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Daily Current Affairs for IAS & UPSC Preparation

All current affairs available date-wise and month-wise. Watchout for Back2basics and Notes4students.


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Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc. Energy

[op-ed snap] Grid stability is key

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

The following things are important from the UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM)

Mains Level: Issues in purchasing surplus solar power from farmers and possible solution discussed in the newscard.


News

Plan to address concern related to Electricity in rural areas

  1. Instead of transmitting electricity to the farmers, the government wants farmers to use solar energy to power their irrigation pumps

How is it possible?

  1. According to the January 2018 report of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, there are about 142,000 solar pumps in India
  2. The government is planning to install one million solar pumps by 2021

Steps taken by the government

  1. To achieve this, the Union Budget 2018 has allocated close to Rs. 48,000 crore to set up the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM)
  2. This programme will help set up more than 28 GW of combined solar capacity through these solar pumps
  3. In the Union Budget 2018, the Finance Minister asked governments to put in place adequate procedures to purchase the excess solar power from farmers
  4. The government is also planning to purchase the surplus power through electricity distribution companies
  5. This proposal will almost certainly increase agricultural incomes and reduce electricity losses when transmitting power to remote rural areas
  6. Analysts claim that losses from distribution could fall to about 12% from the current level of at least 23%

Some issues in purchasing surplus solar power from farmers

  1. The feasibility of purchasing surplus solar power seems problematic
  2. There is a need to address the issue of grid stability that this injection of surplus power is bound to create
  3. The disadvantages currently outweigh the advantages because of the issue of grid stability
  4. All power grids require balancing
  5. This balancing entails meeting the demand with adequate supply 24×7 to ensure there is no blackout
  6. The reason for striking this balance is that electrical energy cannot readily be stored, meaning that power generation ought to work round the clock
  7. Why is the ‘balancing’ needed: wind and solar power sources constantly generate shortfalls and excesses
  8. Solution: to maintain a consistent round-the-clock power delivery the grid operators will need to have a back-up source of power in the form of coal or oil
  9. During the day as well, they will have to be ready to quickly adjust output to compensate for the rise and fall of solar power generation due to changing weather and rain
  10. More stability can be achieved by integrating the grids into all-India grids
  11. Expected advances in storage technology would also significantly improve grid stability

 

Stricter penalties, more power for states in draft pesticide bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Prelims Level: Particulars of the bill

Mains Level: Objectives and other provisions of the bill.


News

New draft bill on regulating pesticides: The Pesticides Management Bill, 2017

  1. It proposes an increase in penalties on violators and gives more power to state governments to take action against them
  2. It seeks to replace the Insecticides Act of 1968
  3. It also puts in place detailed clauses for registration of new molecules, includes a broader category of offences and the provision for paying compensation to farmers
  4. The draft comes in the wake of several pesticide-related deaths in recent months

Objectives of the bill

  1. The bill’s stated objectives are ensuring availability of quality pesticides, minimizing the contamination of agricultural commodities by pesticide residue, and creating awareness among users regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides

Other particulars of the bill

  1. Further, the bill has tightened the guidelines for registration and licensing of new molecules
  2. It allows provisional registration of new pesticides in India in case of “national exigency” for a period of two years
  3. According to the draft, state governments have to report all cases of poisoning to the centre on a quarterly basis and states can also ban chemical pesticides for up to six months
  4. Currently, states can ban a chemical for up to two months
  5. Punishment under the bill: According to the bill, the maximum punishment for violation (such as sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides) is a penalty of up to Rs50 lakh and up to five years’ imprisonment
  6. Protection under the consumer protection act: The proposed bill provides for paying compensation to the affected farmers or users under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986
  7. It also says that anyone who “uses” a pesticide contravening provisions under the Act can face punishment
Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc. Infrastructure

NHAI plan for taxable bonds to fund Bharatmala scheme worries govt

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims Level: Bharatmala Project, NSC certificates, etc.

