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General Studies – 1
Reference: Indian Express
Landslides are sudden physical mass movement of soil, rocks and debris down the mountain slope because of heavy rainfall, earthquake, gravity and other factors. As per recent NCRB report Landslide and cyclones caused 3.2% (264) and 0.4% (33) of the deaths respectively.
The Himalayan mountains are one of the most sensitive as well as an important part of our environmental ecosystems. The mountains, due to its source to rivers can impact people even living far from it. In recent years due to rapid development, the ecosystem is undergoing existential threats. Being ecologically fragile, the region calls for special kinds of safeguards in order to preserve their sensitive character at a time of want of rapid development, and the need to face threats of climate change and imminent environmental damage.
- The tragic death of nine tourists in a landslip in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh is a pointer to the fragility of the ecology of the Himalayan States.
- Extraordinarily heavy rain hit Himachal Pradesh recently, leaving the hill slopes unstable and causing floods in built-up areas.
- The descending boulders from destabilised terrain, which crushed a bridge like a matchstick, are a source of worry for cautious local residents, and the visitors.
The Himalayan ecosystem is vulnerable and susceptible to the impacts and consequences of changes on account of natural causes, climate change resulting from anthropogenic emissions and developmental paradigms of modern society.
The various causes of landslides are:
- Natural causes
- Landslides are generally associated with natural calamities like earthquake, volcanic eruptions, floods, cloudburst, etc.
- Long spell of rainfall
- Loose soil cover and sloping terrain
- Anthropogenic causes
- Rapid urbanization and changes in land use patterns
- Rampant deforestation and mining activities like blasting and quarrying, etc.
- Increased industrialisation leading to climate change and weather disturbances
- Change in river flow due to construction of dams, barriers, etc.
- indiscriminate chopping down of trees.
- slash and burn cultivation technique called ‘JHUM,’
- fast paced road construction
- Ever increasing population, grazing, urbanization etc. has destroyed the dense natural evergreen forest cover.
Measures needed to control landslides are
- Structural measures:
- Stopping Jhum cultivation.
- Store Excess water in catchments areas to reduce the fury of flash floods, recharge the ground water and improve the environment. Dig runoff collection ponds in the catchments.
- Grow fuel / fodder trees in all the common lands.
- Plantation in barren areas, especially on slopes, with grass cover is an important component of integrated watershed management programme.
- Grazing should be restricted. The grasses of industrial importance should also be planted so that there is some economic return to the farmers as well.
- Use the surface vegetative cover to protect the land from raindrop’s beating action, bind the soil particles and decrease the velocity of flowing water.
- Construction of engineering structures like buttress beams, retaining walls, geogids, nailings, anchors to stabilise the slopes.
- Non-structural measures:
- Environmental Impact Assessment of the infrastructure projects before commencing the work.
- Declaration of eco-sensitive zones where mining and other industrial activities are banned. Eco-tourism should be promoted.
- Hazard mapping of the region to identify the most vulnerable zones and take measures to safeguard it.
- Local Disaster Management force for quick relief and safety of the people affected by landslides.
- Teaching people about landslides & ways to mitigate.
- Constructing a permanent assessment team comprising scientists & geologists for better mitigation and adaptation techniques.
- Involving the local people for sustainable development of Himalayas
The need of the hour is to invest in long-term crisis response mechanisms and resilience solutions. A few immediate steps include:
- investing in resilience planning, especially in flood prevention and rapid response.
- Climate proofing the infrastructure such as by applying road stabilization technologies for fragile road networks and strengthening existing structures like bridges, culverts and tunnels.
- Strengthening embankments with adequate scientific know-how.
- Reassessing development of hydropower and other public infrastructure by EIA/SIA.
- Investing in a robust monitoring and early warning system.
- Establishing implementable policies and regulatory guidelines to restrict detrimental human activities, including responsible eco- and religious tourism policies.
- Investing in training and capacity building to educate and empower local communities to prevent and manage risks effectively.
- In a recent article in Nature, Maharaj K. Pandit, a Himalayan ecologist, says in recent years, the Himalayas have seen the highest rate of deforestation and land use changes.
- He suggests that the upper Himalayas should be converted into a nature reserve by an international agreement.
- He also says the possibility of a Himalayan River Commission involving all the headwater and downstream countries needs to be explored.
Himalayas are of vital importance to India in terms of climate, monsoon, water source and a natural barrier safeguarding the peninsula. The National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem under NAPCC is a step ahead to address a variety of issues Himalayas is facing today.
The time for wake-up calls is long behind us. India needs to urgently rise to the challenge by applying innovative and inclusive solutions that support nature and marginalized communities, to restore and rebuild a resilient future for Himalayas.
