Given below are the daily current affairs for 01st Feb. 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.
- POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
- Govt. plans law to ban Bitcoin, set up official digital currency SC had in March overturned RBI’s diktat to FIs not to deal in virtual currency
- Unanimous polls are not democratic: SEC
- Centre likely to postpone Census to 2022
- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- Corruption Perception Index 2020
- Pulse Polio Programme
- India International Silk Fair
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
Govt. plans law to ban Bitcoin, set up official digital currency SC had in March overturned RBI’s diktat to FIs not to deal in virtual currency
- The government has listed a bill that will prohibit “all private cryptocurrencies” in India and provide a framework for the creation of an official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
- The Bill is titled “The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021,” the bill is expected to be considered in the ongoing Budget session of Parliament.
- A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security and is generally based on blockchain technology, a distributed ledger enforced by a disparate network of computers. Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency in the world.
- India plans to introduce a law to ban private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and put in place a framework for an official digital currency to be issued by the central bank, according to a legislative agenda listed by the government.
- The Bill will have wide-reaching consequences if passed as it intends to create a facilitative framework for the creation of the official digital currency and also would prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India.
- The legislation, which is expected to be taken up on the floor in the current Budget session seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India.
- The Bill, however, will have enabling provisions that would allow for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.
Panel mooted a ban
- A similar bill to check the cryptocurrencies was drafted as well. The “Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2019”, the draft even proposed a prison sentence of ten-year term for persons who “mine, generate, hold, sell, transfer, dispose of, issue or deal in cryptocurrencies”
- However, the government didn’t go ahead with the proposal. The panel had recommended the government to consider the introduction of an official government-backed digital currency, to function like banknotes, through the RBI.
- The Reserve Bank of India in the year 2018 had ordered financial institutions to sever all ties with individuals or businesses involved in virtual currencies such as bitcoin within a time span of three months.
Supreme Court intervention
- However, in 2020, the Supreme Court allowed banks to handle cryptocurrency transactions from exchanges and traders, overturning a ban that had dealt the thriving industry a blow.
- The Court found that a blanket ban was disproportionate and that virtual currencies had caused no visible damage to banks regulated by the RBI.
- Thus the Supreme Court judgment offered clarity and hope for a more balanced regulation in the future, but it is to be seen how the Bill is going to go ahead with the issue of cryptocurrency.
- There have been attempts by several governments across the globe to regulate cryptocurrencies, but so far there has been no major economy that has chosen to place a blanket ban on owning them, although the concerns have been raised about the misuse of consumer data and its possible impact on the financial system.
- Private digital currencies have gained popularity in recent years, which has led to the regulators and governments to be wary of the risks these currencies pose.
Unanimous polls are not democratic: SEC
- The Andhra Pradesh state government enhanced incentives for the unanimous election of sarpanches and ward members in gram panchayats.
Why is it in news?
- The Andhra Pradesh government issued a notification to award special funds to panchayats which are elected unanimously.
- It has decided to give Rs 5 lakh to panchayats with people below 2000 and Rs 1 lakh to panchayats with a population between 2,000 to 5,000.
- Panchayats with a population above 5,000 and below 10,000 will get Rs 15 lakh.
- Further, Rs 20 lakh will be given to panchayat with a population of more than 10 lakh.
- The state government believes that elections to gram panchayats held on a party basis would fuel political rivalry, enmity and intense animosity among the competing parties resulting in hampering harmony and speedy development of villages.
- However, the opposition parties advocate that free and fair elections, away from intimidation, would give ample scope to the downtrodden sections, make them a part of the governance.
- The Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner is of the view that enforcing unanimous elections in panchayats is nothing but an attempt to stifle the voice of the Backward Classes and the spirit of social justice
- The concept of ‘unanimous elections’ is not a novel concept, states like Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab are having an election to gram panchayats on a non-political party basis.
