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Daily Current affairs 16 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Remote sensing to detect vehicular pollution in Delhi

The News

  • In a step to curb vehicular pollution in Delhi, the International Centre for Automotive Technology will implement remote sensing technology for screening of pollution from on-road vehicles.

Context

  • The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority has been suggesting steps to tackle air pollution in general under the framework of graded response action plan in Delhi-NCR region.
  • The landmark Vardhaman Kaushik v/s Union of India case led to the formulation of GRAP(Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi & NCR) by CPCB.
  • While GRAP is post-mortem in approach, EPCA felt the need for a “preventive plan” to tackle the problem of air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the long run.

Need for Remote-sensing Technology as Compliance strategy for Vehicular Pollution

  • Thus, the apex court had directed the appointment Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to make recommendations to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the long run.
  • Accordingly, the EPCA has directed the International Centre for Automotive Technology to deploy remote sensing technology to measure the amount of pollution each vehicle causes as it enters Delhi.
  • In the initial stages of the study, ICAT has tested around 70,000 vehicles with more number of vehicles set to be monitored.
  • Current system not really working:
    • The current vehicle inspection system involves Pollution Under Control Certificate (PUC) which was originally designed for older technologies.
    • Further, according to data only 23% of the vehicles in Delhi undergo PUC tests and thus lack compliance.
    • However, the on-road fleet in Delhi has moved towards BS-IV compliance.
    • Further, with BS-VI technology for new vehicles, Smart monitoring of on-road emissions has become inevitable.
  • Thus remote sensing-based monitoring of vehicular pollution of on-road fleet is the need of the day.

About Remote Sensing-based Monitoring

 

  • Under remote sensing technology, a light source and a detector is placed on the side of the road or at a height to transmit a laser beam.
  • The laser beam thus transmitted can measure the exhaust emissions remotely via spectroscopy as vehicles pass by and cross the light path.
  • The technology detects the exhaust plume of the vehicles and measure opacity, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide in 0.5 seconds.
  • It can record emission rates from thousands of individual vehicles along with speed and acceleration across all driving conditions.
  • Further, a camera captures the image of the vehicle’s number plate to identify the make, model, certified emission standard, fuel type, rated power and other details.

Advantages

  • Remote sensing helps to detect individual high-emitting vehicles.
  • It can help improve compliance in cases of tampering of emission control systems by the vehicle owner.
  • As a result, there is no scope of fraud like in the PUC system.

Background

Comprehensive Action Plan and Vehicular pollution

  • In its Comprehensive Action Plan, EPCA has identified 5 key sources of air pollution in Delhi
  1. Vehicles
  2. Combustion in power plants and industries using dirty fuels, like pet coke, coal and biomass
  3. Garbage burning, both in landfills and other places
  4. Dust management on roads, construction sites etc
  5. Crop residue burning
  • Primarily the Comprehensive Action Plan provides for a compliance strategy for Delhi and NCR to meet clean air standards.

Actions to reduce vehicular emissions

  • For New Vehicles
    • Implementation of BS VI fuel and emission standards.
    • Expand CNG programme across NCR including introduction of H-CNG.
    • Introduce battery operated vehicles in targeted segments of two-wheelers, three-wheelers and buses.
    • Install vapour recovery systems to reduce benzene emissions in NCR.
  • For Vehicles on-road
    • Tighten PUC norms for post-2000 vehicles
    • Link PUC certificates with annual vehicle insurance to ensure 100 per cent compliance
    • Divert truck traffic
  • Strategies to reduce vehicle numbers on roads
    • Improve Public transport.
    • Augment the service of Metro for carrying more passengers
    • BRTS to be implemented in targeted high frequency routes.
    • Fare integration and common ticketing by introducing common mobility cards.
    • Prepare and implement zonal plans for developing a Non-motorized transport network.
    • Parking policy to reduce congestion and pollution.
    • Traffic management: Introduce early alarm system during traffic congestion.

 

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

KALIA: How Odisha new scheme supports farm community with payment

The news

  • The Odisha government has come up with a support scheme called KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) for farmers.

 

Background

  • Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, political parties across the country are coming with different ideas for farmers like loan waivers, interest free loans, universal basic income, and increase in MSP, etc.
  • In this scenario, the Odisha government has come up with a support scheme with primary targets being small farmers, cultivators and landless agricultural labourers.

