Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Inscription on Krishnadevaraya’s death discovered

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Krishnadevaraya

Mains level : Vijayanagara empire

The first-ever epigraphical reference to the date of death of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya has been discovered in the Tumakuru district of Karnataka.

Try this question from CS Mains 2016:

Q.Krishnadevaraya, the King of Vijayanagara was not only an accomplished scholar himself, but was also a great patron of learning and literature. Discuss.

Who was Krishnadevaraya?

  • Krishna Devaraya was the emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire during 1509–1529. He was the third ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty and is considered to be its greatest ruler.
  • He possessed the largest empire in India after the decline of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • Krishnadevaraya earned the titles Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana (lit, “Lord of the Kannada empire”), Andhra Bhoja (lit, “Andhra Bhoja(Scholar) King”) and Mooru Rayara Ganda (lit, “King of Three Kings”).
  • He became the dominant ruler of the peninsula of India by defeating the Sultans of Bijapur, Golconda, the Bahmani Sultanate and the Gajapatis of Odisha, and was one of the most powerful Hindu rulers in India.
  • Indeed, when the Mughal Emperor Babur was taking stock of the potentates of north India, Krishnadevaraya was rated the most powerful and had the most extensive empire in the subcontinent.
  • Portuguese travellers Domingo Paes and Fernao Nuniz also visited the Vijayanagara Empire during his reign.

His literary work

  • The rule of Krishnadevaraya was an age of prolific literature in many languages, although it is also known as a golden age of Telugu literature.
  • He was fluent in many languages like Kannada, Marathi, Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil.
  • Eight Telugu poets were regarded as eight pillars of his literary assembly and known as Ashtadiggajas. He himself composed an epic Telugu poem Amuktamalyada.
  • He took the title of Abhinava-Bhoja and Sakala-Kala-Bhoja (“Bhoja of all the arts”) in honour of Parmara emperor Bhoja who was a polymath, a master of 64 arts and a military genius.

What does the inscription say?

  • As per the inscription, Krishnadevaraya died on October 17, 1529, Sunday.
  • Incidentally, this day was marked by a lunar eclipse.
  • The inscription also registers the gift of village Honnenahalli in Tumakuru for conducting worship to the god Veeraprasanna Hanumantha of Tumakuru.
  • The Kalahasti inscription refers to the date of Achyutaraya’s (his successor) coronation as October 21, 1529 AD.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Pakistan to remain on FATF ‘Greylist’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FATF

Mains level : Money laundering and terror financing

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to retain Pakistan on the “greylist” till the next review of its performance.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What is FATF? Discuss its role in combating global financial crimes and terror financing.

What is the FATF?

  • FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
  • The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
  • It holds three Plenary meetings in the course of each of its 12-month rotating presidencies.
  • As of 2019, FATF consisted of 37 member jurisdictions.
  • India became an Observer at FATF in 2006. Since then, it had been working towards full-fledged membership. On June 25, 2010, India was taken in as the 34th country member of FATF.

What is the role of FATF?

  • The rise of the global economy and international trade has given rise to financial crimes such as money laundering.
  • The FATF makes recommendations for combating financial crime, reviews members’ policies and procedures, and seeks to increase acceptance of anti-money laundering regulations across the globe.
  • Because money launderers and others alter their techniques to avoid apprehension, the FATF updates its recommendations every few years.

What is the Black List and the Grey List?

  • Black List: The blacklist, now called the “Call for action” was the common shorthand description for the FATF list of “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories” (NCCTs).
  • Grey List: Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.

Consequences of being in the FATF grey list:

  • Economic sanctions from IMF, World Bank, ADB
  • Problem in getting loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other countries
  • Reduction in international trade
  • International boycott

Pakistan and FATF

  • Pakistan, which continues to remain on the “grey list” of FATF, had earlier been given the deadline till the June to ensure compliance with the 27-point action plan against terror funding networks.
  • It has been under the FATF’s scanner since June 2018, when it was put on the Grey List for terror financing and money laundering risks.
  • FATF and its partners such as the Asia Pacific Group (APG) are reviewing Pakistan’s processes, systems, and weaknesses on the basis of a standard matrix for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) regime.

President’s Rule

President’s Rule in Puducherry

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Puducherry, President's Rule

Mains level : Presidents' Rule

The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal by the Home Ministry to dissolve the Puducherry Assembly and impose President’s Rule in the Union Territory.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q.Which of the following is not necessarily the consequences of the proclamation of the President’s Rule in a State?

  1. Dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly
  2. Removal of the Council of Ministers in the State
  3. Dissolution of the local bodies

Select the correct answer using the code given below

(a) 1 & 2 only

(b) 1 & 3 only

(c) 2 & 3 only

(d) 1, 2 & 3

What is President’s Rule?

  • President’s rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.
  • This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
  • Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution…”

How long President’s Rule can last?

  • A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly and stakes his claim to form a government.
  • The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
  • Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it.
  • This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.

Conditions for Prez Rule

  • Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly.
  • Where the party having a majority in the assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a ministry resigns after its defeat in the assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
  • Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
  • Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.

Notable judgements: The S.R. Bommai Case

Bommai v. Union of India (1994) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues.

  • The judgement attempted to curb blatant misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed the President’s rule to be imposed over state governments.
  • Article 356 (1) has been deliberately drafted in a narrow language by the Founding Fathers so that political parties in the Centre does not misuse it to subvert federalism, it had noted.
  • The President has to be convinced of or should have sufficient proof of information with regard to or has to be free from doubt or uncertainty about the state of things indicating that the situation in question has arisen.
  • The court had stated that although the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of inference drawn from such material is “certainly open to judicial review”.

What was its verdict?

  • The judgment had explained that in a multi-party political system, chances are high that the political parties in the Centre and the State concerned may not be the same.
  • Article 356 cannot be used for the purpose of political one-upmanship by the Centre.
  • Hence there is a need to confine the exercise of power under Article 356[1] strictly to the situation mentioned therein which is a condition precedent to the said exercise,” the court had said.

