Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (26th July to 1st Aug, 2019)
(Info graphic summary at the end)
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Society – Education
The Union Budget, 2018-19, has proposed to treat school education holistically without segmentation from pre-nursery to Class 12. Samagra Shiksha – an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class 12 has been, therefore, prepared with the broader goal of improving school effectiveness measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes
Sustainable Development Goals
- The Goal SDG-4.1 states that “By 2030, ensure that all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
- Further the SDG 4.5 states that “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of Education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations”
- Provision of quality education and enhancing learning outcomes of students.
- Bridging Social and Gender Gaps in School Education.
- Ensuring equity and inclusion at all levels of school education.
- Ensuring minimum standards in schooling provisions.
- Promoting Vocationalisation of education.
- Support States in implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009; and
- Strengthening and up-gradation of State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs)/State Institutes of Education and District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) as a nodal agencies for teacher training
Holistic approach to education
- Treat school education holistically as a continuum from Pre-school to Class 12
- Inclusion of senior secondary levels and pre-school levels in support for School education for the first time
- Single and unified administrative structure leading to harmonized implementation
- Flexibility to States to prioritise their interventions under the Scheme
- An integrated administration looking at ‘school’ as a continuum
Focus on Quality of Education
- Enhanced focus on improving the quality of education by focusing on the two T’s – Teachers and Technology
- Enhanced Capacity Building of Teachers and School Heads
- Focus on strengthening Teacher Education Institutions like SCERTs and DIETs to improve the quality of prospective teachers in the system
- SCERT to be the nodal institution for in-service and pre-service teacher training – will make training dynamic and need-based
- Support for Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan to promote Science and Maths learning in schools
- Support Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat Programme to develop foundational skills at primary level.
- Provision of library grants for every school ranging from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 20000
Focus on Digital Education
- Support ‘Operation Digital Board’in all secondary schools over a period of 5 years, which will revolutionize education- easy to understand, technology based learning classrooms will become flipped classrooms.
- Enhanced use of digital technology in education through smart classrooms, digital boards and DTH channels
- Digital initiatives like Unified District Information on School Education(UDISE+), Shagun,to be strengthened
- Strengthening of ICT infrastructure in schools from upper primary to higher secondary level
Strengthening of Schools
- Enhanced Transport facility to children across all classes from I to VIII for universal access to school
- Composite school grant increased from Rs. 14,500-50,000 to Rs. 25,000- 1 Lakh and to be allocated on the basis of school enrolment.
- Specific provision for Swachhta activities – support ‘Swachh Vidyalaya’
- Improve the Quality of Infrastructure in Government Schools
Focus on Girl Education
- Upgradation of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) from Class 6-8 to Class 6-12.
- Self-defence training for girls from upper primary to senior secondary stage
- Enhanced Commitment to ‘BetiBachaoBetiPadhao’
Focus on Inclusion
- Allocation for uniforms under RTE Act enhanced from Rs. 400 to Rs. 600 per child per annum.
- Allocation for textbooks under the RTE Act, enhanced from Rs. 150/250 to Rs. 250/400 per child per annum. Energized textbooks to be introduced.
- Allocation for Children with Special Needs (CwSN) increased from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 3500 per child per annum. Stipend of Rs. 200 per month for Girls with Special Needs from Classes 1 to 12
Focus on Skill Development
- Exposure to Vocational Skills at Upper Primary Level would be extended.
- Vocational education for Class 9-12 as integrated with the curriculum and to be made more practical and industry oriented.
- Reinforce emphasis on ‘Kaushal Vikas’
Focus on Sports and Physical Education
- Sports Education to be an integral part of curriculum
- Every school will receive sports equipment at the cost of Rs. 5000 for Primary Schools, Rs. 10,000 for upper primary schools and up to Rs. 25,000 for secondary and senior secondary schools to inculcate and emphasize the relevance of sports
Focus on Regional Balance
- Promote Balanced Educational Development
- Preference to Educationally Backward Blocks(EBBs), LWE affected districts, Special Focus Districts (SFDs), Border areas and the 117 aspirational districts identified by Niti Aayog
- The Scheme will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme by the Department through a single State Implementation Society (SIS) at the State/UT level.
- At the National level, there would be a Governing Council headed by Minister of Human Resource Development and a Project Approval Board (PAB) headed by Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy.
