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29 April, 2020

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I Children in South Asia could face health crisis amid COVID-19: UNICEF Social issues
New list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean Human Geography
Kumbh Mela Art and Culture
GS-II BRICS foreign Ministers discuss impact of covid-19
'one nation, one ration card' scheme Governance
India listed among ‘countries of particular concern’ in US religious freedom report- USCIRF International Relations
GS-III UIDAI permits Aadhaar updation facility through CSC- Banking Correspondent Economic Issues
Blockchain technology boost economic recovery: WEF
No improvement in Ganga water quality
Gearing up for floods during coronavirus pandemic Disaster and Disaster management
PT Pointer Polar vortex
ADB approves 1.5 billion dollars loan to India to fight corona pandemic
Important GS Topics Common Services Centre (CSC) Governance
GS-I : Social issues
Children in South Asia could face health crisis amid COVID-19: UNICEF

Children in South Asia could face health crisis amid COVID-19: UNICEF

Part of: GS-I- Child issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Almost a quarter of the world’s unimmunised or partially immunised children – about 4.5 million children – live in South Asia.

Expressing concern over the disruptions caused in immunisations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that South Asia could face yet another health emergency if children across the region did not receive their life-saving vaccine shots.
 

Important Points

  1. Almost a quarter of the world’s unimmunised or partially immunised children – about 4.5 million children – live in South Asia. Almost all of them, or 97%, live in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  2. Across the region, national mass vaccination campaigns have been postponed. Bangladesh and Nepal have postponed their national measles and rubella campaigns while Pakistan and Afghanistan have suspended their polio campaigns.

 

Reasons
1. With lockdown in place as a part of the novel coronavirus response, routine immunisations have been severely disrupted and parents are increasingly reluctant to take their children to health centres for routine jabs.

2. Sporadic outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and diphtheria, have already been seen in parts of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

3. The South Asia region is also home to two of the last polio endemic countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

4. Vaccine stocks are running dangerously low in some countries of the region as supply chains have been disrupted with travel bans and cancelled flights.

5. The manufacturing of the vaccines has also been disrupted, creating additional shortages.

6. Many of the health facilities throughout the region, where millions of children are normally vaccinated, have been closed and outreach sessions have been suspended, adding to the challenge.

7. South Asia could face yet another health emergency if children across the region do not receive their life-saving vaccine shots, the UNICEF said.

8. As long as frontline health workers take the appropriate precautions, particularly washing their hands, there is no reason not to vaccinate – in fact, it is crucial that vaccination continues

The UNICEF strongly recommends that, where immunisation campaigns are suspended, governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunisation activities once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

  • It is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide.
  • It is among the most widespread and recognizable social welfare organizations in the world.
  • UNICEF’s activities include:
    • Immunizations and disease prevention
    • Administering treatment for children and mothers with HIV
    • Enhancing childhood and maternal nutrition
    • Improving sanitation
    • Promoting education
    • Providing emergency relief in response to disasters
  • UNICEF relies entirely on contributions from governments and private donors.
  • Its Headquarter is in New York City, US.
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GS-I : Human Geography
New list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean

New list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean

Introduction

New list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean has been selected buy the WMOs Panel on tropical cyclones(PTC).

Worldwide there are six regional specialised meteorological centres (RSMCs) and five regional Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs) mandated for issuing advisories and naming of tropical cyclones.

India Meteorological Department is one of the six RSMCs to provide tropical cyclone and storm surge advisories to 13 member countries under WMO/ESCAP Panel including Bangladesh, India, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

RSMC, New Delhi is also mandated to name the Tropical Cyclones developing over the north Indian Ocean (NIO) including the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and the Arabian Sea (AS).

Importance of naming of Tropical Cyclones

It helps the scientific community, disaster managers, media and general masses to:

  1. identify each individual cyclone.
  2. create awareness of its development.
  3. remove confusion in case of simultaneous occurrence of TCs over a region
  4. remember a TC easily
  5. rapidly and effectively disseminate warnings to much wider audience

Therefore, the tropical cyclones forming over different Ocean basins are named by the concerned RSMCs & TCWCs.

For north Indian Ocean including Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the RSMC, New Delhi assigns the name to tropical cyclones following a standard procedure.

The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) at its twenty-seventh Session held in 2000 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman agreed in principle to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

After long deliberations among the member countries, the naming of the tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean commenced from September 2004. This list contained names proposed by then eight member countries of WMO/ESCAP PTC, viz., Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Almost all names except the last name (Amphan) from this list have been utilised till date.

During WMO/ESCAP PTC 45th Session held at Muscat, Oman in September, 2018 it was decided to prepare a fresh list of names of tropical cyclones including representation from five new member countries, viz., Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (Total 13 member countries).

