ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 11 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana
  • ASEN
  • Operation AAHT

GS Paper 3:

  • Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC)& EVs
  • India’s Diary and Livestock sector
  • Nuclear Fusion Energy

GS PAPER - 2

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana:

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Minister of State for Finance provided information about the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) in the Rajya Sabha.

  • The national-level targets under the scheme have been consistently met since its inception, except for FY 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is PMMY?

  • The government launched it in 2015 for providing loans up to Rs.10 lakh to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro-enterprises.
  • It provides funding to the non-corporate small business sector through various last-mile financial institutions like Banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).
  • MUDRA, which stands for Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd., is a government’s financial institution. It does not lend directly to micro-entrepreneurs/individuals.
  • MUDRA has created three products, i.e. ‘Shishu’, ‘Kishore’ and ‘Tarun’, as per the growth and funding needs of the beneficiary micro-units.
    • Shishu: Covering loans up to Rs. 50,000.
    • Kishore: Covering loans above Rs. 50,000 and up to Rs. 5 lakh.
    • Tarun: Covering loans above Rs. 5 lakh and up to Rs. 10 lakh.

What are the achievements of the scheme?

  • Over 32.53 crore loans involving a sanctioned amount of Rs. 17.32 lakh crore have been extended under PMMY since its inception in April 2015.
  • Loans have been given to disadvantaged sections of society such as women entrepreneurs, SC/ST/OBC borrowers, Minority community borrowers, etc. The focus has also been on new entrepreneurs.
  • As per a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, PMMY helped in generating 1.12 crore net additional employment from 2015 to 2018.
    • Out of the 1.12 crore of estimated increase in employment, women accounted for 69 lakh (62%).

What are the steps taken for the improvement of the Scheme?

  • Provision for online applications through psbloansin59minutes and udyamimitra portal. Some Public Sector Banks (PSBs) have put end-to-end digital lending for automated sanctions under PMMY.
  • Intensive publicity campaigns by PSBs and Mudra Ltd. for increased visibility of the scheme amongst the stakeholders.
  • Nomination of Mudra Nodal Officers in PSBs.
  • Periodic monitoring of the performance of PSBs concerning PMMY etc

ASEN:

Context:

India is in discussion with the 10-nation block ASEN for initiating the review of the FTA (free-trade agreement) in goods between the two regions to seek more market access for domestic products.

 Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

  • It is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
  • Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

 What is ASEAN?

  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states.

The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.

Genesis:

Established in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers.

Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Ten Members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 Significance of ASEAN for India:

  1. Against the backdrop of aggressive moves by China, including the Ladakh standoff, India placed the ASEAN at the centre of India’s Act East policy and held that a cohesive and responsive ASEAN is essential for security and growth for all in the region.
  2. ASEAN is necessary for the success of the Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) Vision.
  3. The region is significant for diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

It is India’s 4th largest trading partner with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.

Operation AAHT:

Why in News?

   Recently, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has launched a nationwide operation to curb human trafficking.

  • As part of “Operation AAHT”, special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with a focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau registers about 2,200 cases of Human Trafficking cases on an average each year.

What is Operation AAHT?

  • The Indian Railways, which transported over 23 million passengers each day (pre-pandemic), is the largest, fastest and most reliable carrier for suspects who trafficked scores of women and children.
  • Under Operation AAHT, the infrastructure and intelligence network of the force could be utilised to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, the identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.
  • Under this, the RPF could act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace.
  • Also, cyber cells would start patrolling the web/social media to look for digital footprints of Human Trafficking and the focus would be more on trains originating from districts bordering Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

What is Human Trafficking?

  • Human trafficking, also called trafficking in persons, form of modern-day slavery involving the illegal transport of individuals by force or deception for the purpose of labour, sexual exploitation, or activities in which others benefit financially.
  • Human Trafficking, especially of women and children, for sexual exploitation, forced marriage, domestic servitude, organ transplant, drug peddling, etc is an organised crime and the most abominable violation of human rights.
  • There is a popular understanding that trafficking is happening a lot more between countries but a report by UNODC highlights that close to 60% of trafficking happens internally in countries.
  • Situation in India: The most affected state presently is West Bengal followed by Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam.

GS PAPER - 3

Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC) & EVs:

Why in News?

Recently, a study conducted by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research revealed that India can slash emissions of Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC) by 76% in the next eight years by swapping all two- and three-wheelers with electric vehicles and all diesel-fuelled ones with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

  • Gases escaping out of a vehicle’s exhaust account for 65-80% of an automobile’s emissions.
  • India is home to 14 out of the top 20 most polluted cities globally. Around 1.67 million deaths were linked to air pollution in 2019. The country lost 1.36% of its gross domestic product the same year.
  • Therefore, adopting electric vehicles can help India achieve a cleaner future.

What are Volatile Organic Molecules?

  • VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals released by petrol and diesel vehicles. They impact air quality and human health.
  • However, VOCs can have a natural origin, too.
  • Plants emit these chemicals to attract pollinators, defend themselves from pests and predators and adapt to environmental stress.
  • Effect of VOCs on Health: VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, damage body organs and cause
  • Long-term exposure to VOCs is not good because the majority of the VOCs are carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
  • It is also linked to medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
  • Black carbonis linked to health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer and congenital disabilities. It also contributes to climate change.
  • Positive Feedback Loop: VOCs can drive the formation of other dangerous pollutants.
  • For instance, they react with sunlight and nitrogen dioxide to form ground-level ozone.
  • VOCs also trigger the formation of Particulate Matter (PM2.5),a pollutant that reaches deep into the lungs, affecting their normal functioning.
  • They react in the air to produce secondary organic aerosols, minute particles suspended in the air.
  • Issues Related to VOCs: Human-made VOCs are a cause for concern, yet they don’t draw enough attention.
  • Benzene, a chemical that induces cancer, is the only VOC included in the National ambient air-quality standards. The other pollutants under ambient air-quality standards considered are PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, ammonia, lead, nickel and benzo(a)pyrene.

What are Electric Vehicles?

  • An EV operates on an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine and has a battery instead of a fuel tank.
  • In general, EVs have low running costs as they have fewer moving parts and are also environmentally friendly.
  • In India, the fuel cost for an EV is approximately 80 paisa per kilometre. Contrast this with the cost of petrol which is today more than Rs 100 per litre in Indian cities, or Rs 7-8 per kilometre to operate a petrol-based vehicle.

What are Associated Challenges with EVs?

  • Lack of a Stable Policy For EV Production: EV production is a capital intensive sector requiring long term planning to break even and profit realisation, uncertainty in government policies related to EV production discourages investment in the industry.
  • Technological Challenges: India is technologically deficient in the production of electronics that form the backbone of the EV industry, such as batteries, semiconductors, controllers, etc.
  • India does not have any known reserves of lithium and cobalt which are required for battery production.
  • Lack of Associated Infrastructural Support: The lack of clarity over AC versus DC charging stations, grid stability and range anxiety (fear that batteries will soon run out of power) are other factors that hinder the growth of the EV industry.
  • Lack of skilled workers: EVs have higher servicing costs and higher levels of skills is needed for servicing. India lacks dedicated training courses for such skill development.

What are Central Government Initiatives on EVs?

  • Government has set a target of EV making up 30% of new sales of cars and two-wheelers by 2030.
  • To build a sustainable EV ecosystem, initiatives like National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) have been launched.
  • NEMMP was launched in 2013 with an aim to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and EVs in the country. There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and EVs year on year from 2020 onwards.
  • FAME India was launched in 2015 with the objective to support hybrid/EV market development and manufacturing ecosystem. The scheme has 4 focus areas viz. technology development, demand creation, pilot projects and charging infrastructure.
  • Organisations like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Department of Heavy Industry, Automotive Research Association of India are devising design and manufacturing standards of EVs, Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSEs) and charging infrastructure to smoothen the advent of in-house production of EVs.

What should be the Way Forward for EVs Adoption in India?

  • Increasing R&D in EVs: The Indian market needs encouragement for indigenous technologies that are suited for India from both strategic and economic standpoint.
  • Since investment in local research and development is necessary to bring prices down, it makes sense to leverage local universities and existing industrial hubs.
  • India should work with countries like the UK and synergise EV development.
  • Sensitising Public: Breaking away the old norms and establishing a new consumer behaviour is always a challenge. Thus, a lot of sensitisation and education is needed, in order to bust several myths and promote EVs within the Indian market.
  • Viable Electricity Pricing: Given current electricity prices, home charging may also be an issue if the generation is from thermal power plants run on coal.
  • Thus, a shift in the electricity generation landscape as a whole is what is required to facilitate the growth of electric cars.
  • In this context, India is on track to become one of the largest solar and energy storage markets by 2025.
  • A combination of solar-powered grid solutions that are organised with a general improvement in grid resilience will ensure adequate charging infrastructure for EV’s being a green option.
  • Creating the Closed-Loop Mobility Ecosystem: Subsidising manufacturing for an electric supply chain will certainly improve EV development in India.
  • Along with charging infrastructure, the establishment of a robust supply chain will also be needed.
  • Further, recycling stations for batteries will need to recover the metals from batteries used in electrification to create the closed-loop required for the shift to electric cars to be an environmentally-sound decision

India’s Dairy and Livestock sector:

Why in News?

Union Budget 2022-23 is expected to boost the dairying and livestock sector with a host of measures to make it sustainable amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the Current State of the Dairy and Livestock Sector?

  • Dairy is the single-largest agricommodity in India. It contributes 5% to the national economy and employs 80 million dairy farmers directly.
  • A revival in economic activities, increasing per capita consumption of milk and milk products, changing dietary preferences and rising urbanisation in India, has driven the dairy industry to grow by 9-11% in 2021-22.
  • The livestock sector has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.15% over the last five years ending 2020.
  • Growth in the liquid milk segment, which accounts for over half of the dairy industry, is likely to remain stable (6-7%).
  • The organised dairy segment, which accounts for 26-30% of industry (by value), has seen faster growth, compared to the unorganised segment.

What are the Initiatives taken in the Budget 2022-23 for this Sector?