- There have been certain states who have taken the route of evolving innovative methods to encourage party-less and unanimous election to gram panchayats similar on lines of AP.
- The Andhra Pradesh state government intends to facilitate concentrating the energies of the gram panchayats to take up development works in the villages for the benefit of the people.
Centre likely to postpone Census to 2022
- Reports of the Centre’s plan to push the 2021 Census to 2022.
- Population Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analyzing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, to all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country. As such, the census provides a snapshot of the country’s population and housing at a given point of time.
- The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population. The data collected through the census are used for administration, planning and policy making as well as management and evaluation of various programmes by the government, NGOs, researchers, commercial and private enterprises, etc.
Census history in India:
- The census exercise first began in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, however, the first complete census was taken in 1881 under the British Viceroy Ripon.
- Since then the census is undertaken every 10 years.
- The decennial Census of India has been conducted 15 times, as of 2011.
- Post 1949, the census has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
- All the censuses since 1951 were conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act. The last census was held in 2011, whilst the next will be held in 2021. The 2021 Census of India will be the 16th Indian Census.
- The plan to shift the census is on account of the pandemic.
- The government has been fully occupied in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. First, it was the measures taken to deal with the pandemic and now the massive vaccination programme under way across the country.
- The Census exercise was to be conducted in two phases — House Listing and Housing Census and Population Enumeration. The first phase of the Census and the updating of the National Population Register (NPR) were initially to be rolled out in some States on April 1, 2020, but were postponed due to the pandemic.
China is still the largest source of critical imports for India
- The overdependence on China for the critical imports is a worrying concern, such high overdependence can hurt India in the long run.
- Imports from China is very essential for the mobile phone industry and pharmaceuticals.
- There is a need to have a multi-pronged strategy with a detailed outline to foster self-reliance and address the skewed nature of the balance of trade.
The trade deficit is not in dollars, it is in overdependence
- India’s production chain in mobile phone manufacturing lacks resilience as it can be disrupted with any supply chain shocks with close to 85% content coming from one country.
- Similarly, if China were to stop the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for penicillin, India would not be able to produce it in the country. When somebody controls your production, that is a sentiment which raises concern.
- India has taken a note of the excessive dependence on China and had begun working on a multi-pronged strategy to reduce this dependence, these efforts range from the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to boost domestic manufacturing, a global effort involving India’s foreign missions to find alternatives to China, and the utilization of free trade agreements (FTAs) with other trading partners
- Production Linked Incentive (PLI) is a scheme that intends to give companies incentives on incremental sales from products manufactured in domestic units.
- The scheme also aims to invite foreign companies to establish their base in India, the scheme also aims to encourage local companies to set up or expand existing manufacturing units.
Times of pandemic
- The COVID-19 has been an enabler in this change, had helped accelerate this change. When production in China was hit early in 2020, although its economy would recover by the summer and become the only major economy to avoid contraction last year, India shared with its foreign missions lists of items critically dependent on China, following which the missions linked up with suppliers in their countries.
No knee-jerk reaction
- It is foolhardy to expect a drastic reduction in the critical imports from China as China still occupies the position of the largest source of imports for critical items.
- Key sectors like the pharmaceuticals and electronics sectors are hugely dependent on supply from China.
- Therefore, the aim to diversify the supply base should not be seen as an anti-china move.
- The pandemic has created a window of opportunity for India, with many countries taking the route of diversifying, this has meant that India could be a potential place future expansion in capacity.
- The PLI scheme will be pivotal if India is expected to make any progress in reducing the China-dependency and also allowing the foreign companies to set up shop in the country.
- There is a sense of optimism that PLI is going to accelerate the investment in India and the optimism is also backed up with Apple start manufacturing in India.
Bilateral trade ties
- China is the leading destination of India’s imports, however, the imports last year dipped by 10.8%, the lowest since 2016.
- Two-way trade in 2020 reached $87.6 billion, down by 5.6%, while the trade deficit declined to a five year-low of $45.8 billion.