- The Governing Council will be empowered to modify financial and programmatic norms and approve the detailed guidelines for implementation within the overall Framework of the scheme. Such modifications will include innovations and interventions to improve the quality of school education
- The Department will be assisted by a Technical Support Group (TSG) at Educational Consultants of India Limited (EdCIL) to provide technical support in functional areas pertaining to access, equity and quality education by merging the TSGs of the Schemes of SSA, RMSA and TE. States would be expected to bring a single Plan for the entire school education sector
Which among the following are the features of Samagra Shiksha scheme-
1 . It focuses on two T’s – Teachers and Technology.
2 . Strengthening of libraries through annual grant.
3 . Every school will get sports equipment.
4 . Kasturba Gandhi BalikaVidyalaya (KGBV) to be expanded from Class 6-8 to Class 6-12.
a .1 , 2 & 3
b .2 , 3 & 4
c .1 , 3 & 4
d .1 , 2 , 3 & 4
Answer – d
Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment
All India Tiger Estimation – 2018 was released by the PM on the occasion of Global Tiger Day-2019.
- According to results of the Tiger census, the total count of tigers has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.
- India has achieved the target of doubling the tiger count four years ahead of the deadline of 2022.
- This is by far the biggest increase in Tiger count in terms of both numbers and percentage (since the four-yearly census using camera traps and the capture-mark-recapture method began in 2006).
- . India is going to come out with All India Tiger Estimation, 2018 which would give a clear picture of the present condition of Tigers in India.
- The government is striving hard to produce the most rational and scientific census.
- The census is supervised by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
- The census takes place every four years and this is the 4th edition of the census. The Tiger Estimation exercise is the world’s largest wildlife survey effort in terms of coverage, the intensity of sampling and quantum of camera trapping.
- This 2018 tiger census uses more technology including a mobile app named “stripes” for the very first time to store information of the counting.
- Top Performers: Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of tigers (526) followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand(442).
- Increase in Tiger population:Madhya Pradesh (71%) > Maharashtra (64%) > Karnataka (29%).
- Worst Performers:Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population.
- Chhattisgarh is the only state out of the 20 tiger-bearing states where the 2018- census counted 19 tigers, significantly fewer than the 46 of 2014.
- Decline in Tiger numbers in Chhattisgarh can be attributed to the law and order problem as large parts of the state are hit by the Maoist insurgency.
- Greater conservation efforts are needed in the “critically vulnerable”Northeast hills and Odisha.
- Tiger Sanctuaries:
An evaluation of India’s 50 tiger sanctuaries was also released along with the 4th National Tiger Estimation (Tiger census).
- Madhya Pradesh’s Pench Sanctuary and Kerala’s Periyar sanctuary emerged as the best-managed tiger reserves in the country.
- Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014.
- The Dampa and Rajaji reserves,in Mizoram and Uttarakhand respectively are at the bottom of the list in terms of Tiger count.
- No tiger has been found in the Buxa (West Bengal), Palamau (Jharkhand) and Dampa (Mizoram) reserves.
Methods used in the census:
Different methods are used to count the number tigers in a habitat scientifically. Use of technology and manpower go hand in hand for the census to happen.
- Pugmark Analysis: Pugmarks are recorded whenever an animal moves through the jungle over the suitable ground. Pugmarks are easy to find indirect evidence of an animal presence. With some basic training and an honest approach, the information contained in the pugmarks can be easily recorded through traces and plaster casts for analysis at a higher level. Pugmarks can provide reliable data of:
- Presence of different species in the area of study.
- The population of large cats
- The sex ratio of large cats.
- Identification of individual animals.
Issues with the Pugmark analysis
- Surveying the entire area: In reality, only an unknown fraction of the 3,00,000 km2 that is considered habitable by tigers, is searched intensively during censuses.
- There might be a repetition of counting of pugmarks.
- Same tiger footprints could end up being traced by different persons.
- Poop Design: Abundance of scat shows that the density is high in the area. Analyzing the poop design also gives an idea of the type of animal.
- Line transects to estimate prey abundance :
Tape or string laid along the ground in a straight line between two poles as a guide to a sampling method used to measure the distribution of organisms. Sampling is rigorously confined to organisms that are actually touching the line.
- Camera traps:
Cameras are placed at certain intervals in space in the habitat. The cameras record the movements of tigers and they are counted depending on the number of stripes that a Tiger has. The gender and age can also be estimated by this method. However, in this method, the tiger has to come to the camera instead of an expert going in search of them. This becomes evident from the fact that compared to the exercise conducted in the year 2006, when 9, 700 cameras were put up, the 2018 Estimation will use nearly 15, 000 cameras.
