Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs | 02-06-2022

  • QUESTIONING THE SAFETY OF AADHAR
  • GDP GROWTH AT 22-YR HIGH
  • MILITANCY IN KASHMIR
  • ISRAEL, UAE SIGN FREE TRADE DEAL, FIRST WITH AN ARAB COUNTRY
  • GST REVENUE
  • CASTE-BASED CENSUS IN BIHAR
  • GOVERNMENT-E-MARKETPLACE (GEM)
  • CENTRAL RESERVE POLICE FORCE (CRPF)
  • NRI MARRIAGES
  • MID-AIR REFUELLING
  • GIG ECONOMY
  • HIGH MOBILITY ARTILLERY ROCKET SYSTEM (HIMARS)
  • COLOUR OF URANUS AND NEPTUNE

QUESTIONING THE SAFETY OF AADHAR

  • The Unique Identification Development Authority of India (UIDAI) recently withdrew the notification which directed people to exercise “normal prudence” in sharing their Aadhaar numbers and refrain from sharing photocopies of their Aadhaar Card.
  • In July 2018, Telecom Regulatory of India’s Chairman tweeted his Aadhaar number challenging users to “cause him any harm”. In response, users dug up his mobile number, PAN number, photographs, residential address and date of birth.
  • UIDAI dismissed assertions of any data leak, arguing that most of the data was publicly available. It did however caution users from publicly sharing their Aadhaar numbers.

ABOUT UIDAI ADVISORY

  • Masked Aadhar card: The withdrawn notice had suggested holders use a masked Aadhaar card instead of the conventional photocopy. ‘Masked Aadhaar’ veils the first eight digits of the twelve­digit ID with ‘XXXX’ characters.
  • Download: The document must not be downloaded from a cybercafé or public computer and if done for some reason, must be permanently deleted from the system. ‘Masked Aadhaar’ veils the first eight digits of the twelve­digit ID with ‘XXXX’ characters.
  • Collect Aadhar: The notice informed that only entities possessing a ‘User Licence’ are permitted to seek Aadhaar for authentication purposes. Private entities like hotels or film halls cannot collect or keep copies of the identification document.

ABOUT  THE LAW SAY

  • Legislation: The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 makes it clear that Aadhaar authentication is necessary for availing subsidies, benefits and services that are financed from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Definiton: Aadhaar has been described as a preferred KYC (Know Your Customer) document but not mandatory for opening bank accounts, acquiring a new SIM or school admissions.
  • Consent: The requesting entity obtains the consent of the individual before collecting his/her identity and ensure that the information is only used for authentication purposes on the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). This centralised database contains all Aadhaar numbers and holder’s corresponding demographic and biometric information.
  • Confidentiality: Additionally, the Aadhaar Act forbids sharing Core Biometric Information (such as finger print, iris scan, among other biometric attributes) for any purpose other than Aadhaar number generation and authentication.
  • Publicity : Also, no Aadhaar number (or enclosed personal information) collected from the holder can be published, displayed or posted publicly.
  • Disclosure: Identity information or authentication records would only be liable to be produced pursuant to an order of the High Court or Supreme Court, or by someone of the Secretary rank or above in the interest of national security.
  • Alternative: In the absence of Aadhaar, the individual is to be offered an alternate and viable means of identification to ensure she/he is not deprived of the same.

IDENTITY THEFT BY AADHAR

  • Fraud statistics: As per the National Payment Corporation of India’s (NCPI) data, Rs6.48 crore worth of financial frauds through 8,739 transactions involving 2,391 unique users took place in FY 2021­-22.In 2017, UIDAI in response to an RTI stated that more than 200 central and State government websites publicly displayed details of some Aadhaar beneficiaries such as their names and addresses.
  • Lack of robust encryption: The NPCI’s Aadhaar Payments Bridge(APB) and the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) facilitate direct benefit transfer (DBT) and allow individuals to use Aadhaar for payments.
    • Both APB and AEPS were made possible by the lack of robust encryption. This data could be potentially used to fraudulently link the rightful beneficiary’s Aadhaar with a distinct bank account, embezzling the beneficiary by impersonation, made possible by the sizeable identity documents available.
  • Bulk leakage: According to researchers at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), brokers are known to buy tonnes of Aadhaar documents from mobile shops and other places where the identification document is shared.
  • Privacy in availing service: Moreover, employees of service providers were caught stealing biometric information collected solely for Aadhaar authentication.