Mains Level: Concerns raised by the government


News

What is the issue?

  1. The finance ministry has flagged concerns over state-run National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI’s) plan to float taxable bonds
  2. The NHAI wants to raise Rs3,000 crore to finance the ambitious Bharatmala scheme for road construction
  3. The plan to float taxable bonds came after the Union budget failed to provide any budgetary assistance for Bharatmala

What are the concerns?

  1. The concerns range from the impact of these bonds on other instruments such as National Savings Certificates (NSC) to the quantum of the float

Particulars of the Bharatmala Scheme

  1. The total length to be developed as expressways under Bharatmala will be 51,000km
  2. India plans to invest as much as Rs5.97 trillion in the current fiscal to bankroll its new integrated infrastructure programme, which involves building of roads, railways, waterways and airports

[op-ed snap] Canary in coal mine

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims Level: The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act of 2015, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, etc.

Mains Level: Steps taken by the government to improve the condition of Coal Sector in India.


News

Permission given to commercial mining firms

  1. The Central government has allowed the re-entry of commercial mining firms into the sector

Background

  1. India’s coal industry was predominantly driven by the private sector after Independence until the Indira Gandhi government decided to transfer all coal holdings to Coal India through the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973
  2. The key reason cited for taking coal out of the private sector’s hands was that it was essential to meet power needs

Why is this step imortant?

  1. India has a high dependence on coal for power generation
  2. Despite an aggressive push for renewable and nuclear sources, 70% of electricity generation is through coal-fired thermal plants
  3. In recent years there has been a significant surge in imports as Coal India, despite its rich coal-bearing belts and increased output, is unable to keep pace with demand from new power plants
    (Coal India accounts for over 80% of the country’s coal supply)

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently cleared the methodology to be followed for auctioning rights

  1. In September 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal mines to public and private players, after the CAG report
  2. An ordinance was brought in(at that time) and a transparent auction process was evolved for the affected mines
  3. The intention was to ensure that there are no supply shocks for power producers on account of abrupt disruptions in mining operations
  4. Enabling provisions for commercial mining and sale of coal were already included in the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act of 2015
  5. Now, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has now allowed their operationalisation by clearing the methodology to be followed for auctioning rights
  6. The government says the move will boost energy security, making coal affordable and creating jobs
Swachh Bharat Mission Governance

[op-ed snap] Wealth from waste

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GOBAR-Dhan initiative

Mains level: Success of Swacch Bharat mission


Context

GOBAR-Dhan initiative

  1. During his budget speech, the finance minister announced the launch of “GOBAR-Dhan(Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources-Dhan)
  2. The initiative has two objectives:
  • To make villages clean and generate wealth and
  • energy from cattle and other waste

3. The Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin will pilot this initiative

4. The GOBAR-Dhan initiative is expected to pilot opportunities to convert cattle dung and other organic waste to compost, biogas and even larger scale bio-CNG units

5. The programme, expected to be launched in April, aims at the collection and aggregation of cattle dung and solid waste across clusters of villages for sale to entrepreneurs to produce organic manure, biogas/bio-CNG

Tapping the full economic potential of cattle waste

  1. The 19th Livestock Census (2012) estimates India’s cattle population at 300 million, putting the production of dung at about 3 million tonnes per day
  2. Some European countries and China use animal dung and other organic waste to generate energy
  3. India is yet to tap the full economic potential of such waste

Solid and liquid waste management in rural India

  1. With the largest cattle population in the world, rural India has the potential to leverage huge quantities of gobar into wealth and energy
  2. Cattle dung, kitchen waste, and agricultural waste can be tapped to create biogas-based energy

Benefits of such initiative

  1. According to a 2014 ILO study, the productive use of dung could support 1.5 million jobs nationally
  2. For the farmer, there is a significant potential of greater income from the sale of cow dung

