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CAMPA funds should be used to conserve nature

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAMPA

Mains level : State of afforestation in India


News

Decline of forest cover in India

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, 80 per cent of India was covered in thick forests.
  • Now the forest cover has dropped to a mere 17 per cent.
  • Recently, Forest Survey of India (FSI) released its biennial State of Forests Report 2017 that stated that forest cover in the country has increased by about one per cent.
  • However several other reports highlight that this increase is not due to increase in forest area but is the artefact of increase in agricultural green cover.

Is the target achievable?

  • According to National Forest Policy 1952, the mandate was set to preserve 33 per cent of forest cover in the total geographical area.
  • The FSI report clearly revealed that if India’s forest covers grows at the same pace as in the past decade then it would take more than 180 years to achieve the target of 33 per cent forest cover.
  • In the near future, we will be at the next stage of development and the intensity of industrial growth would definitely be more than the present and the past.
  • So achieving such target seems to be very difficult.

Government’s approach

  • Forests are an important natural resource and render a variety of ecological services, they must not be destroyed.
  • However, because of industrial requirements, forests are routinely cut or being diverted for non-forest purposes.
  • As much as 14,000 square kilometres of forests were cleared to accommodate 23,716 industrial projects across India over the last 30 years, according to a recent government data.
  • India cannot completely stop such developmental activities because this is the backbone of the Indian economy.

CAMPA at rescue

  • To compensate the loss of forest area and to maintain the sustainability, the govt. came up with a well-defined Act, known as CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority).
  • According to the Act’s provision, a company diverting forest land must provide alternative land to take up compensatory afforestation.
  • For afforestation, the company should pay to plant new trees in the alternative land provided to the state.
  • The loss of forest ecosystem must also be compensated by paying for net present value (NPV).

CAMPA Funds are under-utilized

  • In 2002, the Supreme Court had observed that collected funds for afforestation were under-utilized by the states and it ordered for centrally pooling of funds under ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
  • The court had set up the ad hoc National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to manage the fund.
  • In 2009, states had also set up state CAMPAs that received 10 per cent of funds from the national CAMPA to use for afforestation and forest conservation.

Cost-benefit analysis of funds and forest cover

  • In the present scenario, both central and state governments got a huge amount of money for afforestation, but at the ground level, the situation is different.
  • FSI analysis showed that funding by the central government increased at a rate of 84.67 per cent in the period, but the forest cover increased by only 2.42 per cent.
  • So, increase in CAMPA funding by the central government has clearly not resulted in significant increase in forest cover.

Drawbacks of CAMPA

  • There are many reasons for forest growth not aligning with the increased fund.
  • The law says that land selected for afforestation should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it.
  • But if no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation.
  • In several states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand where the intensity of mining is very high, to find the non-forest land for afforestation to compensate the loss of forest is a big task.
  • The other point of contention is the utilization of CAMPA fund. Several state governments are not utilising it properly.
  • An amount of Rs 86 lakh from CAMPA funds meant for afforestation was reportedly spent on litigation work in Punjab.
  • Moreover, at several places, the loss of natural species is compensated with plantation of non-native species in the name of the artificial plantation. It serves as a threat to even the existing ecosystem.

Way Forward

  • Centre framed CAMPA with an intention to conserve nature and its natural resources amidst the various development works.
  • The proposed objective of the Act must be fulfilled by utilising the CAMPA funds only for the purpose it is meant for.
  • It should efficiently be used only for afforestation and wildlife conservation activities.
  • Also, a closer look at the state government activities using CAMPA funding is needed.
  • The central government should adopt the concept of outcome budgeting for allocation of funds to the state government in which funding will be done on installment basis by checking the outcome of previous funds.
  • Then, state governments should restore the existing forests rather than creating new ones.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Bimal Jalan Committee on RBI’s reserves

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bimal Jalan Committee on RBI’s reserves

Mains level : RBI reserves and govt. claim over it


News

  • The Bimal Jalan Committee on treatment of Reserve Bank of India’s reserves is likely to recommend a transfer of a specified quantum of RBI reserves to the government.

Bimal Jalan Committee and its Terms of Reference

  • The committee was to keep in mind the statutory mandate under the RBI Act that the profits of the RBI be transferred to the government after it made provisions ‘which are usually provided by the bankers’.
  • Against this background, the committee was tasked with reviewing the status, need, and justification of the various provisions, reserves and buffers currently provided for by the RBI.
  • It was also tasked to review the global best practices followed by central banks in making provisions for the risks that central bank balance sheets are subject to.
  • The committee was also tasked with suggesting an “adequate level” of risk provisioning that the RBI should maintain, and determining whether the RBI’s current reserves were surplus of this or lower.
  • If they are surplus, then the committee also had to come up with a suitable profits distribution policy.