CONSEQUENCES OF BIOMETRICS LEAKAGE

  • UIDAI’s claim:The UIDAI maintains that merely knowing the bank account number would not be enough to withdraw money from the bank, stating that the individual’s fingerprint, iris data or OTP to a registered mobile number would be required.
  • Stealing biometrics:A far­stretch means for acquiring biometrics would involve collecting fingerprints from varied places that an individual might touch unknowingly in a certain space (such as a railing of a staircase) with iris data being acquired from high­resolution cameras.
  • Linking phone number:As for mobile verification, phone users in India are known to carry two or more phone numbers at one time. There could be a possibility that the number linked to the Aadhaar is not prominently used.
  • Financial fraud:Fraudsters could use this as an opportunity to link their phone numbers instead, update it in the bank using the available information (of the individual) and deprive them of benefits of embezzle funds.

 PROBLEMS FACED BY UIDAI

  • The Aadhaar Data Vault is where all numbers collected by authentication agencies are centrally stored. Its objective is to provide a dedicated facility for the agencies to access details only on a need­to­know basis.
  • Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) latest report stipulated that UIDAI neither specified any encryption algorithm (as of October 2020) to secure the same nor a mechanism to illustrate that the entities were adhering to appropriate procedures.
  • Further, UIDAI’s unstable record with biometric authentication has not helped it with de­duplication efforts, the process that ensures that each Aadhaar Number generated is unique
  • As per CAG report, apart from the issue of multiple Aadhaars to the same resident, there have been instances of the same biometric data being accorded to multiple residents.
  • Biometric authentications can be a cause of worry, especially for disabled and senior citizens with both the iris and fingerprints dilapidating.
  • As per UIDAI’s Tech Centre, nearly 4.75 lakh duplicate Aadhaar numbers were cancelled as of November 2019 using Automated Biometric Identification Systems. However, CAG concluded it was “not effective enough” in detecting the leakages and plugging them.

KEEPING AADHAR DATA SAFE

While a regular user cannot control data breaches, there are some steps to ensure that one’s Aadhaar card number is not used by anyone else:

  • Two-factor authentication:It is imperative that Aadhaar is linked to person’s primary mobile number and email ID where UIDAI will send the one-time password (OTP) if someone tries to access your Aadhaar account or using it for any verification.
  • Also if mobile phone number is changed, going to an Aadhaar enrolment centre for updation is advisable.
  • Masked Aadhaar copy:A download of ‘Masked Aadhaar’ copy from the official UIDAI website instead of your full Aadhaar id is prudent.
  • Locking biometrics:In case of concern regarding misuse of Aadhaar biometric data, it can also be locked from the UIDAI website. However, OTP-based authentication would continue to be imperative.
  • Use VID:The Virtual Identity, or VID, is a system of “Limited KYC” (Know Your Customer). This hides the Aadhaar number from the authenticating agency, while still confirming the identity of the user. This is a 16-digit number, but temporary in nature. So, unlike the permanent 12-digit Aadhaar number, the VID is valid only for some time.
    • The old VID expires when a new one is generated, and only one valid VID number can be there against a particular Aadhaar number at any given point in time.
    • The VID can be generated from the Aadhaar resident portal or the mAdhaar app on iOS and Android.

CONCLUSION

  • Since the inception of the UID project, institutions and organisations have endowed greater focus on linking their databases with Aadhaar numbers, including for bank accounts especially in light of the compulsory linkage for direct benefit transfer schemes. Thus an assured, robust and efficient authentication technology is needed to gain confidence of citizenry.

 

GDP GROWTH AT 22-YR HIGH

  • According to the provisional estimates released recently by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) for financial year 2021-22 expanded to 8.7%, highest in 22 years in terms of back series data.
  • The data also showed that the Gross Value Added (GVA) – another measure of national income, grew by 8.1% in FY22.
  • Buoyant tax collections and higher nominal GDP growth (including inflation) assisted the Centre in keeping its fiscal deficit at 6.7% of GDP, compared to the 6.9% target for 2021-22.

 ABOUT GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP)

  • It is defined as the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. In other words, it measures the value of total output in the economy by tracking the total demand.

SUB-COMPONENTS OF GDP (GDP = C + I + G + NX)

  • Consumption (C):The biggest engine (56% of all GDP) is consumption demand from private individuals, technically known as Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE).
  • Investment (I): The second-biggest engine (32%) is the investment demand generated by private sector businesses, also known as Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF).
  • Government (G):The third engine (11%) is the demand for goods and services generated by the government (G) and is known as the Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE).
  • Net Exports (NX):This is calculated by subtracting the demand for foreign goods by Indians (Indian imports) from the demand for Indian goods and services by foreigners (Indian exports).

