Current Affairs Daily Current Affairs 22

20th January,2021 ; Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs   Date : 20th January,2021

 (30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)

Covers 4 Most relevant Sources

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express
  • PIB
    Mint

Index

  • A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
  • National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)(PIB)
  • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) (PIB)
  • B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  • National Mission on use of Biomass in Coal Based Thermal Power Plants (PIB)
  • India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F) Fund (PIB)
  • Gender Champions (IE)
  • One Stop Centre – SAKHI (IE)
  • C) Economic Developments: India and World
  • Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) (Business Standard)
  • D) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  • Swamp Deer (TH, pg 4)

 

A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

  1. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)(PIB)
  • Context:The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved the extension of the tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) for three years beyond 31.3.2022.

Analysis

  • The NCSK was established in the year 1993 as per the provisions of the NCSK Act 1993. The NCSK Act ceased to have effect from 29.2.2004.
  • After that the tenure of the NCSK has been extended as a non-statutory body from time to time through resolutions.
  • The NCSK has been giving its recommendations to the Government regarding specific programmes for welfare of Safai Karamcharis, study and evaluate the existing welfare programmes for Safai Karamcharis, investigate cases of specific grievances etc.
  • Also, as per the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the NCSK has been assigned the work to monitor the implementation of the Act, tender advice for its effective implementation to the Centre and State Governments and enquire into complaints regarding contravention/non-implementation of the provisions of the Act.

 

  1. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) (PIB)
  • Context:The Prime Ministerhas greeted the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team on their Raising Day (19th January).

Analysis

  • NDRF was constituted in 2006 under the Disaster Management Act for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
  • As per National Policy on Disaster Management 2009, the State Governments are also required to raise their own SDRF for quickly responding to disasters.
  • At present, National Disaster Response Force consist of 15 battalionsfrom the BSF, CISF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles.
  • All the 15 battalions have been equipped and trained to respond natural as well as man-made disasters.
  • Battalions are also trained and equipped for response during chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.
  • In the beginning, the personnel of NDRF were deployed for routine law and order duties also but in 2007 it has been made a dedicated force for disaster response related duties.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Locations of NDRF BNs

  • These NDRF battalions are located at 16 different locations in the country based on the vulnerability profile of country and to cut down the response time for their deployment at disaster site.

 

B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

  1. National Mission on use of Biomass in Coal Based Thermal Power Plants (PIB)
  • Context: Union Power Secretary chaired the second meeting of Steering Committee for SAMARTH (Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro Residue in Thermal Power Plants) i.e. National Mission on Use of Biomass in coal based thermal Power Plants.

Analysis

  • Ministry of Power’s policy on “Biomass Utilization for Power Generation through Co-firing in Coal based Power Plants” issued in October 2021 mandates all thermal power plants in the country to use 5 to 10% biomass along with coal for power production.

National Mission on use of Biomass in Coal Based Thermal Power Plants

  • In order to address the issue of air pollution due to farm stubble burning and to reduce carbon footprints of thermal power generation, Ministry of Power has decided to set up a National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants.
  • The “National Mission on use of biomass in thermal power plants” will have the following objectives;
  • (a) To increase the level of co-firing from present 5% to higher levels to have a larger share of carbon neutral power generation from the thermal power plants.
  • (b) To take up R&D activity in boiler design to handle the higher amount of silica, alkalis in the biomass pellets.
  • (c) To facilitate overcoming the constraints in supply chain of bio mass pellets and agro- residue and its transport upto to the power plants.
  • (d) To consider regulatory issues in biomass co-firing.

Economic and Environmental Benefits of Biomass Co-Firing

  • The use of torrified biomass pellets in plants doesn’t require extra capital for infrastructure.
  • It also avoids the risk of loss of generation due to alternate fuel availability.
  • Decreasing Coal Import Bills: India has the 145 Million Tonne (MT) per year surplus biomass available which can substitute the part of the coal import.
  • Reduction of GHG Emissions: Reduction of overall sulphur and nitrogen content by 17 per cent and 3 per cent if coal samples mixed with 5 per cent of biomass pellets.
  • Proven Technology: Several European countries like Finland, Sweden have already adopted the technology in a big way to combat with the rising pollution in the country.
  • Studies have indicated that emissions of CO2, SO2, PM 2.5 and NOX etc could reduce by about 6-14 per cent when 10-15 per cent of coal is replaced with forest residue or agricultural waste. However, this will depend on the type of waste used.
  • Ash generated at co-fired boilers has been reported to change its pozolanic properties, which is important in cement manufacturing.
  • In case, only 5-10 per cent of agro waste is used, it may not make much difference. Minor process modifications may be required in cement and brick making.