Quick recap: Issue over transfer of RBI surplus

  • The government and the RBI have been at loggerheads over the issue of how much of the central bank’s reserves can be transferred to the Centre.
  • The government view has been that the RBI’s reserves constitute 27% of its total assets, a much higher proportion than the global norm of 14%.
  • As a means to reach a resolution on the issue, the central bank, in December, constituted a committee under former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan.

Why govt. needs RBI money?

  • The treatment of the RBI’s reserves is a matter of great importance at a time when the central government has committed to a fiscal deficit target of 3.3% in financial year 2019-20, and a further tightening to 3% the next year.
  • With tax revenues falling short of expectations, any off-Budget receipts from the RBI will be welcomed by the Centre.

What are the key contentious issues?

  • First and foremost is the issue of transferring past reserves including unrealized gains in gold and currency revaluation accounts.
  • Most committee members favoured a reduction in the RBI’s excess reserves in a phased manner over 3 to 5 years, without any substantial additional annual transfer to the government.
  • It is not immediately clear how much excess capital has the committee identified that can be shared with the government.
  • The other big issue pertains to RBI’s profits.

What next?

  • Many economists and expert committees have in the past argued that the RBI is holding much higher capital that required to cover all its risks and contingencies.
  • Former CEA Arvind Subramanian said in Economic Survey 2016-17 that the RBI is already exceptionally highly capitalized.
  • The recommendations will be submitted to the central bank “very soon”.
  • The report is also expected to reflect the differences among the panel members over the treatment of RBI’s excess reserves.
RBI Notifications

Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC)

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVIC, GPS

Mains level : Utility of NAVIC



News

  • The navigation system that Indians use on their mobile phones and cars could be set for a reboot.
  • It has been reported that ISRO is in talks with processing chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm to substitute the existing Global Positioning System (GPS) with the Indian version of satellite navigation.

What is NavIC?

  • NavIC is an independent Indian satellite-based positioning system for critical national applications.
  • India got its system with the launch of the IRNSS 1-G satellite, is the seventh member of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), in November 2017.
  • It consists of a constellation of seven satellites, three of which are in a geostationary orbit and four in a geosynchronous orbit.
  • The IRNSS can provide Standard Positioning Service (SPS) to all users, and an encrypted Restricted Service (RS) to authorised users.
  • It has position accuracy better than 20 metres in the primary service area.
  • Its purpose is to provide reliable position, navigation and timing services over India and neighbourhood.

What is the service coverage?

  • The regional navigation satellite system can provide accurate position information service to users in India and the region, extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its Primary Service Area.
  • Beyond that lies an Extended Service Area, that can extend up to the edges of the area enclosed by the rectangle imagined by latitudes 30 degrees South and 50 degrees North, and longitudes 30 degrees East and 130 degrees East.

Is India the only country to have its positioning system?

  • The GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that is owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.
  • Apart from GPS, there is GLONASS of Russia, Galileo of the European Union and BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (or BDS) of China.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Ramanujan Machine

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramanujan Machine

Mains level : Utility of the machine/algorithm


News

  • Scientists from Israel have developed a concept they have named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician.

Ramanujan Machine

  • It is not really a machine but an algorithm, and performs a very unconventional function.
  • With most computer programs, humans input a problem and expect the algorithm to work out a solution.
  • With the Ramanujan Machine, it works the other way round.
  • Feed in a constant, say the well-know pi, and the algorithm will come up with a equation involving an infinite series whose value, it will propose, is exactly pi.

Why named after Ramanujan?

  • The algorithm reflects the way Srinivasa Ramanujan worked during his brief life (1887-1920).
  • With very little formal training, he engaged with the most celebrated mathematicians of the time, particularly during his stay in England (1914-19), where he eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society and earned a research degree from Cambridge.
  • Throughout his life, Ramanujan came up with novel equations and identities —including equations leading to the value of pi— and it was usually left to formally trained mathematicians to prove these.

What’s the point?

  • Conjectures (assumptions) are a major step in the process of making new discoveries in any branch of science, particularly mathematics.
  • Equations defining the fundamental mathematical constants, including pi, are invariably elegant.
  • New assumptions in mathematics, however have been scarce and sporadic, the researchers note in their paper, which is currently on a pre-print server.
  • The idea is to enhance and accelerate the process of discovery.

How good is it?

  • The paper gives examples for previously unknown equations produced by the algorithm, including for values of the constants pi (=3.142) and e (=2.7182).
  • The Ramanujan Machine proposed these conjecture formulas by matching numerical values, without providing proofs.
  • It has to be remembered that these are infinite series, and a human can only enter a finite number of terms to test the value of the series.
  • The question is, therefore, whether the series will fail after a point. The researchers feel this is unlikely, because they tested hundreds of digits.
  • Until proven, it remains a conjecture. By the same token, until proven wrong, a conjecture remains one.