NOMINAL VS REAL GDP

  • Nominal GDP (GDP calculated using current market prices) is the actual observed variable. However, Real GDP (GDP calculated using constant 2011-12 prices, after taking away the effect of inflation) is a derived metric.
    • Real GDP = Nominal GDP – Inflation Rate.Inflation is the rate at which the value of a currency is falling and consequently the general level of prices for goods and services is rising.
  • From the Budget-making perspective, it is important to note what has happened to nominal GDP (both absolute level and its growth rate). However, from the perspective of the common people, real GDP is what matters.

GROSS VALUE ADDED (GVA)

  • It examines the amount of value added (in monetary terms) in various productive areas of the economy. As a result, it tracks the total output in the economy by looking at the total supply.

 

GDP VS GVA

  • GDP = (GVA) + (Taxes earned by the government) – (Subsidies provided by the government). The difference between these two absolute figures will reveal the government’s role in the process. For example,
  • GDP > GVA, if the government generated more money from taxes than it spent on subsidies.
  • GVA > GDP, if the government gave subsidies in excess of its tax collections.

FISCAL DEFICIT

  • A fiscal deficit is a shortfall in a government’s income compared with its spending. It is essentially a marker of thehealth of government finances and tracks the amount of money that a government has to borrow from the market to meet its expenses.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

  • Recovery is neither uniform nor broad-based:It is a relief that India’s economy has surpassed pre-Covid levels (at least on aggregate measures). This recovery, however, is neither uniform nor widespread.
  • “K-shaped” recovery or growing inequality in the economy:Though both GDP (national income) and PFCE (expenditure) have crossed the pre-Covid level, the average Indian hasn’t yet recovered.
  • Growing uncertainties: Geopolitical uncertainties, rising crude oil prices and inflation, tightening of monetary conditions (higher interest rates) etc. are likely to rein in growth prospects in the current (FY23) and the coming (FY24) fiscals.

Pre-Covid growth trajectory can’t be achieved soon: Returning to the pre-Covid trajectory, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), will take India until 2034-35, assuming an annual economic growth rate of 7.5%.

 

MILITANCY IN KASHMIR

RECENT RISE IN INDIVIDUAL KILLINGS IN KASHMIR:

  • The killing of Rajni Bala is the another targeted militant attack in the Kashmir valley this month after a Kashmiri Pandit government employee, a TV artist, and a wine-shop staffer were gunned down by suspected militants in separate incidents.
  • The latest killing reignited protests by the Kashmiri Hindu community, demanding protection and relocation.
  • The episodes of targeted killings spiked after February 2021, when the son of the proprietor of Krishna Dhaba in Srinagar was shot inside his restaurant.

REASONS BEHIND INCREASED TARGETED KILLINGS

  • The Police has attributed the rise in targeted killings to “killing of huge number of terrorists of all outfits, especially their leaderships, destruction of their support structures and continuous and effective maintenance of law and order”.
  • Police said militants had become “frustrated” and changed their strategy to target unarmed policemen, innocent civilians, politicians, and “now innocent civilians from minority communities, including women”.

 

  • Additionally, they said, “these acts are committed by newly recruited terrorists or those who are about to join terrorist ranks. In some cases, overground workers (OGWs) have been found directly involved.”

IMPACT OF ABROGATION OF ARTICLE 370

  • On August 5, 2019, Articles 370and Article 35(A) were nullified that gave the erstwhile state its special status and the mandate to define its domicile rules.
  • Prior to the revocation of Article 370, most militant groups frequently distributed anti-India propaganda to radicalize and recruit new members and called their supporters to orchestrate demonstrations and disrupt counter-terrorism efforts.
  • The withdrawal of Kashmir’s special status has triggered a new phase of militancy through the emergence of homegrown militant outfits and local recruitments.
  • Meanwhile, the number of foreigners affiliated to militant outfits in the region has decreased — from 77% in 2016, to 60% in 2017, 45% in 2018, 19% in 2019, and 15% in 2020.
  • New militant groups have emerged, including United Liberation Front of Kashmir (ULFK), The Resistance Force (TRF), Kashmir Tigers, and People’s Anti-Fascist Force (PAFF).

EMERGENCE OF “HYBRID MILITANCY”:

  • The targeted killings of civilians in October 2021 have given way to the use of a new term, “hybrid militancy.”
  • A hybrid militant is an unlisted member of a militant group who receives training in small weapons with the objective of carrying out targeted killings.
  • After carrying out the targeted killing, the militant resumes his day-to-day activity instead of returning underground like his full-time counterparts.
  • This type of militancy poses challenges for security forces, as hybrid militants are especially difficult to identify.