General Studies – 2
Reference: The Hindu
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines Human Trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. It is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, prostitution or forced labour.
Trafficking in human beings is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. There is no specific law so far to deal with this crime. Accordingly, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has prepared and invited suggestions for the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.
India’s human trafficking crisis:
- With its current population of 1.3 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world. However, with its size comes a myriad of human rights issues. Human trafficking in India is one of the most prominent human rights issues within the country.
- According to data submitted by the National Crime Records Bureau to the Supreme Court in 2019, Mumbai and Kolkata had the highest cases of trafficking in women and children, mainly for forced marriage, child labour, domestic help and sexual exploitation.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 38,503 cases of trafficking in the country between 2011 and 2019.
- The most affected areas are Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Orissa and West Bengal.
- People from economically disadvantaged classes, and belonging to the categories of SC, ST, OBC are more susceptible to fall victim to such malpractices.
- A 2014 Dasra reportstated that approximately 16 million women are victims of sex trafficking in India a year, while 40 per cent of them are adolescents and children. And more than 70 per cent of victims are illiterate and 50 per cent of them have a family income of less than $1 per day.
- Trafficking of Women
- Within the system of human trafficking in India, most of those victimized are either women or minors.
- In 2018, The National Crime Records Bureau estimated that 33,855 people in India have been victims of kidnapping for the purpose of marriage.
- Half of this percentage consisted of individuals under 18 years of age. Kidnappers most commonly force women into commercial sex and indentured servitude.
- Bride trafficking has also been a consistent commodity due to skewed sex ratios in certain areas.
- There has been a lack of women for the larger male population to marry, so many buy their partners.
- A UNODC report in 2013 found that of the 92 villages of the Indian state of Haryana, nine out of 10 households bought wives from poor villages in other parts of the country. The report also mentioned that most of the women experienced abuse and rape as well as working like slaves.
- Child trafficking:
- Alongside the trade of women, many child kidnappings occur. Kidnappers force many of the victims into servitude within industries of agriculture and manufacturing.
- Between April 2020 and June 2021, an estimated 9,000 children have been rescued after being trafficked for labour, according to a child rights non-governmental organisation (NGO).
- In other words, 21 children have been trafficked every day over nearly 15 months. The Childline India helpline received 44 lakh distress calls over 10 months.
- Over a year, 2,000 children have arrived at its shelter homes and 800 rescued from hazardous working conditions.
- A lot of these children either live near the station due to poverty and abuse at home or travel out to work despite the danger and illegality of child labor.
- Children have also experienced kidnapping during natural disasters.
- During an earthquake in Nepal, traffickers targeted children whose parents had lost their lives. Wherever traffickers send these children, they work in brutal conditions and receive little pay or nothing at all.
- An August 2020 report by a member of a child rights group in India notes that popular social media platforms and free messaging apps are often used to contact young people.
- Often, the trafficker or middleman lures the person to a place under the pretext of offering him employment.
- Once removed from their locality, they face challenges of limited resources, unfamiliarity with the area and perhaps the local language.
- Threats of violence from the trafficker, and, importantly, the absence of any identifiable authority to approach other than the police — who are often seen as threats themselves — make it nearly impossible for trafficked persons to report the incident.
Factors leading to Human Trafficking:
- Trafficking in persons is according to the doctrine of supply and demand.
- Firstly, there are certain factors in the country such as need of employment, poverty, social conditions, instances of armed or war conflicts lack of political and economic stability, lack of proper access to education and information, social or cultural practice and migration.
- Secondly, in developed and wealthy countries there is demand for inexpensive products, cheap labour and low-priced services.
- Laxity in implementation of laws:
- The efficacy of certain schemes launched by the Ministry of Home Affairs to improve investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes remains to be seen.
- The lack of implementation is illustrated by the state of the Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs). AHTUs are specialised district task forces comprising police and government officials. In 2010, it was envisionedthat 330 AHTUs would be set up. RTI responses in August 2020 showed that about 225 AHTUs had been set up, but only on paper.
- Poor data management:
- The Government admitted in Parliament as recently as March 2021 that it does not maintain any national-level data specific to cyber trafficking cases.
- Other causes are the
- porous nature of borders
- corrupt government officials
- the involvement of international organised criminal groups or networks
- limited capacity of or commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control borders.
- Increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of all forms of trafficking, including bonded labor.
- Vigorously investigate allegations of official complicity in human trafficking and sentence perpetrators to significant prison terms.
- Criminally investigate all reports of bonded labor.
- Develop and immediately implement regular monitoring mechanisms of shelters to ensure adequate care, and promptly disburse funding to shelters that meet official standards for care.