The WMO/ESCAP PTC in this session nominated Dr.Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, India Meteorological Department to act as Rapporteur to co-ordinate among the Panel member countries and to finalise the list of names following the standard procedure and suggest the implementation plan. The report of the rapporteur was initially presented by India during 46th Session of WMO/ESCAP PTC held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar during 09-13, Sept., 2019. After deliberations, the report was finally adopted by WMO/ESCAP PTC with consensus in April, 2020.

 

Criteria adopted for selection of names by the PTC member countries:

  1. The proposed name should be neutral to (a) politics and political figures (b) religious believes, (c) cultures and (d) gender
  2. Name should be chosen in such a way that it does not hurt the sentiments of any group of population over the globe
  3. It should not be very rude and cruel in nature
  4. It should be short, easy to pronounce and should not be offensive to any member
  5. The maximum length of the name will be eight letters
  6. The proposed name should be provided alongwith its pronunciation and voice over
  7. The Panel reserves the right to reject any name, if any of the criteria above is not satisfied.
  8. The finalised names may also be reviewed during the course of time of implementation with the approval of PTC in its annual session, in case any reasonable objection is raised by any member
  9. The names of tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean will not be repeated.Once used, it will cease to be used again. Thus, the name should be new. It should not be there in the already existing list of any of the RSMCs worldwide including RSMC, New Delhi.

The current list has a total of 169 names including 13 names each from 13 WMO/ESCAP member countries.

 

Following criteria have been adopted for implementation of the list of names:

  1. RSMC, New Delhi will be responsible to name tropical cyclones forming over the North Indian Ocean including Bay of Bengal & the Arabian Sea when they have been diagnosed with maximum sustained surface windspeed of 34 knots (62 kmph) or more as per Section 2.2.2.6.1 of Global Data Processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS) Manual 2017 edition.
  2. The name of a TC from South China Sea which crosses Thailand and emerge into the Bay of Bengal as a tropical cyclone will not be changed.
  3. Panel Members’ names will be listed alphabetically country-wise.
  4. The names will be used sequentially, column-wise.

 

About World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories. It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the roots of which were planted at the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress. Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences a year later. The Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, is headed by the Secretary-General. Its  supreme body is the World Meteorological Congress.

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GS-I : Art and Culture
Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela

Context:

Government has begun planning for the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in January 2021. The gathering has a long history and draws large crowds from the world over, who come to take a ritualistic dip in the Ganga.

An April 16 meeting, organised by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the Water Ministry body overseeing the clean up of the river, discussed funds that would be needed by the Uttarakhand government for providing community toilets and urinals for the attendees.

The Maha Kumbh Mela is organised once in 12 years, and the last time the event was held in 2010, about 10 million had reportedly congregated in the city.

 

About Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela, also called Kumbha Mela, in Hinduism, religious festival that is celebrated four times over the course of 12 years, the site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers—at Haridwar on the Ganges River, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nashik on the Godavari, and at Prayag (modern Prayagraj) at the confluence of the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati.

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied. The Kumbh Mela at Prayag, in particular, attracts millions of pilgrims. In addition, a Great Kumbh Mela festival is held every 144 years at Prayag; the 2001 festival attracted some 60 million people.

Attendees at the Kumbh Mela come from all sections of Hindu religious life, ranging from sadhus (holy men), who remain naked year-round or practice the most severe physical discipline, to hermits, who leave their isolation only for these pilgrimages, and even to silk-clad teachers using the latest technology.

The religious organizations represented range from social welfare societies to political lobbyists. Vast crowds of disciples, friends, and spectators join the individual ascetics and organizations. The naga akhadas, militant ascetic orders whose members formerly made their livings as mercenary soldiers and traders, often claim the holiest spots at each Kumbh Mela’s most propitious moment.

Although the Indian government now enforces an established bathing order, history records bloody disputes between groups vying for precedence.

Origins of Kumbh Melas

Tradition ascribes the Kumbh Mela’s origin to the 8th-century philosopher Shankara, who instituted regular gatherings of learned ascetics for discussion and debate.

The founding myth of the Kumbh Mela—attributed to the Puranas (collections of myth and legend)—recounts how the gods and demons fought over the pot (kumbha) of amrita, the elixir of immortality produced by their joint churning of the milky ocean. During the struggle, drops of the elixir fell on the Kumbh Mela’s four earthly sites, and the rivers are believed to turn back into that primordial nectar at the climactic moment of each, giving pilgrims the chance to bathe in the essence of purity, auspiciousness, and immortality. The term Kumbh comes from this mythic pot of elixir, but it is also the Hindi name for Aquarius, the sign of the zodiac in which Jupiter resides during the Haridwar Mela

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GS-II :
BRICS foreign Ministers discuss impact of covid-19

BRICS foreign Ministers discuss impact of covid-19

Part of: GS-II- I.N Organisation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

External Affairs Minister has emphasized that the current COVID-19 challenge underlines all the more the need for reform of multilateral systems and that reformed multilateralism is the way forward. In his remarks at the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting on Coronavirus through video conference, Dr Jaishankar referred to the centrality of development and growth in the global agenda.