CONCLUSION

  • History has indicated that relative stability and peace is usually short-lived and temporary in the Kashmir valley.
  • Minor incidents can trigger mass protests despite the risk of a heavy crackdown by security forces.
  • Kashmiris are likely to continue prioritizing their political ambitions over socio-economic incentives and promises of good governance.
  • Peacebuilding, education, and social cohesion campaigns are unlikely to be regarded as goodwill gestures.

Social media warfare is also likely to continue as militant groups leverage these platforms to spread their propaganda and exploit local grievances.

ISRAEL, UAE SIGN FREE TRADE DEAL, FIRST WITH AN ARAB COUNTRY

  • Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free trade agreement, the first of its kind that Israel has concluded with an Arab country.
  • Aimed at boosting trade between the two Middle Eastern nations, Israel has signed a free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
  • This is Israel’s first big trade accord with an Arab state.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The trade agreement defined tax rates, imports and intellectual property.This would encourage more Israeli companies to set up offices in the UAE, particularly in Dubai.
  • This deal would remove tariffs on 96% of goods, including food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine.
  • Experts predict the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, as the accord is known, would boost bilateral trade to more than $10bn a year within five years.

ABOUT ISRAEL-UAE PEACE DEAL

  • In September 2020, the UAE and Israel have signed an agreement to normalise their relationship.
  • The deal, known as Abraham Accord, was brokered by the United States of America.After Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan’s in 1994, this makes the UAE only the third Arab country to normalise relations with Israel.

 HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DEAL

  • The deal promises to establish normal relations between the two countries.This includes business relations, tourism, direct flights, scientific cooperation, and, in time, full diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level.
  • An important component of the deal is enhanced security cooperation against regional threats, especially from Iran and its proxies.
  • Israel, on its part, has agreed to suspend declaring sovereignty over territories it occupies in the West Bank.It was highlighted in the Joint Statement released after the signing of peace deal.

REASONS BEHIND THIS DEAL

Iran Factor

  • Israel insists that concerns emanating from the Iranian nuclear programmeare an existential threat for the country.
  • On the other hand, the UAE has long accused Iran of playing the sectarian cardto destabilise the Gulf Arab states.
  • The UAE and Iran also have a long-standing territorial dispute, with Iran’s occupation of the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa a sore issue.
  • These islands were occupied by the Shah of Iran in November 1971, just two days prior to the UAE gaining independence from Britain.

Islamism or political Islam

  • It is a transnational concept often backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Certain Gulf Arab rulers view Islamism as an existential threat to their dynastic monarchies.
  • This has led to the formation of an unofficial partnership of conservative Middle Eastern governments.
  • Israel, with its formidable intelligence capabilities, is now being admitted in this unofficial partnership as an associate member.

Ambitions of UAE

  • UAE has ambitions globally, and beyond. It has just become the first Arab country to send a mission to Mars.
  • Israel is by far the most technologically advanced country in the Middle East, with cutting-edge inventions.
  • If this alliance works out it could propel the UAE to a new level of prosperity and international prestige

SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEAL FOR INDIA

  • This deal provides India an unexpected opportunity to play a bigger role in a region which is its strategic backyard.
    • India already enjoys a very good relationship with UAE and Israel.
  • Keeping this in mind, India should ramp up defence and security relations with UAE.
    • Israel is already a very close defence partner.
    • India should restart joint exercises with UAE, and even Saudi Arabia.
  • India can also use its good relationship to ensure that any future deal on a regional security framework gives adequate space to Iran.
  • Recently, China has indicated its willingness to play a larger role in this region, and is close to both UAE and Israel and, increasingly, Saudi Arabia.
  • India should make its moves before this market and this extended neighbourhood come under the Chinese sphere of influence.

BACKGROUND

  • The UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel in a U.S.-brokered deal in 2020, the so-called Abraham Accords that Israel eventually concluded with four Arab nations.
  • Since then, the two countries have boosted cooperation in a number of economic sectors.In December 2021, Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, made the first official visit to the United Arab Emirates.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS FTA

Strengthening of relationship while creating opportunities

  • The free trade zone agreement is expected to strengthen bilateral trade, to break down obstacles and to advance new economic opportunities.

Towards a shared path

  • This agreement will strengthen the common belief that the only way to build durable and sustainable economies in the complex world is together.
  • This agreement once again proves that cooperation and dialogue are the best way to transform challenges to opportunities.
  • This agreement represents something larger than business: the importance of building significant partnerships.

