role of the ‘Gig Economy’ in the process of empowerment of women in India. (UPSC 2021)

ILO–UNICEF joint report on social protection for children

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population

 

Source: DTE, UNICEF

 Context: Only 26.4 per cent(just 1 in 4 children) of children aged 0-15 years are shielded by social protection, leaving the remaining 73.6 per cent exposed to poverty, exclusion and multidimensional deprivations, noted a new United Nations (UN) report titled – More than a billion reasons: The urgent need to build universal social protection for children.

 

Need for Social Protection:

  • Social protection policies are powerful tools for alleviating poverty for children and their families at risk of falling into poverty and helping all children deprived of key services.
  • Social protection can also shield children from other major risks, such as child labour and forced labour.

 

Key findings of the report:

  • 2.4 billion Children in this world need adequate social protection.
  • Nearly 1.77 billion children aged 0-18 years lack access to a child or family cash benefit, a fundamental pillar of a social protection system
  • Regional disparities
  • One billion children live in multidimensional poverty without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water.
  • Gender disparity
  • Children with disabilities or living in a household with a family member with a disability are more vulnerable to poverty

 

Stats on India in the report:

 

Recommendations given to achieve universal social protection for children:

  • Provide a comprehensive range of benefits that supports children and families through a life-cycle approach.
  • Authorities are advised to provide child benefits through national social protection systems that also connect families to crucial health and social services, such as free or affordable quality childcare.
  • Increase budget allocation for children: Ensure sustainable and equitable financing of social protection systems
  • Build social protection systems that are rights-based, inclusive, gender-responsive, informed by social dialogue and able to effectively respond to multiple shocks and crises, and that can therefore deliver for children and families.
  • Guarantee access to decent work and adequate employee benefits.
  • Ensure that social protection systems are adapted to developments in the world of work to enhance economic security for parents, caregivers and their families.

 

Conclusion: Following the above recommendations will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of achieving substantial social protection coverage by 2030.

 

Insta Links:

ILO: World Social Protection Report 2020-22

 

Mains Link: UPSC 2016

Examine the main provisions of the National Child Policy and throw light on the status of its implementation.

Our forests are under threat – here’s how they are certified

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment, Conservation

 

Source: IE

 Context: The certification industry offers a multi-layer audit system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality, and sustainability of forest-based products such as timber, etc.

Background:

  • With climate change, deforestation has become a critically sensitive issue globally.
  • Forests absorb large amounts of CO2, keeping a check on global warming.
  • At the Glasgow climate meeting (2021), more than 100 countries took a pledge to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  • Europe and the US have passed laws that regulate the entry and sale of forest-based products in their markets. This is where the certification industry comes in.
  • The industry, through independent third-party audits, helps in establishing whether forests were being managed in a sustainable manner.

 

Two major international standards for sustainable management of forests and forest-based products:

  • Developed by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – More popular and expensive
  • Developed by Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications (PEFC) – Endorses the ‘national’ standards of any country

 

How will they work?

  • Organisations like FSC/PEFC are only the developers and owners of standards like, for example, the ISO/BIS.
  • They are not involved in the evaluation and auditing of the processes.
  • That is the job of certification bodies authorised by the FSC or PEFC.

 

Two main types of certification on offer:

  • Forest management (FM)
  • Chain of Custody (CoC): Guarantees the traceability of a forest product like timber throughout the supply chain from origin to market.

Forest certification in India:

  • Though the industry has been operating in India for the last 15 years, forests in only one state (UP) are certified.
  • 41 divisions of the UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) are PEFC-certified and are managed according to the standards developed by the nonprofit Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).
  • Some other states too obtained certification. However, all of these expired over time.
  • Many agroforestry projects (paper mills, etc), meant for captive use of the industry, too have forest management certification.

 

Challenges:

  • There are a large number of CoC certifications, but the dropout rate is 40%.
  • India’s wood import bill is Rs 50,000-60,000 crores per year.
    • India’s forests contribute just about five million cubic metres (5%) of wood every year.
    • Almost 85% of the demand is met by trees outside forests (ToF) and about 10% is imported.
  • India allows the export of only processed wood, not timber.