- The steel imports had fallen from a high of $2.8 billion to under $1 billion, this is largely attributed to the FTA with South Korea.
- India’s decision to opt-out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was largely based on being in the same trading bloc as China.
- China has been very rigid in terms of imposing a plethora of non-tariff barriers, thus not allowing India’s exports to make headway in the Chinese economy.
- In 2018, both sides signed a number of protocols, including for rice and tobacco, but none of this has contributed to a substantial trade. India’s exports to China did, however, cross $20 billion for the first time last year.
- While there is no denying that India is depending on China over critical imports excessively, however, India has shown signs of moving away in the direction of evolving domestic policies like the Production-linked incentive scheme and also aiming to leverage FTAs to diversify imports.
How neutrinos aid in the death of massive stars
- A team from IIT Guwahati has come up with observation as to how the neutrinos play a role in the death of massive stars.
- Some stars burn out instead of fading. These stars end their evolutions in massive cosmic explosions known as supernovae.
- Several stars, when they approach their final years, form supernovas, massive explosions that send their outer layers shooting into the surrounding space.
- Most of the energy from the explosions associated with the supernova is carried away by neutrinos.
- A neutrino is a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron but has no electrical charge and a very small mass, which might even be zero.
- Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. Because they have very little interaction with matter, however, they are incredibly difficult to detect.
Fate of the star
- The burning of nuclear fuel in their cores to produce energy is a process that is similar to all-stars.
- The process of burning generates internal pressure which pushes outwards, thus preventing the star from collapsing inward under the weight of its own gravity.
- However, as the star ages and runs out of fuel to burn, it’s interior begins to cool, this contributes to its internal pressure dropping down and therefore the impact of the force of gravity, the star starts to collapse inwards.
- The sudden nature of the process contributes towards building up of shock waves, and the shock wave sends the outer material of the star flying, this is referred to as a supernova, this phenomenon is usually observed in stars of gigantic proportions.
- In stars that are in excess of eight times the size of the Sun, the supernova is accompanied by a collapsing of the inner material of the dying star, this is commonly referred to as core-collapse supernova or Type II supernova.
- Neutrinos can be classified into three ‘flavours’, and each flavour is associated with a light elementary particle.
- For instance, the electron-neutrino is associated with the electron; the muon-neutrino with the muon and the tau-neutrino with the tau particle.
- The supernova is associated with large explosion and as the energy is carried over by neutrinos. The neutrinos, while doing so can change from one flavour to another in a process known as neutrino oscillations.
- The type of flavour oscillates, because the phase of the wave changes, this phenomenon is called neutrino
- The researchers have noted that the fast oscillations are important as they can decide the flavour information of the supernova neutrinos.
- Understanding this is important when one wants to measure the influence of neutrinos and their oscillations on supernova mechanism and heavy element synthesis in stellar environments.
A bullet through an island’s heart
- The NITI Aayog’s ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, proposing to set up a megacity in the Little Andaman Island.
- The plan envisages sustainable and holistic development of the 680 sq km, Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group.
- The plan proposes the building of a new greenfield coastal city in the island, that will be developed as a free trade zone.
- The plan proposes three development zones:
- Zone 1, planned along the east coast of Little Andaman, will be the financial district and medi city and will include an aerocity, and a tourism and hospital district.
- Zone 2, spread over pristine forest, will house the leisure zone, will have a film city, a residential district and a tourism SEZ.
- Zone 3, again spread over pristine forest zone will be a nature zone, further categorised into three districts: an exclusive forest resort, a nature healing district and a nature retreat, all on the western coast. The nature resort complex is to have theme resorts, floating/underwater resorts, beach hotels, and high-end residential villas.
- Necessary infrastructure like an international airport, Greenfield ring road, mass rapid transit network, jetty has also been proposed.
Significance of the proposal:
- The proposal aims to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island to ensure development in the islands.