Tiger Survey Data Anaysis:
- Occupancy Analysis: Data from replicate ground surveys were transferred to 10 x 10 km grids in a geographic information system. Occupancy of a grid by tigers was then modeled as a function of habitat characteristics, prey availability and human footprint while addressing imperfect detection of tiger signs from spatially replicated surveys. This analysis helps in understanding factors responsible for the presence of tigers, the spatial extent of tiger populations, and habitat connectivity between tiger populations.
- Abundance Analysis: We use likelihood-based spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR) to estimate tiger abundance from camera trap data. Tiger photographs obtained from camera traps were digitized and analyzed using the program Extract Compare, a pattern recognition program specially developed to individually identify tigers from their striped coat pattern. For the national status assessment 2014, Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) in a joint distribution approach, with ecologically relevant covariates was used.
- Genetic Sampling: In areas where it was difficult to sample with camera traps and/or conduct ground surveys, we used non-invasive genetic sampling of tiger scats to detect tiger presence and in some cases the minimum number of tiger individuals.
- Maximum Entropy Models (MaxEnt): In the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram it is difficult to infer tiger abundance using robust SECR approach from camera trap data due to logistic constraints. In these states, some analysis confirmed tiger presence locations from tiger scat (confirmed by DNA profile) and opportunistic camera trap photos to model tiger habitat using program MaxEnt.
Threats to Tiger Population:
- Loss of habitat due to infrastructure constructions such as linear projects ( roads, railways, etc,.).
- Frequent Human-animal conflict as tigers coming in contact with humans due to habitat fragmentation which is resulting in the killing of tigers.
- Poaching is one of the biggest threats to tigers. The international demand for tiger products in the dark web is making the organized poachers to kill the tigers for ransom.
- As the tiger is a carnivore, it depends on the other animals for the food. Loss of food due to the destruction of other animals is making tigers die of hunger or look for other sources of food making them come in contact with humans.
Need for Tiger Conservation
- Tigers are at the top of the food chain and are sometimes referred to as “umbrella species”that is their conservation also conserve many other species in the same area.
- The Tiger estimation exercise that includes habitat assessment and prey estimation reflects the success or failure of Tiger conservation efforts.
- More than 80%of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and it’s crucial to keep track of their numbers.
Conservation Efforts :
- Project Tiger: Limit factors that lead to a reduction of tiger habitats and to mitigate them by suitable management and to ensure a viable population of tigers for economic, scientific, cultural, aesthetic and ecological values. Hence special Tiger reserves are created under this project.
- India has signed the Petersburg Declaration on 2010 with other tiger range nations to promise double its tiger population by 2022 which is called a Tx2 target.
- India is striving hard to increase the area of Tiger reserves under the CA|TS (Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards), which is a global standard for the tiger habitat conservation. At present only 13% of total reserves are under CA|TS.
- Interstate translocation of tigers is being done to spread the range of tigers in India.
- The Global Tiger Forum (GTF) was formed by all tiger range countries to consolidate all the national tiger action plans.
- Strict adherence to guidelines for responsible ecotourism in tiger ranges is followed.
- Financial and technical help is provided to the State Governments under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, such as “Project Tiger” and “Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats” for enhancing the capacity and infrastructure of the State Governments for providing effective protection to wild animals.
- Creation of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF):-The Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) has been made operational in the States of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Odisha out of 13 initially selected tiger reserves, with 60% central assistance under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger.
How many tigers are there in India according to the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018?
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy
The Government launched the Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana (AHVY) in the year 2001-2002 to empower and develop artesian into a well-organized market.
Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana:
- It is one of the component of National Handicraft Development Programme for development and promotion of Handicrafts Sector.
- It is a cluster specific schemein which Government has identified and adopted 90 clusters covering aspirational districts, women clusters, weaker section and export potential clusters.
- These clusters will be transformed in a time period of 3 years by ensuring self-sustainment of the Self Help Groups/artisans of these clusters.
Features of the scheme:
- Design & Technology Upgradation
- Human Resource Development
- Direct Benefit to Artisans
- Infrastructure and Technology Support
- Research and Development
- Marketing Support & Services
Handlooms and Handicrafts:
- Handloom provides employment to more than 43 lakh Weaversand other associated people directly and indirectly.
- In Non-agricultural Season Handicrafts and Handlooms provide subsidiary employmentto their practitioners.
- They also help in getting social recognitionto the respective producer community and thereby in maintaining social stability and harmony in the rural society. They exhibit the glory of their native places.
- Preventing Migrationof artisans, weavers and small-marginal farmers from rural to urban areas is their contribution in the rural economy.
- Consumers changing preferences
- Challenges from the international market
- Availability of low cost alternative
- Lack of interest in the younger generation process chain the traditional craftsmanship
- National Handloom development programme– It is an umbrella scheme consisting of two major components – overall development of the Handloom sector and welfare of the Handloom Weavers.