Important points

  1. He emphasized that the pandemic is not only posing a great risk to the health and well being of humanity but is also severely impacting global economy and output by disruption of global trade and supply chains
  2. The Minister said, economic activity across sectors has been negatively impacted leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods.
  3. He emphasized that there is a need to provide support to businesses, especially MSMEs, to tide over the crisis and ensure livelihoods are not lost.
  4. The External Affairs Minister pointed out that the efficacy of traditional medicine systems to strengthen immunity should be recognized and that BRICS should support these efforts.


Facts

BRICS, which brings together almost 42 percent of global population, with impressive growth, investment and trade share, has an important role to play in shaping the global economic and political architecture. India also reaffirmed its strong support for Russian BRICS Chairship in 2020 and the overall theme of "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”.

 

 ‘Self -help measures’

The official pointed out that BRICS was looking at the possibility of additional “self-help” measures that the grouping could adopt, following the initiatives adopted during the recently concluded meeting of the board of governors of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) on April 20.

“Three days ago, the Bank fully disbursed a USD 1 billion emergency loan to China. This week, we will present to the Board of Directors, an emergency loan of USD 1 billion to India. The Bank is in discussions with Brazil and South Africa for loans of USD 1 billion each. All three loans are along similar lines to the China loan. And we stand ready to do more, if our members request it, NDB President K.V. Kamath said. He pointed out that the NDB had the “financial capacity” to provide $10 billion in “crisis-related assistance” to BRICS member-countries.

BRICS

  • BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
    • In 2001, the British Economist Jim O’Neill coined the term BRIC to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
    • The grouping was formalised during the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers in 2006.
    • South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.
  • It comprises 42% of the world's population, has 23% of the global GDP and around 17% of the world trade.
  • The chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S. Brazil is the current chair of the grouping.
  • The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is convened annually.
  • During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB). They also signed the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

New Development Bank

  • NDB is headquartered in Shanghai.
  • At the Fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi (2012) the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank was considered to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries.
  • During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB).
  • Fortaleza Declaration stressed that the NDB will strengthen cooperation among BRICS and will supplement the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global development thus contributing to sustainable and balanced growth.
  • NDB’s key areas of operation are clean energy, transport infrastructure, irrigation, sustainable urban development and economic cooperation among the member countries.
  • The NDB functions on a consultative mechanism among the BRICS members with all the member countries possessing equal rights.

 

Contingent Reserve Arrangement

  • Considering the increasing instances of global financial crisis, BRICS nations signed BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014 as part of Fortaleza Declaration at Sixth BRICS summit.
  • The BRICS CRA aims to provide short-term liquidity support to the members through currency swaps to help mitigating BOP crisis situation and further strengthen financial stability.
  • The initial total committed resources of the CRA shall be one hundred billion dollars of the United States of America (USD 100 billion).
  • It would also contribute to strengthening the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements (IMF).
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GS-II : Governance
'one nation, one ration card' scheme

'one nation, one ration card' scheme for migrant workers, EWS

Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

 

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to consider the feasibility of temporarily adopting the 'one nation, one ration card' scheme during the ongoing coronavirus lockdown period to enable the migrant workers and economically weaker sections (EWS) get subsidised foodgrain.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, in an order passed, directed the Union of India to consider whether it is feasible for it to implement the said Scheme at this stage or not and take appropriate decision in this regard keeping in view the present circumstances. The directions came in the wake of a petitioner seeking indulgence of the court to protect and safeguard rights of migrant labourers, beneficiaries , citizens of other States and Union Territories to get their entitlement of subsidized foodgrain and benefits of government scheme etc, during the  lockdown period. The scheme announced by Central Government is about to start in June, 2020.

With One Nation One Ration Card Scheme, the focus of the government is on improving efficiency and delivery of services.

 

Full Analysis

One Nation One Ration Card Scheme which will allow portability of food security benefits will be available across the country from 1st July, 2020. This means poor migrant workers will be able to buy subsidized rice and wheat from any ration shop in the country.

Highlights of the Scheme

  • The scheme is all about inter-state portability of ration cards. It enables the beneficiaries who are taking food grains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) to access the same benefits if they happen to migrate from one part of the country to the other, in a seamless manner.
  • India has been computerising its PDS operations for quite a few years. This scheme of inter state portability is a logical progression to the next level of enabling seamless public services under the PDS, throughout the country.
  • The government is going to launch the scheme on a pilot basis in August by having four states in two clusters namely Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Maharashtra and Gujarat.
    • These states have fully computerized their PDS operations and are fully on board to affect this transition to inter state portability.

