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Daily Current affairs 14 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

The business case for 5G

The news

  • The central government is expecting to auction 5G spectrum in 2019.
  • This article is about pros and cons of rushing to implement 5G technology in near future in India.

 

About 5G Technology

Current status and problems in mobile telephony in India

  • Network congestion
    • Over the last 18-24 months, 4G has increased the amount of data consumption.
    • 82% of the growth in mobile traffic in India in 2017 came from 4G.
    • The traffic grew 135% year over year, driven by video, which contributed 65-75% of total mobile data traffic.
    • This shows that the rapid growth of 4G in India has strained networks.
  • Low connectivity/poor speed
    • A report ranks India’s 4G Internet connectivity abysmally low at 109th position in a list of 124 countries, even lower than Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
  • Demand of 5G ecosystem in India
    • Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. 
    • The 5G ecosystem in India is gaining momentum.
    • The latest-generation network equipment is largely 5G-ready.
    • However, In India the technologies that will increase users to demand higher speeds and more bandwidth are still not ready. For ex. IoT, etc.

 

 

Arguments in favour of 5G network in India

  • High speed: On a 5G network, wireless data can travel more than 10 times faster than most 4G networks and will compete with fibre-to-the-home wireline broadband.
  • Congestion relief: Network operators can use 5G to decrease the mobile and video congestion.
  • For industries
    • Once IoT gains momentum, the largest opportunity by 5G network will be in manufacturing, energy and utilities, followed by public safety and health sectors.
    • With this, their revenue is expected to grow up to $63 billion by 2026, according to report.

Arguments Against 5G network in India

  • No immediate business: A recent survey by executives of the 19 largest mobile network operators (MNOs) worldwide reveals that there is long term potential of 5G but there is no compelling, near-term business for 5G.
  • Investment: Implementing 5G will require huge capital investments.

 

Way ahead

  • If we use existing infrastructure, as 5G-capable devices can seamlessly connect to the existing 4G cells, it can prevent huge capital expenditure.
  • Operators can make full use of existing assets and can develop multi-year roll-out plans according to the demand and development of 5G technology.
  • This can be done with lesser capital investments.
  • This will enable the operators to create a virtuous cycle of 5G reinvestment-
    • Gradually building or upgrading to an all-digital 5G network.
    • Using the cash flow generated by these efficiencies to invest in high efficient/revenue cases.

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Section : Science & Tech

 

Why China Moon landing is significant?

The News

  • China’s Chang’e-4 moon mission, the 1st ever probe to land on far side of the moon, has transmitted images of the far side of the moon.

Background

About Chang'e-4

  • Recently, China launched the Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission, the first ever probe to land on and explore the far side of the moon
  • The Chang’e-4 probe involved a relay satelliteQueqiao and lander-rover satellite.
  • Chang’e-4’s lander-rover combination is set to explore both above and below the lunar surface.
  • Chang'e-4 landed its rover in the Aitken Basin’s Von Karman crater in the South Pole region which is the largest crater in our solar system.
  • Chang’e-4 relay satellite, Queqiao is used to communicate between the rover on the far side of the lunar surface and earth.
  • Chang’e-4 will also conduct the first radio astronomy experiments from the far side of the Moon.

Relay Satellite Queqiao

  • All previous Moon landings, manned and unmanned, have been on the near side.
  • This has been primarily because the Moon would have blocked radio communication between its far side and Earth.
  • The “relay satellite”, called Queqaio has solved this problem.
  • A major challenge for such a mission is communicating with the robotic lander on the far side.
  • This is because the far side of the moon always points away from earth and is not in "line of sight" for transmission of signals. 
  • Thus, China launched a relay satellite called Queqiao in May 2018.
  • The Queqiao relay satellite in the moon's orbit can relay data and commands between the lander and earth. 

Significance

  • This will be the first ever mission to the unchartered territory of far side of the moon.
  • Unlike the near side of the moon, the far side is mountainous and rugged.
  • The moon’s far side has a different composition and thus the probe will help characterise the geology and the composition of rock and soil in the far side of the moon.

Why do we see only one side of the moon?

  • We always see the same side of the moon as a result of the Moon’s synchronous rotation.
  • Earth’s gravitational pull has brought the Moon’s spin into sync with its orbit.
  • Thus it takes precisely the same amount of time for the Moon to rotate on its axis as it does to complete one orbit around the Earth (exactly 28 days).

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Section : Science & Tech

 

Clean Air Programme: how Centre plans to wage a ‘war against pollution’

Context

  • Recently, the Union government formally launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) with an ambitious target of reducing particulate matter pollution, both PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations, in 102 cities by 20-30% from current levels by 2024.