Significant for UAE

  • The UAE is the second largest economy in the Arab world, with market imports worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Significant weight is placed on technology products and advanced solutions, where Israel holds a relative advantage.

 

GST REVENUE

  • Gross Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenues in May 2022 rose 44% from a year earlier to Rs1,40,885 crore, with receipts from domestic transactions and services imports rising at a matching pace, while goods imports yielded 43% higher taxes.
  • This is only the fourth time the monthly GST collection crossed Rs1.4 lakh crore mark since the inception of GST and the third month at a stretch since March 2022.
  • Revenue growth from domestic transactions, including imports of services, outpaced revenues from goods imports
  • Of the total revenue in May, Central GST collections were Rs25,036 crore, State GST Rs32,001 crore, and Integrated GST Rs73,345 crore, which included Rs37,469 crore from import of goods.
  • GST Compensation Cess inflows, used to recompense States, amounted to Rs10,502 crore, including Rs931 crore from goods import.
  • Revenue growth was buoyant across most States. As many as 20 States and Union Territories saw revenues rise faster than the 44% national average, including the major industrial States of Karnataka (60%), Maharashtra (50%) and Gujarat (46%).

 

CASTE-BASED CENSUS IN BIHAR

  • A multi-party meeting held in Bihar unanimously decided to start the caste-based census very soon after the proposal is placed in the Cabinet.
  • All parties which have representation in the legislature attended the meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
  • It would be a “time-bound exercise and each and every detail of caste, sub-castes, community and religion will be taken care of for the development of all people”.
  • Earlier, the Bihar Legislature passed resolutions twice for caste-based census and an 11-member all-party delegation too had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand the exercise.
  • However, the Central government had rejected their demand saying it would be a “divisive exercise” but said “States can hold caste census on their own”.
  • Once this exercise will be over in Bihar, the other States too may follow suit and the whole nation will be covered”, the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, said.

ABOUT CASTE-BASED CENSUS

CASTE CENSUS IN COLONIAL TIME

  • The First Census conducted in 1871 included questions about caste.
  • This data was then used to divide and conquer India.
  • It first privileged Brahminsas interpreters of Indian culture and then targeted them as the root of caste-based oppression and inequality.
  • This classification was also a source of anti-Brahmin movementsof 20th century

ABOUT CENSUS POST-INDEPENDENCE

  • Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes.
  • Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste. However, in 1941, caste-based data was collected but not published.
  • Hence, in the absence of such a census, there is no proper estimate for the population of OBCs.
  • The Mandal Commission estimated the OBC population at 52%. Some other estimates have been based on National Sample Survey data.

ABOUT SOCIO-ECONOMIC CASTE CENSUS(SECC)

  • The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) was conducted in 2011. It was the largest exercise of the listing of castes and has the potential of finding inequalities at a broader level.
  • Socio-Economic Caste Census(SECC) was conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development in rural areas and the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation in urban areas.
  • The SECC data excluded caste data and was published by the two ministries in 2016.
  • The raw caste data was handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,
  • The ministry formed an Expert Group under former NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Arvind Pangaria for the classification and categorisation of data.
  • However, only the details of the economic conditions of the peoplein rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR CONDUCTING CASTE CENSUS

Rationalise reservation:

  • Many have argued that an SECC would be the best way to rationalise reservationbased on data and make a strong case for breaching India’s reservation cap.For example, The census of 2011 had 19,569 entries on languages. These entries were then rationalized into 1369 mother tongues. These were then classified into 22 scheduled and 99 non-scheduled languages. So, the collection of caste data will lead rationalise reservation.
  • Since job and education quotas are based on caste, this will help in evidence-based policymaking. The current policies are based on the last caste census, which was conducted in 1931.
  • Further, this census can help the government in identifying the most benefited section and reduce their sharein the overall reservation to provide an opportunity to others.
  • Also, Most estimates show the OBC population to be above 40%. This is much greater than the current reservation, which stands at 27%. The caste census will provide the exact proportion of OBC population.

A caste census would actually bring forward the large number of issues that any democratic country needs to pay attention to. For instance, this census will reveal information regarding caste-based marginalisation, deprivation, the kind of jobs pursued by a caste, etc.

  • Caste census will give authentic information regarding the socio-economic condition and education status of various castes.

Better targeting of Government welfare schemes:

The courts in India have often emphatically said that it is important to have adequate data regarding the reservation. So, the caste census is nothing but the collection of data that is necessary for any democratic policymaking.