How important is this scheme for migrant labourers in the country?

  • Historically, India has had food security benefit schemes which have domicile based access.
  • 45.36 crore people or 37% of the population is that of migrant labourers. The scheme is therefore important for anyone who is going to move from one place to the other.
    • It happens that when one moves from one place to the other (for e.g. a government employee being transferred from one place to another), it takes about two to three months to get a ration card at that next place and then further more time to start getting commodities against the same.
  • After the implementation of the scheme, it would be ensured that a migrant is able to access the benefits which is due to him in any part of the country. This would be ensured on the basis of Aadhaar authentication and a validated data.

How important is the scheme for curbing corruption?

  • Prior to the announcement of the scheme, the government embarked on weeding out bogus ration cards. In fact, in the last five years, the government has managed to delete nearly 3 crore duplicate and bogus ration cards. This also helped the government in cleaning up the data of the PDS.
  • In One Nation One Ration Card Scheme, the fundamental prerequisite is deduplication so that it is ensured that the same person does not figure as a beneficiary in two different locations of the country.
  • With the help of the scheme, the government would be able to rightly target the beneficiaries to provide them with the foodgrains under the PDS. The scheme is linked with Aadhaar and biometrics, this removes most possibilities of corruption.
  • The government is creating a central data repository to get all the details of ration card which are being maintained by states so that the repository acts as a clearing house or a server to do the cross checking on the basis of Aadhaar authentication. This ensures that there is no corruption or duplication of the benefits that are being passed on to the beneficiaries. The government will ensure all these things with the help of technology.

Depot Online System

  • The government is planning to integrate PDS with Depot Online System.
  • Integrating with the help of technology, the depots which have stocks and distribution activities is logical, to ensure that one has a complete blueprint of the transaction system that goes in the area of PDS.
  • There is a need to keep a track on the inventory that is being received and distributed from the depots, so that one is able to integrate the total supply chain of the PDS beginning from the delivery of the food grains to the state agencies by FCI to the delivery to a customer.

How the government is ensuring food security in the country?

  • The government is covering nearly 81 crore people of the country under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) based on the 2011 census.
  • Under the NFSA, the government is covering some of the most vulnerable sections namely the antyodaya families who get 35 kgs/month as a family and the priority households where the members of the family get 5 kgs/month of food grains.
  • The government is also ensuring enough food stock in the country.
  • Distributing food grains is a joint responsibility of central and state governments. It has been made very clear to all the states that no genuine beneficiary should be turned back only for the reason of not possessing Aadhaar.
  • The government has other mechanisms through which the beneficiaries can prove their bonafides and take the benefits.
  • One Nation One Ration scheme will further help in adding to the nutritional values of the poor consumers.
  • The scheme will add to the integration of the country as wherever a person goes, he will be able to get food grains at that place.

How the government will ensure the implementation of the scheme?

  • Within a particular state, there will be an intra state portability. There are ten states which are fully ready for the same. These are: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura.
    • In these ten states, 100% PoS machines have been arranged for green distribution and all PDS shops have been connected to the internet.
    • It has been seen on the ground that a beneficiary within such a state can go freely and take PDS rations from other shop i.e. apart from the shop that is nominated for him.
  • Building on this intra state portability, the government is building clusters on pilot basis so that inter state portability is ensured within a limited number of states.

Challenges

  • Since the scheme is based on technology, the government may face some technical challenges during the implementation of the scheme.
  • Few regional parties have expressed apprehensions on bearing the cost of additional ration cards. This is a matter which is to be settled between the states and the Government of India.
  • One of the apprehensions mentioned by few states is the cost of additional food grain to be supplied to the migrant workers.
    • However, the whole system is based on the entitlements mandated under the NFSA and this prevents the charges of additional cost. Beneficiaries will continue to pay the same issue prices that are fixed under the NFSA.

Way Forward

  • The food security scheme under the NFSA costs more than Rs 1 lakh crore per year. It is very expensive but is highly needed. There is a need to ensure that subsidized food grains ultimately go to the person or the family that is entitled to.
  • The One Nation One Ration Card should also include access to health and other things.
    • At the principal level, within the government, there is broad consensus on having a unified kind of service delivery system based on technology and identity.
    • A unified service platform combining all the citizen centric services on the basis of few parameters of identity and other indicators of technology, is the need of the hour.
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GS-II : International Relations
India listed among ‘countries of particular concern’ in US religious freedom report- USCIRF

India listed among ‘countries of particular concern’ in US religious freedom report- USCIRF

Part of: GS-II- India and USA  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

In the 2020 edition of its annual report on International Religious Freedom, the USCIRF alleged that in 2019, religious freedom conditions in India "experienced a drastic turn downward", with religious minorities under increasing assault.