Where to find it

  • The researchers have set up a website, ramanujanmachine.com.
  • Users can suggest proofs for algorithms or propose new algorithms, which will be named after them.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: Changes in NIA (Amendment) Bill 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NIA and its mandate

Mains level : Impact of the proposed amendments



News

  • Recently Lok Sabha has passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a heated debate in the House.
  • It is a move to foster ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy towards terrorism and other crimes.

About NIA

  • NIA was created after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as need for a central agency to combat terrorism was realized.
  • The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.
  • The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India on 31 December 2008 Headquartered in New Delhi.
  • The conviction rate of this anti-terrorism agency is currently 95 per cent as it has managed to convict 167 accused in the 185 cases registered by it since its inception.

What are changes introduced in the NIA (Amendment) Bill?

There are three major amendments to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act of 2008:

I. Type of offences

  • Under the existing Act, the NIA can investigate offences under Acts such as the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
  • The latest amendments will enable the NIA to additionally investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

II. NIA’s jurisdiction

  • Under the Act, for the offences under its purview, NIA officers have the same power as other police officers and these extend across the country.
  • The Bill amends this to give NIA officers the power to investigate offences committed outside India.
  • Of course, NIA’s jurisdiction will be subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.

III. Special trial courts

  • The amendment seeks for special trials courts for the offences that come under NIA’s purview or the so-called “scheduled offences”.
  • The existing Act allows the Centre to constitute special courts for NIA’s trials.
  • But the Bill enables the Central government to designate sessions courts as special courts for such trials.

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDHM

Mains level : Need for digital health record


News

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recommended the setting up of a National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to manage “enormous amounts of health data” generated by Ayushman Bharat, the Centre’s flagship health programme.

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)

  • The NDHM would provide technology to manage and analyse data, and create a system of personal health records and health applications. Central to the “ecosystem” would be a Personal Health Identifier (PHI) to maintain a Personal Health Record (PHR).
  • The PHI would contain the names of patients and those of their immediate family, date of birth, gender, mobile number, email address, location, family ID and photograph.
  • While Aadhaar assures uniqueness of identity and provides an online mechanism for authentication, it cannot be used in every health context as per the applicable regulations.
  • The design of PHI, therefore, must allow multiple identifiers (chosen from the specified types of identifiers) for designing the structure and processes relating to PHI.

Blueprint of the mission

  • The Health Ministry has decided to consult Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in the design of the PHI.
  • These recommendations come from a National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) created by a committee.
  • The 14-member committee included officials from the Health Ministry, state governments, NITI Aayog, MeitY, National eGovernance Division (NeGD), NIC, CDAC and AIIMS.
  • The panel envisions the new Mission to be autonomous like UIDAI and GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network).
  • It would be partly funded by the government but will also “raise a part of its funding through a transaction fee” with private players.
  • The committee has also suggested a Command, Control, and Communication Center (CCCC) as a single point of contact in public health emergencies.
  • It estimates that all the components of the Mission would take about 18 months to develop.
Digital India Initiatives

Centre for Research and Planning (CRP)

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Centre for Research and Planning (CRP)

Mains level : Reform measures in Judiciary


News

  • Nine months after it was set up with an ambitious mandate to reform the judiciary, the Centre for Research and Planning (CRP), the Supreme Court’s in-house think tank, is now virtually disbanded.

Centre for Research and Planning (CRP)

  • The CRP was CJI Gogoi’s brainchild, and setting it up was one of the first decisions he took after assuming office in October 2018.
  • It was intended to improve public confidence in the judiciary that had taken a knocking after four most senior judges took to media to express their discontent.
  • Few Supreme Court judges had held a press conference in January 2018 to raise concerns on the functioning of the court, especially the allocation of cases by then CJI Dipak Misra.

Terms of reference for CRP

  • The CRP was asked to come up with short versions of key judgments without the jargon to connect with ordinary citizens.
  • The idea was mooted after the criticism the court received following the Sabarimala verdict in September 2018, allowing entry of women into the Kerala shrine.
  • The CRP was also tasked with creating a network of leading independent scholars in key domain areas, complementing state and national judicial academies in strengthening the knowledge infrastructure of the judiciary.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Law Commission

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Law Commission if India

Mains level : Mandate of the Law Commission


News

  • With the country left without a Law Commission since September 2018, the Law Ministry has initiated the process of setting up the body which gives advice to the government on complex legal issues.
  • The three-year term of the 21st Law Commission ended on August 31 last year. On at least one occasion, the Ministry had moved the proposal to reconstitute the panel.