Break the myths associated with castes:

The caste census will reveal the actual data on castes and remove ambiguities associated with the caste. For instance,

  • In Karnataka, there were claims that among the castes, the Lingayats are the most numerous. So the census can reveal the true information on that.

Recommendation from the Sachar committee:

Sachar committee was formed to examine the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. In its report, the committee mentioned that the availability of data on religion was useful in highlighting the relative deprivation of minorities. So, similar data on caste is also desirable to identify vulnerable sections within castes.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST CONDUCTING CASTE CENSUS

  • Reservation is going to cater only to a small proportion of those who are entitled to it. Further, there is also some debate that the reservation policy in India invariably led to the growth of elites among castes and communities. So, the caste census along with reservation might favour elites among castes.
  • There is a possibility that caste-based reservations will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas. For instance, Patels, Gujjars, Jats and other castes are demanding reservations. The caste census might induce more such demands in future.
  • The caste census will give rise to caste division. : As India seek to eliminate and weaken the notion of caste, a caste census would only strengthen it.
  • Some sections of people believe that Caste is a very important source of privilege and advantage in our country. On the other hand, some sections of people feel disadvantaged by revealing caste-based information. So, the naming and counting of caste is a difficult thing in India. For instance, the same caste is spelt in different ways in different states.

 

GOVERNMENT-E-MARKETPLACE (GEM)

  • The Union Cabinet cleared a proposal allowing cooperatives to sell products on the Government-e-Marketplace (GeM) platform in a transparent manner.
  • The move will benefit 27 crore people associated with 8.5 lakh cooperatives. The micro and medium small industries will get buyers and it will boost the prospects of “Vocal for local” and Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
  • The cooperatives may, however, be charged a transaction fee to cover the incremental costs.
  • The validated list of cooperatives to be onboarded on the GeM — for pilot as well as subsequent scale-up — will be decided by the Ministry of Cooperation in consultation with the GeM SPV [Special Purpose Vehicle].

ABOUT GOVERNMENT E-MARKETPLACE

  • GeM is an online platform for public procurement in India by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • The initiative was launched on August 9, 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with the objective to create an open and transparent procurement platform for government buyers.
  • It is owned by GeM SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) which is a 100 per cent Government-owned, non-profit company under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries
  • GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance.

ADVANTAGES FOR BUYERS

  • Offers rich listing of products for individual categories of Goods/Services
  • Makes available search, compare, select and buy facility
  • Enables buying Goods and Services online, as and when required.
  • Provides transparency and ease of buying
  • Ensures continuous vendor rating system
  • Up-to-date user-friendly dashboard for buying, monitoring supplies and payments
  • Provision of easy return policy

ADVANTAGES FOR SELLERS

  • Direct access to all Government departments.
  • One-stop shop for marketing with minimal efforts
  • One-stop shop for bids / reverse auction on products / services
  • New Product Suggestion facility available to Sellers
  • Dynamic pricing: Price can be changed based on market conditions
  • Seller friendly dashboard for selling, and monitoring of supplies and payments
  • Consistent and uniform purchase procedures

 

CENTRAL RESERVE POLICE FORCE (CRPF)

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to relax the educational qualification for tribal youth from the 3 districts of Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada in Chattisgarh for recruitment as constables in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
  • Minimum educational qualification will be relaxed from Class 10 to Class 8 for the recruitment of 400 candidates from the districts. CRPF would impart formal education during the probation period to these newly recruited trainees.
  • CRPF during 2016-2017 had raised one Bastariya Battalion by recruiting Scheduled Tribe candidates from four districts namely, Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Sukma of Chhattisgarh.
  • However, it could not yield optimum results as native youths from interior areas could not compete in the recruitment process due to non- fulfilling of requisite educational qualification i.e. 10th pass.

ABOUT CENTRAL RESERVE POLICE FORCE (CRPF)