 

Way ahead:

  • India-specific standards: Since ToF are so important, new certification standards are being developed for their sustainable management.
  • The government’s own standards: The corruption in the private certification space has come under sustained criticism.

 

Conclusion: A simple, transparent, easy to adopt and internationally accepted indigenous system of certifications will take into account India’s national circumstances and will make available sustainably grown and managed forest products in the domestic market.

 

Insta Links:

India’s first forest-certification scheme gets global recognition

A plateau? Global CO2 emissions rose less than initially feared in 2022, says IEA

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment, Conservation, Pollution

 

Source: DTE

 

Context: According to the IEA’s ‘CO2 Emissions in 2022’ report, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by under 1% in 2022.

 

Background:

  • The report is the first in a new series, the Global Energy Transitions Stocktake, which will bring together the IEA’s latest analysis in one place.
  • This will make it freely accessible in support of the first Global Stocktake in the lead-up to the COP28 Climate Change Conference (Dubai, UAE).

About the report:

  • It covers CO2 emissions from all energy combustion and industrial processes.
  • It also includes information on methane and nitrous oxide emissions, providing a complete picture of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.

 

Important takeaways from the report:

  • Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 0.9%/321 million tonnes in 2022, reaching a new high of more than 36.8 billion tonnes.
  • The rise in emissions last year was far smaller than the exceptional jump of over 6% in 2021.
  • However, the report called for stronger actions to accelerate the clean energy transition to move the world towards meeting its energy and climate goals.

 

Reasons behind better results in 2022: Growth of solar, wind, electric vehicles, heat pumps and energy efficiency helped limit the impacts of increased use of coal and oil amid the global energy crisis.

 

Region-specific findings:

  • China’s emissions were broadly flat in 2022 due to strict Covid-19 measures.
  • The EU emissions fell by 2.5%, thanks to the record deployment of renewables and energy savings measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also contributed.
  • In the US, emissions grew by 0.8% as buildings increased their energy consumption to cope with extreme temperatures.
  • Excluding China, emissions from Asia’s emerging and developing economies increased by 4.2%, reflecting their rapid economic and energy demand growth.

 

Fuel-by-fuel analysis:

  • CO2 emissions from coal grew by 1.6% as the global energy crisis continued to spur a wave of gas-to-coal switching in Asia.
  • The increase in coal emissions balanced the 1.6% decline in emissions from natural gas as supplies were limited by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • CO2 emissions from oil grew by 2.5% (came mainly from the aviation sector) but still remained below pre-pandemic levels.

 

Insta Links:

Who should pay for climate damage?

 

Prelims Links: (UPSC 2020)

Which one of the following statements best describes the term ‘Social Cost of Carbon’? It is a measure, in monetary value, of the

  1. Long-term damage done by a tonne of CO2, emissions in a given year
  2. Requirement of fossil fuels for a country to provide goods and services to its citizens, based on the burning of those fuels
  3. Efforts put in by a climate refugee to adapt to live in a new place
  4. Contribution of an individual person to the carbon footprint on the planet Earth

 

Ans: 1

Roadmap to energy justice

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Energy, Environment, Conservation

 

Source: IE

 

Context: India’s energy strategy is presently recognised as being pragmatic and balanced since it is motivated by assuring energy access, availability, and affordability for its vast population.

 

What is energy justice? Energy justice envisions elements of a global energy system that fairly distributes both energy services’ benefits and burdens and can be used as a framework to identify energy injustices.

 

Short-term actions towards ensuring energy justice in India:

  • Massive cuts in excise duty and VAT rates of petrol and diesel.
  • An export cess on petrol, diesel and ATF.
  • Windfall tax on domestically produced petroleum products to prevent refiners and producers from profiteering at the cost of domestic consumers.
  • Subsidised administered pricing mechanism (APM) gas for the city gas distribution sector was drastically increased.
  • Revising the New Domestic Gas Pricing Guidelines 2014 to rationalise and reform APM gas pricing.