A US commission mandated to monitor religious freedom globally asked the State Department to designate 14 nations, including India, as "countries of particular concern", (CPC) alleging that religious minorities are under increasing assault in these nations.

These include nine countries that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019 - Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan - as well as five others - India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam

However, two of the nine members have expressed their dissent over the USCIRF recommendation to place India in the CPC.

Established by the US Government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of USCIRF are non-binding to the State Department.

 

India’s view on report

  1. Traditionally, India does not recognize the view of the USCIRF.
  2. For more than a decade, it has denied visas to members of the USCIRF.
  3. India has earlier said that the American body on international religious freedom has chosen to be guided only by its biases.  The Ministry of External Affairs had rejected the USCIRF statement as neither “accurate nor warranted” and questioned the body’s “locus standi” in India’s internal affairs. 
  4. India has previously described the comments by the USCIRF and a "few individuals" over violence in the national capital as "factually inaccurate, misleading" and an attempt to politicise the issue.


Reasons cited

“India took a sharp downward turn in 2019,” the commission noted in its report, which included specific concerns about

  1. the Citizenship Amendment Act,
  2. the proposed National Register for Citizens,
  3. anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
  4. “The national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims.”

The USCIRF alleged that during 2019, discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric, and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities.

The report also ,mentioned about communal riots in Delhi in February 2020, alleging that there were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry's authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence.

The USCIRF 2020 report makes a specific mention of Home Minister Amit Shah, for not taking what it deemed as sufficient action to stop cases of mob lynching in the country, and for referring to migrants as “termites”. In December 2019, the USCIRF had also asked the U.S. government to consider sanctions against Mr. Shah and “other principal leadership”

 

Recommendations made by USCIRF to state department

The USCIRF recommended to the State Department to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.

Among others, it recommended the State Department to allocate funding to support civil society to create a monitoring and early warning system in partnership with police to challenge hate speech and incitement to violence.

The US Congress should continue to hold hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and US policy toward India, the USCIRF said

In 2005, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was censured by the USCIRF. The commission had recommended sanctions against Mr. Modi for the 2002 riots and the U.S. government had subsequently cancelled his visa.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
UIDAI permits Aadhaar updation facility through CSC- Banking Correspondent

UIDAI permits Aadhaar updation facility through CSC- Banking Correspondent

Part of: GS-II- GOVERNANCE (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

  1. To make Aadhaar updating easier for citizens, Unique Identification Authority of India, UIDAI has permitted Common Service Centre, CSCs, which are designated banking correspondents of banks, to offer Aadhaar services.
  2. Around 20,000 such CSCs will now be able to offer this service to citizens. CSC Village Level Entrepreneurs are asked to start the Aadhaar work with responsibility and as per instructions issued by UIDAI in this regard.
  3. The decision would further strengthen the efforts of achieving the goals of Digital India as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  4. Commencement of Aadhaar updation services through CSC also comes across as a big relief during the lockdown restrictions imposed to prevent spread of COVID-19.
  5. With these 20 thousand additional centers available to Aadhaar, the users particularly in rural areas need not visit Aadhaar centres in bank branches or Post Offices for this work.

Banking Correspondent

The RBI has allowed banks to appoint entities and individuals as agents for providing basic banking services in remote areas where they can’t practically start a branch. These agents are called business correspondents. BCs are considered as practical solutions to extend basic banking services to the nearly 600000 village habitations in the country. Business Correspondents are hence instrumental in facilitating financial inclusion in the country.

What are BCs?

Business Correspondents are retail agents engaged by banks for providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch/ATM. BCs enable a bank to provide its limited range of banking services at low cost. They hence are instrumental in promoting financial inclusion.

What are the functions of BCs?

BCs have to do a variety of functions viz, identification of borrowers, collection of small value deposit, disbursal of small value credit, recovery of principal / collection of interest, sale of micro insurance/ mutual fund products/ pension products/ other third party products and receipt and delivery of small value remittances/ other payment instruments, creating awareness about savings and other products, education and advice on managing money and debt counseling, etc.

What types of products can be provided by BCs?

As per the RBI guidelines the products provided by BCs are: Small Savings Accounts, Fixed Deposit and Recurring Deposit with low minimum deposits, Remittance to any BC customer, Micro Credit and General Insurance.

The BC model allows banks to provide door-step delivery of services especially ‘cash in – cash out’ transactions at a location much closer to the rural population, thus addressing the last-mile problem.

Who can act as BCs?

