Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 03-06-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 03-06-2021


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  1. Governance and Institutions - Revamped Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) - The "Revamped Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS)", "Umbrella schemes of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN)" and "Discretionary Grant (HMDG) on National Health Authority (NHA)’s IT platform" were launched in May. These schemes aim at providing cashless, paperless and citizen-centric services. The CGHS is a comprehensive health scheme for serving employees, pensioners, Members of Parliament, ex-MPs, etc., and their dependent family members. Since 2014, it has expanded to 72 cities. An e-referral module developed by NIC has enabled CGHS dispensaries and wellness centres to issue online referral to empanelled hospitals. The Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) gives financial assistance up to Rs 15 lakhs to poor patients suffering from major life-threatening diseases. for treatment at Government hospitals. The eligibility criteria to avail services under RAN had been based on State/UT-wise BPL threshold. The pan-India Ayushman Bharat scheme (PMJAY) is for BPL citizens.
  2. Indian Economy - RDSO first Institution to be declared SDO - The RDSO (Research Design & Standards Organization) of Indian Railways became the first to be declared 'Standard Development Organisation (SDO)' under “One Nation One Standard” mission of the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards). The BIS, a national standards body, has launched a scheme providing for “Recognition of SDO” to attain “One Nation One Standard” vision of Government of India. Aim of the scheme is aggregating and integrating the existing capabilities and dedicated domain specific expertise of various organizations in India, engaged in standards development in their specific sectors. It will enable convergence of all standard development activities resulting in “One National Standard for One Subject”. Research Designs & Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, is the only Research & Development Wing of Ministry of Railways.
  3. Governance and Institutions - Pesticides poisoning in India worst - A research titled “Toxicoepidemiology of poisoning exhibited in Indian population from 2010 to 2020: A systematic review and meta-analysis” on the prevalence of various types of poisoning in India found that pesticides were the leading cause of poisoning in India. Two in every three cases of poisoning happen due to pesticide consumption either intentionally or unintentionally. The second most common cause of poisoning was miscellaneous agents, followed by drugs, venoms and corrosives. Overall prevalence of pesticide poisoning was at 63% due to widespread use of pesticides for agricultural and household activities. The prevalence of poisoning was the highest in north India at 79%, followed by south India (65.9%), central India (59.2%), west India (53.1%), north east India (46.9%) and east India (38.5%). Reasons for pesticide poisoning include co-existence of poverty and agricultural farming and easy availability of pesticides. The WHO and its member countries initiated a programme of safe access of pesticides, resulting in a decrease in the prevalence of fatal poisoning by 10% across the world. But the leading cause of poisoning in south Asian countries (including India and in South East Asia) and China remains the use of pesticides.
  4. Indian Economy - Analysis of surge in FDI Inflows - The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s report showed that total FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) inflow in 2020-21 were $81.7 billion, up 10% over 2019-20. Ministry’s “Total FDI inflow” is the same as the RBI’s “Gross inflows/gross investment”. The gross inflows consisted of Direct investment to India and Repatriation / disinvestment. RBI report said the disaggregation showed “direct investment to India” has declined by 2.4%, so an increase of 47% in “repatriation/disinvestment” entirely accounts for the rise in the gross inflows. Thus, there is a wide gap between gross FDI inflow and direct investment to India. Reason is that the surge in gross FDI inflows is almost entirely on account of Net Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), shooting up from $1.4 billion in 2019-20 to $36.8 billion in 2020-21. Within the FPI, Foreign Institutional Investment (FIIs) in the capital market boomed by 6,800% to $38 billion in 2020-21, from a mere half a billion dollars in 2019-20. The flood of unprecedented short-term FIIs has boosted stock prices and financial returns. These inflows didn’t augment fixed investment, output growth and employment creation. So the conceptual distinctions between FDI and FPI have blurred in official reporting, showing an outsized role of FDI’s growth in India. The FDI inflow is supposed to bring in additional capital to augment potential output (taking managerial control/stake), bridging a gap in national economy. But FPI is short-term investment in domestic capital (equity and debt) markets to realise better financial returns (i.e., higher dividend/interest rate plus capital gains), also called hot money.
  5. Constitution and Law - Indian citizenship law as applied to Mehul Choksi case - The government of India says Mehul Choksi (prime accused in the Rs.13,500 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case) is an Indian national and not a citizen of Antigua, something Choksi claims. Mehul Choksi was awarded Antiguan citizenship in November 2017, but govt. maintains he is an Indian national. When Choksi applied for Antiguan citizenship based on a character report from Mumbai Police in May 2017, the police now allege that Choksi did not disclose before the them the various cases registered against him in several courts. Hence Mumbai Police gave him an all-clear report, certifying he was a good citizen with no criminal cases against him, which was wrong. Mehul Choksi was awarded Antiguan citizenship in November 2017 under the investment scheme of Antigua & Barbuda. Govt. says that Mehul Choksi, who left India on January 7, 2018, did not surrender his Indian citizenship and never completed the formalities for cancellation of his Indian nationality. So, Mr Mehul Choksi (fugitive from India) remains an Antiguan citizen even though Antigua has begun a legal process to revoke his citizenship. [LEGAL FACTS - India does not allow dual citizenship. According to Section 9 of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, any Indian citizen who voluntarily acquires foreign citizenship ceases to be an Indian citizen. The only exception is when the two concerned countries are at war with each other. As per the Passports Act 1967, it is mandatory for all Indian passport holders to surrender their passports to the nearest Indian Mission/Post soon after acquiring foreign nationality. Misuse of Indian passports constitutes an offence under Section 12(1A) of the Passports Act 1967. After acquiring the foreign nationality, one cannot keep the Indian passport.]
  6. Governance and Institutions - New wage decision in MGNREGA scheme - The Centre has asked the States to split wage payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme into separate categories for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and others from this financial year 2021-22. Government has now decided to provide separate budget heads for SC and ST categories under MGNREGS from the financial year 2021-22 for wage payment. The existing system for wages under the scheme is for only one type, with no category-wise provision of wage payment. Workers’ rights advocates said this will complicate the payment system, and expressed fears that it may lead to a reduction in scheme funding, as complexities will grow. The government may have other goals in mind, like more and better targeted funding. Ground reality will be known in a year or two.
  7. Indian Economy - Model Tenancy Act for rental housing in India - The Union Cabinet approved the Model Tenancy Act for circulation to all States / Union Territories for adaptation by way of enacting fresh legislation or amending existing rental laws suitably. It will help overhaul the legal framework with respect to rental housing across India. The government first released the draft of the MTA in 2019. Now, the Act aims to bridge the trust deficit between tenants and landlords by clearly delineating their obligations. It is expected to give a fillip to private participation in rental housing as a business model for addressing the huge housing shortage across India. It will also provide a model for urban and rural properties, as well as a template for residential and commercial properties. In case of dispute between landlord and tenant, a rent authority, or a rent court would be available for speedy resolution. A tenant will have to submit a security deposit of two months for residential premises. For commercial property, a tenant will have to pay six-month rent. The tenant cannot sublet a part of or the whole property to someone else. If the tenant fails to vacate the premises on the expiration of the period of tenancy or termination of tenancy, the landlord is entitled to double the monthly rent for two months and four times after that. the landowner would give a notice in writing three months before revising rent. The landlord cannot hike the rent in the middle of the tenure.
  8. World Politics - Agreement related to S.C.O. ratified - The Union Cabinet of India has approved the ratification of an Agreement on “Cooperation in the field of Mass Media” between all the Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The Agreement was signed in June, 2019. The SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, which is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance. It was established in 2001, preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism. The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, meeting once a year to adopt decisions and guidelines on all important matters. It has two permanent bodies: the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent. Eight member states are India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Four observer states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
  9. World Politics - Brazil Covid and football update - Brazilians have paid a big price for their President's unscientific approach towards the pandemic. Tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets to voice their disapproval of Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis. Some waved signs demanding “Bolsonaro out”. It was the first big protest against the president since the start of the pandemic. Mr Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have plummeted; he is up for re-election in 2022. Meanwhile, the "Copa América" football tournament is in jeopardy, as surging infections in Argentina and protests in Colombia have caused both countries to withdraw as co-hosts. Bolsonaro agreed that Brazil may step in at the last minute and host the Copa América football tournament, starting June 13th. Critics fretted that cheering fans will turn the matches into superspreading events.
  10. Indian Politics - Covid Update - (a) India's daily new Covid-19 cases saw a decline at 1,790 less cases compared to Thursday, at 1,32,364 fresh cases.(b) The PM said that Corona crisis may have slowed India down a bit, but even today Indian resolve is "self-reliant India, strong India". He claimed that India used to wait for years to get hold of innovations achieved outside, now our scientists working at same quick pace. (c) In a revealing admission, authorities claimed that the delta variant (B.1.617 variant & its lineage B.1.617.2) were primarily responsible for surge in cases in the second wave, as these variants had high transmissibility of almost 50% more than Alpha variant (B.1.1.7). This is as per study by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing Consortia) & National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). (d) The Kerala Finance Minister announcea a Rs.20,000 crore second Covid package in 2021-22 budget. (e) NUMBERS - INDIA - Total cases: 28,572,359; New cases: 131,371; Total deaths: 340,719; New deaths: 2,706; Total recovered: 26,588,808; Active cases: 1,642,832.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
World to witness investment boom 