 

Outcome:

  • Prices of diesel in India have gone down in the last year: This is when petrol and diesel prices went up by 35-40% in global markets, India imports over 85% of its crude oil requirements and 55% of its natural gas requirements.
  • No shortage of fuel anywhere in India: This is when several neighbourhood countries have had dry outs and power cuts to manage demand.

 

Long-term actions towards ensuring energy justice:

 

  1. Expanding the network of crude oil suppliers: This strategic decision not only ensured affordable energy for Indian consumers but also had a calming effect on global petroleum markets.

 

  1. Strengthening ties: With countries like the US (energy trade has gone up 13 times in the last four years) and Russia to ensure a reliable supply of crude oil.

 

Expanding petrochemical production:

  • India is a global exporter of petroleum products and its refining capacity is the fourth largest in the world after the US, China, and Russia.
  • Efforts are underway to further enhance this capacity to 450 MMT by 2040.

 

  1. Innovation and investments in exploration and production (E&P): India wants to boost its net geographic area under exploration from 8% to 15% (0.5 million sq km) by 2025 and has reduced the prohibited/no-go areas in EEZ by 99%.

 

  1. Energy transition: However, as demonstrated at Glasgow, India is committed to becoming net-zero in emissions by 2070.

 

  1. Moving towards a gas-based economy:
  • By increasing the share of gas from the current 3 to 15% by 2030.
  • India has connected more than 9.5 crore families with clean cooking fuel in the past nine years.
  • PNG connections have increased from 28 lakh in 2014 to over 1 crore in 2023.
  • The number of CNG stations in India has gone up from 938 in 2014 to 4,900 in 2023.
  • Since 2014, India has increased the length of its gas pipeline network from 14,700 km to 22,000 km in 2023.

 

  1. Biofuel revolution:
  • At the recent India Energy Week 2023, India launched E20 – 20% ethanol blended gasoline – which will be expanded across the country in the next two years.
  • India’s ethanol-blending gasoline has grown from just 53% in 2013-14 to 10.17% in 2023.
  • India is also setting up five 2nd generation ethanol plants, which can convert agricultural waste into biofuel → reducing pollution due to stubble burning → generating income for farmers.

 

  1. Developing the entire green hydrogen ecosystem:
  • The National Green Hydrogen Mission has been launched with an outlay of Rs 19,744 crore to accelerate India’s efforts towards –
    • 4 MT of annual green hydrogen production and
    • Rs 1 lakh crore of fossil fuel import savings by 2030.

 

  1. An integrated path for transitioning India’s future mobility pathways:
  • Along with green hydrogen and biofuels, India is also supporting electric vehicles through a production-linked incentive scheme.
  • India is targeting the installation of alternative fuel stations (EV charging/CNG/ LPG/LNG/CBG etc.) at 22,000 retail outlets by May 2024.

 

 

Conclusion:

  • According to IEA estimates, India will account for ~25% of global energy demand growth between 2020-2040.
  • As India aspires to become a $26 trillion economy by 2047, implementing a unique strategy for ensuring energy security and achieving energy independence is the need of the hour.

 

Insta Links: The Road to Energy Atmanirbharta

 

Mains Links:

  1. “Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is the sine qua non to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.Comment on the progress made in India in this regard. (UPSC 2018)

 

Maoist challenge: Needs political understanding, not securitisation

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Linkages between Development and Spread of Extremism

 

Source: IE

 

Context: The efficacy of the Maoist movement needs to be gauged in terms of their declining social base, not on the basis of how many violent incidents occur.

Maoist movement in India
Current approachExpected outcomeIssues
Use of ForceThe use of force (including specially-trained forces such as the Greyhounds) has led to a decline in Maoist presence and the use of more force will end its remaining influence.The use of more force only helped the Maoists recruit from the local tribal population.

 

 

The Maoist movement moved from the leadership of outsiders (mostly from Telangana) to that of local tribals.

 

 

Such internal changes led to local support for the movement from tribals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

DevelopmentWelfare and development as part of the “strategy” to calm down and make the Maoists irrelevant.The D Bandyopadhyay Committee (2006) stated that land alienation and poverty among STs and Dalits, and lack of access to basic forest resources contributed to the growth of Naxalism.