Fouling factors

The imposition of President’s Rule in a state would be improper under the following situations:

  • Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing majority support in the assembly and the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without probing the possibility of forming an alternative ministry.
  • Where the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without allowing the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
  • Maladministration in the state or allegations of corruption against the ministry or stringent financial exigencies of the state.
  • Where the state government is not given prior warning to rectify itself except in case of extreme urgency leading to disastrous consequences.
  • Where the power is used to sort out intra-party problems of the ruling party.

Back2Basics: Puducherry

  • Puducherry is a union territory formed out of four territories of former French India, namely Pondichéry (Pondicherry; now Puducherry), Karikal (Karaikal), Mahé and Yanaon (Yanam), excluding Chandannagar.
  • It is named after the largest district, Puducherry.
  • The areas of Puducherry district and Karaikal district are bound by the state of Tamil Nadu, while Yanam district and Mahé district are enclosed by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, respectively.
  • It is entitled by a special constitutional amendment act of 1962 to have an elected legislative assembly and a cabinet of ministers, thereby conveying partial statehood similar to the UT of Delhi.
  • It is administered by a Lieutenant Governor.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

What is Laschamp Excursion?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Laschamp Excursion

Mains level : Mass Extinction

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in DownToEarth.

The world experienced a few centuries of apocalyptic conditions 42,000 years ago, triggered by a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles combined with changes in the Sun’s behaviour. This event is called as Laschamps Excursion.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.The term “sixth mass extinction/sixth extinction” is often mentioned in the news in the context of the discussion of

(a) Widespread monoculture Practices agriculture and large-scale commercial farming with indiscriminate use of chemicals in many parts of the world that may result in the loss of good native ecosystems.

(b) Fears of a possible collision of a meteorite with the Earth in the near future in the manner it happened 65million years ago that caused the mass extinction of many species including those of dinosaurs.

(c) Large scale cultivation of genetically modified crops in many parts of the world and promoting their cultivationin other Parts of the world which may cause the disappearance of good native crop plants and the loss offood biodiversity.

(d) Mankind’s over-exploitation/misuse of natural resources, fragmentation/loss, natural habitats, destructionof ecosystems, pollution and global climate change.

Laschamp Excursion

  • The Laschamp event was a geomagnetic excursion (a short reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field). It occurred 41,400 years ago, during the end of the Last Glacial Period.
  • This event is named after the village where it was discovered in the French Massif Central.
  • It led to series of catastrophic events like the ozone layer was destroyed, electrical storms raged across the tropics, solar winds generated spectacular light shows (auroras), Arctic air poured across North America, ice sheets and glaciers surged and weather patterns shifted violently.
  • During these events, life on earth was exposed to intense ultraviolet light, Neanderthals and giant animals known as megafauna went extinct, while modern humans sought protection in caves.

The Adams Event

  • This last major geomagnetic reversal triggered a series of dramatic events that have far-reaching consequences for our planet.
  • Because of the coincidence of seemingly random cosmic events and the extreme environmental changes found around the world 42,000 years ago, researchers have called this period the “Adams Event”.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What is a Money Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Money Bill , Art 110

Mains level : Money Bill- Finance Bill issue

In a pre-emptive move, the opposition has written to Lok Sabha Speaker, urging him not to bypass the Rajya Sabha by declaring key Bills as “money bills”.

What is a Money Bill?

  • A money bill is defined by Article 110 of the Constitution, as a draft law that contains only provisions that deal with all or any of the matters listed therein.
  • These comprise a set of seven features, broadly including items such as-
  1. Imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax
  2. Regulation of the borrowing of money by the GOI
  3. Custody of the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of money into or the withdrawal of money from any such fund
  4. Appropriation of money out of the CFI
  5. Declaration of any expenditure charged on the CFI or increasing the amount of any such expenditure
  6. Receipt of money on account of the CFI or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money, or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a state
  7. Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified above.

Who controls such bills?

  • In the event proposed legislation contains other features, ones that are not merely incidental to the items specifically outlined, such a draft law cannot be classified as a money bill.
  • Article 110 further clarifies that in cases where a dispute arises over whether a bill is a money bill or not, the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision on the issue shall be considered final.

What surrounds the ‘Money Bill’ controversy?

  • While all Money Bills are Financial Bills, all Financial Bills are not Money Bills.
  • For example, the Finance Bill which only contains provisions related to tax proposals would be a Money Bill.
  • However, a Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation or expenditure, but also covers other matters would be considered a Financial Bill.
  • Again, the procedure for the passage of the two bills varies significantly. The Rajya Sabha (where the ruling party might not have the majority) has no power to reject or amend a Money Bill.
  • However, a Financial Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament.
  • The Speaker (nonetheless, a member of the ruling party) certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, and the Speaker’s decision is final.
  • Also, the Constitution states that parliamentary proceedings, as well as officers responsible for the conduct of business (such as the Speaker), may not be questioned by any Court.

Back2Basics:

What is Finance Bill?

NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

What is Extinction Rebellion?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : XR

Mains level : Climate activism

Delhi Police have named some environmental activists who are volunteers of a global environment movement seeking to call attention to the climate change emergency, in the Greta Thunberg ‘toolkit’ case.

Q.Climate activism is increasingly turning into a propaganda movement. Discuss.

What is Extinction Rebellion?

  • The global movement Extinction Rebellion also referred to as ‘XR’, describes itself as a decentralized, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience.
  • It aims to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
  • XR was launched in the UK on October 31, 2018, as a response to a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • It had then declared that we only have 12 years to stop catastrophic climate change and our understanding that we have entered the 6th mass extinction event.
  • The movement now has a presence in 75 countries, including India.

What does XR want?

  • The group has “three core demands” of governments around the world.
  • It wants governments to “Tell the Truth”, to “Act Now”, and to “Go Beyond Politics” in order to confront the climate and ecological emergency that the world is faced with.
  • It wants them to communicate the urgency to bring change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.
  • XR seeks to “rebel”, and asks groups to “self-organise”, without the need for anyone’s permission, to come up with collective action plans as long as they adhere to the group’s core principles and values.

What activities have XR done so far?