  • Infrastructure Development under Vibrant Villages Programme:
    • Border villages in northern India with a sparse population and limited connectivity, have been covered under the ‘New Vibrant Villages Programme’ in the new budget.
    • Some 95% of livestock farmers are concentrated in rural India. Hence, infrastructure development under the Vibrant Villages Programme will play a significant role in enhancing market access for these livestock farmers.
    • New Vibrant Villages Programme announced in the budget aims to improve social and financial infrastructure in remote habitations, primarily along the border with China, and will be an improved version of the existing border area development programme.
  • Reducing Alternate Minimum Tax:
    • To provide a level playing field between co-operative societies and companies, alternate minimum tax has been reduced from 18.5% to 15%.
    • Government has also proposed to reduce the surcharge on co-operative societies to 7% from 12% at present for those having total income of more than Rs. 1 crore and up to Rs. 10 crore.
    • This would help enhance the income of cooperative societies and its members who are mostly from rural and farming communities.
  • Enhanced allocation for Central Sector Schemes:
    • Allocation for the Rashtriya Gokul Mission and National Programme for Dairy Development  has been increased by 20% in 2022-23.
    • It is expected to help in increasing the productivity of indigenous cattle and quality milk production.
    • Allocation for the livestock sector has been increased by more than 40% for 2022-23 and the enhanced allocation for central sector schemes by more than 48% shows commitment by the government for the growth of livestock and dairy farmers.
  • Enhancement in allocation for Livestock Health and Disease Control:
    • An almost 60% enhancement in allocation for livestock health and disease control for 2022-23 over the previous year will ensure healthier livestock.
  • Incentivising Digital Banking:
    • Incentivising digital banking, digital payments and fintech innovations will create a ripple effect in the livestock sector through greater transparency by streamlining payments during milk procurement.
    • A completely paperless, e-bill system will be launched by ministries for procurement.

What are the Current issues with the Sector?

  • Dairy analogues, plant-based products and adulteration pose a major challenge and threat to the dairy industry.
  • Shortage of fodder resources and ineffective control of animal diseases.
  • Absence of field oriented conservation strategy for indigenous breeds.
  • Lack of skills and quality services to farmers for improving productivity and improper infrastructure to support the sector.

What are the related Schemes for the Sector?

  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF)
  • National Animal Disease Control Programme
  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission
  • National Artificial Insemination Programme
  • National Livestock Mission

Way Forward

  • There is a need to increase the productivity of animals, also ensuring better health care and breeding facilities and management of dairy animals. This can reduce the cost of milk production.
  • Awareness on clean milk production and various schemes by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying and the new Ministry of Cooperatives will help dairy farmers evolve in the future.

Nuclear Fusion Energy:

Why in News?

      Recently, the Scientists in the United Kingdom said they have achieved a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the Sun.

  • Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.
  • One kilogram(kg) of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kg of coal, oil or gas.

What was the Location of Experiment?

  • The JET (Joint European Torus facility) site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.
  • The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus.
  • A tokamak is a machine that confines a plasma using magnetic fields in a donut shape that scientists call a torus.
  • Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, were heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma.
  • This was held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.
  • The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER, the larger and more advanced version of the JET.

What is Nuclear Fusion?

  • Nuclear fusion is defined as the combining of several small nuclei into one large nucleus with the subsequent release of huge amounts of energy.
  • It is the opposite reaction of fission, where heavy isotopes are split apart.
  • Harnessing fusion, the process that powers the Sun, could provide a limitless, clean energy source.
  • In the sun, the extreme pressure produced by its immense gravity creates the conditions for fusion to happen.
  • Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma. Plasma is a hot, charged gas made of positive ions and free-moving electrons that has unique properties distinct from solids, liquids and gases.
  • At high temperatures, electrons are ripped from atom’s nuclei and become a plasma or an ionised state of matter. Plasma is also known as the fourth state of matter.

What are Advantages of Nuclear Fusion?

  • Abundant energy: Fusing atoms together in a controlled way releases nearly four million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas and four times as much as nuclear fission reactions (at equal mass).
  • Fusion has the potential to provide the kind of baseload energy needed to provide electricity to the cities and the industries.
  • Sustainability: Fusion fuels are widely available and nearly inexhaustible. Deuterium can be distilled from all forms of water, while tritium will be produced during the fusion reaction as fusion neutrons interact with lithium.
  • No CO: Fusion doesn’t emit harmful toxins like carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Its major by-product is helium: an inert, non-toxic gas.
  • No long-lived radioactive waste: Nuclear fusion reactors produce no high activity, long-lived nuclear waste.
  • Limited risk of proliferation: Fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium (Radioactive tritium is neither a fissile nor a fissionable material).
  • No risk of meltdown: It is difficult enough to reach and maintain the precise conditions necessary for fusion—if any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools within seconds and the reaction stops.

What are Other International Initiatives on Nuclear Fusion Energy?

  • International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Assembly::It aims to build the world’s largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy. The ITER members include China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
  • China’s Artificial Sun: The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) device designed by China replicates the nuclear fusion process carried out by the sun.

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