 

 

The state’s model of development has resulted in the displacement of tribals → leading to the peaceful Pathalgarhi movement in Jharkhand

What led to the failure of the above approaches:

  • Declining Maoist presence/violence could well be a political strategy of the Maoists to go silent/underground and wait for lapses on the part of the security forces.
  • Eminent Domain doctrine, argues that all resources belong to the nation and can be extracted in the “national interest”.
  • Development is seen as a zero-sum game by either side leads.
  • A single conception of development to address the various, occasionally incompatible demands of oppressed groups.
  • The securitisation paradigm is also insufficient to comprehend social exclusion.

 

Conclusion:

  • Both Ambedkar and Gandhi were of the view that social exclusion and caste cannot be addressed through violence.
  • To end the social exclusion of tribals there is the need to understand that development is a multi-faceted process.

 

Insta Links: LWE

 

Mains Links:

  1. The persisting drives of the government for the development of large industries in backward areas have resulted in isolating the tribal population and the farmers who face multiple displacements with Malkangiri and naxalbari foci, discuss the corrective strategies needed to win the left-wing extremism (LWE) doctrine affected citizens back into the mainstream of social and economic growth. (UPSC 2015)

SOCIAL WELFARE: NITI Aayog’s Compendium on Best Practices in Social Sector 2023

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

 

 Source: Niti Aayog

 

Every day in this section we are bringing best practices from each category. Today’s best practices will cover ‘SOCIAL WELFARE’

 

InitiativeRegionDescription
PrayatnaDelhi-NCR (by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE))A livelihood and enterprise training program for transgenders in Delhi-NCR, aimed at helping beneficiaries attain a basic quality of life and impart entrepreneurship skills to some of them.
Nasha Mukt BharatAll over India (by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment)The National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) aims to prevent drug addiction by providing education, counselling, and treatment to individuals with substance dependence. It finances NGOs for rehabilitation centres and addiction treatment facilities. The plan also includes the establishment of District De-Addiction Centers in each district for comprehensive treatment.
AanganPunjab (by Department of Social Security and Women & Child Development)A digital inspection of the childcare institutes (using the SafCa App) being run by the department and registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
Dhimsa RadioKoraput, Odisha (implemented by South Odisha Voluntary Action (SOVA) with UNICEF support)A community radio station that has become a tool for social change in disseminating information on government schemes.

Clearing corporations

 

 Source: IE

 

Context: The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Union’s financial markets regulator and supervisor, has derecognised six Indian central counterparties (CCPs) from April 30, 2023.

 

What are Clearing corporations (CC)?

CC is an organization associated with an exchange to handle the confirmation, settlement, and delivery of transactions in a prompt and efficient manner.

 

Examples of CCs:

 

The CCPs are The Clearing Corporation of India (CCIL), Indian Clearing Corporation Ltd (ICCL), NSE Clearing Ltd (NSCCL), Multi Commodity Exchange Clearing (MCXCCL), India International Clearing Corporation (IFSC) Ltd (IICC), and NSE IFSC Clearing Corporation Ltd (NICCL).

 

 

Why has ESMA derecognized Indian CCs?

The decision to derecognise Indian CCPs came due to ‘no cooperation arrangements’ between ESMA and Indian regulators – the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA).

 

Impact:

As per the European Market Infrastructure Regulations (EMIR), a CCP in a third country can provide clearing services to European banks only if it is recognised by ESMA. With the withdrawal of recognition, these CCPs will no longer be able to provide services to clearing members and trading venues established in the EU.

 

Government’s stand – ESMA’s threat is unreasonable since all clearing corporations are well-regulated in India.

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)


WHO India: Against hearing disability

 Source: TH

 Rizwana, a final year MBBS student at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kottayam, was born with a hearing impairment.

However, her parents’ determination and grit made it possible for her to hear and speak normally, even though she received cochlear implantation at the age of six.

Her story is being used by WHO India to promote early newborn screening and consistent interventions, which can help save many hearing-impaired children from a lifetime of disability.