Law Commission of India

  • It is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. First law commission of independent India was established post the Independence in 1955.
  • The Cabinet approves reconstitution of the law panel for a period of three years. It is usually headed by a former Supreme Court judge or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • Composition: Chairman, 1 Permanent Member, 1 Member Secretary, 2 Part-time Members, 2 ex-officio
    members. (21 st Law Commission Chairman: Justice BN Chauhan)
  • Tenure: 3 Years
  • Function: Advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice for “Legal Reforms in India”
  • Recommendations: NOT binding
  • First Law Commission was established during the British Raj in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833 under Macaulay.
  • It recommended for the Codifications of the IPC, CrPC etc.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Merchant Discount Rate

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MDR/TDR

Mains level : Promoting digital transactions in India


News

  • The recent budget proposal seeks to incentivise digital transactions by reducing Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for customers as well as merchants.

What was the Budget announcement?

  • The business establishments with annual turnover more than 50 crore shall offer such low cost digital modes of payment to their customers and no charges or MDR shall be imposed on customers as well as merchants.
  • In other words, the government has mandated that neither the customers nor the merchants will have to pay the so-called Merchant Discount Rate (or MDR) while transacting digital payments.
  • It is good news for both customers and merchants because their costs of digital payments come down.

Merchant Discount Rate

  • Merchant Discount Rate (alternatively referred to as the Transaction Discount Rate or TDR) is the sum total of all the charges and taxes that a digital payment entails.
  • Simply put, it is a charge to a merchant by a bank for accepting payment from their customers in credit and debit cards every time a card gets swiped in their stores.
  • Similarly, MDR also includes the processing charges that a payments aggregator has to pay to online or mobile wallets or indeed to banks for their service.

Who will bear the MDR costs?

  • If customers don’t pay and merchants don’t pay, some entity has to pay for the MDR costs.
  • In her speech, the FM has said that RBI and Banks will absorb these costs from the savings that will accrue to them on account of handling less cash as people move to these digital modes of payment.
  • Necessary amendments are being made in the Income Tax Act and the Payments and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 to give effect to these provisions.

Issues surrounding

  • Contrary to public perception, the MDR has not been made zero.
  • The FM’s decision has just shifted its incidence on to the RBI and banks.
  • However, if banks pay for the MDR it will adversely their likelihood to adopt the digital payments architecture.
  • Moreover, many payments providers apprehend that the banks will find a way of passing on the costs to them.
  • In turn, this will negatively impact the health of a sector that needs nurturing.
Differentiated Banks – Payment Banks, Small Finance Banks, etc.

Bengal port records country’s highest sea level rise in 50 years

Mains Paper 1 : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Sea level rise and global warming


News

  • Of the major ports in India, Diamond Harbour in West Bengal located at the mouth of river Hooghly has recorded the maximum sea level increase.

Freaky rise in Sea Levels

  • Going by the data from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, four ports — Diamond Harbour, Kandla, Haldia and Port Blair — recorded a higher sea level rise than the global average.
  • Chennai and Mumbai, recorded a sea level rise far below the global and the national averages at 0.33 mm per year (1916-2005) and 0.74 mm (1878-2005) respectively.
  • Sea level rise in the country has been estimated to be 1.3 mm/year along India’s coasts during the last 40-50 years, at Diamond Harbour the rise was almost five times higher at 5.16 mm per year.
  • The mean sea level rise for Diamond Harbour was based on recordings over the period from 1948 to 2005.
  • This is followed by Kandla port in Gujarat where the sea level rise was 3.18 (1950 to 2005) , followed by Haldia in West Bengal, which recorded a sea level rise of 2.89 mm a year (1972 to 2005).
  • Port Blair also recorded a sea level rise of 2.20 mm per year (1916-1964).

Why rise in sea level?

  • Sea level rise is said be linked with global warming and as per the fifth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change.
  • The global sea level was rising at an average rate of 1.8 mm per year over the last century.
  • Global warming not only causes melting of ice and glaciers, but also leads to internal expansion of water in oceans and thus a rise in the sea level.
  • Heavy rainfall and temperature extremes like heat waves and shifts in semi-arid regions were some of the recent findings which may have linkages with climate change and global warming.
  • Studies over Indian region have shown a warming trend of 0.6°C on all India average basis, mainly contributed by maximum temperatures.
  • The sea level rise is higher in West Bengal, particularly in the Sunderbans delta is because of the deltaic sediment deposition as a result of the mixing of fresh water and saline water, according to experts.

Threats

  • Rising sea levels can exacerbate the impacts of coastal hazards such as storm surge, tsunami, coastal floods, high waves and coastal erosion in the low lying coastal areas.
  • In addition it causes gradual loss of coastal land to sea.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Desert Locusts incursion in India

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Locusts Swarm

Mains level : Pests Management



News

  • Recently Agriculture Minister has informed in Parliament that since May 21, there has been an incursion of desert locusts in Rajasthan and Gujarat from areas bordering Pakistan.
  • Neither the desert locust control teams nor any state agriculture functionaries have reported any damage to the crops.