Challenges

  1. One of the challenges for operating biogas plants, and even related higher value chain operations like bio-CNG plants, is the aggregation of cattle waste and maintaining a regular supply to plant operators
  2. Panchayats and village communities will have to play key roles to leverage the animal and organic waste that goes into water bodies, dumping sites, and landfills

Way forward

  1. Generating wealth from waste in rural areas will require the involvement of all actors and sectors
  2. Investments from the private sector and local entrepreneurs will be needed
  3. With appropriate policies and practices, the sector can be scaled up into opportunities for growth, leading to increased incomes, long-term livelihoods and, of course, more Swachh villages
Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO Global Groupings and Conventions

India-bound gas pipeline TAPI breaks ground on Afghan section

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: TAPI project

Mains level: India’s rising energy needs and diversification needed in energy imports


News

Start of TAPI project

  1. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India ceremonially broke ground on the Afghan section of the ambitious, multi-billion dollar TAPI gas pipeline
  2. It is expected to help ease energy deficits in South Asia

Completion expected by 2020

  1. The quartet aims to complete the 1,840-kilometre pipeline and begin pumping natural gas from Turkmenistan’s giant Galkynysh gas field by the beginning of 2020

Back2Basics

TAPI Gas Pipeline

  1. The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited with participation of the Asian Development Bank
  2. The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India
  3. Construction on the project started in Turkmenistan on December 13th, 2015
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc. Health

NHPS beneficiaries to be drawn from economic, caste census: Centre to states

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Health Protection Scheme, SECC, National Health Agency, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana

Mains level: Universal health coverage and constraints in implementing it


News

SECC to be used

  1. The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) will cover an estimated 9.91 crore households across the country
  2. The beneficiaries have been selected on the basis of “deprivation and occupational criteria” as per Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data
  3. A National Health Agency (NHA) is also to be set up to manage NHPS

Criteria for selection

  1. The proposed target population is
  • families that belong to any of the 7 deprivation criteria
  • automatically included families as per SECC database for rural areas and
  • defined occupational criteria for urban areas

2. The total target of 9.91 crore households also includes 0.22 crore families currently enrolled under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) but not in the targeted SECC data

Aadhar to be used

  1. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has proposed to “use Aadhaar-based authentication” for validation of beneficiary
  2. No person will be denied benefits under the scheme “merely on the (basis of) non-availability of Aadhaar

Back2Basics

Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)

  1. SECC was conducted in 2011 and is meant to provide data on various socio-economic indicators, and most importantly, on caste
  2. The SECC 2011 was conducted in all states and union territories of India
  3. SECC 2011 is also the first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices by the government in 640 districts
  4. SECC 2011 was the first-ever caste-based census since 1931 Census of India
  5. SECC 2011 was not conducted under 1948 Census of India Act which made information disclosure voluntary for citizens, and not a mandatory disclosure
  6. Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 was the fourth exercise conducted by Government of India to identify households living below the poverty line (BPL) in India that would get various entitlements, after three censuses in 1992, 1997 and 2002
  7. SECC 2011 has three census components conducted by three separate authorities but under the overall coordination of Department of Rural Development in the Government of India:
  • Census in Rural Area has been conducted by the Department of Rural Development
  • Census in Urban areas is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
  • Caste Census is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs: Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India

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Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism Bilateral Relations

Pakistan on watchlist for terror financing

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Financial Action Task Force, ICRG on terror financing, UN Security Council

Mains level: Terror financing by Pakistan and global opposition against it


News

Pakistan back on the “grey list”

  1. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary has decided to put Pakistan back on the “grey list”
  2. This subjects it to direct monitoring and intense scrutiny by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) on terror financing
  3. Pakistan had been on the same list from 2012 to 2015