Torrefaction

  • Torrefaction is a thermal process to convert biomass into a coal-like material, which has better fuel characteristics than the original biomass.
  • Torrefied biomass is more brittle, making grinding easier and less energy intensive.
  • Compared to fresh biomass, storage of the torrefied material can be substantially simplified since biological degradation and water uptake is minimized.
  • Torrefaction involves the heating of biomass in the absence of oxygen/low oxygen concentrations to a temperature of typically 200 to 400°C.
  • The structure of the biomass changes in such a way, that the material becomes brittle, and more hydrophobic.
  • Due to the substantial weight loss and a relatively smaller loss of calorific content, the heating value of processed biomass per mass unit increases significantly in the process.Main product is the solid, torrefied biomass.
  • During the torrefaction process a combustible gas is released, which is utilised to provide heat to the process.
  • Torrefied biomass has seven immediate benefits over untreated biomass:
  • Higher calorific value
  • More homogeneous product
  • Higher bulk density
  • Excellent grindability
  • Durability
  • Hydrophobic nature/water resistance
  • No biological activity

 

  1. India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F) Fund (PIB)
  • Context:India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F) fund is a cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, and the Israel Innovation Authority, Government of Israel to promote, facilitate and support joint industrial R&D projects between companies from India and Israel to address the challenges in the agreed ‘Focus Sectors’.

Analysis

  • I4F is aimed to promote, facilitate and support joint industrial R&D between India & Israel, which would lead to the co-development and commercialization of innovative technologies benefiting both countries.
  • Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is appointed to implement the I4F program in India, while Israel Innovation Authority is the implementing agency in Israel.
  • Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is a “not–for–profit” Section-8 Public Private Partnership (PPP) company promoted jointly by the Technology Development Board (TDB), Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
  • The Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry had, in 2010, recommended incorporation of a Government’s arm’s length entity under PPP mode to professionally manage the Government’s funds for providing flexibility to industry for undertaking R&D along with global partners.

 

  1. Gender Champions (IE)
  • Context: University Grants Commission (UGC) has written to Vice-Chancellors and principals of educational institutions to implement the guidelines of “gender champions” in all universities and colleges.

Analysis

  • In order to promote gender equality, guaranteed by Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, Government of India envisages engagement of Gender Champions in all schools and colleges across the country.
  • Gender Champions are envisaged as responsible leaders who will facilitate an enabling environment within their schools/colleges/academic institutions where girls are treated with dignity and respect.
  • They are intended to strengthen the potential of young girls and boys to advocate for gender equality and monitor progress towards gender justice.
  • Gender Champions can be any student above 16 years of age enrolled in educational institutions.
  • It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Education.
  • The Head of the Institution is authorized for selection of the Gender Champions.

Do you know?

  • Some major initiatives taken by Government of India for removing the gender gap in all aspect are as follows:
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao ensures the protection, survival and education of the girl child.
  • Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims to empower girls in the age group 11-18 and to improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
  • Working Women Hostel ensures the safety and security for working women.
  • Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is an overarching programme for improving school effectiveness measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes. SSA supports the States and UTs in implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
  • The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has developed syllabus and textbooks across the subjects to promote gender sensitization in the school curriculum.
  • School Health Programme under Ayushman Bharat is an initiative to strengthen the preventive and promotive aspects through health promotion activities. A module on ‘Gender Equality’ has been included under the same to increase awareness and address concerns on the subject.

 

  1. One Stop Centre – SAKHI (IE)
  • Context:Madhya Pradesh government recently approved a scheme to provide monetary assistance to victims of domestic violence who have suffered permanent disability.
  • A victim of domestic violence – be it a married woman or a girl who has suffered permanent disability – can approach the district protection officer or state-run one-stop centre seeking assistance.

Analysis

  • One Stop Centre Scheme (OSCs) is a centrally sponsored scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, for addressing the problem of violence against women(including sexual harassment).
  • The scheme is being implemented across the country since 1st April, 2015 through State Governments/ Union Territory (UT) Administrations to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence and in distress, both in private and public spaces under one roof.
  • The OSC supports all women including girls below 18 years of age affected by violence, irrespective of caste, class, religion, region, sexual orientation or marital status.
  • Its aim is to facilitate immediate, emergency and non-emergency access to a range of services including police, medical, legal aid and counseling, psychological support to fight against any forms of violence against women.
  • It is a sub-scheme of umbrella scheme for National Mission for Empowerment of Women including Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana.
  • This scheme is funded through Nirbhaya Fund and the central government provides 100% financial assistance to the state governments /Union Territories administrations.
  • The Central government has also decided to set up One Stop Centres (OSCs) across various missions abroad to provide assistance to Indian women who are survivors of gender-based violence.