  • The story: In many nations, lockdowns are lifting, and people are going out and spending. Australia’s restaurants, America’s shopping malls, Britain's cinema halls, are all packed once again. But the real bonanza is starting at some other place - the large corporates. Their capital-expenditure plans are huge, and will impact all.
  • Capital expenditure: In US, the capital spending (capex) by firms is growing at an annual rate of 15%, and this is both on the hard stuff (machines and factories) and the intangibles (software). Firms in other parts of the world are also raising their spending. Overall global investment may soar to 121% of pre-recession levels by the end of 2022. Total global real fixed investment will rise by more than 6% this year.
  • A big change: Compare this sentiment with the pre-pandemic norm. In America gross domestic business investment, as a share of GDP, was sluggish since the early 1980s. After the financial crisis of 2007-09 it took more than two years for global investment, in real terms, to regain its previous peak. But investment has been quicker to bounce back this time after the pandemic. If true, then global economy may not face a repeat of the 2010s, when growth in productivity and GDP stayed below pre-crisis trends. Investment in new products, technologies and business practices is the foundation for higher incomes and a better quality of life.
  • Why this boom: The S&P 500 is America’s main stockmarket index. Together its firms account for about one dollar in seven of total rich-world corporate capital formation. Many of them are bullish about capex. The investment recovery at the moment is concentrated in a few industries. Global tech firms are expected to boost capex by 42% in 2021, relative to 2019.
  1. Apple will invest $430bn in America over a five-year period, an upgrade of 20% on previous plans.
  2. Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor-maker, announced it would invest $100bn over the next three years in manufacturing.
  3. Samsung’s capex will rise by 13% this year, having gone up by 45% in 2020.
  4. Tech companies are spending so freely in part because the pandemic has created new demands, e.g. online shopping, remote work etc. So new equipment and software is needed for these to run smoothly.
  • Other than tech firms: Other companies in the US S&P 500 that focus on discretionary consumer spending boosted capex by 36% year-on-year in the first quarter. Companies such as Target and Walmart, two retailers, are trying to keep up with the online giants that are eating their lunch. Marks & Spencer, an august British retailer, recently announced that it had launched 46 new websites in overseas markets from Iceland to Uzbekistan. Other retailers are spending frantically to expand capacity, having been caught out by the surge in household spending. Everything from sofas to hot tubs is in short supply.
  • Long-lasting or temporary: The question is if this emerging capex boom is a lasting shift away from the weakness of the 2010s, or simply an enthusiastic temporary response to reopening. About half of the companies in the S&P 500 are not expected to invest more in 2021 than they did in 2019. Global oil-and-gas firms are cutting back by a tenth relative to pre-pandemic levels, possibly in response to lower expected demand. Airline operators are cutting down spending.
  • Research by the IMF suggests that companies with market power may be less keen on investing. In contrast to the post-financial-crisis period, households have a lot of savings to spend. A more decisive fiscal and monetary response this time has allowed firms to load up on cash. Bond issuance by investment-grade-rated American companies jumped to a record $1.7trn in 2020, up from $1.1trn in 2019.
  • Summary: The pandemic is leading to an era of greater technological optimism, with rapid deployment of new business models.
Inflation - from temporary to sustained