  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is one of the premier Central Armed Police Forces of India (under the Ministry of Home Affairs)for internal security. The other Central Armed Police Forces are as follow:
    • Assam Rifles (AR):The Assam Rifles came into being in 1835, as a militia called the ‘Cachar Levy’.
    • Border Security Force (BSF):Responsible for guarding India’s land borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
    • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF):Provides security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments.
    • Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP):ITBP is a specialized mountain force and most of the officers and men are professionally trained mountaineers and skiers.
    • National Security Guard (NSG):The National Security Guard (NSG) is a counter terrorism unit which was raised in 1984, following Operation Blue Star.
    • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB):Earlier Special Service Bureau was raised in 1960s with the sole objective of achieving ‘Total security preparedness’ in the remote border areas for performing a ‘stay-behind’ role in the event of a war.
  • History:Originally constituted as the Crown Representative Police in 1939, it is one of the oldest Central paramilitary forces. After Independence, the force was renamed as Central Reserve Police Force by an Act of Parliament on December 28, 1949.
  • Mission:To enable the government to maintain Rule of Law, Public Order and Internal Security effectively and efficiently, to Preserve National Integrity and Promote Social Harmony and Development by upholding supremacy of the Constitution.
  • Important Role:The force played a significant role during the amalgamation of the princely States into the Indian Union. It helped the Union Government in disciplining the rebellious princely States of Junagarh and the small principality of Kathiawar in Gujarat which had declined to join the Indian Union.
  • Duties performed by the CRPF include:
    • Crowd/ Riot control
    • Counter Militancy/Insurgency operations
    • Dealing with Left Wing Extremism
    • Protection of VIPs and vital installations
    • Checking environmental degradation and protection of local Flora and Fauna
    • Fighting aggression during War time
    • Participating in UN Peacekeeping Mission
    • Rescue and Relief operations at the time of Natural Calamitiesp

 

NRI MARRIAGES

  • The National Commission for Women (NCW) has recommended a national helpline for women deserted in Non-Resident Indian (NRI) marriages and the need for a dedicated fund to provide assistance to them.
  • It also discussed ways to serve a non-bailable warrant against a male offender residing abroad who has abandoned his wife. Often, these men keep changing their address and it gets challenging to track them.
  • So, it suggested that a special website be set up, so that summons posted there are deemed as served on a person. Another way to track them would be through their social security number.
  • Other matters discussed were ex-parte judgments on divorce obtained by husbands abroad, which are already addressed under Section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code that deals with conditions under which foreign judgments are not conclusive, he said.
  • The consultation did not, however, discuss whether India should sign the Hague Convention, which requires that if a parent has run away with a child from one country to another due to a marital dispute, the child has to be returned to the country from where he or she has been removed.

ABOUT OVERSEAS INDIANS 

  • Overseas Indians, officially known as Non-resident Indians (NRIs) or Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), are people of Indian birth, descent or origin who live outside the Republic of India:

 Non-Resident Indian (NRI)

  • Strictly asserting non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Act.
  • The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.

 Person of Indian Origin (PIO)

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) means a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and/or Nepal), who:

  • at any time held an Indian passport OR
  • either of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resident in India as defined in GoI Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries OR
  • is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.

 Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • After multiple efforts by leaders across the Indian political spectrum, a pseudo-citizenship scheme was established, the “Overseas Citizenship of India”, commonly referred to as the OCI card.
  • The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship.
  • The OCI card is effectively a long-term visa, with restrictions on voting rights and government jobs.

 

MID-AIR REFUELLING

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, (HAL) will convert six Boeing-767 civilian aircraft into mid-air refuellers for the Indian Air Force (IAF), for which it had entered into an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in April.
  • The IAI has expertise in undertaking such conversion. The overall process is expected to take at least three or four years. The IAF has been looking to procure mid-air refuellers for some time.
  • Mid-air refuelling significantly enhances the range and payload of fighter jets.
  • It also allows aircraft to stay in the air much beyond their normal limits allowing better exploitation of the platform’s capabilities.

GIG ECONOMY

  • Concerned at the lack of job and social security among gig and platform workers, the Centre has decided to train officials of the Union and State governments on technological change, new forms of employment, working conditions and mechanisms to protect labour and social security rights of these workers.

ABOUT GIG ECONOMY

  • In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.
  • A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career. e.g Employee models of Uber, Ola, Swiggy etc
  • In this economy, tech-enabled platforms connect the consumer to the gig worker to hire services on a short-term basis.
  • Gig workers include self-employed, freelancers, independent contributors and part-time workers.
  • Sectors such as media, real estate, legal, hospitality, technology-help, management, medicine, allied and education are already operating in gig culture.
  • The gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and demand for flexible lifestyles.

KEY DRIVERS FOR GIG ECONOMY

  • Unconventional work approach by millennials: Hectic lifestyles of employees in private sectors have created a negative perception of full-time employment among millennials.
  • Emergence of a start-up culture: The start-up ecosystem in India has been developing rapidly. For start-ups, hiring full-time employees leads to high fixed costs and therefore, contractual freelancers are hired for non-core activities.
  • MNCs are hiring contractual employees: MNCs are adopting flexi-hiring options, especially for niche projects, to reduce operational expenses after the pandemic.
  • Rise in freelancing platforms: Rise in freelancing platforms has also aided in the development of the gig economy.
  • Business Models: Gig employees work on various compensation models such as fixed-fee (decided during contract initiation), time & effort, actual unit of work delivered and quality of outcome.
  • Impact of Covid-19:Many laid-off employees are focusing on developing skills to avail freelance job opportunities and become a part of this burgeoning economy.