- Weavers Mudra scheme– Concessional credit scheme for the Weavers was launched in the year 2015. Under the scheme loans are provided at concessional rate of 6% for a period of 3 years.
- Apart from production, marketing assistance is also provided directly to the Weavers or through Agencies like state Handloom Corporationwith a view to link the buyers and sellers and does encourage direct marketing.
- In order to expand the Handloom market with the help of modern technology 21 leading e commerce companies have been engaged for online marketing of Handloom products.
- BunKar Mitrahelpline was introduced in the year 2017 as a solution to Weavers professional queries.
- Sankulis the art cum trade centre and crafts museum dedicated to the public in September 2017 to provide standard marketing facilities to the Weavers and artisan.
- The Indian Handloom brand (IHB)initiative to create market for premium Handloom products. It includes measures like widespread awareness and brand building activities.
- Handloom Markwas launched to assure quality and genuineness of Handloom products to the consumers.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)system and e-Dhaga mobile app may also be named in the context of use of technology in this traditional domain.
- Sant Kabir award, national Award and national merit certificateare some of the motivational efforts to encourage the rivers and their younger generation to sustain their ancestral livelihoods.
- As a long term measure, professional courses in Handloom Technology have been introduced through six Central Indian Institutes of Handloom Technology.
- Mahatma Gandhi Bunker Bima Yojanaand Health Insurance Scheme are significant among the Welfare measures for the Weavers.
- The National Handicrafts Development Programmestrives for integrated development of handicraft sector.
- Comprehensive Handicrafts cluster Development Scheme has three fold objectives and infrastructure development, technology upgradation, human resource development and development and marketing support and services.
- Handicraft marka Trademark certification to ensure authenticity of the product and to provide collective identity to the artefacts.
- Pehchanaims at facilitating artisans smooth access to their due benefits
To address the challenges being faced by handloom and handicrafts industries, Govt. of India is implementing which of the following schemes for Handloom Sector?
a. Yarn Supply Scheme (YSS)
b. Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana
c. Research & Development Scheme
d. Mega Cluster Scheme
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy
The Lok Sabha has passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019, recently. The legislation is aimed at tightening the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) compliance and reducing the load of cases before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
Salient Features of the bill:
- The bill aims to ensure greater accountability and a better enforcementof the corporate governance norms.
- A key change in the Bill is related to CSR spending,wherein companies would have to mandatorily keep unspent money into a special account.
- The companies will have one year to firm up the CSR proposal and another three years to spend funds. In case money remains unspent for one plus three years, the money will have to be moved to an escrow account, could even be the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
Corporate Social Responsibility:
- Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.
- CSR is generally understood as being the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (Triple-Bottom-Line- Approach), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.
- India has become the first country to make CSR spending mandatory through a law, i.e. through Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
The salient features of CSR provision are as follows:
- Companies earning profit of over Rs 5 crore, turnover of Rs 1000 crore or networth of more than Rs 500 crore are required to shell out at least two percent of their three-year annual average net profit towards CSR activities.
- Each such company is required to constitute a CSR committee of the Board
- The Board of each such company is required to have the company’s CSR policy formulated and monitor its implementation;
- Companies may implement their CSR Policy through trusts or societies or Section 8 companies etc.
- The Bill seeks to empower the Registrar of Companiesto initiate action for the removal of the name of a company from the Register of Companies if it is not carrying on any business or operation in accordance with the Company Law.
- The legislation envisages a re-categorisation of 16 minor offencesas purely civil defaults.
- It also provides for transferring of functions with regard to dealing with applications for change of financial year to Central government and shifting of powersfor conversion from public to private companies from NCLT to the central government.
- The bill provided more clarity with respect to certain powers of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA).
All definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility recognize that:
a) companies have a responsibility for their impact on society and environment.
b) the natural environment should be the main focus of CSR activities.
c) business ethics is a complex issue.
d) companies must pay equal attention to business ethics and sustainability
Topic in Syllabus: Heritage & Culture
The Government of India is running a scheme known as “Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages” for conservation of threatened languages.
- According to the census 1961, India has around 1652 languages. But by 1971, only 808 languages were left.
- According to the People’s Linguistic Survey of India 2013,around 220 languages has been lost in the last 50 years and 197 has been categorised as
- Government of India currently defines a language as one that is marked by a scriptand effectively neutering oral languages. Therefore, government recognizes 122 languages which is far lower than the 780 counted by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (along with a further 100 suspected to exist).