Background

Need for NCAP

  • According to a report of India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, every 1 in 8 deaths in India occur due to air pollution.
  • In 2017, about 1.24 million deaths in India occurred due to air pollution.
  • 8% of the total disease burden in India and 11% of premature deaths are attributed to air pollution.
  • Out of 1.24 million, 0.67 million deaths occurred due to ambient particulate matter pollution and 0.48 million deaths due to household air pollution.
  • Further, NCAP identifies particulate matter as a major challenge in urban areas of the Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • According to WHO, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India in 2018
  • As a result, India has identified 102 cities as hotspots of pollution requiring city-specific plans to combat air pollution.
  • Similar efforts have yielded results in cities world over, with Bejing achieving a 40% reduction in 5 years, Mexico city a 73% reduction over 25 years, and Santiago, Chile, a 61% decline over 22 years.
  • Further, international experiences have showed the importance of city-specific action plans, rather than country-oriented, to control air pollution like Beijing and Seoul.

About NCAP

  • In December 2017, the Union government announced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that proposes multiple strategies to combat air pollution particularly PM2.5 and PM 10 concentrations across the country.
  • The NCAP is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution in a time-bound manner.
  • It requires the states to frame their own Clean Air Programmes with pollution forming a key component in their development plans.
  • The primary goal of NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards (PM2.5 and PM 10 concentrations) across the country within a stipulated timeframe.
  • The NCAP will be a 5-year action plan with a mid-term target to reduce air pollution by 20-30% in 102 select cities by 2024 from 2019.
  • The government has set 2017 as the base year for measuring progress of the programme.
  • The 102 cities selected for NCAP rollout are those that are considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) according to Central Pollution Control Board’s data for 2011-2015.

Objectives

  • To augment and evolve ambient air quality monitoring network across the country to build a reliable database.
  • Ensuring public participation in planning and implementation of air pollution policies.
  • To have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

Components of NCAP

  • Tackle pollution from various sources including power plants, transport, industry, residential and agriculture sectors etc.
  • Increase number of manual air quality monitoring stations from 703 to 1,000.
  • Expand the network of the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS)
  • Set up Air Information Centre for data analysis, interpretation and dissemination through GIS platforms. 
  • Institutional framework for NCAP for implementation and monitoring will include
  • An apex committee under Minister MOEF
  • A steering committee under MOEF secretary
  • National\state-level project implementation units including members from CPCB and SPCB.
  • The NCAP’s web-based, three-tier mechanism will review, monitor, assess and inspect to avoid any form of non-compliance.

City-Specific Action Plans for non-attainment cities

  • NCAP has a city-specific action plans consisting pollution abatement measures for 102 non-attainment cities.
  • A non-attainment city is the one which has air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • Totally 102 cities have been identified 94 cities as non-attainment cities on the basis of 5-years data generated under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme.
  • All big metros are on the list including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bhopal Jaipur etc.
  • The plan for 102 non-attainment cities will have three timelines to gradually reduce air pollution.
  • Under the timelines, air pollution in these cities will be reduced by
  1. 35% in the next three years
  2. 50% in the next five years
  3. 70-80% in the next 10 years. 
  • States are entrusted with the responsibility to frame their own city-specific plan.
  • Centre would assist states in building capacities to reduce pollution level in tune with the prescribed timelines.
  • In August 2018, 73 out of 102 cities submitted a plan of remedial action under NACP.

How will it be implemented?

  • Broadly, NCAP is a collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between central ministries, state governments, and local bodies.
  • The NCAP’s web-based, three-tier mechanism will review, monitor, assess and inspect to avoid any form of non-compliance
  • According to Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, CPCB is the nodal agency for prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution including NCAP.

Mitigation Measures

Specific measures under NCAP include

  • Congestion management by making roads pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust within 60 days.
  • Ensuring strict action against unauthorised brick kilns within 30 days.
  • Solid waste management by municipal corporations,
  • Stringent industrial standards.
  • Extensive plantation drive at pollution hotspots
  • In situ management of crop residue to tackle particulate pollution due to stubble burning.
  • Compliance to emission standard set by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for Thermal Power Plant to tackle pollution from power sector emissions.

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

Panel pulls up govt. for diverting coal cess

The News

  • Recently, the Parliamentary standing committee on energy in its 42nd report on stressed gas-based power plants was tabled in Parliament.
  • The Panel has pulled up the government for diverting coal cess, i.e. the funds of the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF).
  • The Panel also recommended financial support to the stressed gas-based power projects in the country from NCEF.

How Cess is different from Tax?

Tax:

  • All revenue received by the government by way of taxes—like income tax, central excise, customs and other receipts are credited into the Consolidated Fund, which has been constituted under Article 266 (1) of the Constitution of India.
  • The funds so collected are then allocated to various purposes proposed in the Budget.