  • The group had announced a “Declaration of Rebellion” at launch, involving a public act of civil disobedience in London, demanding that the government reduce carbon emission to zero by 2025.
  • The eventual plan was to coordinate actions in other countries and to engage in an “International Rebellion” in March 2019.
  • The XR global website, however, states that the movement is “strictly non-violent”, and that they are “reluctant law-breakers”.
  • In April 2019, Greta Thunberg, the teenage Swedish climate activist, lent her support to the group by speaking to its members in London.

XR and India

  • The movement claims to have been inspired by 15 major civil disobedience movements around the world, including, apart from Women’s Suffrage and the Arab Spring, India’s struggle for Independence.
  • It refers to Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930.
  • XR’s website says there are 19 groups in the country, including in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai.

Recent events

  • One of the group’s early public events was a “die-in” protest organised at Bandra Reclamation in Mumbai in October 2019.
  • Participants at “die-in” protests lie on the ground, pretending to be dead.
  • Since the city was already seeing protests against the felling of trees at Aarey Colony for the Metro crashed, police did not grant permission for the “die-in” protest.

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

Explained: National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHEM

Mains level : Hydrogen as clean fuel

Recently, the Finance Minister in her budget speech formally announced the National Hydrogen Energy Mission which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources.

Background

  • With this announcement, India has made an uncharacteristically early entry in the race to tap the energy potential of the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen.
  • The proposal in the Budget will be followed up with a mission draft over the next couple of months — a roadmap for using hydrogen as an energy source.
  • The mission would have a specific focus on green hydrogen, dovetailing India’s growing renewable capacity with the hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen as an element

  • The most common element in nature is not found freely.
  • Hydrogen exists only combined with other elements and has to be extracted from naturally occurring compounds like water (which is a combination of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom).
  • Although hydrogen is a clean molecule, the process of extracting it is energy-intensive.
  • The sources and processes, by which hydrogen is derived, are categorised by colour tabs.

Its types as fuel

  • Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen; this constitutes the bulk of the hydrogen produced today.
  • Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen; hydrogen generated entirely from renewable power sources is called green hydrogen.
  • In the last process, electricity generated from renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Hydrogen for mobility

  • While proposed end-use sectors include steel and chemicals, the major industry that hydrogen has the potential of transforming is transportation.
  • This sector contributes a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and where hydrogen is being seen as a direct replacement of fossil fuels, with specific advantages over traditional EVs.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars have a near-zero carbon footprint.
  • Hydrogen is about two to three times as efficient as burning petrol because an electric chemical reaction is much more efficient than combustion.

We already had H-CNG!

  • In October 2020, Delhi became the first Indian city to operate buses running on hydrogen spiked compressed natural gas (H-CNG) in a six-month pilot project.
  • The buses will run on a new technology patented by Indian Oil Corp for producing H-CNG — 18 per cent hydrogen in CNG — directly from natural gas, without resorting to conventional blending.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

In the context of proposals to the use of hydrogen-enriched CNG (H-CNG) as fuel for buses in public transport, consider the following statements :
1. The main advantage of the use of H-CNG is the elimination of carbon monoxide emissions.
2. H-CNG as a fuel reduces carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions.
3. Hydrogen up to one-fifth by volume can be blended with CNG as fuel for buses.
4. H-CNG makes the fuel less expensive than CNG.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Green hydrogen has specific advantages

  1. One, it is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
  2. Two, renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
  • This is what the government’s Hydrogen Energy Mission, to be launched in 2021-22, aims for.

Philosophy behind NHEM

  • India’s electricity grid is predominantly coal-based and will continue to be so.
  • In several countries that have gone in for an EV push, much of the electricity is generated from renewables — in Norway for example, it is 99 per cent from hydroelectric power.
  • Experts believe hydrogen vehicles can be especially effective in long-haul trucking and other hard-to-electrify sectors such as shipping and long-haul air travel.
  • Using heavy batteries in these applications would be counterproductive, especially for countries such as India, where the electricity grid is predominantly coal-fired.

Back2Basics: How hydrogen fuel cells work?

  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source of energy.
  • Hydrogen fuel must be transformed into electricity by a device called a fuel cell stack before it can be used to power a car or truck.
  • A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy using oxidizing agents through an oxidation-reduction reaction.
  • Inside each individual fuel cell, hydrogen is drawn from an onboard pressurized tank and made to react with a catalyst, usually made from platinum.
  • As the hydrogen passes through the catalyst, it is stripped of its electrons, which are forced to move along an external circuit, producing an electrical current.
  • This current is used by the electric motor to power the vehicle, with the only byproduct being water vapour.

  Issues with H-Fuel cells

  • A big barrier to the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been a lack of fuelling station infrastructure.
  • There are fewer than 500 operational hydrogen stations in the world today, mostly in Europe, followed by Japan and South Korea.
  • Safety is seen as a concern. Hydrogen is pressurized and stored in a cryogenic tank, from there it is fed to a lower-pressure cell and put through an electrochemical reaction to generate electricity.
  • Scaling up the technology and achieving critical mass remains the big challenge.
  • More vehicles on the road and more supporting infrastructure can lower costs. India’s proposed mission is seen as a step in that direction.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

India’s internal migration

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Migration trends in India

This newscard presents data on India’s internal migration considering the mass exodus which was visible during the lockdowns.

The displacement of people during the imposition of lockdown has been described as the second-largest since the Partition of the country.

 

Also read:

[Burning Issue] Migrant workers amid COVID-19 outbreak

India’s internal migration

(1) Number of migrants

  • As of 2020, India has an estimated 600 million migrants. Roughly half of India is living in a place where it wasn’t born.
  • It would be roughly double the size of the fourth-largest nation on the planet — the United States.

(2) Nature of migration

  • The bulk of the internal migration in India is within one district itself. An estimated 400 million Indians “migrate” within the district they live in.
  • The next 140 million migrate from one district to another but within the same state.
  • And only about 60 million — that is, just 10% of all internal migrants — move from one state to another.