This discrepancy is caused primarily because Government of India doesn’t recognise any language with less than 10,000 speakers.
- According to the criteria adopted by the UNESCO,a language becomes extinct when nobody speaks or remembers the language. The UNESCO has categorized languages on basis of endangerment as follows:-
- Definitely Endangered
- Severely Endangered
- Critically Endangered
- UNESCO has recognised 42 Indian languages as Critically Endangered.
Causes For Decline:
- GOI does not recognize languages with less than 10,000 speakers
- In and out migration of communities which leads to dispersal of traditional settlement.
- Changing employment pattern which favours majority language.
- Changes in social and cultural values.
- Growth of “individualism”, which puts self interest over that of community.
- Encroachment of materialism in traditional communities allowing spiritual, moral and ethical values being overshadowed by consumerism.
Action to be taken:
- The proven method to ensure the survival of language is the development of schools that teach in languages of minority (tribal languages) which enables the speakers to preserve and enrich the language.
- A vast digital project – on the lines of Project Tiger – for preserving and growing India’s endangered languages must be launched.
- Audio-visual documentation of the important aspects of such language – like storytelling, folk literature and history.
- Existing work from groundbreaking initiatives like Global Language Hotspots can be used to enhance such documentation efforts.
Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages (SPPEL):
- It was instituted by Ministry of Human Resource Development(Government of India) in 2013.
- The sole objective of the Scheme is to document and archive the country’s languages that have become endangered or likely to be endangered in the near future.
- The scheme is monitored by Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL)located in Mysuru, Karnataka.
- University Grants Commission (UGC) provides financial assistance for creation of centres for endangered languages at Central and State Universities to undertake research projects.
Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL):
- Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) was established in 1969.
- It is under the administrative control of Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- To coordinate the development of Indian Language.
- To bring about the essential unity of Indian languages through scientific studies.
- Promote interdisciplinary research.
- Contribute to mutual enrichment of languages and contribute towards emotional integration of the people of India.
- protects and documents minor, minority and tribal languages.
Critically Endangered languages as per UNESCO Report is
d) All of the above
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy
Recently, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has allowed the use of regulatory sandbox (RS) to promote new, innovative products and processes in the Fintech industry.
- RS is an infrastructure that helps Fintech players to live test their products or solutions, before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-ups time and cost.
- It allows the regulator, the innovators, the financial service providers and the customers to conduct field tests to collect evidence on the benefits and risks of new financial innovations.
- For instance, Data analytics(a part of Fintech) is an area which insurance industry can take benefit to serve their customers as India accounts for around only 6% of insurance premium in Asia and around 2% of the global premium volume.
- The Reserve Bank of India is also planning to provide similar infrastructure in the banking sector.
- Financial technology (Fintech) is used to describe new technology that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services.
General Insurance :
- In 1972 with the passing of the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, general insurance business was nationalized with effect from January 1, 1973.
- 107 insurers were amalgamated and grouped into four companies, namely National Insurance Company Ltd., the New India Assurance Company Ltd., the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd and United India Insurance Company Ltd.
- In 1993, the Government set up a committee under the chairmanship of RN Malhotra,former Governor of RBI, to propose recommendations for reforms in the insurance sector.
- Following the recommendations of the Malhotra Committee report, in 1999, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) was constituted as an autonomous body to regulate and develop the insurance industry.
- The IRDA was incorporated as a statutory body in April 2000.
- Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is a regulatory body created with the aim of protecting the interests of the insurance customers.
- It regulates and sees to the development of the insurance industry while monitoring insurance-related activities.
- The key objectives of the IRDA include the promotion of competition so as to enhance customer satisfaction through increased consumer choice and lower premiums while ensuring the financial security of the insurance market.
Which of the following organization has decided to establish a regulatory sandbox for Fintech startups?
d) None of these
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy
- An inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that was set up to assess the viability of virtual currencies has recommended that India should ban private crypto currencies such as Bitcoin.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government doesn’t consider them legal tender.
- The Reserve Bank of India has repeatedly warned the public of the risks associated with dealing with cryptocurrencies.
- There have been cases of consumers being defrauded, including in India.
What are virtual currencies?
- A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as
- a medium of exchange, and/ or
- a unit of account, and/or
- a store of value,
- But, unlike fiat currency like the rupee, it is not legal tender and does not have the backing of a government.
- A cryptocurrency is a subset of virtual currencies, and is decentralised, and protected by cryptography.
- There are block chains which are online registers and through these online registers, people can actually buy these currencies and mine the currencies and use them as instrument of exchange. There are about 9-10 crypto currencies in the world right now.