  • America's Great Inflation: The world over, there is debate about whether inflation in rich world will rise sharply now. The Great Inflation was the period in the US in 1970s which led to radical revisions in macroeconomic thinking. Until then Keynesian economists thought that a permanently lower rate of unemployment could be achieved by accepting higher inflation. Critics like Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago thought differently, and said that in the long run, the unemployment rate was determined by an economy’s structural features. A government using easy money to push joblessness below this “natural” level would fail. Inflation would rise as people learned to expect faster price growth.
  • Critics won that round: The 1970s' Great Inflation gave credibility to the critics. Milton Friedman pushed monetarism - the view that inflation in the long run was determined by growth in the money supply — but that too proved inadequate. Central banks that tried to target money growth found its relationship with inflation unstable. They have since been guided by a hybrid “New Keynesian” framework, where inflation is determined by three main factors: (a) the effects of supply shocks; (b) the extent to which the economy is operating above or below capacity; and (c) people’s expectations of inflation. The debates around the probable trajectory of inflation today hinge on these variables.
  • 2021 figures: In May, Federal Reserve data showd how core personal-consumption-expenditure inflation rose to 3.1%. Some economists say this is the first sign stirrings of sustained high inflation (like in 1970s). Not everyone agrees though.
  • Why not agree: The current inflation spike is rooted in disruptions relating to lockdowns and reopening. Supply shocks featured prominently in the Great Inflation as well, so short-term troubles can get entrenched.
  1. The Great Inflation in fact reflected two distinct phenomena: a persistent problem of too much demand, overlaid by short bursts of supply-side pressures. Shocks to food and energy markets led to dramatic spikes in inflation in the 1970s, and abated when these shocks abated. Headline inflation in America rose by nine percentage points from 1972 to 1974, but by 1976 had fallen by seven percentage points. That suggests that supply pressures today should ease when disruptions are resolved.
  2. An economy operating beyond its capacity can create more enduring inflation problems. Inflation had been creeping up in America well before the 1970s, rising from less than 2% in the early 1960s to nearly 6% later in the decade. That was the result of a policy error: the Fed consistently let demand exceed productive capacity. It took the grim determination of Paul Volcker, who became the Fed’s chairman in 1979, to expunge this inflationary inertia.
  3. Some worry that today’s stimulus-powered growth could lead to a repeat. Employment in America remains nearly 8m short of its pre-pandemic level, pointing to plenty of spare capacity. But even the Fed reckons that this might quickly be taken up. But shifts in unemployment seem to have had smaller effects on inflation in recent decades.
  • Measuring inflation: Expectations are the trickiest piece of the inflation equation, as measuring them is tough. What public perceives about the central bank (Fed in the US, RBI in India) also drives their inflation expectations.
  • Summary: In the US, the Federal Reseve has changed its approach, and now says it will accept periods of above-target inflation to offset past undershooting. It still promises inflation of just 2% on average, and it has not dropped its commitment to keep control over prices, nor does the public believe it has.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Environment report - "State of Finance for Nature"