(3) Type of Migration

  • There are other misconceptions as well. Typically, it is thought that most migration happens when people from rural areas move to urban areas.
  • That is incorrect. The most dominant form of migration is from rural to rural areas.
  • Only about 20% of the total migration (600 million) is from rural to urban areas.
  • In fact, 20% of the total migration is from one urban area to another urban area.
  • As such, urban migration (rural to urban as well as urban to urban) accounts for 40% of the total migration.

(4) Comparison with other countries

  • India’s proportion of internal migrants (as a percentage of the overall population) is much lower than some of the comparable countries such as Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil.
  • All have much higher urbanisation ratios, which is a proxy for migration level.
  • In other words, as India adopts a strategy of rapid urbanisation, levels of internal migration will increase further.

Impact of COVID

The reality of a migrant worker’s existence is much more complicated than those sharply defined numbers.

Not all migrants were equally affected

  • The worst-hit were a class of migrants that felt under the group “vulnerable circular migrants”.
  • These are people who are “vulnerable” because of their weak position in the job market and “circular” migrants because even though they work in urban settings, they continue to have a foothold in the rural areas.
  • Such migrants work in construction sites or small factories or as rickshaw pullers in the city but when such employment avenues dwindle, they go back to their rural setting.
  • In other words, they are part of the informal economy outside agriculture.

“Data insufficient”

  • The truth is that even now all the estimates mentioned above are individual estimates.
  • The official data — be it the Census or the National Sample Survey — is more than a decade old.
  • In fact, Census 2011 migration data was made publicly available only in 2019.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

OTT players adopt ‘toolkit’ for self-regulation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OTT

Mains level : Need for OTT media regulation

Online streaming providers have announced the adoption of an ‘implementation toolkit’, under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

What is the news?

  • Various OTT platforms say that this is in furtherance to the Universal Self-Regulation Code the body had introduced in September.
  • The government had rejected this USRC code.

Q.What is Over the Top (OTT) media services? Critically analyse the benefits and challenges offered by the OTT media services in India.

What are OTT Media?

  • An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet.
  • OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.
  • The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video-on-demand (SVoD) services that offer access to film and television content.
  • They are typically accessed via websites on personal computers, as well as via apps on mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets), digital media players, or televisions with integrated Smart TV platforms.

Regulating OTT

  • Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. The recent move will give the government control over OTT platforms, which were unregulated till now.
  • From time to time, the government had indicated the necessity to monitor these platforms.
  • In October 2019, the government had indicated that it will issue the “negative” list of don’ts for the video streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar.
  • It also wanted the platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body on the lines of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority.

What is the toolkit about?

  • The effort of the signatories, through this toolkit, is to also address feedback received from the ministry of information and broadcasting inter-alia, on the issues of conflict of interest and prohibited content.

The all-inclusive implementation toolkit will assist signatories in a seamless transition to self-regulation and guide them on various dimensions like:

  • Relevant laws of the land which will be adhered to by the signatories
  • Fair and transparent functioning of the grievance redressal mechanism, with escalation to an advisory panel with independent members
  • Training programs for creative and legal teams of OCCPs to enhance the knowledge and nuances of laws that govern content
  • Awareness programs for consumers to help increase understanding and use of age rating, content descriptor & parental controls
  • Implementation of a detailed audit and compliance mechanism

Why such code?

  • The code comes into force at a time when the government has put OTT platforms on the anvil of content regulation after a spate of complaints on the ‘sensitive’ and ‘objectionable’ nature of certain shows.
  • Earlier this week, I&B minister has assured the Parliament that guidelines for the regulation of OTTs have been practically hammered out and will be implemented soon.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Significance of crude oil crossing $60 a barrel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Crude oil prices dynamics

Mains level : India's oil import bill

The price of Brent crude crossed the $60 per barrel mark after over a year on the back of oil-producing countries maintaining production cuts due to lockdowns.

What is Crude Oil?

  • Petroleum also known as crude oil and oil is a naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth’s surface.
  • It is commonly refined into various types of fuels.
  • Components of petroleum are separated using a technique called fractional distillation, i.e. separation of a liquid mixture into fractions differing in boiling point by means of distillation, typically using a fractionating column.
  • It consists of naturally occurring hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and may contain miscellaneous organic compounds.
  • The name petroleum covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude oil and petroleum products that are made up of refined crude oil.

Why has the price of crude oil risen sharply?

  • Major oil-producing countries had cut oil production last year amid a sharp fall in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • However oil-producing countries have continued to limit production despite an increase in prices with Saud Arabia cutting its own oil production by 1 million barrels per day to strengthen crude oil prices.
  • Expectations of strong improvements in demand with the global rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine have also put upward pressure on crude oil prices according to experts.

How will this impact India?

  • The rise in the price of Brent crude will lead to an increase in India’s import bill.
  • India imports of 80 per cent of its crude oil requirements and the average price of Indian basket of crude oil has already risen to $54.8 barrel for January.
  • The upward move in crude prices will also put upward pressure on petrol and diesel prices across the country which is already at all-time highs.

Signs of no remedy

  • The government had hiked central taxes on petrol and diesel by Rs 13 per litre and Rs 11 per litre in 2020 to boost revenues amid lower economic activity.
  • The increase in taxes had prevented consumers from getting the benefit of low fuel prices as international prices crashed during the first quarter of last fiscal.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Why hydel projects in the Himalayas are worrying?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dams in Uttarakhand

Mains level : Risks posed by Hydel projects

The flash flood that claimed several lives in Chamoli has caused Uttarakhand’s hydroelectric projects (HEPs) to be scrutinized closely.

Q.How do hydropower projects pose geological and topographical threats to the ecosystem? (150W)

Why Hydropower in Uttarakhand?

  • Uttarakhand has a tricky relationship with electricity.
  • With a landscape that’s inhospitable to thermal power grid lines and with people too poor to pay for electricity, micro and mini hydro-electric power projects were seen as the answer.
  • Between the government’s long-standing ‘power for all’ objective, and environmentalists pushing for a cleaner, renewable energy, setting up dozens of hydel power plants seemed ideal.

Impacts of HEPs

Limitless quarrying, deforestation, stopping the flow of rivers, and mushrooming of hydropower projects have made the Himalayas unstable.