- Bitcoins is the largest cryptocurrency in the world because they are computer generated currencies and the codes are completely secret, so nobody masters it.
- Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, Ethereum, PPcoin, Dogecoin, Coinye, Namecoin etc. are some of the examples of cryptocurrencies.
Important terms related to cryptocurrency:
Distributed Ledger Technologies
- DLT refers to technologies that involve the use of independent computers (also referred to as nodes) to record, share, and synchronise transactions in their respective electronic ledgers. All virtual currencies use DLT.
- It is a specific kind of DLT that came to prominence after Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that used it, became popular.
- Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin use codes to encrypt transactions and stack them up in blocks, creating Blockchains.
- It is the use of codes that differentiates cryptocurrencies from other virtual currencies
- A transfer of funds between two digital wallets is called a transaction. That transaction gets submitted to a public ledger and awaits confirmation.
- In simple terms, mining is the process of confirming transactions and adding them to a public ledger. In order to add a transaction to the ledger, the “miner” must solve an increasingly-complex computational problem (like a mathematical puzzle).
Benefits of cryptocurrencies
- Ownership:Cryptocurrencies hold the promise of making it easier to transfer funds directly between two parties in a transaction, without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or credit card company
- Low transaction fee: Fund transfers are done with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by most banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.
- Identity Protection:Paying with credit/debit cards requires submitting sensitive banking information that could be stolen or compromised. Cryptocurrency can be sent directly to a recipient without any information other than total amount you want to send.
- Risk-free for sellers: Payments using Cryptocurrency can’t be reversed, which means merchants don’t have to worry about stopped payments. The blockchain makes it difficult for you to be defrauded.
Demerits of Cryptocurrency
- Accessibility:Since cryptocurrency mining and transactions can only happen on network, illiterate people will find it difficult to understand the working mechanism. Also rural areas that do not have access to internet will not be able to perform cryptocurrency transactions.
- Threat of hacking: using bitcoins, providing a data structure for this ledger that is exposed to a limited threat from hackers and can be copied across all computers running Bitcoin software
- Volatility:Cryptocurrency exchange rates can vary greatly, which means the amount you pay or receive one day could be wildly different next day.
IMC’s view on DLT and cryptocurrencies?
The first thing to understand is that the IMC recognises the potential of DLT and Blockchain.
- The IMC accepts that internationally, the application of DLT is being explored in the areas of trade finance, mortgage loan applications, digital identity management or KYC requirements, cross-border fund transfers and clearing and settlement systems.
- To that extent, it recommends the Department of Economic Affairs (within the Finance Ministry) to take necessary measures to facilitate the use of DLT in the entire financial field after identifying its uses.
- The IMC also recommends that regulators — RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA, and IBBI — explore evolving appropriate regulations for development of DLT in their respective areas.
- The IMC’s view is that it “would be advisable to have an open mind regarding the introduction of an official digital currency in India”.
- It noted that the RBI Act has the enabling provisions to permit the central government to approve a “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) as legal tender in India.
Second, scaling up such a currency system over a large population would require crippling levels of energy resources. Currencies such as Bitcoin require humongous processing power.
- According to a report by the Bank of International Settlement, Bitcoin processing already uses as much energy as is used by Switzerland; it called this an environmental disaster.
Third, the IMC is worried that if private cryptocurrencies are allowed to function as legal tender, the RBI would lose control over the monetary policy and financial stability, as it would not be able to keep a tab on the money supply in the economy
Fourth, the anonymity of private digital currencies make them vulnerable to money laundering and use in terrorist financing activities while making law enforcement difficult.
Fifth, there is no grievance redressal mechanism in such a system, as all transactions are irreversible.
The inter-ministerial committee believes it is, going so far as to draft a law that mandates a fine and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the offences of mining, generating, holding, selling, dealing in, transferring, disposing of, or issuing cryptocurrencies.
- An outright ban on cryptocurrency may not be a good idea. If new currency is popular, it would be wise to take note of it, accept the advent of technology, recognize the rise in popularity of cryptocurrency and then introduce safeguard, measures and regulatory structure by which people do not feel that they should have something to fall back on.
- The government will see opportunities for revenues as large number of people have made gains through cryptocurrency.
Consider the following statements regarding cryptocurrencies.
- Crypto Currency is an encrypted centralized digital currency.
- These currencies are regulated by central monetary authority.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct ?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) 1 and 2 both
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Topic in Syllabus: Science & Technology
After successfully venturing into space exploration, India will launch its ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ by October to enter hitherto untapped 75,000 sq km of area in international waters to tap vast marine resources.