- The location of the island and its development would augur well for India’s stand in the Indian Ocean region, which it considers as its zone of influence. The document envisages developing the islands into “veritable jewels for the country”.
- The Greenfield city could compete with the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong and emerge as an alternative for business establishments. This augurs well for the Indian economy.
- The infrastructural development could aid employment generation in the region. This could stimulate the development process in the entire Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands.
‘Blocks’ to development:
- There are certain factors that could act as impediments in the proposal to develop Little Andaman.
Lack of connectivity:
- Lack of good connectivity with the Indian mainland and global cities.
Fragile biodiversity of the region:
- Fragile biodiversity and natural ecosystems in the islands.
- 95% of Little Andaman is covered in forest, a large part of it the pristine evergreen type. Some 640 sq km of the island is Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act.
Supreme Court notifications:
- Supreme Court notifications pose an impediment to development in environmentally-vulnerable areas.
Impact on the indigenous tribes of the island:
- There is a notable presence of indigenous tribes on the island. Nearly 450 sq km of the island area is protected as the Onge Tribal Reserve.
- The vision suggests the relocation of the tribals to other parts of the island if the need arises. The development process could therefore lead to their displacement and have an impact on their welfare.
- The plan has raised an alarm among conservationists. The regional forest department too has raised serious concerns over the ecological impact of the project considering the ecological fragility of the region.
- The vision needs around 35% of the island land area and the plan suggests de-reserving 32% of the reserved forest and de-notifying 138 sq km or 31% of the tribal reserve.
- The large diversion of forest land would lead to large scale deforestation and would hence have an adverse impact on the various wild animals that inhabit the area.
- More than 2 million trees stand in the forest land sought for these projects.
- The western coast is one of the most important nesting sites of the globally endangered Giant Leatherback sea turtle.
Lack of environmental impact assessment:
- The plan has no inventorisation of forests and ecological wealth and no details of any environment impact assessment. This would handicap the ability to correctly assess the impact of the plan.
- The vision document fails to consider the geological vulnerability of the place, which was amongst the worst-affected in the earthquake-tsunami combination in 2004.
- The island serves as a unique and rare socio-ecological-historical complex of high importance and this needs to be factored in while planning the development of the island.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau busts wildlife trafficking syndicates in Jammu & Kashmir.
About the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau:
- It is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
- It is headquartered in New Delhi with regional, sub-regional offices and border units.
- Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated to:
- Collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities
- Disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals
- Establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank
- Coordinate actions by various agencies in connection with the enforcement of the provisions of the Act
- Assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate coordination and universal action for wildlife crime control
- Capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for a scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes
- Advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws
- It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.
- The GOI notified the Board’s formation in 2007 and it became operational in 2008.
- It was created based on the recommendations of the Committee on “Prevention of Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products” (1994) headed by Dr. S. Subramaniam.
India delivers 2 cranes for Chabahar
- India handed over two 140-tonne cranes for loading and unloading equipment to the Iranian government as part of its bilateral contract between India and Iran signed in May 2016 for $85 million to equip and operationalise the Chabahar port.
- This event, coming amid talks with Iranian authorities, signals a push to the Chabahar port project, which was stalling due to the U.S. sanctions. There were concerns over the downturn of ties between India and Iran.
- The delivery of the cranes shows India’s commitment to the strategic connectivity of Chabahar port project that will provide access to markets in Central Asia.
- India plans to invest further in the port project, given the government’s expectations of some easing up in U.S. sanctions in the upcoming months, once the new Biden administration begins to address its policy on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal.
India’s push on the Chabahar project:
- The MEA delegation’s visit to Iran comes a month after transport officials of India, Iran and Uzbekistan held their first “Trilateral Working Group Meeting” on the joint use of Chabahar Port.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also plans to hold a quadrilateral meeting in Delhi with officials from Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and “another Central Asian countries as observers” to discuss Chabahar connectivity and transit trade opportunities.