  • Existing and under-construction hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand have led to several deleterious environmental impacts (Char Dham Committee).
  • Among the significant impacts are on the river ecosystem, forest and terrestrial biodiversity, geological environment and social infrastructure.
  • More than seven years later, some experts believe that over-exploitation of rivers and rampant damming for hydroelectric projects (HEPs) could be one of the big factors responsible for the Chamoli disaster.
  • The ‘river-bed profile’ across the major HEPs of Uttarakhand has changed significantly, suggesting the possibility of disasters in future.

The Kedarnath floods

  • Between June 13 and 17, 2013, Uttarakhand had received an unusual amount of rainfall.
  • This led to the melting of the Chorabari glacier and the eruption of the Mandakini river.
  • The floods affected large parts of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal.
  • The heavy rainfall caused massive flash floods and landslides resulting in the death of residents and tourists as well as extensive damage to property.
  • Over 5,000 people were killed in the floods

Construction still persists

  • Neglecting all warnings of the experts, rampant construction was carried out in the sensitive zones even after the 2013 Kedarnath deluge.
  • Notably, two dozen hydropower plants of Uttarakhand were rejected by the Supreme Court after the expert panel report.

HEPs in Uttarakhand

The rivers and basins in the state are dotted with 43 micro hydel projects. Some of them are:

Alarms have been raised earlier

  • The Kedarnath expert committee had warned about the excessive exploitation of vulnerable regions and the need to re-study and re-evaluate the HEPs of Uttarakhand.
  • The report also objected to HEPs at an altitude of over 2000 metres.
  • The report pointed out that the potential threat of landslide, cloudburst, subsidence, flash floods has increased tremendously in the past few years and many critical zones need immediate attention.
  • The study also mentioned that a lot of anthropogenic pressure due to different activities related to HEPs was alarming and needed checks.

Start-up Ecosystem In India

What are the One-Person Companies (OPCs)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OPCs

Mains level : Entreneurship promotion

In her Budget speech, the Union Finance Minister had announced measures to ease norms on setting up one-person companies (OPCs).

Q.What are One-Person Companies (OPCs)?  Discuss how they will help startups and non-resident Indians?

What is an OPC?

  • As the name suggests, a one-person company is a company that can be formed by just one person as a shareholder.
  • These companies can be contrasted with private companies, which require a minimum of two members to get going.
  • However, for all practical purposes, these are like private companies.
  • It is not as if there was no scope for an individual with aspirations in business prior to the introduction of OPC as a concept.
  • As an individual, a person could get into the business through a sole proprietorship mode, and this is a path that is still available.

Why do we need such companies?

  • A single-person company and sole proprietorship differ significantly in how they are perceived in the eyes of law.
  • For the former, the person and the company are considered separate legal entities. In a sole proprietorship, the owner and the business are considered the same.
  • This has an important implication when it comes to the liability of the individual member or owner. In a one-person company, the sole owner’s liability is limited to that person’s investment.
  • In a sole proprietorship set-up, however, the owner has unlimited liability as they are not considered different legal entities.
  • Some see the proposal as a move to encourage corporatization of small businesses. It is useful for entrepreneurs to have this option while deciding to start a business.

Is this a new idea?

  • Such a concept already exists in many countries. In India, the concept was introduced in the Companies Act of 2013.
  • Its introduction was based on the suggestions of the J. Irani Committee Report on Company Law, which submitted its recommendations in 2005.
  • Pointing out that there was a need for a framework for small enterprises, it said small companies would contribute significantly to the Indian economy.
  • But because of their size, they could not be burdened with the same level of compliance requirements as large public-listed companies.

Features of OPCs

  • The law on one-person companies that took shape, as a result, exempted such companies from many procedural requirements, and, in some cases, provided relaxations.
  • For instance, such a company does not need to conduct an annual general meeting, which is a requirement for other companies.
  • A one-person company also does not require signatures of both its company secretary and director on its annual returns. One is enough.
  • There was, however, criticism that some rules governing a one-person company were restrictive in nature. This year’s Budget has dealt with some of these concerns.

How many OPCs does India have?

  • According to data compiled by the Monthly Information Bulletin on Corporate Sector, there were 34,235 OPCs out of a total number of about 1.3 million active companies in India (Dec 2020).
  • Data also show that more than half of the OPCs are in business services.

Aadhaar Card Issues

Privacy concerns over Haryana’s Parivar Pehchan Patra

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parivar Pehchan Patra

Mains level : UID and privacy issues

Amid concerns over the Parivar Pehchan Patra scheme, the Haryana govt. says enrolment is voluntary. But residents have little choice as the delivery of even birth and death certificates is linked to it.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What is Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP) recently rolled out by Haryana Govt.? How it is beneficial compared to the Aadhaar?

What is Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP)?

  • It is an 8-digit Unique Identity Card number meant for each family to enable smooth and automatic delivery of several citizen-centric services.
  • The government will establish the scheme-wise eligibility of a particular family using this 8-digit code according to the information available in the PPP of the family.
  • The benefits, according to the schemes, shall automatically be transferred to the family using the same code.
  • PPP will ensure that not a single beneficiary is left out from the government benefits that they are entitled to.

How is PPP different from the Aadhaar card?

  • The PPP, mathematically, is an integral number of Aadhaar.
  • While Aadhaar represents an individual as a unit, a PPP represents a family as a unit. Most of our government schemes are structured around the family.
  • It is not structured around an individual.
  • For example, ration eligibility is there for the family but the family can split it into various members as long as they are above 18 years and say they are separating entitlements for all individuals.

Will it be mandatory for every family of Haryana to get PPP?

  • No, it will not be mandatory for every family of the state to obtain a PPP.
  • But, PPP is mandatory for families availing benefits under government schemes.
  • Also, whenever a family wants to avail any government scheme, it will have to first get a PPP to be eligible.