The RBI has provided a long list of entities and persons who can act as BCs. Initially the entities permitted to act as BCs included registered entities like NGOs/ MFIs. Later, the list expanded to include individuals like retired bank employees, retired teachers, retired government employees and ex-servicemen, individual owners of kirana / medical /Fair Price shops, individual Public Call Office (PCO) operators, agents of Small Savings schemes of Government of India/Insurance Companies, individuals who own Petrol Pumps, authorized functionaries of well-run Self Help Groups (SHGs) which are linked to banks. Any other individual including those operating Common Service Centres (CSCs) are also allowed to act as BCs of banks.

Though the BC model was attractive it has not delivered effectively because of the many shortcomings associated with it. Firstly, banks have imposed higher restrictions on operations of BCs. Secondly, salaries of BCs were very low compared to the physical work they have to do to cover the distant areas. The JDY also heavily relies the operations of BCs for continuation of account activities by the village people who started the account as part of the programme.

 

Common Services Centers (CSCs)

Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme. They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.

They are multiple-services-single-point model for providing facilities for multiple transactions at a single geographical location. They are the access points for delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, apart from host of B2C services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country.

 CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:

  1. Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
  2. Governance and services on demand.
  3. Digital empowerment of citizens.

 Significance of CSCs:

CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods. They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.

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GS-III :
Blockchain technology boost economic recovery: WEF

Blockchain technology boost economic recovery: WEF

Part of: GS-III- S&T (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The WEF said crises such as the coronavirus pandemic dramatically increase pressure on governments and businesses to maintain resilient supply chains. Blockchain technology can help tackle supply chain failures exposed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also boost the economic recovery process, the World Economic Forum (WEF).

  1. Releasing a ‘blockchain deployment toolkit’ to help organisations improve future pandemic preparedness and accelerate an economic rebound post COVID-19, Geneva-based WEF said it is aimed at helping leaders maximise the benefits and minimise the risks of the technology.
  2. The WEF said the first of its kind toolkit is culmination of more than a year of efforts to capture best practices from blockchain deployment across industries and has drawn on global expertise of more than 100 stakeholders, including governments, companies, startups, academic institutions, civil society, international organisations and technology and supply chain experts.
  3. The WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private partnership, said crises such as the coronavirus pandemic dramatically increase pressure on governments and businesses to maintain resilient supply chains.
  4. Resilience in supply chains depends on trust, transparency and integrity, which can be improved through responsible deployment of blockchain technologies that offer a “shared truth”, the WEF said.
  5. It further said the current pandemic underscores the need for businesses and governments to improve the integrity and provenance of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, as well as food, goods and industrial and consumer products.

 

PT UPDATES

What are Blockchains?

Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset. Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions. The present blockchain ecosystem is like the early Internet, a permissionless innovation environment in which email, the World Wide Web, Napster, Skype, and Uber were built.

How it operates?

  1. The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless. It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.
  2. A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block. 

Benefits of blockchain technology:

  1. As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
  2. All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
  3. Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
  4. It allows decentralization of the technology.

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GS-III :
No improvement in Ganga water quality

No improvement in Ganga water quality

Part of: GS-III- Environment (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The lockdown in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may have dramatically reduced air pollution across the country but it hasn’t significantly reduced pollution in the Ganga, according to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

  1. The dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration, a measure of the amount of free oxygen available in river systems, “rose marginally” from March 22-April 15. A high DO value is considered a good indicator of river health.
  2. However, two other measures, BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) both indicators of the amount of oxygen necessary to break down organic and inorganic pollution showed “insignificant reductions”, the CPCB report notes. The lower these numbers are the better they indicate river health.

Marginal reduction’

  1. “Reduction in BOD concentration has been less significant owing to continual discharge of untreated or inadequately treated sewage.
  2. Further, there is gradual increase in BOD levels towards downstream stretches of the river, with the maximum values in West Bengal,” according to the CPCB report.
  3. “Reduction in COD concentration has also been less significant. Few locations show increase in the COD values, while in remaining stations reduction in COD levels was not significant. This marginal reduction can be attributed due to stoppage of industrial activities.”
  4. Domestic wastewater from 97 towns situated near river Ganga, and industrial effluents, are the main sources of water pollution in the river, with an estimated quantity of 3,500 MLD (Million Litres per Day) of sewage, out of which 1,100 MLD is treated and remaining 2,400 MLD gets discharged untreated.
  5. Industrial effluent is estimated to be about 300 MLD, which is about 9% of total wastewater being discharged into the river every day.

Highest in U.P

The pollution in the river is highest in Uttar Pradesh. The bulk of the sewage treatment plants commissioned under Ganga are in Uttar Pradesh towns and though projects worth ?23,000 crore have been commissioned (across 11 Ganga basin States), a noticeable increase in the cleanliness of the river isn't yet apparent.