Deep Ocean Mission:
- The ‘Deep Ocean Mission(DOM)’ to be led by the Union Earth Sciences Ministry will commence from October 31, 2019.
- A major thrust of the mission will be looking for metals and minerals.
- Mission would be an integrated programmewhere several scientific departments of the government will work together for sustainable harnessing of ocean resources.
- Underwater robotics and manned submersiblesare key components of the Mission.
- A remotely operable submersible (ROSUB 6000), capable of operating at depths of 6,000 metres, is a part of this mission.
- The mission includes offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy and developing a deep sea submersible vehicle.
- It will help India harness various living and non-living (water, mineral and energy) resources from the seabed and deep water.
- It will help in leveraging the blue economyfor the country’s overall economic growth.
What are Polymetallic Nodules?
- Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
- They are potato-shaped, largely porous rocksfound in abundance carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
- It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
- India has been allotted a site of 75,000 sq. km. in the Central Indian Ocean Basin(CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).
- Accessing even 10% of that reserve can meet the energy requirement for the next 100 years.
Manganese nodules occur in all oceans. But only in 4 regions is the density of nodules great enough for industrial exploitation.
Polymetallic Nodules contain:
- Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
- Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copperare considered to be of economic and strategic importance.
- It is an acronym for Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART).
- It is a scheme of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- It encompasses a total of 16 sub-projects addressing ocean development activities such as Services, Technology, Resources, Observations and Science.
- Strengthening of Ocean Observations and Modelling
- Strengthening of Ocean Services for Fishermen
- Setting up Marine Coastal Observatories
- Continuation of Ocean Survey and Exploration of Minerals and Living Resources
- Technology Development for Deep Ocean Mining- Deep Mining System and Manned Submersibles
- Early warning systems for oceanic disasters
Which of the following is responsible for the development of technology for mining of polymetallic modules?
a) Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management
b) Deep-sea technology and ocean mining group
c) Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System
d) Coastal Zone Management
Explanation: Deep-sea technology and ocean mining group is responsible for the development of technology for mining of polymetallic modules. India has joined the race to explore and develop deep-sea mining for rare Earth elements. Hence, B is the correct option.
Topic in Syllabus: Indian Geography
Buoyed by the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to its famous ‘Rasagola’, the Odisha government will now push for the GI tag for ‘ChhenaPoda’ and ‘Arisa Pitha’ — the two traditional delicacies of the state.
- West Bengal was involved in a lengthy battle with Odisha, which too had claimed Rasogolla as its invention.
- While West Bengal believes that the Rasogolla was invented in Calcutta by confectioner Nabin Chandra Das, Odisha says it was invented in the holy city of Puri in the 13th century.
- West Bengal in its application had provided proof of origin — historical records dating back to 1896.
- According to one of the documents submitted by West Bengal citing historical evidence, Rasogollas invented in the Nadia district of West Bengal are 60 years old (lower end time frame). Haradhan, a confectioner of village Phulia is named as the inventor. West Bengal has given half-a-dozen historical evidences to back its claim.
- On the other hand, the Odisha government is claiming that ‘OdisharaRasagolla’ originated in Odisha and is offered at Jagannath Temple as part of religious rituals by people of Odisha since the 12th century.
- A ‘geographical indication’ (GI) is a place name used to identifythe origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.
- There are currently more than 340 GIsin India.
- The registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 yearswhich can be renewed from time to time.
- The Appellate Board or the Registrar of Geographical Indicationshas the power to remove the geographical indication or an authorised user from the register.
GI registration confers:
- Legal protection to the products.
- Prevents unauthorised use of a GI by others.
- Helps consumers get quality products of desired traits.
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods by enhancing demand in national and international markets.
- Article 22of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement says unless a geographical indication is protected in the country of its origin, there is no obligation under the agreement for other countries to extend reciprocal protection.
- Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
- Products sold with the GI tag get premium pricing
GIs and international conventions:
GI registration is essential to get protection in other countries.
- Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of theParis Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPR
- They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the agreements concluded at the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
- India, as member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO),enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 that came into force from September 15, 2003.
Which of the following was awarded with GI tag?
1. Dharwad Pedha
2. Tirupathi Laddu
3. Odisha Rasagolla
4. Bengal Rasagolla
Topic in Syllabus: International Affairs
India is now ranked 52nd on the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019, a jump of 5 places over last year, and 29 places in the last five years – up from 81 in 2015.
Global Highlight of Global Innovation Index 2019:
- First Place: Switzerland
- Israel finds its place in the top ten for the first time.
- In Quality of Education pillar, China, India, and the Russian Federationhold the top 3 positions among middle income countries.