  • The story: A United Nations report titled "State of Finance for Nature" has analyzed the investment flow in nature-based solutions (NbS) and identified the future investment needed to meet challenges of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation targets (set in three Rio Conventions).
  • Who made it: This report was produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Economics of Land Degradation.
  • 'Nature-based solutions (NbS)': It refers to sustainable management and use of nature to tackle socio-environmental challenges, which range from disaster risk reduction, climate change and biodiversity loss to food and water security as well as human health. It creates harmony between people and nature, enables ecological development and represents a holistic, people-centred response to climate change. NbS underpin the Sustainable Development Goals, as they support vital ecosystem services, biodiversity, and access to fresh water, improved livelihoods, healthy diets and food security (organic agriculture) from sustainable food systems. It remains an essential component of the overall global effort to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
  • Report finding: It said that current investments was approximately USD 133 billion, flowing into nature-based solutions annually (using 2020 as base year). That is about 0.10% of global gross domestic product. The funds flow to protect biodiversity and landscapes, mixed with activities such as sustainable forestry. NbS finance is much smaller in scale than climate finance and relies more heavily on public finance.
  1. Public vs Private funds - Public funds make up 86% and private finance 14% of these investments. The public financial services providers included the government, development finance institutions (DFIs), environmental/climate funds.
  2. Top spenders - Public sector spending for the same is dominated by the United States and China, followed by Japan, Germany and Australia. Countries such as India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia may be spending large amounts of money too, but they do not report internationally comparable data.
  • Suggestions: The report makes a case for more investments. Public and private firms /entities will need to scale up their annual investments by at least four times to meet future climate, biodiversity and land degradation targets. The annual investment should reach USD 536 billion by 2050.
  1. Enhancing cash flows for investment - Reforming taxes, repurposing agricultural policies and trade-related tariffs and harnessing the potential of carbon markets.
  2. Smart investments - Restoration of natural vegetation and afforestation are essential to meet international targets. A key component of annual investment needs is the cost of establishing new forests, as it accounts for 80% of total costs.
  3. Making Nature-based solution part of policies - Supporting inclusion of nature-based solutions in current nationally determined contribution revisions, national adaptation plans and domestic sectoral legislation. Aligning private finance with public policy for scaling up capital flows to nature to a level that can meet the targets of the three Rio Conventions.
  • Summary: There is a need for a comprehensive system and framework for labelling, tracking, reporting and verifying the state of finance for NbS, to improve data comparability and quality as an input to future decision-making. A need to increase positive financial flows by de-risking & incentivizing and reducing harmful financial flows also exists.

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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

President Xi now wants no wolf warriors, but lovable diplomacy


    • The story: What Deng Xiaoping wanted Chinese diplomats to be, President Xi changed it all with the newfound aggression. His brand of global diplomacy was supported by a new breed of Chinese diplomats - the wolf warriors, aggressive and outspoken individuals. But that era is coming to a sudden end  now.
    • Change of heart: After many years of rabidly defending China against real and imagined threats by issuing random warnings, insults and non sequiturs, President Xi Jinping finally has asked diplomats to take it easy. He wants Chinese officials should create a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” national image. He said China needed to “be open and confident, but also modest and humble.” This is very surprising.
    • Making sense: China’s international relations have frayed significantly over the past years, with issues like the repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, aggressive rhetoric and action against Taiwan, India and Hong Kong activists and relentless obfuscation over the coronavirus darkening China’s global image. What Xi thought he could pull through, has not happened.
    1. Central to that approach were “the wolf warriors,” a team that included Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian and many ambassadors and diplomats around the world. Their hyperaggressive diplomacy wasn’t winning friends.
    2. China’s reputation in the West has plunged, and this decline in China’s image took place during a period in which the United States was led by a globally unpopular leader whose policies of “America First” drew little support outside U.S. borders.
    • Biden's US: With President Biden in office now, and despite his softer style, he looks set to push China on issues related to the coronavirus and more. Countries are being asked to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, and Chinese vaccine diplomacy hasn't worked due to reports of low efficacy and new waves. But for China, the real danger is that once toxin has spread through the system, there is no knowing where it will end.
    • The name: The name “wolf warrior” came from an ultrapatriotic and hugely popular 2015 action film, along with its 2017 sequel, which features Chinese elite soldiers helping to protect the country from its foes. When a handful of Chinese diplomats began acting more assertively on Twitter, they gained comparisons to the Rambo-like heroes of the film. Outside of China, it wasn’t a compliment. The shift in tone was not limited to lower-level officials. Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded to criticism about China’s repression of Uyghurs by saying: “Our European friends know what is genocide.”
    • Ugly disputes: China is nw entangled in a variety of ugly disputes with countries it once got along with politely. Relations with the European Union broke down amid disputes over Xinjiang, effectively ending plans for a trade and investment treaty signed just in January 2021. Relations with Australia and India have broken down, with the latter in a small-scale 'war' with China in 2020. Taiwan, meanwhile, with its softer diplomatic style of “cat diplomacy,” seemed to be gaining where China was failing.
    • Summary: Keeping a tighter leash on the wolf warriors may not mean better international relations for China. And unless there are significant policy changes elsewhere, their howling seems likely to continue.
    Foreign affairs updates

    • Vaccination plans of USA: President Joe Biden announced on 3rd June a plan to distribute 25 million vaccine doses from the U.S. stockpile to other nations. Biden said 75 percent of the vaccines would be donated to the COVAX initiative, while the remainder would go to allied and partner countries. The 19 million dose donation would substantially boost COVAX, which has only distributed 76 million doses to date. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the United States would “retain the say” on where COVAX doses will go, adding: “We’re not seeking to extract concessions, we’re not extorting, we’re not imposing conditions the way that other countries who are providing doses are doing.”
    • Denmark’s asylum proposal: Danish lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a measure to establish a refugee application processing office in a third country, likely in Africa, in a move that has been criticized by the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is designed to cut down on deadly migrant crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, but rights groups have questioned that logic. “What it’s all about is that Denmark wants to get rid of refugees. The plan is to scare people away from seeking asylum in Denmark” Refugees Welcome group said.
    • Food prices rising: Global food prices in May 2021 were at their highest point in almost a decade, and up 40 percent on the previous year, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday. It is the twelfth consecutive month that the FAO food price index has increased. The agency blamed the recent surge on the higher cost of vegetable oils, sugar, and cereals—even as global cereal production is expected to reach record levels.
    • Killer technology: A military drone attacked soldiers in Libya’s civil war using artificial intelligence, rather than a human pilot, an independently authored report commissioned by the United Nations found. The drone, believed to be a Turkish Kargu-2 model, was part of advanced military technology introduced by Turkey that ultimately proved a “decisive element” in helping the Government of National Accord defeat of the forces of Khalifa Haftar in western Libya in 2020.
    • Africa’s COVID-19 threat: The WHO warned of the “real and rising” threat of a third coronavirus wave hitting Africa soon, as infection indicators show cause for alarm. The continent has seen a 20 percent increase in overall cases over the past two weeks, while eight countries have reported a 30 percent rise in cases. As cases jump, vaccines are still hard to come by: Only 31 million people have received a single vaccine dose out of a population of 1.3 billion.