The logic behind

  • Haryana officials said although there is a union government’s Aadhaar card, it contains individual’s details and does not cater to the entire family as a unit.
  • In certain circumstances, it may not be possible for a state government to keep track of all the families residing in the state.
  • Although the ration card system is there, it is not updated and does not contain adequate family records.
  • With the PPP, it will be easier for the state government to maintain a complete database of all the state dwellers.

How would it work?

  • To begin with, the government has already linked PPP with three social security schemes – old age Samman allowance, divyang pension, and the widow and destitute women pension scheme.
  • For instance, when a family member turns 60, they will automatically get a message through the software and will automatically start getting benefits of the old-age pension if they meet the required criteria.
  • Similarly, the teenagers will get messages on turning 18 years old and shall become eligible for various government schemes that will be notified to them through the software.

Blockchain Technology: Prospects and Challenges

Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cryptocurrency, Blockchain technology

Mains level : Digital Currency

With the likely scenario of India’s government banning private cryptocurrencies, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is planning to introduce an official digital currency for the country.

What is the news?

  • An earlier government bill on cryptocurrency in 2019 reportedly sought to ban cryptocurrency and criminalise its possession in India. However, it was not introduced in Parliament.
  • The detailed text of the bill has not been released in the public domain so far.
  • The bill also says that there will be a regulation to help RBI create its own CBDC (central bank digital currency).

What are Cryptocurrencies?

  • A cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of a computerized database.
  • It uses strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership.
  • It typically does not exist in physical form (like paper money) and is typically not issued by a central authority.
  • Cryptocurrencies typically use decentralized control as opposed to centralized digital currency and central banking systems.

Hues over the Bill

  • The past year has seen a surge in the number of cryptocurrency investors in India and in trading volumes.
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges such as CoinDCX and Coinswitch Kuber have also raised early-stage funding for their operations.
  • The bill may spark an end to the nascent cryptocurrency industry in the country.

What were the provisions of 2019 Bill?

Definition of cryptocurrencies:

  • The 2019 Bill defined cryptocurrency as any information, code, number or token, generated through cryptographic means or otherwise, which has a digital representation of value and has utility in business activity, or acts as a store of value or a unit of account.

Ban:

  • The 2019 Bill bans the use of cryptocurrency as legal tender or currency.
  • It also prohibits mining, buying, holding, selling, dealing in, issuance, disposal or use of cryptocurrency.
  • Mining is an activity aimed at creating a cryptocurrency and/or validating cryptocurrency transactions between a buyer and a seller.

In particular, the use of cryptocurrency was prohibited for:

  1. use as a medium of exchange, store of value or unit of account,
  2. use as a payment system,
  3. providing services such as registering, trading, selling or clearing of cryptocurrency to individuals,
  4. trading it with other currencies,
  5. issuing financial products related to it,
  6. using it as a basis of credit,
  7. issuing it as a means of raising funds, and
  8. issuing it as a means for investment.

Why the govt wants to ban cryptocurrencies?

Sovereign guarantee

  • Cryptocurrencies pose risks to consumers.  They do not have any sovereign guarantee and hence are not legal tender.

Market volatility

  • Their speculative nature also makes them highly volatile.  For instance, the value of Bitcoin fell from USD 20,000 in December 2017 to USD 3,800 in November 2018.

Risk in security

  • A user loses access to their cryptocurrency if they lose their private key (unlike traditional digital banking accounts, this password cannot be reset).

Malware threats

  • In some cases, these private keys are stored by technical service providers (cryptocurrency exchanges or wallets), which are prone to malware or hacking.

Money laundering

  • Cryptocurrencies are more vulnerable to criminal activity and money laundering.  They provide greater anonymity than other payment methods since the public keys engaging in a transaction cannot be directly linked to an individual.

Regulatory bypass

  • A central bank cannot regulate the supply of cryptocurrencies in the economy.  This could pose a risk to the financial stability of the country if their use becomes widespread.

Power consumption

  • Since validating transactions is energy-intensive, it may have adverse consequences for the country’s energy security (the total electricity use of bitcoin mining, in 2018, was equivalent to that of mid-sized economies such as Switzerland).

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

BNO Visas for Hong Kong residents

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BNO visa

Mains level : Hong-Kong/ Taiwan Issue

Hong Kong residents can apply for a new visa offering them an opportunity to become British citizens after Beijing’s imposition of a national security law last year.

What is the news?

  • The move comes as China and Hong Kong have said they will no longer recognise the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document from Sunday, January 31.
  • Britain and China have been arguing for months about what London and Washington say is an attempt to silence dissent in Hong Kong after pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020.

What is the British move for citizenship?

  • The scheme, which was first announced last year, allows those with BNO status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship.
  • BNO is a special status created under British law in 1987that specifically relates to Hong Kong.
  • Britain says it is fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to Hong Kong people after Beijing imposed the security law on the semi-autonomous city.
  • Britain says breaches the terms of agreements under which the colony was handed back to China in 1997.
  • The U.K. government forecasts the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependants to Britain.

Chinese stance on the move

  • China says the West’s views on its actions over Hong Kong are clouded by misinformation and an imperial handover.
  • Beijing also said that it would no longer be recognising BN(O) passports, saying that the citizenship offer “seriously infringed” on China’s sovereignty.
  • It is unclear, however, how this could deter Hong Kongers from leaving since city residents are usually known to use Hong Kong passports while leaving for another country.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

The problem of ageing dams in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rate of siltation

Mains level : Paper 3- Ageing dams and challenges associated with it

Ageing dams threaten India’s water security, affect farmers’ income and increases the frequency of flooding. 

What is a dam?

  • A dam is a barrier that stops the flow of water and results in the creation of a reservoir. Dams are mainly built in order to produce electricity by using water. This form of electricity is known as hydroelectricity.
  • Reservoirs created by dams not only suppress floods but also provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability.

Types of Dams

There are many dams in India, and hence there is a need to know about them as there are questions based on the dams of India. The Bank Exams like IBPS or SBI contains questions from this section.