 

Highlights of the news

  • KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) was launched in December. 2019 by the Odisha government.
  • It recently completed its first phase of registration.
  • Feature of the scheme
    • Financial assistance of Rs 10,180 crore will be provided to farmers over three years until 2020-21.
    • The scheme will include every category of farmers from big farmers to landless cultivators.
    • All farmers will be provided Rs 10,000 per family as assistance for cultivation.
    • Each family will get Rs 5,000 separately in the kharif and rabi seasons, for five cropping seasons between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
    • The scheme targets 10 lakh landless households, and specifically SC and ST families.
    • They will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 for activities like goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and fishery.
    • For these activities, the beneficiary is encouraged to choose an activity with which he is familiar because these trades require some skill and network.
    • The idea is to identify an existing capacity and build on it.
    • This is also an area-specific scheme, where an input support for a particular trade will be provided if it prevalent in the entire locality, so that the produce can be aggregated. For example-mushroom cultivation.
    • The scheme will also assist with sustenance of Rs 10,000 per household per year to the elderly, sick and differently-abled population who are unable to take up cultivation.
    • The KALIA scheme also includes a life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh and additional personal accident coverage of the same amount for 57 lakh households.
    • Crop loans up to Rs 50,000 are interest-free.

 

  • Significance of the scheme
    • The scheme will encourage cultivation and associated activities, which will help in improving agriculture production in the state.
    • It is expected to benefit 92% of the cultivators in the state. It is not only for certain targets farmers leaving out others. Whether one owes one acre or five acres, one gets the same financial assistance.
    • It is expected that it will greatly benefit sharecroppers and cultivators, most of who own little or no land.
    • There’s an effort to add skilling component along with assistance.
    • The scheme also provides social security to elderly, sick and differently abled.
    • It also provisions for Insurance, which will increase the social security net in the state.
    • This will help in improving income of farmers and getting them out of the vicious cycle of low risk taking investment.
    • It is based on the principles of partial universal basic income.

 

Comparison between KALIA and Loan waiver

  • Loan waiver work only for a few farmers but KALIA’s main targets is rural activities as a whole.
  • Loan waiver only benefits those who have taken loan from formal banking institutions but it leaves out the most poor and exploited farmers who take money from local lenders whereas KALIA will support farming on a small scale, sharecropping, fishing, animal herding, which are not covered under bank loans, but are caught in debt traps set up by local moneylenders.
  • A farm loan waiver will reduce credit available to farmers in the long term, while income support through Kalia can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.
  • Loan waivers increases bank burden by piling up NPAs whereas schemes like KALIA will decrease the NPA burden of banks, as farmers will be able to pay back their debt.
  • Unlike loan waiver, KALIA scheme is also having other benefits, like insurance cover, interest free loan, benefits to those who even don’t have land and also to vulnerable sections.
  • There’s freedom of choice for the farmers to spend the income support amount in any activity, whereas through loan waiver, interest free loan, etc. it is not possible as the amount has only to be spent in agriculture.
  • Unlike loan waivers, the KALIA scheme provides for registration under the scheme with their choice of agriculture and allied activity.
  • With this a targeted approach to improve skills of farmers, varied production could be taken.

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Section : Economics

 

ASER: Uptick in primary reading and maths, government schools script turnaround

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2018 has been released, conducted by NGO Pratham.

About Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)

  • This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India.
  • It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
  • ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey.
  • Schooling status is recorded for children of ages 3-16, while children of ages 5-16 are tested for their ability to read simple text and do basic arithmetic.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
  • It is a rural survey and urban areas are not covered.
  • ASER in other countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal.

ASER- 2018

  • The survey covered around 3.5 lakh households and 546,527 children between the ages of three and 16 across 596 rural districts.
  • It is conducted by an autonomous unit of education-NGO Pratham.
  • Noted improvements :
    • The proportion of children not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time ever in India and stands at 2.8%.
    • The proportion of girls out of school has also declined, from 6% in 2010 to 4% in 2018.
    • The percentage of students in Class 3 who can read at Class 2 level has increased from 21.6% in 2013 to 27.2 % in 2018.
    • Increase in children enrolled in Class 5, who can read a Class 2 level text, was from 47.9% in 2016 to 50.3% in 2018.
    • States which showed improvement in basic reading levels (more than 5 percentage points over 2016): Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • States which showed improvement in basic arithmetic levels(more than 5 percentage points over 2016): Punjab, UP, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh
  • These achievements are attributed to the Right To Education Act 2009 (RTE) legislation, which mandated free and compulsory education for 6-14 year olds and is credited with reducing “inequalities in access between states” and “beefed up infrastructure in government schools”.
  • Figures to be worried of:
    • Only 73% of Class 8 students in rural districts can read a Class 2 level text. However, 56% can’t solve a basic division problem.
    • 1 out of 4 children in rural India leaves Class 8 without basic reading skills and over half of them (55.9%) without basic numerical literacy or without the ability to do a simple division sum.
    • Only 28% of Class 5 students are able to do division, compared with 37% in 2008.