 

Value-based education in Sports

 Source: PIB

 

 


Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Salt flats around the world are covered in a similar pattern of ridges.

 Source: The Hindu

 Context: In salt flats across the world, the salt on the surface forms ridges that join together in a patchwork of pentagons and hexagons.

 

What are salt flats?

  • A salt flat is a natural landscape in which a large area of flat land is covered by salt.
  • World’s most well-known salt flat is the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia contains more than half of the planet’s lithium reserves.
  • A salt flat forms from a natural water body whose recharge rate is lower than the evaporation rate. The underlying soil is highly saline: even if the water table is shallow, the groundwater is too salty for humans to drink.

 

How are the shapes form?

  • The researchers began with the hypothesis that the salt on the surface is influenced by the salt flowing through the soil below. They found that the salt penetrated deeper into the soil exactly below the ridges, and remained shallow under the flat areas.

 

To mitigate the deleterious effects of salt flats, experts have recommended covering them in a shallow layer of water, so that the salt is deposited on the surface more uniformly and less salt is carried away by winds.

 

Select central govt employees get one-time option to opt for old pension scheme

 Source: TOI

 

Context: In a major move, a select group of central government employees have been given a one-time option to opt for the old pension scheme.

  • The employees who joined the central government services against posts advertised or notified before December 22, 2003, the day National Pension System (NPS) was notified, are eligible to join the old pension scheme under the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 (now 2021).

Difference between old and new pension schemes:

FeatureOld Pension SchemeNew Pension Scheme
Pension AmountFixed, based on years of service and last pay drawnDepends on the contribution and market performance of investments
ContributionThe government bears the responsibility mostly.Both employee and employer contribute a fixed percentage of the salary
PortabilityNot portable, benefits tied to a specific employerPortable, benefits can be transferred to another employer
WithdrawalLimited options, typically only a lump sum payment

 

More flexible options, including partial withdrawals and systematic withdrawal plans
ApplicabilityOnly to government employeesAvailable to all individuals (including government employees)

 

‘K-shaped’ economic recovery

 Source: BS

 Context: Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) V Anantha Nageswaran has said that describing India’s recovery as ‘K-shaped’ was wrong as both rural and urban economies were recovering but at different paces.

  • Post Covid 19 Pandemic, India’s urban and rural areas have seen different growth rates with urban recovery proceeding at a faster pace than rural recovery.

 

Liberalised Remittance Scheme funds

 Source: ET

Context: India’s wealthy individuals have invested all their surplus foreign remittances in various securities over the last few months to comply with a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) diktat that ended last week.

  • In August 2022 RBI had directed that any money remitted overseas by Indian residents that remains unutilised for more than 180 days needs to be repatriated back into India.

 

What is Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)?

Under LRS (introduced in 2004), Indian individuals can send money outside up to a maximum of $250,000 in a year.

  • Aim: LRS simplifies the process of remitting money outside India and encouraging foreign investments by Indian individuals.
  • Permissible transactions: education, travel, medical treatment, gifting, investment in shares or property, etc.
  • Non-Permissible transactions: Trading in foreign exchange or buying lottery tickets.
  • LRS is not available to Corporations, partnership firms, Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), Trusts etc.
  • Benefits of LRS: Individuals can diversify their investments and assets, and also provides an opportunity to finance their foreign education or travel.
  • Issues: Outward remittances can add pressure to the forex reserves of the country and therefore the government has proposed a 20% Tax Collection at Source (TCS) for any foreign remittance transactions in FY24.

 

SC names panel to review investor protection norms
Source: ET, IE

Context: SC announced an expert committee to examine India’s investor protection regulatory framework following the crash in Adani Group securities.

The objective of the committee is threefold:

  • To assess the factors that have led to market volatility
  • To examine if there has been a regulatory failure in this case
  • To suggest measures to strengthen the regulatory apparatus and ensure compliance with the existing framework to protect investors.

 

However, there has been doubt about the opacity of the committee’s selection process.

SEBI has also conducted an investigation and will examine Adani stocks’ market activity before and after the report’s publication.

  • The stock market is regulated by SEBI under SEBI Act 1992 to protect the interest of investors in securities.