The CPCB, however, said that there was notable improvement in water quality in the Yamuna. “Analysis results indicate there is considerable improvement in the water quality of river Yamuna with respect to DO, BOD and COD when compared with pre-lockdown and lockdown period,” the CPCB notes. However, this was done basis an assessment at only three locations in Delhi and the gains were significantly due to reduced industrial activity.

What is CPCB?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
  • Established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and later entrusted with functions and responsibilities under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
    • Water Pollution
      • Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of water bodies. Water pollution is caused when water bodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, and aquifers get contaminated with industrial and agricultural effluents.
    • Air Pollution: 
      • Air pollution refers to any physical, chemical or biological change in the air. It is the contamination of air by harmful gases, dust and smoke which affects plants, animals, and humans drastically. Click here to read about Air Pollutants.
  • It coordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.

CPCB Organisational Structure

CPCB is led by its Chairman followed by the Member Secretary, and other members. The CPCB performs its various functions through the following nine major project budget heads.

  1. Pollution assessment (survey and monitoring).
  2. R&D and laboratory management.
  3. Development of standards and guidelines for industry-specific emissions and effluent standards
  4. Training
  5. Information database management and library
  6. Pollution control technology
  7. Pollution control enforcement
  8. Mass awareness and publications
  9. Hazard waste management

Powers and Functions of CPCB

  • Advising the Central and State Government on matters related to prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution.
  • Planning various programs to control and prevent Air & Water pollution 
  • Planning and organising training programs for people involved in activities for the prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution.
  • Collecting, compiling, and publishing statistical and technical reports related to Air & Water Pollution. These reports are used to develop preventive measures to control and reduce pollution.
  • Preparing manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts.
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GS-III : Disaster and Disaster management
Gearing up for floods during coronavirus pandemic

Gearing up for floods during coronavirus pandemic

Part of: GS-III- Disaster management (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The National Disaster Response Force is preparing to face the twin challenges in many States.
With monsoon around the corner, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is preparing to face the twin challenge of coronavirus (COVID-19) and floods in different parts of the country. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a normal monsoon, which is expected to hit Kerala on June 1.

Action plan

Over the past week, the NDRF has been working on an action plan to meet all possible exigencies. The top brass has been briefing the field formations on measures to be taken. The organisation has been in constant touch with the IMD and the local administration in the respective States.

Assam, which witnesses heavy rains and flash floods during monsoon, leading to several deaths and displacement of lakhs of people in the affected areas, had asked for monsoon pre-deployment of NDRF teams.
Low pressure

The NDRF has taken note of the latest IMD warning of the likely formation of a low pressure area over the south Andaman Sea and the neighbourhood around April 30, which is likely to intensify into a depression during the subsequent 48 hours, triggering moderate and heavy to extreme rainfall in isolated areas.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, NDRF teams in several States joined the local administration in implementing the preventive measures and distributing essentials, including medical supplies. They also stepped in to alleviate the problems faced by thousands of stranded migrant labourers, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

NDRF

About NDRF:

Defined in Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act).

It is a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster. 

Constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.

National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) was renamed as National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) with the enactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005.

 

What is it to be used for?

NDRF amount can be spent only towards meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation.

For projects exclusively for the purpose of mitigation, i.e, measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact or effect of a disaster or threatening disaster situation a separate fund called National Disaster Mitigation Fund has to be constituted.

 

Sources of Financing NDRF:

Financed through the levy of a cess on certain items, chargeable to excise and customs duty, and approved annually through the Finance Bill.

The requirement for funds beyond what is available under the NDRF is met through general budgetary resources.

Currently, a National Calamity Contingency Duty (NCCD) is levied to finance the NDRF and additional budgetary support is provided as and when necessary.

provision also exists in the DM Act to encourage any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF.

 

Key features of NDRF:

Located in the “Public Accounts” of Government of India under “Reserve Funds not bearing interest“.

Monitoring: Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) monitors relief activities for calamities associated with drought, hailstorms, pest attacks and cold wave /frost while rest of the natural calamities are monitored by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.

 

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GS-I :
Polar vortex

Polar vortex

  • A polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air that surrounds both of Earth's poles.
  • Polar vortexes always exist, but they typically weaken during the summer and strengthen in the winter.
  • The polar vortex in the Arctic is typically weaker due to the presence of nearby land as well as mountain ranges that disturb the weather more so than its counterpart to the south.
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GS-II :
ADB approves 1.5 billion dollars loan to India to fight corona pandemic

ADB approves 1.5 billion dollars loan to India to fight corona pandemic

The Asian Development Bank has approved 1.5 billion dollars loan to India to help fund its fight against coronavirus pandemic.

The loan has been sanctioned with a view to support immediate priorities such as disease containment and prevention, as well as social protection for the poor and economically vulnerable sections. The quick-disbursing fund is part of a larger package of support that ADB will provide in close coordination with the government and other development partners.