 

C) Economic Developments: India and World

  1. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) (Business Standard)
  • Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sought details of shadow banks’ ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) arrangements with e-commerce (e-com) players.

Analysis

What is BNPL?

  • ‘Buy now, pay later’ arrangements are point-of-sale instalment loans that allow consumers to make purchases and pay for them later within a stipulated interest-free period in three or more instalments.
  • The BNPL provider settles the bill outright with the merchant on the buyer’s behalf.
  • This option is targeted at young, new-to-credit, cash-strapped millennials, many of whom don’t have credit cards.
  • It offers them easy access to credit for small-ticket purchases.
  • A first-time buyer will have to complete KYC formalities on the provider’s platform.
  • BNPL providers use analytics to get insights on buyers’ purchase behaviour and determine their credit-worthiness.

What is the catch?

  • The interest-free window for repayment is the hook for consumers, apart from the relaxed loan eligibility norms compared to other options.
  • If a buyer fails to pay the amount within the defined repayment window, the lender will charge interest on the unpaid amount.
  • Further, any payment delays will be reported to the credit bureau which can adversely impact the buyer’s credit score. This could jack up the cost of future loans or worse, it may prompt lenders to reject any future loan applications.

Is it better than using a credit card?

  • Credit cards already give you the option of delaying your payment for a stipulated time. These charge you interest if you do not repay the amount by the due date.
  • But these differ from BNPL in certain aspects.
  • BNPL can be used only via a partner merchant whereas a credit card can be used with any business that accepts it as a payment mode.
  • Credit cards often come with onboarding costs like joining fees apart from annual recurring fees.
  • BNPL facility does not carry any such costs, but a few non-bank lenders charge a small processing fee.
  • Credit cards typically charge much higher interest rate than BNPL schemes.
    But BNPL has certain shortcomings compared to credit cards. The credit limit under BNPL is usually much lower than what is offered by credit cards.
  • While credit cards allow interest-free period of up to 45 days, some BNPL options permit a smaller repayment window of 15 to 30 days.
  • Further, usage of credit cards fetches rewards in the form of cashbacks, discounts, air miles, among other things. With BNPL, you will not have the chance to earn rewards.

D) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Swamp Deer (TH, pg 4)
  • Context: The population of the vulnerable eastern swamp deer, extinct elsewhere in South Asia, has dipped in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
  • Officials attributed the decrease to two high floods in 2019 and 2020. On the brighter side, they said the animal is now distributed to areas beyond the park known as the world’s best address of the one-horned rhinoceros.

Analysis

  • Swamp Deer or Barasingha is a species of deer that has 12, or more than 12 tined set of antlers.
  • Swamp deer is also known as dolhorina; (dol meaning swamp, horina meaning deer) in Assamese and in Central India, it is called goinjak or gaoni.
  • The Barasingha was previously seen across most of North and central India in areas of moist forest and swampland. With the destructions of its habitat, the Barasingha is now seen in isolated protected forests in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The Barasingha has a dense brown coat that keeps it warm and dry in its moist habitat. The coat of the male Barasingha becomes darker in color during the mating season.
  • Habitat: The Barasingha prefers tall grass and reed beds near rivers. Marshes or swampland is a Barasingha’s preferred territory. The Barasingha is found in forested areas in the Gangetic and Brahmaputra basins in India.
  • Diet: Barasingha are herbivores. They feed mainly on grass and leaves. The wetland subspecies of Barasingha also eats aquatic plants. They make several trips in a day to water holes or riverbanks to drink.
  • Region: Barasingha in the wild can be found in the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh in North India, the Kanha and Indravati National Parks in Madhya Pradesh in Central India and Kaziranga and Manas National Parks in Assam in North East India. 
  • Barasingha are now extinct in both Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
  • It is estimated that there are less than 5000 Barasingha worldwide. There are three sub species of Barasingha found in India.
  • 1) Wetland Barasingha
  • 2) Hard-ground Barasingha
  • 3) Eastern Barasingha

Eastern Barasingha from Kaziranga National Park

  • Eastern Barasingha, the smallest of Barasinghas has smaller tail and antlers compared to other sub-species. swamp deer. They have a slender face with small and pointed ears.
  • Hard-ground Barasingha is larger than Eastern Barasingha, but smaller than Wetland Barasingha. It has longer set of antlers, darker fur coat and a prominent neck ruff. Dry grassland bordered by Sal forest are home to the Hard-ground Barasingha.
  • Kanha Tiger Reserve is the only place in the wild where Hard-ground Barasingha can be found today.

Threat: The Barasingha is a vulnerable species. The destruction of their habitat due to deforestation, the draining of swamps and marshes for farming, poaching for its horns and diseases transmitted by domestic cattle.