Effect of this decision

  1. The move could see Pakistan face financial strictures, and ratings downgrades by international banking and credit rating agencies until Islamabad carries out a full crackdown on terror groups
  2. Pakistan will now be required to furnish a fresh report to the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG), under a “Compliance Document”
  3. Accordingly, the country will undergo a review at the next Plenary in June, when it would be presented a full action plan on how it is expected to crack down on terror groups banned by the UN Security Council

International pressure to eliminate terrorism

  1. The move was pushed by four nominating countries, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France
  2. They had written to the FATF stating that even though Pakistan had an anti-money laundering/anti-terror funding regime in place, effectiveness of the implementation was inadequate

Back2Basics

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  1. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member Jurisdictions
  2. The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system
  3. The FATF is, therefore, a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas
  4. The FATF has developed a series of Recommendations that are recognized as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  5. The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally
  6. The FATF’s decision-making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year

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Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict Constitution

Govt. behind delay in posting of HC judges: SC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Appointment procedure in judiciary

Mains level: Rising vacancies in High courts and SC and its consequences


News

Delay in appointment of judges

  1. SC said that the government is inordinately delaying the appointment of judges to High Courts
  2. Judicial vacancies in the 24 High Courts are at an all-time high

HCs also at fault

  1. Instead of sending the fresh names to the government for vetting a month prior to an anticipated judicial vacancy, the names are sent late or not sent at all
  2. In case the fresh names are sent to the government, the files are kept pending at the Executive level for long before they are sent to the Supreme Court Collegium for approval
  3. Even after the clearance of the names by the Collegium, these remain pending at the level of the Executive

Effect of delay

  1. Sometimes, it takes more than one year to complete the process from the date of forwarding the names till appointment
  2. As a result, the careers and tenures of future High Court judges recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium are invariably cut short

[23 Feb 2018 | Low Priority News Items of the Day]

Low Priority News Items of the Day:

PNB scam: luxe cars, assets worth Rs. 100 cr. seized

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday seized property worth around Rs. 100 crore belonging to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in connection with the alleged Letter of Undertaking fraud unearthed in the Punjab National Bank earlier this month.

We have done many newscards on the same issue. One should go through them. We will definitely write newscard on it, in case, any significant development comes out.

 

A party is born

On stage at the launch of Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (People’s Justice Centre) in Madurai Wednesday was Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal. Kerala Chief Minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan’s video message was beamed in. In the course of the meeting, Haasan counted Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Periyar and former US president Barack Obama among those he looked up to, while insisting that he was free of “isms” and people’s welfare was his only ideology.

The Op-Ed talks about emergence of a new political party in South Indian Politics. These kind of Political News are not important from the UPSC perspective.


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RBI Notifications Finance and Banking

Currency circulation in India at 99% of pre-demonetisation level: RBI data

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: One of the aims behind the demonetization was to make India a less-cash society. But it is not achieved, as shown by the data released by RBI.


News

Latest RBI data on currency circulation

  1. According to the RBI, currency in circulation in India stood at Rs17.78 trillion as on 16 February, reaching 98.94% of the pre demonetisation level
  2. On 4 November 2016, the currency with the public was Rs17.97 trillion
  3. Subsequently, it dropped to a low of Rs8.98 trillion as on 6 January 201

Government’s aim behind demonetisation

  1. The demonetisation, aimed at countering tax dodgers and counterfeiters, sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation
  2. The government had then also pointed out to relatively lower levels of currency with the public as a success
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc. Health

[op-ed snap] Saving lives

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Unicef’s report and Janani Suraksha Yojana.

Mains level: Some possible solutions suggested in the report, for countering the issue of high neonatal mortality rate.