WHY IS GIG ECONOMY PREFERRED BY WORKERS

  • Profit through multiple work:One can work on freelancing as well as work full-time somewhere else.
  • Women empowerment:It is very beneficial for womenwho work on this concept when they cannot continue their work or take a break from career due to marriage or child birth.
  • Leisure and dependency:Retired peoplecan stay active after retirement as this will keep them engaged away from loneliness and depression and can earn as well on their own.
  • Flexibility and diversity to the workers:It offers flexibility when workers can work according to their convenience and schedule rather than routine like in full-time jobs.
  • Work from home:The travel costs and energy to travel to the workplace is reduced.

WHY IS GIG ECONOMY PREFERRED BY EMPLOYERS

  • Efficiency, efficacy and productivity of workers in the gig economy are much more than that of a stable full-time job.
  • More rconomical for employers-when employment givers can’t afford to hire full-time workers, they hire people for specific projects and pay them.
  • Start-up companies and entrepreneurs – who do not have big financial space– can grow only if they can leverage the services of contract employees or freelancers.
  • In a gig economy, businesses save resourcesin terms of benefits, office space and training.
  • Competition and efficiencyamong workers is improved.

CHALLENGES FACED

  • No perks and benefits:There are no labour welfare emoluments like pension, gratuity, etc. for the workers.
  • Job insecurity:Gig workers may face unfair termination. They may also attain minimum wages and less paid leave.
  • No legal protection:Workers do not have the bargaining power to negotiate a fair deal with their employers.
  • Unionizationof workers will be difficult.
  • Confidentialityof documents etc. of the workplace is not guaranteed
  • Urban nature:The gig economy is not accessible for people in many rural areas where internet connectivity and electricity is unavailable.

HIGH MOBILITY ARTILLERY ROCKET SYSTEM (HIMARS)

  • The new weapon is the Himars multiple launch rocket system, or MLRS: a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles.
  • The M142 Himars system (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is a modernised, lighter and more agile wheel-mounted version of the track-mounted M270 MLRS developed in the 1970s for US and allied forces.The US military already has Himars units in Europe; and Nato allies Poland and Romania have acquired the systems.
  • The new weapon is the Himars multiple launch rocket system, or MLRS: a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles.Both Ukraine and Russia already operate MLRS, but Himars has superior range and precision.
  • Himars units carry one preloaded pod of six 227mm guided missiles (the M270 carries two pods), or one large pod loaded with an Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) tactical missile. The US will not supply Ukraine with the ATACMS, which has a range of 300km.
  • The Himars that Washington is providing to Ukraine will have a range of about 50 miles (80km).

SPECIFICATION

  • With a small crew, the Himars can remove a spent pod and load a fresh one in minutes, without other vehicles helping. The crews will require some training.

ADVANTAGES FOR UKRAINE

  • Himars will give Ukraine’s forces the ability to strike further behind Russian lines, and at distances better protected from Russia’s own long-range weaponry.
  • The GPS-guided missiles the Himars shoot have a range about double that of the M777 howitzers that the US recently supplied to Ukraine forces.
  • At roughly 80km it generally puts Himars out of range of Russia’s own artillery, while placing the Russian batteries at risk.
  • It also could threaten Russian supply depots, amid western belief that the Russian forces suffer logistical problems.
  • Himars can be a “game-changer” in the war at a time when Ukraine forces appear to be struggling under Russian artillery fire.Both Ukraine and Russia already operate MLRS, but Himars has superior range and precision.

 

COLOUR OF URANUS AND NEPTUNE

  • Neptune and Uranus have much in common — they have similar masses, sizes, and atmospheric compositions — yet their appearances are in different shades of blue.
  • At visible wavelengths, Neptune is a rich, deep azure hue, while Uranus is a distinctly pale shade of cyan.
  • The reason is that the haze around Uranus is thicker than that around Neptune.
  • Uranus’s stagnant, sluggish atmosphere makes it appear a lighter tone than Neptune.

If there was no haze in the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus, both would appear almost equally blue as a result of blue light being scattered in their atmospheres.

Tags: Current Affairs

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