 

Issues highlighted by the Survey:

  • Learning outcomes witnessed a decline following the “push towards univeralization” after the RTE came into force in 2010.
  • While there have been improvements across numeracy and literacy indicators since 2010, levels remain below those seen a decade ago and significant disparities in learning outcomes across the nation’s states persist.
  • Poor performance in school-based reading and math tests also signals future problems in adulthood, as the lack of foundational skills impedes children’s ability to carry out basic life tasks.
  • The survey also highlighted wide-disparities among learning levels in states.

Suggestions:

  • Governments should focus on raising the motivation level of teachers in their schools as this will go a long way in improving the quality of these institutions.
  • Improvements to the pupil-teacher ratio could help tackle varying abilities in classrooms, as more resources help reach a larger number of children and address specific learning challenges.

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Section : Social Issues

 

Centre to stop skill training, jobs scheme for J&K youths

The News:

  • The Centre has decided to withdraw Udaan, a Special Industry Initiative (SII) scheme in Jammu and Kashmir.

About Udaan

  • Udaan is a centrally funded skill enhancement scheme for J&K youth implemented by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
  • It was launched in 2013.
  • The scheme is based on the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee.
  • Initially the time period of UDAAN Scheme was up to 2016-17, however, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) extended time period till  December, 2018.
  • The programme covers graduates, post graduates and three year engineering diploma holders.
  • Objectives: to provide skills and job opportunities to the J&K youth and simultaneously provide exposure to corporate India towards the rich talented pool available in the State.
  • Key stakeholders:
  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) - Chief Benefactors
  • State Government (Jammu & Kashmir)
  • Corporates - Training Partners
  • Implementation Agency (IA) NSDC
  • Target:
  • It aims to cover 57,000 youth of J&K over a period of five years.
  • It is designed to encourage corporates to travel to J&K meet with the youth and hire aspiring youth who wish to explore the opportunity to work with corporates.

Reason for withdrawing Udaan:

  • Youths did not want to take up employment outside Kashmir and Multi National Companies were unable to provide all opportunities in Kashmir.
  • Other such employment schemes like Skill Development and Employment Scheme and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana are also being run in J&K to train and provide employment to the youths.

Similar Efforts in J&K:

  • For the employment opportunity of the youth JKEDI (Jammu Kashmir entrepreneurship development institute) had been formed.
  • The Central government of India introduced HIMAYAT scheme which is a training-cum-placement programme for unemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Himayat scheme youths will be provided short-term training for at least 3 months, in a range of skills for which there is good market demand. At the end of the training, the youth are assured of a job and there is one year post-placement tracking to see how they are faring

 

Other Skill Development and Employment Schemes

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY):

  • It is the flagship outcome-based skill training scheme of MSDE.
  • Objective: To enable and mobilize a large number of Indian youth to take up outcome-based skill training and become employable and earn their livelihood.
  • It is being implemented through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

 

National Apprentice Promotion Scheme:

  • Objective: To promote apprenticeship training and increase the engagement of apprentices from present 2.3 lakh to 50 lakh cumulatively by 2020.
  • The scheme focuses on sharing of 25% of prescribed stipend subject to a maximum of Rs. 1500/- per month per apprentice to all apprentices with the employers.

   

National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015: 

  • Objective: Providing an integrated policy for comprehensive roadmap for growth of skilling as well as entrepreneurship in the country by addressing the needs of job seekers as well as job creators.
  • It aims to promote a culture of innovation based entrepreneurship which can generate wealth and employment so as to ensure Sustainable livelihoods for all citizens in the country.

 

National Skill Development Mission:

  • Objective: To consolidate skill initiatives across the country, and standardize procedures and outcomes.
  • It will be implemented through a streamlined institutional mechanism driven by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

   

 Seekho aur Kamao:

  • Objective: Upgrading the skills of minority youth in various modern/traditional skills depending upon their qualification, present economic trends and market potential.
  • This can earn them suitable employment or make them suitably skilled to go for self-employment.

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Section : Defence & Security

 

Here are some decisive actions that can alleviate agricultural distress Editorial 15th Jan’19 TimesOfIndia

Rural Distress:

  • The rural sector is witnessing difficult times.

Small average size of land holding:

  • The primary problem with Indian agriculture is that average size of land holding at 2.28 hectares (1970-71) has now halved to 1.08 hectares (2015-16).
  • However, the number of persons dependent on agriculture is still at 43% of all Indians.
  • This is creating immense pressure on land.
  • Thus, most of the farmers are shifting to cash crops and or allied activities to survive.