About ADB:

  1. It is a regional development bank
  2. established on 19 December 1966.
  3. headquartered — Manila, Philippines.
  4. official United Nations Observer.

The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional developed countries.

 Voting rights:

It is modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.

 Roles and functions:

  1. ADB defines itself as a social development organization that is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.
  2. This is carried out through investments – in the form of loans, grants and information sharing – in infrastructure, health care services, financial and public administration systems, helping nations prepare for the impact of climate change or better manage their natural resources, as well as other areas.
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GS-II : Governance
Common Services Centre (CSC)

Common Services Centre (CSC)

Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Common Services Centre (CSC) programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), Government of India. CSCs are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.

CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods. They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.

CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, to monitor the implementation of the Common Services Centers Scheme. It provides a centralized collaborative framework for delivery of services to citizens through CSCs, besides ensuring systemic viability and sustainability of the scheme.

Common Service Centres and Digital India

Digital India is a flagship programme of the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:

  1. Digital infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
  2. Governance and services on demand
  3. Digital empowerment of citizens

Partners

  1. Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) to provide service to the rural consumer in villages.
  2. The agency designated by the State - State Designated Agency (SDA)—to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State.
  3. Others include central ministries, their departments and other central agencies to offer various services to the citizens and partner banks (public and private sector) and regional rural banks to enable CSCs to become Banking Correspondent Agents / Customer Service Points to deliver various banking and financial services.

Services offered

The CSCs would provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services. A highlight of the CSCs is that it will offer web-enabled e-governance services in rural areas, including application forms, certificates, and utility payments such as electricity, telephone and water bills. In addition to the universe of G2C services, a wide variety of content and services that are offered are:

  1. Agriculture Services (Agriculture, Horticulture, Sericulture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Veterinary)
  2. Education & Training Services (School, College, Vocational Education, Employment, etc.)
  3. Health Services (Telemedicine, Health Check-ups, Medicines)
  4. Rural Banking & Insurance Services (Micro-credit, Loans, Insurance)
  5. Entertainment Services (Movies, Television)
  6. Utility Services (Bill Payments, Online bookings)
  7. Commercial Services (DTP, Printing, Internet Browsing, Village level BPO).

CSC 2.0 Scheme

Under the Digital India programme, at least one CSC (preferably more than one) is envisaged in 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for delivery of various electronic services to citizens across rural India. This would include strengthening and integrating the existing 100,000 CSCs under the CSC scheme and making operational an additional 1.5 lakh CSCs in Gram Panchayats.

CSC 2.0 is a service delivery oriented entrepreneurship model with a large bouquet of services made available for the citizens through optimum utilization of infrastructure already created in the form of SWAN, SSDG, e-District, SDC, and NOFN/BharatNet.

Objectives of CSC 2.0

  • Non-discriminatory access to e-Services for rural citizens by making CSCs complete service delivery centres, utilizing the infrastructure already created in terms of other Mission Mode Projects.
  • Expansion of self-sustaining CSC network till the Gram Panchayat level – 2.5 lakh CSCs, i.e. at least one CSC per Gram Panchayat, more than one preferred.
  • Empowering District e-Governance Society (DeGS) under the district administration for implementation.
  • Creating and strengthening the institutional framework for rollout and project management, thereby, supporting the State and District administrative machinery and handholding of VLEs through local language Help Desk support.
  • Enablement and consolidation of online services under single technology platform, thereby making the service delivery at CSCs accountable, transparent, efficient and traceable, with a technology-driven relationship between all stakeholders.
  • Providing Centralized Technological Platform for delivery of various services in a transparent manner to the citizens.
  • Increasing sustainability of VLEs by sharing maximum commission earned through delivery of e-services and encouraging women to join as VLEs.

Participating in CSC scheme

Eligibility :

  • Applicant should be a village youth above 18 years of age
  • Applicant must have passed the 10th level examination from a recognized board as minimum level of educational qualification.
  • Applicant should be fluent in reading and writing the local dialect and should also have basic knowledge of English language
  • Prior Knowledge in basic computer skills would be advantage
  • Applicant should be motivated enough to be the prime driver of social change and disperse his or her duties with utmost dedication
  • Should have a valid VID (Virtual ID) and PAN

Infrastructure Required for CSC

  • PC with a licensed operating system of Windows XP-SP2 or above
  • At least 120 GB hard disc Drive
  • At least 512 MB RAM
  • CD/DVD Drive
  • UPS with 4 hours battery back-up/portable generator set
  • Printer/ Colour Printer and Scanner
  • Web cam/digital camera
  • Internet connection with at least 128 kbps speed for browsing & data uploading over internet.
  • Biometric/ IRIS Authentication Scanner for banking services
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