 

Samarth Scheme

Source: PIB

Context: Samarth” (Scheme for Capacity Building in Textiles Sector) Scheme of the Ministry of Textiles is operational till March 2024

 

About the Scheme:

Samarth is a demand-driven and placement-oriented umbrella skilling programme of the Ministry of Textiles. The scheme was formulated under the broad skilling policy framework adopted by M/o Skill Development & Entrepreneurship.

ObjectiveTo create jobs and provide skilling opportunities to marginalized sections
Implementation PeriodUp to March 2024
Implemented ByImplementing Partners (IPs) comprising Textile Industry/ Industry Associations, State government agencies and Sectoral Organizations of the Ministry of Textiles

·         The office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) is implementing the SAMARTH  under the component ‘Skill Development in Handicrafts Sector’ of National Handicrafts Development Programme (NHDP)

FeaturesAadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS), Training of Trainers (ToT), CCTV recording, a dedicated call centre with a helpline, mobile app, Web-based Management Information System (MIS), online monitoring, and end-to-end digital solution
Courses Offered184 courses aligned with National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF)
Target BeneficiariesSkilling target of 3.47 lakh beneficiaries; 1.5 lakh beneficiaries trained; more than 85% of beneficiaries trained are women
PlacementMandatory placement of 70% in entry-level and 90% for upskilling programmes; more than 70% of beneficiaries trained in organized sector courses have been provided placement

 

Consider the following statements: ( UPSC2020)

  1. The value of Indo-Sri Lanka trade has consistently increased in the last decade.
  2. “Textile and textile articles” constitute an important item of trade between India and Bangladesh.
  3. In the last five years, Nepal has been the largest trading partner of India in South Asia.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: B

 

Russian bots to boost Instagram reach

 Source: The Hindu

 Context: High-profile Instagram accounts, with up to 40 million followers, were allegedly using Russian bots to boost reach.

Data about the bot service allegedly linked to Russia was discovered when it started leaking clients’ private data and messages. 

 What are bots?

  • A bot is a computer programme designed to work automatically. It is mainly used to gather information on the Internet or perform repetitive jobs.
  • Bot accounts are especially notorious for spamming, spreading crypto scams and fraudulent boosting on social media accounts.
  • Bots accounts have also been linked to disinformation campaigns, targeting political opponents and baiting audiences across a number of countries.

  

Types of bots:

 

Phytoplankton blooms

 Source: The Hindu

 Context: Huge blooms of phytoplankton — microscopic algae floating on the ocean’s surface — have become larger and more frequent along the world’s coastlines.

  • Marine animals such as fish and whales eat phytoplankton
  • It can be toxic in large amounts, starving the ocean of oxygen and leading to “dead zones” that wreak chaos on the food chain and fisheries.

 

Reason for increase in phytoplankton blooms:

  • Warmer sea surface temperatures appear to be behind the boom.
  • Changes in climate can also mess with ocean circulation, affecting the mixing between ocean layers and how nutrients move around the ocean.
  • Human development also plays a role. Fertilizer runoff from agriculture can spike nutrient loads in the ocean, leading to blooms.

Related News: 

WMO: Hottest year ever in next three, 1.5 degrees Celsius to be breached 

Source: DTE

According to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) latest El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) update, there is a 93 per cent chance that one of the years until 2026 would be the warmest year ever recorded because of an impending El Niño.

 

Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog (Uperodon montanus)

Source: DTE

Context: The Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog, a montane species found in the Western Ghats, has been rediscovered after 89 years by a group of zoologists.

  • IUCN: ‘Near Threatened’, but researchers are campaigning for it to be classified as ‘Endangered.’

 

About Frogs:

Frogs (amphibians) are both predators and prey in many ecosystems. They help control insect populations and are also indicator species, meaning their presence or absence can indicate the overall health of an ecosystem. In India, 380 species of frogs and toads have been recorded to date.

About Western Ghats:

The Western Ghats are mountain ranges spanning six Indian states. It is a hotspot of biodiversity, with high levels of endemism and evergreen forests. It is also known as the Great Escarpment of India and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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