Locusts

  • Locusts are certain species of short-horned grasshoppers that have a swarming phase.
  • Swarming refers to a collective behaviour in which locusts aggregate together just like flocks of birds.
  • These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming grouped.
  • They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults.
  • Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops.
  • The adults are powerful fliers; they can travel great distances, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles.

Havoc created by locusts

  • Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation.
  • They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in sustenance farming regions of Africa.
  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface.
  • Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans.

Control measures in India

  • India has a Locust Control and Research scheme that is being implemented through the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), established in 1939.
  • It was amalgamated in 1946 with the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (PPQS) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • The LWO’s responsibility is monitoring and control of the locust situation in Scheduled Desert Areas mainly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and partly in Punjab and Haryana.
  • The LWO publishes a fortnightly bulletin on the locust situation.
  • The latest bulletin on the PPQS website, for the second fortnight of June, said control operations had covered 5,551 hectares by June 30.

With inputs from: National Geographic

[pib] Death Penalty provisions for Sexual offences against Children

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : POCSO Act, Definition of Child

Mains level : Preventing child abuse


News

Stringent punishments under POCSO Act

  • In a historic decision to protect the children from Sexual offences, the Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has approved the Amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual   Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
  • It will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty.
  • The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.

Other amendments

  • An amendment has also been approved to Section 4 of the POCSO Act so as to increase the minimum punishment to ten years, from the existing seven years.
  • For ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of 16 to 17 year olds and if the child is below the age of 16 years the punishment extends to a minimum of 20 years.
  • The maximum term of life imprisonment in such cases has been retained.
  • Moreover, the definition of ‘sexual assault’ has now been expanded to include administration of hormones to children to make them appear more sexually mature for the sake of commercial sexual exploitation.

Why such move?

  • As per the last available data from the National Crime Records Bureau 2016 of child rape cases came up before the courts under the POCSO Act read with Indian Penal Code Section 376.
  • Less than three per cent cases ended in convictions, pointing to the need for better access to justice for all, and not just more stringent conviction in a small percentage of cases.

Impact

  • The amendment is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the Act.
  • It intends to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity.
  • The amendment is aimed to establish clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof.

About POCSO Act

  • The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to Protect the Children from Offences of Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.
  • The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as matter of paramount importance at every stage.
  • The act aims to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
  • The act is gender neutral.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Automated facial recognition: what NCRB proposes, what are the concerns

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Automated Facial Recognition System

Mains level : Need for an advanced criminal tracking system


News

  • On June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

What is automated facial recognition?

  • AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces.
  • Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.
  • The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.
  • Currently, facial recognition in India is done manually.

Are there any automated facial recognition systems in use in India?

  • It is a new idea the country has started to experiment with.
  • On July 1, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s “DigiYatra” using facial recognition for airport entry was tried in the Hyderabad airport.
  • State governments have also taken their own steps towards facial recognition. Telangana police launched their own system in August 2018.

What does the NCRB request call for?

  • The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  • Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  • The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  • It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country.

Why need AFRS?

  • Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.
  • While fingerprints and iris scans provide far more accurate matching results, automatic facial recognition is an easier solution especially for identification amongst crowds.
  • The integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.

Integration of databases

  • NCRB has proposed integrating this facial recognition system with multiple existing databases.
  • The most prominent is the NCRB-managed Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS).
  • Facial recognition has been proposed in the CCTNS program since its origin.
  • The new facial recognition system will be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Khoya Paya portal on missing children.

What are the concerns around using facial recognition?

  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
  • Amid NCRB’s controversial step to install an automated facial recognition system, India should take note of the ongoing privacy debate in the US.
  • In the US, the FBI and Department of State operate one of the largest facial recognition systems.
  • International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.

Back2Basics

CCTNS

  • In 2009, following the Mumbai terror attacks, CCTNS was envisaged as a countrywide integrated database on crime incidents and suspects, connecting FIR registrations, investigations, and chargesheets of all 15,500 police stations and 6,000 higher offices.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.

How far has CCTNS progressed?

  • The Rs 2,000-crore project is accessible to the CBI, IB, NIA, ED and the Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • The project did not meet its initial 2015 deadline and was extended to March 2017.
  • In August 2018, the first phase of connecting the police stations was nearly complete.
  • In the second phase, the Home Ministry proposed integrating the database with the fingerprint database of the Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB).
  • NCRB is currently rolling out the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) and its integration with CCTNS.
Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Basel Norms

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basel Norms: I, II and III

Mains level : Banking regulation in India



News

  • The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has said that India is compliant regarding regulation on large exposures though, in some respects, regulations are stricter than the Basel large-exposures framework.

Banking regulations in India are more stricter: Basel Accord

  • In some other respects, the Indian regulations are stricter than the Basel large exposures framework.
  • For example, banks’ exposures to global systemically important banks are subject to stricter limits in line with the letter and spirit of the Basel Guidelines.
  • The scope of application of the Indian standards is wider than just the internationally active banks covered by the Basel framework.