Based on the structure the types of dams are as mentioned below:

  1. Arch Dam: An arch dam is a concrete dam that is curved upstream in the plan. It is designed so that the hydrostatic pressure (force of the water against it) presses against the arch, causing the arch to straighten slightly and strengthening the structure as it pushes into its foundation or abutments. An arch dam is most suitable for narrow canyons or gorges with steep walls of stable rock to support the structure and stresses.
  2. Gravity Dam: Dams constructed from concrete or stone masonry are Gravity dams. They are designed to hold back water by using only the weight of the material and its resistance against the foundation to oppose the horizontal pressure of water pushing against it. These are designed in such a way that each section of the dam is stable and independent of other section.
  3. Arch-Gravity Dam: This dam has the characteristics of both an arch dam and a gravity dam. It is a dam that curves upstream in a narrowing curve that directs most of the water pressure against the canyon rock walls. The inward compression of the dam by the water reduces the lateral (horizontal) force acting on the dam.
  4. Barrages: A barrage is a type of low-head, diversion dam which consists of a number of large gates that can be opened or closed to control the amount of water passing through. This allows the structure to regulate and stabilize river water elevation upstream for use in irrigation and other systems.
  5. Embankment Dams: An embankment dam is a large artificial dam. It is typically created by the placement and compaction of a complex semi-plastic mound of various compositions of soil, sand, clay, or rock. It has a semi-pervious waterproof natural covering for its surface and a dense, impervious core.
  6. Rock-Fills Dams: Rock-fill dams are embankments of compacted free-draining granular earth with an impervious zone. The earth utilized often contains a high percentage of large particles, hence the term “rock-fill”.
  7. Concrete-face rock-fill dams: A concrete-face rock-fill dam (CFRD) is a rock-fill dam with concrete slabs on its upstream face. This design provides the concrete slab as an impervious wall to prevent leakage and also a structure without concern for uplift pressure.
  8. Earth-fill dams: Earth-fill dams, also called earthen dams, rolled-earth dams or simply earth dams, are constructed as a simple embankment of well-compacted earth. A homogeneous rolled-earth dam is entirely constructed of one type of material but may contain a drain layer to collect seep water.

Major Dams in India

The major dams in India have helped the inhabitants in a number of ways like:

  1. Providing adequate water for domestic, industry and irrigation purposes.
  2. Hydroelectric power production and river navigation.
  3. These major dams in India and their reservoirs provide recreation areas for fishing and boating.
  4. They have helped in the reduction of floods.

Some facts about the issue of ageing dams

  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
  • Of the over 5,200 large dams built so far, about 1,100 large dams have already reached 50 years of age and some are older than 120 years.
  • The number of such dams will increase to 4,400 by 2050.
  • This means that 80% of the nation’s large dams face the prospect of becoming obsolete as they will be 50 years to over 150 years old.
  • The situation with hundreds of thousands of medium and minor dams is even more precarious as their shelf life is even lower than that of large dams.

Impact on the storage capacity

  • As dams age, soil replaces the water in the reservoirs technically known as silt or sediment.
  • Therefore, the storage capacity cannot be claimed to be the same as it was in the 1900s and 1950s.
  • To make matters worse, studies show that the design of many of our reservoirs is flawed.
  • Almost every scholarly study on reservoir sedimentation shows that Indian reservoirs are designed with a poor understanding of sedimentation science.
  • The designs underestimate the rate of siltation and overestimate live storage capacity created.
  • Therefore, the storage space in Indian reservoirs is receding at a rate faster than anticipated.

Consequences

  • When soil replaces the water in reservoirs, supply gets choked.
  • The net sown water area either shrinks in size or depends on rains or groundwater, which is over-exploited.
  • Crop yield gets affected severely and disrupts the farmer’s income.
  • The farmer’s income may get reduced as water is one of the crucial factors for crop yield along with credit, crop insurance and investment.
  • It is important to note that no plan on climate change adaptation will succeed with sediment-packed dams.
  • The flawed siltation rates demonstrated by a number of scholarly studies reinforce the argument that the designed flood cushion within several reservoirs across many river basins may have already depleted substantially due to which floods have become more frequent downstream of dams. 

Consider the question “Ageing dams poses several challenges for India. Identify these challenges and suggest the measures to deal with these challenges.” 

Conclusion

The nation will eventually be unable to find sufficient water in the 21st century to feed the rising population by 2050, grow abundant crops, create sustainable cities, or ensure growth. Therefore, it is imperative for all stakeholders to come together to address this situation urgently.

NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

What are Social Stock Exchanges?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Social stock exchange

Mains level : NGO/NPO and their financing solutions

The Economic Survey 2021 has backed setting up of Social Stock Exchange in India.

Q. What are Social Stock Exchanges? Discuss how it will help finance social enterprises in India.

What are Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs)?

  • An SSE is a platform which allows investors to buy shares in social enterprises vetted by an official exchange.
  • The Union Budget 2019 proposed setting up of first of its kind SSE in India.
  • The SSE will function as a common platform where social enterprises can raise funds from the public.
  • It will function on the lines of major stock exchanges like BSE and NSE. However, the purpose of the Social Stock Exchange will be different – not profit, but social welfare.
  • Under the regulatory ambit of SEBI, a listing of social enterprises and voluntary organizations will be undertaken so that they can raise capital as equity, debt or as units like a mutual fund.

Why SSEs?

  • India needs massive investments in the coming years to be able to meet the human development goals identified by global bodies like the UN.
  • This can’t be done through government expenditure alone. Private enterprises working in the social sector also need to step up their activities.
  • Currently, social enterprises are very active in India. However, they face challenges in raising funds.
  • One of the biggest hurdles they face is, apparently, the lack of trust from common investors.

Benefits

  • There is a great opportunity to unlock funds from donors, philanthropic foundations and CSR spenders, in the form of zero-coupon zero principal bonds. These bonds will be listed on the SSE.
  • At first, the SSE could become a repository of social enterprises and impact investors.
  • The registration could be done through a standard process.
  • The SEs could be categorized into different stages such as as- Idea, growth stage and likewise, investors can also be grouped based on the type of investment.