Marketing issues:

  • This problem has been further compounded by marketing interventions of agricultural produce.
  • Though this is being addressed through new initiatives like eNAM, they are still being inadequate.

 

Need measures to alleviate farmer stress:

  • The need for some decisive action by the government to alleviate farm distress has now been universally recognised.

Loan waivers were being offered as a way to relieve stress:

  • Since 2008, beginning with the pan-India waiver for farmers, the cumulative loan waiver is now close to Rs 3 lakh crore.

Problems with this:

  • Waivers undermine an honest credit culture and impacts credit discipline.
  • Furthermore, if the farm loan waiver amounts are given in yearly instalments, then the banks will not be able to give fresh crop loans to farmers.
    • This is because their existing Kisan Credit Card (KCC) accounts will continue to be NPA category till the date of final receipt of the waiver amount from the respective state governments.

 

There could be several solutions to agriculture distress

Price or Income support schemes

  1. Price support scheme:

Price Support:

  • A price support scheme (gap between MSP and market prices getting reimbursed) like the one unveiled in MP comes with low cost but covers only limited farmers and has several challenges.
  • The most common critique is trader groups might artificially depress prices to be paid to farmers, as they are getting compensated by the difference between MSP and sale price at mandis.
  1. Income support scheme:
  • The income support scheme is much better and possibly the ideal one as the payment is purely a cash transfer to farmers on a per acre basis – as Telangana is doing.
  • As per some estimates, this scheme if implemented at pan-India level could cost more than Rs 2.5 lakh crore.

Can implement scaled down version of this at a national level:

  • One way to go forward is to implement a scaled down version, where marginal and small farmers are rewarded individually and the cost comes down dramatically to Rs 60,000-70,000 crore.
  • This could be better than the per acre Telangana scheme which creates a regressive structure where everyone benefits, irrespective of him being a cultivator or not.

 

Other measures to extend a helping hand to the rural sector

  1. Make Interest servicing enough for KCC renewal:
  • At present, RBI norms mandate repayment of both principal and interest for annual renewal of crop loans.
  • Income from harvesting is mostly received in cash which is mostly used for payment for fertilisers, pesticides, dues to farm labourers and hire charges for tractors.
  • This results in a situation where lumpy cash flows to enable full repayment of the KCC loan at the year end is not practically possible.
  • To help agriculture, banks should be permitted to allow review/ renewal of the KCC facility annually upon farmers paying the interest alone.
    • It is already normal that such loans for small businesses are treated as standard even if the interest alone is serviced.
  1. Access to credit for tenant farmer:
  • In the 2018-19 Union Budget it was announced that Niti Aayog in consultation with state governments will evolve a suitable mechanism to enable access for lessee cultivator to formal banking credit without compromising land owners’ rights.
  • It is high time that Niti Aayog and/or the regulator comes out with clear instructions which banks can follow for financing tenant cultivators.
  1. Removing hypothetion charge:
  • Currently, the hypothecation charge of crops needs to be registered with CERSAI under the relevant rules. 
    • Hypothecation means offering an asset as collateral security to the lender.
    • Central Registry of Securitisation Asset Reconstruction and Security Interest (CERSAI) is a central online security interest registry of India. It was primarily created to check frauds in lending against equitable mortgages, in which people would take multiple loans on the same asset from different banks.
  • This adds to banks’ hassles and adds to costs without any benefit.
  • There has been no recorded instance of enforcement of the security of crops at least as far as the small and marginal farmers are concerned and hence can be done away with.
  1. Crop Insurance execution:
  • The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana can also be tweaked by ensuring all crops are covered, timely notification and payments among others.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis

 

Prelims Supplement: Note on Basel Convention

Basel Convention1989

• Basel convention is formally called as The Basel Convention on the Control of TransboundaryMovements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

• The Convention was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992.

• India ratified the Convention in June 24, 1992.

 

Background

• The Basel Convention was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, in response to a public outcry, following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.

• Environmental awareness and tightening of environmental regulations in the industrialised world during 1970s and 1980s had led to  an increasing public resistance to the disposal of hazardous wastes.

• In accordance with what became known as the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome and to an escalation of disposal costs.

• This in turn led some operators to seek cheap disposal options for hazardous wastes in the developing world, which was lagging in environmental awareness regulations and enforcement mechanisms.

• Against this background, the Basel Convention was negotiated in the late 1980s, and at the time of its adoption its thrust to combat the “toxic trade”.

 

Objective

The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against adverse effects of hazardous wastes.

 

Aim

• It aims to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs)

• The Convention is also intended to :

o minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated,

o to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and

o to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate

Note-

• It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.‚Äč

• The United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

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