About Global Innovation Index 2019:
- The theme of the 2019 report is ‘medical innovation landscape of the next decade’.
- The GII 2019 ranked 129 economies based on 80 wide ranging indicators.
- These included aspects ranging from traditional measurements like research and development investments and international patent and trademark applications to newer indicators including mobile-phone app creation and high-tech exports.
About the Global Innovation Index:
- It is Co-published by World intellectual property organisation(WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD (a Business school in France).
- It is an annual ranking that quantifies the state of national innovation ecosystem across countries.
Key pillars of Global Innovation Index:
- Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication.
- Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.
- Each pillar is divided into sub-pillars and each sub-pillar is composed of individual indicators (80 in total in 2019).
India Specific Highlights of Global Innovation Index 2019
- India is ranked 52nd, representing the biggest jump (from 81 in 2015 to 52 in 2019) by any major economy.
- India improved its ranking in four out of seven pillars of Index which are:
- Knowledge and technology outputs(up 11 spots to 32nd)
- In this pillar, India ranks 1stin sub-pillar of ICT (information and communications technology) services exports and ranked 4th in labor productivity growth.
- Market sophistication(up 3 spots to 33rd)
- Human capital and research(up 3 spots to 53rd)
- In this pillar, two important variables have improved for India: Gross expenditure on R&D (50th) andexpenditure by global R&D companies (15th).
- In Global R&D companies, India reaches the 15thspot as the second middle-income economy. In this pillar, the indicator ‘Graduates in science and engineering’ (7th) remains a relative strength for the country.
- Institutions (up 3 spots to 77th)
- Knowledge and technology outputs(up 11 spots to 32nd)
- It remains 2ndamong middle-income economies in terms of the quality of innovation.
- India has constantly been maintaining its leadership position as the most innovative country in Central and South Asiaregion every year since 2011.
- India also outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capitafor nine consecutive years, only matched by three other countries. (Vietnam, Republic of Moldova, and Kenya).
- Bengaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhiranked among the global top 100 world’s top science and technology clusters.
However, India lost its rank in
- Business sophistication(down 1 spot to 65th)
- Infrastructure(down 2 spots to 79th)
- Relative outputs(7down 3 spots 8th)
- Among the sub-pillars, where India lost relative strength to other countries, the largest drops are found in logistics performance(down 9 spots to 43rd), Females employed with advanced degrees (down 10 spots to 103rd) and Printing and other media (down 12 spots to 88th).
- India ranks badly in Environmental performance(125th), New businesses (100th), and Entertainment and media market (60th).
The Global Competitiveness Report is published by the
(a) International Monetary Fund
(b) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
(c) World Economic Forum
(d) World Bank
Topic in Syllabus: International Affairs
China and Cambodia have reportedly signed a secret pact.
- The pact allows Beijing to use naval base on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand in the province of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
- The draft of the agreement seen by U.S. officials would allow China to use the Ream naval base for 30 years.
- Where it would be able to post-military personnel, store weapons, and berth warships.
- It gives the Chinese military exclusive rights to use part of a Ream naval base of Cambodia, in the Gulf of Thailand.
- This would include posting military personnel, storing weapons and berthing warships.
Gulf of Thailand
- The Gulf of Thailand also known as the Gulf of Siam, is a shallow inlet in the western part of the South China Sea.
- It is bordered by Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
- The northern tip of the Gulf of Thailand is referred to as the Bay of Bangkok.
- The Gulf of Thailand is becoming popular for whale watching and known for its coral reefs.
Thai Canal :
- The Thai Canal also known as Kra Canal or Kra Isthmus Canal is a proposed canal that would connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea.
- China could fund the proposed ‘Kra Canal’ project.
- It is envisaged that the canal would improve transportation in the region.
- Basing rights would extend China’s strategic military footprint into Southeast Asia.
- It helps bolster its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
- This would be china’s second overseas naval foothold, after a base in Djibouti opened in 2017.
Ream Naval Base
- Naval Base is a facility operated by the Royal Cambodian Navy on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.
- Since 2010 the base has been the site of annual joint Cambodian-United States training and naval exercises under the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) program.
Match the following:
i) Gulf of Ob a) East of China
ii) Gulf of Chihli b) East Vietnam
iii) Gulf of Tonkin c) Between Yamal and Gyda peninsula
iv) Gulf of Thailand d) South of Thailand
Which of the above are correct?
a). i- c, ii- a, iii-b, iv-d
b). i-d, ii-b, iii-c, iv-a
c). i-a, ii-b, iii-c, iv-d
d). i-b, ii-c, iii-d, iv-a