Development so far

  • The Economic Survey 2021 highlighted the concept of setting up a social stock exchange (SSE) in India.
  • It will be under the regulatory ambit of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
  • SEBI constituted a working group (WG) on social stock exchanges back in September 2019.
  • The WG has outlined its vision and made recommendations, which include the participation of NPOs and for-profit enterprises (FPE) on SSE subject to committing to minimum reporting requirements.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

What is the ‘Doomsday Clock’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doomsday Clock

Mains level : Various existential threat to mankind

The hands of the ‘Doomsday Clock’, a visual depiction of how vulnerable the world is to a climate or nuclear catastrophe, remained at ‘100 seconds to midnight’ for the second consecutive year — the closest it has been to the symbolic annihilation of humanity.

Q.The ‘Doomsday Clock’ represents the hypothetical countdown to raise human consciousness against mutually assured destruction. In this light, discuss various existential threats to humanity and action taken so far.

What is the ‘Doomsday Clock’?

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by Albert Einstein and students from the University of Chicago in 1945, created the ‘Doomsday Clock’.
  • It is held as a symbol to represent how close the world is to a possible apocalypse.
  • It is set annually by a panel of scientists, including 13 Nobel laureates, based on the threats — old and new — that the world faced in that year.
  • When it was first created in 1947, the hands of the clock were placed based on the threat posed by nuclear weapons, which the scientists then perceived to be the greatest threat to humanity.
  • Over the years, they have included other existential threats, such as climate change and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence.

Significance of such clock

  • The reason the scientists selected a clock is twofold — they wanted to use the imagery of an apocalypse (midnight) as well as the “contemporary idiom of a nuclear explosion” (zero countdowns) to illustrate the threats to humanity.
  • The clock was originally set to seven minutes to midnight and has since moved closer or further away from the dreaded 12 o’clock position.
  • The furthest it has been being 17 minutes after the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Why was the clock set at ‘100 seconds from midnight’?

  • It was set at the ‘100 seconds from midnight’ position due to the prevailing climate conditions, “cyber-based disinformation”, nuclear risk and the pandemic.
  • It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Clock.
  • We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

Amendment to the CSR Rules

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : CSR, SSR

The Corporate Affairs Ministry has amended the rules for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure to allow companies to undertake multi-year projects, and also require that all CSR implementing agencies be registered with the government.

Q.What do you mean by CSR? Discuss the role of CSR activities in social transformation.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

  • CSR is a type of business self-regulation that aims to contribute to the societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically-oriented practices.
  • It rests on the ideology of “give and take” i.e. to take scarce resources from the environment for running a business, and in turn to contribute towards economic, social, and environmental development.

CSR in India

  • India is the first country in the world to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 in April 2014.
  • Businesses can invest their profits in areas such as education, poverty, gender equality, and hunger as part of any CSR compliance.

All companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, are required to spend 2 per cent of their average profits of the previous three years on CSR activities every year.

What are the new amendments?

  • The amended CSR rules allow companies to set off CSR expenditure above the required 2 percent expenditure in any fiscal year against required expenditure for up to three financial years.
  • There lies an ambiguity whether the rule would apply for expenditure undertaken prior to the amendment.
  • The government is thus allowing corporates that have in good faith incurred excess CSR expenditure in the past to set it off against future CSR expenditure requirements.

Other key changes

  • The amended rules require that any corporation with a CSR obligation of Rs 10 crore or more for the three preceding financial years would be required to hire an independent agency to conduct an impact assessment of their entire project with outlays of Rs 1 crore or more.
  • Companies will be allowed to count 5 percent of the CSR expenditure for the year up to Rs 50 lakh on impact assessment towards CSR expenditure.

What are the changes required for implementing agencies?

  • The new amendment restricts companies from authorizing either a Section 8 company or a registered public charitable trust to conduct CSR projects on their behalf.
  • A Section 8 company is a company registered with the purpose of promoting charitable causes, applies profits to promoting its objectives, and is prohibited from distributing dividends to shareholders.
  • Further, all such entities will have to be registered with the government by April 1.

Impact of the move

  • The change would impact CSR programs of a number of large Indian companies that conduct projects through private trusts.
  • It would mean such private trusts would either have to be converted to registered public trusts or stop acting as CSR implementing agencies.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is Herd Immunity?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Serological surveys

Mains level : Herd immunity and related health concerns

The initial findings of the fifth round of serological survey conducted in Delhi suggest that over 56 percent of the people have developed antibodies against Covid-19 implying achievement of herd immunity.

Herd Immunity

  • Herd immunity is when a large number of people are vaccinated against a disease, lowering the chances of others being infected by it.
  • When a sufficient percentage of a population is vaccinated, it slows the spread of disease.
  • It is also referred to as community immunity or herd protection.
  • The decline of disease incidence is greater than the proportion of individuals immunized because vaccination reduces the spread of an infectious agent by reducing the amount and/or duration of pathogen shedding by vaccines, retarding transmission.
  • The approach requires those exposed to the virus to build natural immunity and stop the human-to-human transmission. This will subsequently halt its spread.

Sero-surveys in Delhi

  • The results of the latest serosurvey in Delhi have led researchers and experts to surmise that a large section of the city’s population has already developed antibodies against Covid-19.
  • The presence of antibodies among a large percentage of the population could be a reason for the decline in the daily number of Covid-19 cases.
  • As more people are able to resist infection, it will help to break the chain of transmission of the virus.
  • Five serological surveys have been carried out in Delhi so far, including the present one, which was conducted in January.
  • The survey conducted by NCDC in July last year suggested the presence of antibodies in 23 percent of those surveyed.
  • In August, the survey conducted by the Delhi government showed 29.1 percent had antibodies.

The relevance of such surveys

  • Carrying out repeated serological surveillance on the same population gives an idea of how the disease is behaving.
  • It is always good to have surveillance regularly to understand the trends.
  • Having robust surveillance is always beneficial, it may not be too close, but it may help us in giving an idea, even of the natural history of the disease.

What do the data suggest about herd immunity?

  • Many researchers believe that if 60 percent or more of the population has developed antibodies against Covid-19, there is a possibility of acquiring herd immunity.
  • In Delhi, it is quite indicative, as the number of cases is also going down. This shows that we are moving closer towards acquiring herd immunity.