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      • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

    Indian Inc's Big Guns lining up for lithium cells PLIS


      • The story: Top guns like Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Adani Group, Tata Chemicals, Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), and a joint venture (JV) led by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp. have shown interest in building lithium-ion cell manufacturing plants in India. They all want to take advantage of the government’s new Rs.18,100 crore production linked incentive (PLI) scheme to make lithium-ion cells. Through it, the government wants to attract investments worth Rs.45,000 crore.
      • Other firms: PSUs like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel), Exide Industries Ltd, Amara Raja Batteries Ltd, Greenko Group and Renew Power have also evinced interest. These companies have in the past few weeks informed government authorities about their intent to take part in the PLI scheme for lithium-ion cell manufacturing, but with certain help or concessions from the government.
      • The bigger picture: The government expects some of the domestic firms to partner with foreign firms to make investments in these projects. Some companies are planning to shift towards renewable energy, so manufacturing lithium cells gives them an opportunity to take a step forward. With 50% of new vehicle sales expected to turn electric in the next 10-15 years, globally, demand would be high.
      • Government happy: The interest of major Indian companies is a source of joy for the government whose aim to turn the country into a global hub for the manufacture of EVs and related parts, by 2030, gets a booster. The government also hopes that a greater share of EVs in total vehicle sales will help curb rampant pollution in the major cities.
      • Summary: For companies in the energy sector, producing lithium-ion cells and establishing charging infrastructure for EVs will be high up on priority lists since it will create new revenue streams. Suzuki, along with Japan’s Denso Corp. and Toshiba Corp., has already set up a plant in Gujarat, but its opening has been delayed due to the pandemic. Tata Chemicals and Amara Raja Batteries have announced plans to invest in the manufacturing of lithium batteries in India.
      Under attack, Indian cryptocurrency industry readies itself


      • The story: The regulatory environment in India is quite harsh for players in cryptocurrency markets. First was the general dislike that the government has displayed, and then the April 2018 RBI circular that barred banks from dealing with any crypto exchange in India.
      • Developments: That RBI circular was quashed by the Supreme Court in 2020, leading RBI to advise banks in May 2021 to not issue any directives to customers on its behalf. But India’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges - WazirX, CoinDCX and CoinSwitch Kuber - have now partnered with IAMAI to set up an advisory board to implement a code of conduct for the crypto industry in India.
      1. India’s nascent cryptocurrency industry is overhauling disclosure and compliance mechanisms to establish itself as a legitimate business in the eyes of mainstream financial players.
      2. The effort quickened in June, after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made it clear banks should not apply its April 2018 circular to penalise customers for dealing in cryptocurrencies.
      • The tieup: India’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges have partnered with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) to set up an advisory board to implement a code of conduct for the industry. The board will be set up under the Blockchain and Crypto Assets Council (BACC), part of IAMAI, and will act as a self-regulatory organisation for the sector. The code will be applicable to all member cryptocurrency exchanges. It will include standardised annual audits, routine disclosures of company information and funding, repeat know your customer (KYC) checks, improved data storage standards as well as a reassessment of customer risk profile.
      • Taking it mainstream: The board will liaison with regulatory and supervisory authorities, such as the Financial Intelligence Unit and the RBI, to flag suspicious transactions. The board, which will comprise three to four external members, will also create a mechanism to certify exchanges that comply with its criteria. India’s cryptocurrency industry is young and burgeoning, and there should be adequate balance between regulations and supervision to allow companies to grow.
      • Summary: The BACC has 12-15 exchanges and several smaller blockchain and crypto startups. None of the Big Four auditing firms in India currently offers auditing services for cryptocurrency. There is no exact number of cryptocurrency firms operating in India. It is estimated that at least 50 are actively onboarding customers and collectively processing transactions worth over Rs 15,000 crore annually. In 2021, many leading banks and payment gateways pulled the plug on cryptocurrency transactions, citing unclear regulations.