What are Basel Norms?

  • Basel is a city in Switzerland. It is the headquarters of Bureau of International Settlement (BIS), which fosters co-operation among central banks with a common goal of financial stability and common standards of banking regulations.
  • Basel guidelines refer to broad supervisory standards formulated by this group of central banks – called the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS).
  • The set of agreement by the BCBS, which mainly focuses on risks to banks and the financial system are called Basel accord.
  • The purpose of the accord is to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.
  • India has accepted Basel accords for the banking system.

Basel I

  • In 1988, BCBS introduced capital measurement system called Basel capital accord, also called as Basel 1.
  • It focused almost entirely on credit risk. It defined capital and structure of risk weights for banks.
  • The minimum capital requirement was fixed at 8% of risk weighted assets (RWA).
  • RWA means assets with different risk profiles.
  • For example, an asset backed by collateral would carry lesser risks as compared to personal loans, which have no collateral. India adopted Basel 1 guidelines in 1999.

Basel II

  • In June ’04, Basel II guidelines were published by BCBS, which were considered to be the refined and reformed versions of Basel I accord.
  • The guidelines were based on three parameters, which the committee calls it as pillars:
  • Capital Adequacy Requirements: Banks should maintain a minimum capital adequacy requirement of 8% of risk assets.
  • Supervisory Review: According to this, banks were needed to develop and use better risk management techniques in monitoring and managing all the three types of risks that a bank faces, viz. credit, market and operational risks.
  • Market Discipline: This need increased disclosure requirements. Banks need to mandatorily disclose their CAR, risk exposure, etc to the central bank. Basel II norms in India and overseas are yet to be fully implemented.

Basel III

  • In 2010, Basel III guidelines were released. These guidelines were introduced in response to the financial crisis of 2008.
  • A need was felt to further strengthen the system as banks in the developed economies were under-capitalized, over-leveraged and had a greater reliance on short-term funding.
  • Also the quantity and quality of capital under Basel II were deemed insufficient to contain any further risk.
  • Basel III norms aim at making most banking activities such as their trading book activities more capital-intensive.
  • The guidelines aim to promote a more resilient banking system by focusing on four vital banking parameters viz. capital, leverage, funding and liquidity.
Banking Sector Reforms

Explained: Where to plant a trillion trees to save planet Earth?

Mains Paper 1 : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Reforestation and its role as carbon sink


News

Forests as CO2 sink

  • Trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, are a natural sink for the gas emitted into the atmosphere.
  • According to a study trees absorb about 25% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, while the oceans absorb another 25%.
  • The half that remains in the atmosphere contributes to global warming.

Reforestation to curb global warming

  • Restoration of forests has long been seen as a potential measure to combat climate change.
  • What has so far been unclear, however, is how much of this tree cover might be actually possible in the existing conditions on the planet.

No more a vague idea

  • The latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that an increase of 1 billion hectares of forest will be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.
  • Now, researchers have quantified how much land around the world is available for reforestation, as well as the extent of carbon emissions these would prevent from being released into the atmosphere.
  • The new forests planted, once mature, could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon, the researchers calculated.

How much land needs to be reforested?

  • The study, by researchers with the Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich University has been published in the journal Science.
  • On the basis of nearly 80,000 images from around the world, they calculated that around 0.9 billion hectares of land would be suitable for reforestation.
  • If an area of 0.9 billion hectares is indeed reforested, the researchers calculated, it could ultimately capture two-thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
  • The estimated land excludes cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.

Land available

  • Earth’s continuous tree cover is currently 2.8 billion hectares, and the researchers calculated that the land available could support 4.4 billion hectares, or an additional 1.6 billion hectares.
  • Out of this, 0.9 billion hectares — an area the size of the US — fulfil the criterion of not being used by humans.
  • That is about two-thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the industrial age.

Land available in India

  • In India, there is room for an estimated 9.93 million extra hectares of forest.
  • India’s existing forest cover makes up 7,08,273 sq km (about 70.83 million hectares) and tree cover another 93,815 sq km (9.38 million hectares), according to the MoEFCCs ‘State of Forest Report 2017’.
  • The study found that the six countries with the greatest reforestation potential are Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Black Gold

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Gold

Mains level : Special features of the new material


News

  • Using gold nanoparticles Indian scientists have developed a new material called “black gold”, which can potentially be used for applications ranging from solar energy harvesting to desalinating seawater, according to a study.

Black Gold

  • To develop the material, the team from Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) rearranged size and gaps between gold nanoparticles.
  • It has unique properties such as capacity to absorb light and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Gold does not have these properties therefore ‘black gold’ is being called a new material.
  • In appearance it is black, hence the name ‘black gold’, according to the findings published in Chemical Science
  • The researchers varied inter-particle distance between gold nanoparticles using a cycle-by-cycle growth approach by optimizing the nucleation-growth step.
  • They used dendritic fibrous nanosilica, whose fibers were used as the deposition site for gold nanoparticles.