Cess:

  • A cess imposed by the central government is a tax on tax, levied by the government for a specific purpose.
  • Article 270 of the Constitution describes a cess.
  • The cess should be kept as a separate fund after allocating to Consolidated Fund of India and can be spent only for a specific purpose. This means cess can be spent only for the specific purpose for which it is created.
  • The funds need not be shared with the State governments and are thus at the exclusive disposal of the union government.
  • If the purpose for which the cess is created is fulfilled, it should be eliminated.

 

About National Clean Energy Fund(NCEF)

  • The National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) is a fund created in 2010-11 using the carbon tax i.e. the Clean Energy Cess.
  • It was created out of cess on coal at ₹400 per tonne.
  • The purpose of the NCEF is for funding research and innovative projects in clean energy technologies of public sector or private sector entities, upto the extent of 40% of the total project cost.
  • An Inter Ministerial Group chaired by the Finance Secretary was constituted to approve the project/schemes eligible for financing under NCEF.
  • Since June 2014, NCEF also finances the schemes or programmes of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, if balances are available with the NCEF after financing projects approved by the Inter-Ministerial Group. This is done with only after the approval of Finance Minister.

Purpose of the Clean energy Cess: to support clean energy initiatives

What is the issue?

  • Diversion of Coal Cess/ Clean energy Cess to compensate States for revenue loss post-GST.
  • Diversion of this fund to unrelated activities reflects poorly on our commitment towards cleaner environment and shows government’s apathy towards clean energy projects.

Limited share of Gas based power projects in India:

  • Natural gas is a clean fuel as compared to coal and can be efficiently used in power generation.
  • As the domestic coal supply is generally of low quality with low calorific values, high degree of ash content and its adverse impacts to the environment, Government of India encourage gas based power generation in India.
  • India has total installed capacity of about 345 GW of power, with 7.2% (25GW) of gas-based capacity.
  • However, its share in terms of generation is only 3.8% (14,305.30 MW) of gas-based capacity.
  • Reason: Non availability of domestic gas and unaffordability of imported gas.
  • Consequence: Large amount of assets in this sector have turned ‘non-performing’ or ‘unproductive’.
  • Solution: Financial support to the stressed gas-based power projects in the country from NCEF.

Conclusion:

  • As demand for energy is picking up due to government’s efforts in electrifying all households, revival of gas-based plants will help provide clean energy.
  • The revival will also help all these plants service outstanding debt of ₹50,000 crore with banks.

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Section : Economics

 

At mini 2+2, India, U.S. review progress on pacts

The News:

  • Recently, India-U.S. held their 2+2 Inter-Sessional or mini 2+2 meeting to review outcomes of maiden 2+2 Ministerial meet, held in September 2018.
  • They also reviewed the progress on finalising two key agreements:
  1. Industrial Security Annex (ISA) :
  2. the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA):

About Industrial Security Annex (ISA):

  • The ISA allows sharing of classified information from the U.S. government and American companies with the Indian private sector, which is so far limited to the Indian government and the defence public sector undertakings.

About Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA):

  • This agreement would facilitate exchange of geospatial information between India and United States for both military and civilian use.

2+2 Dialogue: A backgrounder

  • The 2+2 Dialogue was held between India and US in September 2018.
  • It replaced the earlier India- US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.
  • The dialogue is aimed at enhancing strategic coordination between both countries and maintaining peace and stability in Indo-Pacific region.
  • It puts strategic, defence and security relationship between two countries at forefront and centre stage.
  • Important Decisions:
    • COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement) foundational agreement that gives India access to encrypted American technologies was signed.
    • Setting up of a hotline between External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister with their American counterparts.
    • The two nations also decided to conduct a tri-services joint exercise off the eastern coast of India in 2019.
    • They also committed to start exchanges between US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and Indian Navy.
    • To further defence innovation, a Memorandum of Intent was signed between the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defence Innovation Organization – Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX).
    • Both countries also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on Industrial Security Annex (ISA).

Foundational Defence pacts :

  • LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement), COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement) and BECA, or Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation, are the three foundational defence pacts that a country needs to sign to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the US.
  • Among these, India has already signed the LEMOA and COMCASA with the US.
  • India hopes to move ahead on BECA too in near future.

Why Inter-sessional meeting?

  • The inter-sessional meeting was set up to follow up on the decisions taken during the India-U.S. Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue, and to make continued progress on bilateral cooperation on cross-cutting defence and foreign policy issues of interest to both sides.

Significance of Indo-US Partnership:

  • While India can play a crucial role in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the US can help India stand up to China’s assertiveness.
  • For promoting peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Expanding fair and reciprocal trade would contribute to the prosperity of both nations.
  • In the present geopolitical situation, India and US can be the two pillars of a rules-based world order.

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Section : Defence & Security

 

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