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        • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
      Supreme Court pulls up Government on vaccination policy

      • The story: India has not been able to make a structured Covid-19 vaccination plan for its citizens. From being a proud exporter of crores of vaccines, under Vaccine Maitry scheme, the government was shocked as the second Covid wave swamped India, and it had to cancel all exports. Then many policy changes came in, but one thing was constant - lack of enough vaccine does. Worldwidwe, the general trend is "free vaccination for all citizens".
      • Judicial review: The Supreme Court of India heard related petitions, and termed non-extension of free vaccination to the 18-44 age group as "prima facie arbitrary and irrational" and asked why budgetary allocation of Rs.35,000 crore for vaccine procurement could not be used to inoculate this group free of cost.
      1. It said that due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the central government for conducting free vaccination for groups under the first two phases (healthcare & frontline workers and those above 45 years), and replacing it with paid vaccination by state and UT governments and private hospitals for those between 18-44 years was, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational.
      2. The bench comprised Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat, and it was a 32-page order.
      • Centre's stand: Modi government asserted that all states have decided to vaccinate their populations free of cost. The bench then asked each state and UT to file affidavits in two weeks declaring whether they intended to carry out free vaccination of people irrespective of age. The SC also sought data on the percentage of rural population vaccinated so far as it apprehended that vaccination was urban-centric.
      1. The SC took serious note of black fungus infection among those recovered from Covid-19 and asked the Centre to furnish details of steps being taken to ensure drug availability.
      2. The higher incidence of Covid-19 in the 18-44 age group, which had escaped the first wave of the pandemic, in the second wave and the increasing trend of co-morbidities in this cohort prompted the SC bench to ask why this category should be treated differently from other groups which were vaccinated free of cost.
      • Budget provisions: The earmarking of Rs.35,000 crore for vaccine procurement in the Budget for 2021-22 was under the scanner too. The SC bench asked the government to explain as part of the liberalised vaccination policy, what it did with those funds (vaccinated people aged 18-44 years or not).
      1. The SC went into the impracticality of mandatory registration on the CoWin portal, due to the sharp digital divide between urban and rural India
      2. It asked the government to clearly explain in writing the thinking that went into framing of the vaccine policy as well as differential pricing of vaccines for the Centre, states and private hospitals. This was a shock for the government which has made policies unilaterally thus far
      • Promise: The solicitor general Tushar Mehta promised that the Centre wanted to vaccinate all above 18 years, around 94 crore people, by the end of the year. The SC bench then asked for a comprehensive written plan for it, including preparations for a third wave, plans for saving the children from it, vaccination trial records and so on.
      • States in a lurch: Global tenders have been floated by states and municipal corporations for buying vaccines from foreign sources directly, and those have met with nearly zero response. The SC bench has asked if the Centre's policy permitted all this. "The liberalised vaccination policy requires some of these people (in 18-44 age group) to pay for the vaccines; limited vaccines are made available for this category with state/UT governments/private hospitals and an additional requirement of mandatory digital registration and booking an appointment through CoWin has been imposed, among others."
      • Private hospitals' profiteering: The court went into possible profiteering by private hospitals at a time when vaccines are in short supply. Since private hospitals are not equally spread out across a state/UT and are often limited to bigger cities with large populations, it would be inherently unequal. The SC sought answers from the Union government on the following: "Whether (i) private hospitals are liable to disburse vaccines pro rata to the population of states/UTs; and (ii) the mechanism to determine if private players are genuinely administering the lifted quota in that state/UT alone."
      • Summary: The vaccination plans made by the Modi government finally met the real acid test, in this Supreme Court hearing. Time to streamline is now.
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        • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
      First ever H10N3 bird flu detected in human

      • The story: A 41-year-old man in China’s Jiangsu was confirmed as the first human case of infection with a rare strain of bird flu known as H10N3. Not much is known about the virus, rare even in birds, as per the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
      • The virus: The World Health Organization (WHO) said while the source of the patient’s exposure to the H10N3 virus was not known and no other cases were found among the local population, there was no indication of human-to-human transmission yet. Yet avian influenza viruses that have little impact on birds can be much more serious in people, such as the H7N9 strain that killed almost 300 people in China during the winter of 2016-2017. The WHO has said there had been only rare instances of person-to-person spread of the H7N9 virus.
      • Risks: The risk of further infection with H10N3 is believed to be very low, with experts describing the case as “sporadic”. Such cases occur occasionally in China which has huge populations of both farmed and wild birds of many species. With growing surveillance of avian influenza in the human population, more infections with bird flu viruses are being picked up.
      • Russian case: In February 2021, Russia reported the first human infection with the H5N8 virus that caused huge damage on poultry farms across Europe, Russia and East Asia in 2020 winters. Seven people infected with the virus were asymptomatic.
      • Poultry: As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent, as per the WHO. The strain is not a very common virus, and only around 160 isolates of the virus were reported in the 40 years to 2018.
      • Mutations: Flu viruses can mutate rapidly and mix with other strains circulating on farms or among migratory birds, known as “reassortment,” meaning they could make genetic changes that pose a transmission threat to humans.
      • Work to do: The genetic sequence of the virus that infected the patient has not yet been published, and will be needed to fully assess its risk. Scientists want to know how easily H10N3 can infect human cells to determine if it could become a greater risk. Example: the H5N1 variant that first infected people in 1997 has been the most deadly, killing 455 people globally so far.
      Going to Venus now - NASA's two missions