Features of Black Gold

  • One of the most fascinating properties of the new material is its ability to absorb the entire visible and near-infrared region of solar light.
  • It does so because of inter-particle plasmonic coupling as well as heterogeneity in nanoparticles size.
  • Black gold could also act as a catalyst and could convert CO2 into methane at atmospheric pressure and temperature using solar energy.
  • If we develop an artificial tree with leaves made out of back gold, it can perform artificial photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into fuel and other useful chemicals.
  • The efficiency of conversion of CO2 into fuel, at present, is low but researchers believe it could be improved in future.
  • The material can be used as a nano-heater to covert seawater into potable water with good efficiency, the researchers said.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Generic Drugs

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Generic Drugs

Mains level : Healthcare in India


News

  • The Central Government is considering amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945 to ensure that registered medical practitioners dispense only generic medicines.

What are generic drugs?

  • A generic drug is a pharmaceutical drug that contains the same chemical substance as a drug that was originally protected by patents.
  • Generic drugs are allowed for sale after the patents on the original drugs expire.
  • Because the active chemical substance is the same, the medical profile of generics is believed to be equivalent in performance.
  • A generic drug has the same active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) as the original, but it may differ in some characteristics such as the manufacturing process, formulation, excipients, color, taste, and packaging.

Prescribing generic drugs

  • The matter was recently brought before the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
  • A proposal attempts that registered medical practitioners can supply different categories of medicines including vaccines to their patients under the exemption provided, with certain conditions, under Schedule K of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • As of now there are no specified types of medicines which can be supplied by doctors to their patients.
  • It is now proposed that registered medical practitioners shall supply generic medicines only and physicians samples shall be supplied free of cost.

Issues with generic drugs

  • The main concern is to offer the best medicines which are most effective so medical professionals should not be forced to prescribe in a particular manner.
  • The government has to ensure easy availability, unclogged supply chain, and strict quality control of generic medicines.
  • It also has to ensure availability and effectiveness also of generic medicines.

Way forward

  • The government should keep strict price control on medicines and ensure that the highest quality medicines are given to the patients.
  • All laws, checks and balances should be directed at giving the best possible treatment at the best cost.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Water Desalination

Mains Paper 3 : S&T - Applications In Everyday Life |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Reverse Osmosis

Mains level : Need for water desalination



News

Background

  • With warnings from India’s top policy-makers and reports of major cities in India struggling to stave off a water crisis, there’s talk about exploring technologies to harness fresh water.
  • The one idea that’s been around for a while is desalination, or obtaining freshwater from salt water.
  • Desalination technology is not an esoteric idea — the city of Chennai already uses desalinated water. However, it only has a limited application, given the operation costs.

What is desalination technology?

  • To convert salt water into freshwater, the most prevalent technology in the world is Reverse Osmosis (RO). RO desalination came about in the late 1950s.
  • A plant pumps in salty or brackish water, filters separate the salt from the water, and the salty water is returned to the sea. Fresh water is sent to households.
  • Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.
  • A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane.
  • This causes salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.

Why seawater needs desalination?

  • Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water.
  • An effective network of RO plants reduces this down to about 200-500 ppm.
  • There are about 18,000 desalination plants in the world across 150 countries and nearly half of Israel’s water is sourced through desalination.

How popular is it in India?

  • For now, India’s real-world experience with desalination plants is restricted to Chennai.
  • Years of water crises in Chennai saw the government set up two desalination plants between 2010 and 2013.
  • These were at Minjur, around 30 km north of Chennai, in 2010, and Nemmeli, 50 km south of Chennai, in 2013.
  • Each supplies 100 million litres a day (MLD); together they meet little under a fourth of the city’s water.

What are the problems with RO plants?

  • Because RO plants convert seawater to fresh water, the major environmental challenge they pose is the deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.
  • Ever since the Chennai plants have started to function, fishermen have complained that the brine being deposited along the seashore is triggering changes along the coastline and reducing the availability of prawn, sardine and mackerel.
  • Environmentalists second this saying that hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species.
  • Moreover, the high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.
  • Another unexpected problem, an environmentalist group has alleged, was that the construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater.
  • This was freshwater that was sucked out and has since been replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Stressful power use

  • On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.
  • To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source.
  • Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. Therefore, each of the Chennai plants needs about 400,000 units of electricity.
  • It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.

Is RO water healthy?

  • In the early days of RO technology, there were concerns that desalinated water was shorn of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates collectively referred to as TDS.
  • Higher quantities of these salts in desalination plants tend to corrode the membranes and filtration system in these plants.
  • So ideally, a treatment plant would try to keep the TDS as low as possible.
  • Highly desalinated water has a TDS of less than 50 milligrams per litre, is pure, but does not taste like water.
  • Anything from 100 mg/l to 600 mg/l is considered as good quality potable water.
  • Most RO plants, including the ones in Chennai, put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.
  • Several of the home-RO systems that are common in affluent Indian homes, too employ post-treatment and add salts to water.