News

Report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef): “Every Child Alive”

  1. The report is on country-wise ranking of neonatal mortality rates
  2. It ranks India behind poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda
  3. The ranking shows that financial resources are not the biggest constraint in improving this health indicator; political will is
  4. According to the report, average newborn mortality in low-income nations is nine times that of high-income ones

Several countries showing a way forward for India

  1. For example, Sri Lanka and Ukraine, which like India are categorised as lower-middle income economies, had a neonatal mortality of around 5/1000 in 2016
  2. In comparison, the U.S., a high-income economy, did only slightly better with a rate of 3.7/1000
  3. India saw the 31st highest newborn-mortality rate, at 25.4 deaths per 1000 in 2016, while Pakistan had the highest
  4. This means India lost 640,000 babies in 2016, more than any other country

How can we solve this problem? 

  1. The report points out that the most powerful solutions are not necessarily the most expensive
  2. The 10 critical products that hospitals must stock to save newborns include a piece of cloth to keep a baby warm and close to the mother to encourage breastfeeding
  3. The list also includes antibiotics and disinfectants, the use of which can stave off killers like sepsis and meningitis
  4. There are factors outside the healthcare system, like female literacy rates, that make a big difference to healthcare-seeking behaviour
  5. But changes in education levels will come slowly
  6. Some other solutions will need greater investment

Biggest cause of death

  1. The biggest cause of death is premature birth, while the second is complications like asphyxia during delivery
  2. Preventing these would mean paying attention to the mother’s health during pregnancy and ensuring she delivers in a hospital attended by trained doctors or midwives
  3. India has programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana for this, but must expand its reach in laggard States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh

The way forward

  1. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu show that by focussing on these factors, newborn deaths can be brought to fewer than 15 per 1000 in Indian settings
  2. It’s time for the rest of India to follow suit
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc. Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Planning for electric mobility

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the b2b

Mains level: Fundamental issues(need to be addressed) discussed in the newscard.


News

Pollution level in India

  1. The World Health Organisation’s urban air quality database had found four Indian cities to be among the world’s 10 most polluted
  2. The database also placed 10 Indian cities in the 20 worst list

Importance of electric vehicles (EVs)

  1. NITI Aayog has estimated that the nation can save up to Rs. 4 lakh crore by rapidly adopting EVs
  2. EVs have the potential to disrupt the mobility ecosystem, and could have a positive impact on the economy as well as the urban environment

Issues

  1. Transitioning from an internal combustion engine (ICE)-based regime to an EV-based one is expected to be a painful process 
  2. NITI Aayog lays stress on the need for a robust action plan to move towards electric mobility by 2030

What should be done?

  1. India needs to address some fundamental issues immediately

FIRST

  1. The first is about who will take the lead
  2. EVs, unlike ICE vehicles, involve several actors at the national, State and city levels, respectively
  3. Coordination between all three is crucial in driving the EV agenda

SECOND

  1. The second is figuring out the best mode forward
  2. China has focussed on the use of electric buses as a catalyst for EV penetration
  3. The Netherlands has captured the EV market using a simple yet well-crafted strategy of creating charging infrastructure and encouraging investment in charging technology by providing incentives to EV buyer
  4. These two case studies show that sustained growth is possible only due to positive economic impacts of EVs. India is today the largest manufacturer and exporter of two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws
  5. Could these vehicles pave the way for an EV revolution?

THIRD

  1. The third is the battery conundrum
  2. India does not produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries currently, and companies making battery packs are dependent almost exclusively on imports from China
  3. Accelerating EV use in India should be linked to the “Make in India” goal and domestic battery production
  4. Investment is required for research and development in battery-making and exploring alternative technologies

FOURTH

  1. The fourth is about charging infrastructure
  2. EV charging is more than just using electricity. It involves exchange of information requiring a communication protocol
  3. There is no unique or single-charging technology for EVs
  4. The three major EV users, China, Japan and the European Union, have their own charging technologies which are often conflicting and not interchangeable
  5. The government needs to select or develop appropriate charging technology that avoids multiplicity and reduces the cost of infrastructure, while making it convenient and safe for users

The way forward

  1. India, however, needs a road map, with timelines, processes, well-researched impact studies, bold initiatives and robust investments in technological research to turn its EV dream into reality
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