      • The story: America's NASA has selected two missions to the planet Venus, Earth’s nearest neighbour. The missions called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS have been selected based on their potential for scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. NASA is expected to allot $500 million to each of these missions that will launch between 2028-2030.
      • Details: These are part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which began in 1992 to give scientists the chance to launch some missions that use fewer resources and have shorter developmental times.
      • Planet Venus: From the Earth, Venus is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon. It appears bright because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light. Venus is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes, but the two planets are totally different.
      1. Venus' thick atmosphere traps heat and makes it the hottest planet in the solar system, despite coming after Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.
      2. Surface temperatures on Venus can go up to 471 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead.
      3. Venus moves forward on its orbit around the Sun but spins backwards around its axis slowly. This means on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the East. One day on Venus is equivalent to 243 Earth days because of its backward spinning, opposite to that of the Earth’s and most other planets. Venus also does not have a moon and no rings.
      • Hostile: The planet’s harsh environment ensured no humans ever visited it and even the spacecraft sent to the planet did not survive for a very long time. Spacecraft from several nations have visited the planet, with the first being the Soviet Union’s Venera series (the spacecraft didn't survive for long). Then came NASA’s Magellan Mission that studied Venus from 1990-1994. Today, Japan’s Akatsuki mission is studying the planet from Orbit.
      • Latest NASA missions: The two selections are a part of the ninth Discovery Program and were made from proposals submitted in 2019.
      1. DAVINCI+ is short for ‘Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging’ and is the first US-led mission to the planet’s atmosphere since 1978. It will try to understand Venus’ composition to see how the planet formed and evolved. This mission also consists of a descent sphere that will pass through the planet’s thick atmosphere and make observations and take measurements of noble gases and other elements. This mission will also try to return the first high resolution photographs of a geological feature that is unique to Venus. This feature, which is called “tesserae” may be comparable to Earth’s continents, NASA says. The presence of tesseraes may suggest that Venus has tectonic plates like Earth.
      2. The second mission called VERITAS is short for ‘Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy’ and will map the planet’s surface to determine its geologic history and understand the reasons why it developed so differently from Earth. VERITAS will orbit Venus with a radar that will help to create a three dimensional reconstruction of its topography which might be able to tell scientists if processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active there. This mission will also map the emissions from Venus’s surface that may help in determining the type of rocks that exist on Venus–a piece of information that is not exactly known yet. It will also determine if active volcanoes are releasing water vapour into the atmosphere.
      • Summary: The results from DAVINCI+ are expected to reshape the understanding of terrestrial planet formation in the solar system and beyond. Taken together, both missions are expected to tell scientists more about the planet’s thick cloud cover and the volcanoes on its surface. Scientists speculate about the existence of life on Venus in its distant past and the possibility that life may exist in the top layers of its clouds where temperatures are less extreme

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        • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2))
      China's population lessons - Indian case

      • The story: In June 2021, China relaxed its two child policy (brought in 2014-16) and announced it would allow three children per married couple. It announced that the retirement age will be raised by a few months every year, to retain workers for longer. For the past four decades, the retirement age in China has been 60 for men and 55 for women.
      • Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping: During Mao's time which lasted from 1949 to 1976, the Chinese could have as many kids as desired. Then, China embarked upon its one-child policy in 1980, when Deng Xiaoping (in-charge then) became concerned that the growing population, approaching one billion, would impede economic progress. A harsh one-child policy was imposed, and implemented brutally across China, with only few exceptions allowed.
      • What happened: Chinese authorities have hailed the policy as a success, claiming it helped China avert severe food and water shortages by preventing up to 40 crore people from being born. But it was a source of discontent, as China used brutal tactics such as forced abortions and sterilisations. It also met criticism and remained controversial for violating human rights, and for being unfair to the poor. India never adopted any such policy, and relied only on voluntary health practices. Today, even India's total fertility rate is 2.1 (or even lesser), which is the replacement fertility rate.
      • Two child policy: From 2016, the Chinese government finally allowed two children per couple, but it did little to arrest the rapid fall in population growth. The couples showed no interest in having more kids, due to many practical reasons. China’s fertility reduction was partly due to coercive policies, and largely due to sustained investments made in education, health and job opportunities for women.
      • Three child policy: It was announced after China’s 2020 census data showed that the country’s rate of population growth is falling rapidly despite the 2016 relaxation. China's fertility rate has dropped to 1.3, far below the replacement level of 2.1 required for a generation to have enough children to replace it. The United Nations expects China’s population to begin declining after 2030, but could happen early also.
      • Why the panic: There is a clear reason for falling numbers, but the fallout can be severe.
      1. Decreased labour force: When the young population in a country declines, it creates labour shortages, which have a major detrimental impact on the economy.
      2. More social spending - More older people also means that demands for healthcare and pensions can soar, burdening the country’s social spending system further when fewer people are working and contributing to it.
      3. Developing nations need hands - China is still a middle-income society, despite being the world’s second-largest economy. Prosperous countries like Japan and Germany, which face similar demographic challenges, can depend on investments in factories, technology and foreign assets. China still depends on labour-intensive manufacturing and farming.
      • India's population statistics: India’s population is estimated to be over 1.36 billion as of March 2021, with an estimated 12.4% growth over the last decade, much lower than the 17.7% between 2001 and 2011. A 2019 United Nations report had projected India to overtake China as the most populous country by 2027, which earlier was expected to be in 2024. India may add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050, and then peak around 160-163 crore, and start reducing. Estimates are that India's sharp reduction may take it below 100 crore by 2100 AD.
      1. India's total fertility rate (TFR) has already decreased steadily over past 40 years to just 2.1 now (all states combined). Many states are reporting far lower rates, and are actually shrinking.
      2. A reason why total population keeps growing is the steadily rising longevity of senior citizens. So while birth side pressures have gone down, people aren't dying fast enough for total numbers to go down.
      3. The Government launched Mission Parivar Vikas in 2017 for substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in 146 high fertility districts. Under the "Compensation Scheme for Sterilization Acceptors" scheme, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides compensation for loss of wages to the beneficiary and also to the service provider (& team) for conducting sterilizations from the year 2014.
      4. National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS) scheme was launched in the year 2005, where clients were insured in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization.
      5. The real challenge for India now is not to "control population growth", but to put the young people to work. India's median age is just 28 years.
      • Summary: Stringent population control measures like a two-child limit will be meaningless for India now, as its TFR is around 2 already. The proven ways to lower the fertility rate are to give women the control over their fertility and ensure their greater empowerment through increased access to education, economic opportunities and healthcare. India has done very well with its family planning measures and as its TFR is now equal to the replacement level fertility of 2.1, nothing much is possible. The challenge is to sustain population stabilisation because in some States like Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala and Karnataka, the total fertility rate is way below replacement level, which means it can experience in 30-40 years what China is experiencing now.