LTTD: the technological alternatives

  • The alternative desalination technology used is thermal energy sourced from the ocean. There is a low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique.
  • It works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water.
  • So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vaporizes and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber.
  • Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

Mains Paper 3 : Major Crops & Cropping Patterns |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ZBNF

Mains level : Utility of ZBNF in doubling farmers income


News

  • Subhash Palekar, the man behind the idea of ZBNF came in the Union Budget speech of FM where she talked of the need to “go back to basics” and replicate this innovative model that can help in doubling our farmers.

What is Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)?

  • ZBNF is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India.
  • According to the “zero budget” concept, farmers won’t have to spend any money on fertilisers and other agricultural inputs.
  • Over 98% of the nutrients that crops require — carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, solar energy — are already present in nature.
  • The remaining 1.5-2% are taken from the soil, after microorganisms convert them from “non-available” to “available” forms, for intake by the roots.
  • This is where the special package of practices which, Palekar says he perfected during the 1990s at his 36-acre farm in Belura village of Amravati district in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Vidarbha region, comes in.

Four Wheels of ZBNF

  • The “four wheels” of ZBNF are ‘Jiwamrita’, ‘Bijamrita’, ‘Mulching’ and ‘Waaphasa’.
  • Jiwamrita is a fermented mixture of cow dung and urine (of desi breeds), jaggery, pulses flour, water and soil from the farm bund.
  • This isn’t a fertiliser, but just a source of some 500 crore micro-organisms that can convert all the necessary “non-available” nutrients into “available” form.
  • Bijamrita is a mix of desi cow dung and urine, water, bund soil and lime that is used as a seed treatment solution prior to sowing.
  • Mulching, or covering the plants with a layer of dried straw or fallen leaves, is meant to conserve soil moisture and keep the temperature around the roots at 25-32 degrees Celsius, which allows the microorganisms to do their job.
  • Waaphasa, or providing water to maintain the required moisture-air balance, also achieves the same objective.

Astra’s of ZBNF against pest attacks

  • Palekar also advocates the use of special ‘Agniastra’, ‘Bramhastra’ and ‘Neemastra’ concoctions — again based on desi cow urine and dung, plus pulp from leaves of neem, white datura, papaya, guava and pomegranates — for controlling pest and disease attacks.

Is it organic farming?

  • ZBNF uses farmyard manure or vermicompost mostly produced from Eisenia fedita, a species imported from Europe and Canada.
  • These foreign earthworms accumulate heavy metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium, which get transferred into their castings that, far from being manure, are actually toxic to the soil.
  • So, the soil fertility, instead of improving, only reduces”.
  • He says that in ZBNF, the work of making nutrients available to plants is done exclusively by microorganisms from Jiwamrita and “local earthworms”.

However, not all farmers are convinced about ZBNF. Why?

  • The cost of labour for collection of dung and urine, apart from the other inputs used in preparation of Jiwamrita, Neemastra or Bramhastra is quit higher.
  • Keeping cows is also a cost that has to be accounted for. Farmers cannot afford to keep desi cows that yield very little milk.
  • If ZBNF is practiced in isolation, the crop grown would be vulnerable to attacks by insects and pests which may move there from fields where chemical pesticides are being sprayed.
  • Many state governments, including Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have openly supported ZBNF after studying its efficacy.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

MOSAiC Mission

Mains Paper 1 : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MOSAiC Mission

Mains level : Consequences of climate change on Polar region



News

  • Scientists from 17 nations will take part in the year-long MOSAIC mission as they anchor the RV Polarstern ship to a large piece of Arctic sea ice to study climate change.

 MOSAiC mission

  • The MOSAiC mission stands for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.
  • It is a one-year-long expedition into the Central Arctic, planned to take place from 2019 to 2020.
  • For the first time a modern research icebreaker will operate in the direct vicinity of the North Pole year round, including the nearly half year long polar night during winter.
  • It comes about 125 years after Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen first managed to seal his wooden expedition ship, Fram, into the ice during a three-year expedition to the North Pole.
  • MOSAiC will contribute to a quantum leap in our understanding of the coupled Arctic climate system and its representation in global climate models.
  • The focus of MOSAiC lies on direct in-situ observations of the climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, bio-geochemistry and ecosystem.

Why study Arctic climate?

  • The Arctic is a key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average.
  • The observed rate of climate change in the Arctic is not well reproduced in climate models.
  • Many processes in the Arctic climate system are poorly represented in climate models because they are not sufficiently understood.
  • Understanding of Arctic climate processes is limited by a lack of year round observations in the central Arctic.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.