Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 01 December 2022

Digital rupee pilot project

GS Paper -3 (Economy)

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced the launch of India’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a sort of official cryptocurrency, for retail users from 1 December 2022. It has repeatedly flagged concerns over money laundering, terror financing, tax evasion, etc. with private crypto currencies like Bit coin, Ether, etc.

Who can use the retail CBDC?

  1. The first phase of the pilot project will cover select locations and banks in a closed user group (CUG) comprising participating customers and merchants.
  2. Four banks will be involved in the controlled launch of the digital currency, State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, and IDFC First Bank.
  3. It will initially cover the four cities of Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar, where customers and merchants will be able to use the digital rupee (e₹-R), or e-rupee.
  4. The service will be subsequently extended to the cities of Ahmedabad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna, and Shimla.
  5. RBI says four more banks, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank will join the pilot project.
  6. The scope of the pilot may be expanded gradually to include more banks, users and locations as needed.

 

About the retail digital rupee:

  1. The retail e-rupee will be an electronic version of cash, and will be primarily meant for retail transactions.
  2. It will be potentially available for use by all the private sector, non-financial consumers and businesses and will be able to provide access to safe money for payment and settlement, as it will be the direct liability of the central bank.
  3. It is the legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form. It is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. Only its form is different.

Flashback

  1. On November 1, the RBI launched the digital rupee for the wholesale segment to settle secondary market transactions in government securities.
  2. Wholesale CBDC is designed for restricted access to select financial institutions. It has the potential to transform the settlement systems for financial transactions undertaken by banks in the government securities (G-Sec) segment, inter-bank market and capital market more efficiently and securely in terms of operational costs, use of collateral and liquidity management.

 

UN Publishes Flagship Report on Climate Change

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

A United Nations report called ‘State of Global Water Resources 2021’ - a first of its kind launched on 29 November 2022 has underlined concerns about the effects of climate change on Earth’s already stressed water resources.  The report published by the UN body - the World Meteorological Organization.

What the UN Report said

  1. The impacts of climate change are often felt through water – more intense and frequent droughts, more extreme flooding, more erratic seasonal rainfall and accelerated melting of glaciers – with cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and all aspects of our daily lives.
  2. India also faced extreme events in 2021, mostly due to heavy rainfall. The report says a total of 762 casualties were reported in India, with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand states being the most affected states due to extreme weather events.
  3. Constrained by growing demands and limited supplies, the current pace of managing water resources has left 3.5 billion with inadequate water access for at least one month per year.
  4. The report cites data by UN-Water which said between 2001 and 2018, 74% of all-natural disasters were water-related, a concerning revelation that stresses the need to integrate water into adaptation efforts.
  5. The report estimates that about 1.9 billion people live in areas where the cryosphere - glaciers and ice caps, etc are available sources of freshwater. Melting glaciers, tropical cyclones, super typhoons, regional prolonged droughts, and hurricanes are occurring with increased intensity.

 

U-DISE+ report on schools

GS Paper -2 (Education)

The Unified District Information System for Education plus (UDISE+) report is an Education ministry initiative to collate data about school education for 2021–22.About 66 per cent of schools in India lack access to the internet, with states such as Bihar and Mizoram having 92 and 90 per cent schools, respectively.

 

More about the news:

  1. It shows that 80 to 85 percent of schools lack internet access in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Odisha, Telangana, and Tripura.
  2. Delhi and Lakshadweep each have 100 percent schools with working computer facilities and 97.4 percent schools with access to the internet.
  3. Delhi is also the only Union Territory (UT) to have 100 per cent of its schools with an internet connection. Other UT’s such as Chandigarh (98.7 per cent) and Pondicherry (98.4 per cent) also perform well in this category.
  4. Among states Kerala (94.6 per cent) and Gujarat (92 per cent) are the top-performing statesGujarat is the only state in the country where more government schools(94.2 per cent) have internet access than private schools (89. 6 per cent).
  5. The gap between government and private schools also persists. While 59.6 per cent of the private and unaided schools and 53.1 percent of government-aided schools surveyed had internet access, only 24.2 per cent of government schools did so.
  6. The report adds that less than 50 per cent of the schools surveyed had functional computers, with accessible functional mobile phones for teaching purposes just at 20 per cent.

 

Key digital reforms in school education

  1. NISHTHA - National Mission to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level through an Integrated Teacher Training Programme called NISHTHA – National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement was launched.
  2. DHRUV - The Pradhan Mantri Innovative Learning Program (DHRUV) was launched to identify and encourage talented children to enrich their skills and knowledge.
  3. Shagun - One of world’s largest Integrated Online Junction for – School Education ‘Shagun’ is an over-arching initiative to improve school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Government of India and all States and Union Territories.
  4. Unified District Information System for Education plus (UDISE+) - To ensure quality, credibility and timely availability of information from all the schools in the country, the revamped UDISE+ has been launched.
  5. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) 2.0 - Diksha Portal was launched in 2017 for providing a digital platform to teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community.
  6. Operation Digital Board (ODB) - The aim is to provide by March 2023, two smart classrooms for every Secondary/Senior Secondary schools in 1,01,967 Government and 42,917 aided schools in all States/ UTs and 1704 KVs and NVs making a total of 1,46,588 schools

 

A tough law to prevent cruelty to animals

The Centre has proposed to overhaul The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, introducing 61 amendments in the law, which includes three years’ imprisonment for committing “gruesome cruelty” including “bestiality” with animals. A draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022, has been prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying.

What are the main changes proposed in the law?

  1. Essentially, the law is proposed to be made tighter, with more stringent punishments. Several offences have been made cognizable, which means offenders can be arrested without an arrest warrant.
  2. The draft Bill has proposed to include “Bestiality” as a crime under the new category of “Gruesome cruelty.”
  3. The proposed subsection describes “gruesome cruelty” as any act involving animals which leads to “extreme pain and suffering” and is “likely to leave the animal in life-long disability”.
  4. It includes “mutilation or killing of animal by the use of strychnine injection in the heart or any other cruel manner that is known to cause permanent physical damage to the animal or render animal useless or cause any injury which is likely to cause death including bestiality…”.
  5. The draft proposes fines from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 “or the cost of the animal…whichever is more or with the imprisonment of one year which may extend up to three years or with both” for the offence of gruesome cruelty.
  6. For killing an animal, the draft Bill proposes a maximum punishment of five years in jail.

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