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          • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

        NITI Aayog Sustainable Development Index (SDGI)

          • The story: India's NITI Aayog released its third edition of Sustainable Development Index for 2020-2021, evaluating progress of states and Union Territories with respect to social, economic and environmental parameters.
          • Sustainable Development Index 2021: Kerala has retained the top rank with score of 75. Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam were worst performers. Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu retained second spot with score of 74. Chandigarh retained top spot among UTs with a score of 79. It is followed by Delhi with score 68. In terms of score improvement, Mizoram, Haryana and Uttarakhand are the top gainers in 2020-21 who have gained 12, 10 and 8 points, respectively as compared to index of 2019-2020.
          • Leaders: In 2019, 10 states & UTs were categorized as front-runners with score in range 65-99. In 2020-2021, 12 more states & UTs were listed in this category. States like, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Haryana, Tripura, Lakshadweep, Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are states or UTs in this category.
          • India’s Overall SDG Score: India’s overall SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) score has increased from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21. This increase is driven by good performance in SDG goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG goal 7 (affordable and clean energy). This SDG Index was launched in December 2018, as a tool to monitor progress on SDGs in India. It fostered competition among states and union territories by ranking them on the basis of global goals.
          China's New Generation Meteorological Satellite

          • The story: China launched its first satellite of a new generation meteorological satellite into planned orbit. This satellite, named as Fengyun-4B (FY-48), will be used for fields of weather analysis, environmental and disaster monitoring.
          • Fengyun-48: It was launched by a Long March-3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province. It is the first of China’s new-generation meteorological satellites which will be used for weather analysis & forecasting, environmental and disaster monitoring.
          • Importance: The Fengyun-48 satellite will strengthen observation and response capability of small & medium scale disaster events and provide information security services in sectors including agriculture, meteorological, marine, aviation, and environmental protection. It will also conduct dynamic monitoring and tracking of several disaster elements like cold fronts, floods, droughts and sand storms. It will also improve forecast accuracy of disaster weather like typhoons and storms of China.  It also comprises of a rapid imager which can improve measurement resolution to 250 meters from geostationary orbit and accelerate scan imaging of Earth. Observation range of the satellite include Asia, central Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean regions.

          World Bicycle Day 2021 


          • The story: The World Bicycle Day (WBD) is observed on June 3 every year with the objective of promoting health benefits of cycling among all age groups.
          • Goal: Its primary goal is to draw attention of people towards the fact cycling is a zero-pollution mode of transportation which is good for environment.
          • Details: The United Nations General Assembly declared June 3 as World Bicycle Day. UN resolution recognises “uniqueness, longevity, and versatility of bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries.”. Campaign to promote UN resolution for World Bicycle Day was led by professor Leszek Siblisk, a social scientist in the United States. Campaign is supported by 56 countries. The logo of WBD is a Blue and White in colour, depicting bicyclists around the globe. Its tagline is #June3WorldBicycleDay. It was designed by Isaac Feld. Accompanying animation was created by Professor John E. Swanson.
          • Why: The day is celebrated as cycling is a ‘pathway to achieve greater health equity’. Cycling provides a form of transport for poorest urban sector who cannot afford private vehicle. This, WBD is celebrated to recognise the benefits of cycling. Besides transportation, it reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
          Expert group on "Fixation of Minimum wages"

          • The story: The Labour and Employment Ministry (MLE) has set up expert group that will provide technical inputs and recommendations on fixation of minimum wages and national floor for minimum wages.
          • Points to note: This is the second expert committee on minimum wages formed by government in last two years. The last panel was headed by Anoop Satpathy and was set up by ministry on January 17, 2018. It conducted an evidence-based analysis to determine methodology of fixing national minimum wage. It set national floor wage at Rs.375 per day or Rs.9,750 per month in accordance with 2018 prices. Those recommendations were not accepted.
          • Mpore: The expert group has been set for a period of three years. It is chaired by Ajit Mishra who is Director of Institute of Economic Growth. Other members include- Tarika Chakraborty from IIM Calcutta; Anushree Sinha; Vibha Bhalla, Joint Secretary; et-al. The group will look at international best practices on wages to arrive at any wage rate. It will evolve a scientific criteria and methodology to fix wages.
          • Code on Wages: The Code on Wages, which has not been enforced, provides for setting up of National Floor Level Minimum Wage by Centre which is to be revised every five years. On the other hand, states will fix minimum wages for their regions, that cannot be lower than floor wage. Current floor wage is at Rs.176 per day.

          • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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            • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

          Solve the online quiz given, right now. Check scores, and relative performance!
          9.1 Today's best editorials to read
          • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 



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          PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 03-06-2021
          Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 03-06-2021
          Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 03-06-2021
          PT's IAS Academy
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