Corruption Perception Index 2020
Corruption Perception Index 2020 has been released.
- It is prepared by Transparency International.
What is Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)?
It is a composite index that draws from 12 surveys to rank nations around the globe.
- It has become a benchmark gauge of perceptions of corruption and is used by analysts and investors.
- The index is also based on expert opinions of public sector corruption and takes note of range of factors like whether governmental leaders are held to account or go unpunished for corruption, the perceived prevalence of bribery, and whether public institutions respond to citizens’ needs.
How are the countries ranked?
- It ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people.
- It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
- India slipped six places to 86th position this year.
- India’s score is below the average score of the Asia-Pacific region (31 countries) and global average.
- India’s overall score is also two points less than that of China, which docked at 78th position.
Overall best and worst performers:
- The list was topped by New Zealand and Denmark (88 each).
- South Sudan and Somalia were at the bottom of the global ranking, with scores of 12 each.
Corruption and COVID-19:
The latest edition of CPI highlighted the impact of corruption on government responses to COVID-19, comparing countries’ performance in the index to their investment in health care and the extent to which democratic norms and institutions have been weakened during the pandemic.
Pulse Polio Programme
President of India launches countrywide Pulse Polio Programme for 2021.
- Polio National Immunization Day, observed on 31st January 2021 (Sunday), is also popularly known as Polio Ravivar.
- Around 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops as part of the drive of the Government of India to sustain the polio-free status of the country.
- The countrywide drive will be supported by about 24 lakh volunteers, 1.5 lakh supervisors and many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), WHO, UNICEF, Rotary, etc.
- Healthcare workers will be visiting as many as 2 crore households to ensure that no child is left without the protection of the polio vaccine.
- Before the start of the program, India had 60% caseload of Polio worldwide. With the last case of Polio reported in Howrah on 13th January, 2011, the country has been free of Polio for a decade now.
India International Silk Fair
Union Textiles Minister inaugurates 8th India International Silk Fair on a virtual portal.
About the India International Silk Fair:
- Considered to be India’s biggest silk fair, the India International Silk Fair is the Sourcing Fair for silk and silk blend products organised by the Indian Silk Export Promotion Council under the aegis of the Ministry of Textiles and sponsored by the Department of Commerce.
Indian Silk Export Promotion Council:
- The Indian Silk Export Promotion Council (ISEPC) was set up in 1983 as a company not for profit under the Companies Act duly sponsored by the Government of India in the Ministry of Textiles.
- ISEPC works closely with the Government of India on policy formulation concerning the silk sector and provides specialized services to the entrepreneurs enlarging global business opportunities for the silk industry in India.
- Main activities:
- Explore markets and identify items offering export potential by conducting market surveys.
- Establish contacts with prospective buyers to generate their interest in Indian Silk products.
- Sponsor trade delegation, study teams and sales teams to various markets abroad.
- Organize Buyer Seller Meets for its member exporters.
- Organize Silk fairs and exhibitions in India.
- Participate in trade fairs and exhibitions abroad.
- Resolve trade disputes.
- Launch generic promotion of silk products from India.
- Organize Workshops/Seminars on various trade and policy-related issues.
- ISEPC is based in New Delhi.
- India has a long history of silk production and is the 2nd-largest producer of Silk.
- India is the only country in the world which produces all the four major varieties of silk i.e. Mulberry, Eri, Tassar, and Muga.
- It also has large varieties of products to offer i.e. garments, fabrics and sarees, made-ups, carpets, hi-fashion silk apparels, gift items, scarves, stoles, home furnishing, curtains, etc.
- India has around 11 Geographical Indications (GI) such as Pochampally Ikat, Chanderpaul Silk, Mysore Silk, Kanchipuram Silk, Muga Silk, Salem Silk, Arni Silk, Champa Silk, Bhagalpur Silk, Banaras Brocade and Sarees, etc.
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