- Improve clarity on central and state government mandates for and implementation of protection programs and compensation schemes for trafficking victims, especially children, to ensure states provide release certificates, compensation, and non-cash benefits to all victims immediately.
- Urge prosecutors to routinely request and judges to award, as appropriate, trafficking victim compensation, and urge legal aid offices to routinely inform trafficking victims of available compensation mechanisms.
- Encourage state and territory compliance with the Supreme Court’s recommendation to audit all government-run and -funded shelter homes.
- Cease penalization of trafficking victims.
- De-link provision of the 2016 bonded labor scheme’s overall victim compensation from conviction of the trafficker.
- Cease detention of adult trafficking victims in government-run and government-funded shelters.
- Strengthen existing AHTUs through increased funding and trainings of staff and ensure newly created AHTUs are fully operational.
- Continue to disseminate and implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and train officials on their use.
- Amend the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the Penal Code to include labor trafficking and ensure that force, fraud, or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
- Eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers.
- Increase oversight of, and protections for, workers in the informal sector, including home-based workers.
- Lift bans on female migration through agreements with destination countries that protect Indian workers from human trafficking.
- Update and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
- Provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel.
The Union Cabinet approved a new national education policy recently after a big gap of 34 years. After long deliberations and two committees since 2014, the union cabinet has finalized a comprehensive policy that strives to direct the education system in India in the 21st century. With an aim to make India a knowledge superpower, the policy proposes some fundamental changes within the education system.
Significance of New Education Policy:
- The educational policy has recognized the importance of formative years along with necessary learning conditions like nutrition and expert teachers.
- A very important and potentially game-changing policy initiative is the inclusion of vocational courses in the school curriculum. This will help in encouraging disadvantaged sections who see no value in education to send their kids to school.
- It has expanded the ambit of universal education from 6-14 years to 3-18 years which is a welcome step.
- One of the major points of conflict on the medium of instruction has been dealt with and there is a categorical support for three-language formula and suggestion of teaching in mother tongue/local language for at least 5th class.
- This is a significant policy suggestion when the Indian education system is moving away from excessive English-medium orientation. There is an increasing neglect of local languages and mother tongue and illogical and unscientific hysteria towards English medium schools.
- The higher education regulatory system is set to change for good by eliminating the concentration of functions in UGC.
- The higher education sector through this policy gets an encouragement for multi-disciplinary nature through suggestions to do away with silos mentality when it comes to disciplines. This will create an all-around and enriched personality by interacting with a variety of subjects.
- There is a good amount of discussion in the policy on Socio-economically backward areas and people. The transgender community’s needs have been recognized in the policy.
- The policy proposes opening up to more foreign universities and likewise encourages more top-class Indian universities to go global. This is a welcome step as it will create healthy competition in the Indian higher education system, save important forex reserves as a huge number of students opt to go abroad for higher education.
- So, in all, this policy tries to achieve a rare balance of quantity and quality in the educational sector while trying to propel it to a higher level of excellence It strives to prepare the Indian education system for the challenges of 21st-century building on past experiences and policies.
Challenges with the new education policy
- Some of the proposals face legal challenges. Like the draft bill for Higher Education Commission of India has been pending with the Ministry and unlikely to be published for feedback soon.
- Though the policy aims to break the coaching class culture and ensuing monopoly of English medium schools, in reality, to implement this will require sufficient political will. Experts feel this to be a difficult task.
- The same is the case with teachers training institutions where a Education. The low-quality institutions are run largely for-profit motives without sufficient care for the needs of teachers training
- One of the most important neglected points is the policy of no exams till the 7th or 8th standard. This policy has been heavily criticized for impacting learning outcomes in the absence of exams at the school level.
- The free breakfast scheme proposed though a sound move, will increase the fiscal burden and add on to already inefficient mid-day meal scheme that has seen irregularities and corruption over the years.
- The suggestion to spend 6% of the GDP on education is there since the Kothari Commission but consecutive governments have failed to achieve the target that was set long ago.
- Given the low tax-GDP ratio and current slowdown condition, the implementation expenditure of 6% GDP in the education sector seems difficult. Especially when in the coming years, healthcare and defence sectors are set to demand more expenditure.
- As discussed earlier, there is a mismatch in the skill imparted in educational institutions and jobs available. This important issue has been largely ignored in the policy. Especially, there is insufficient discussion on new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, etc when these fields are set to dominate world knowledge and job space.
- The majority of experts feel that though policy speaks of encouraging reason and critical thinking, campus activities, the real actions on the ground differ as can be seen from attacks on campuses and critical thinkers in the last few years.
- The Policy looks strong ad forward-looking on paper. The officials have said that the policy has been finalized after long and extensive deliberations across the stakeholder sectors. This is a welcome step.
- What needs to be done now according to experts from various fields that there is a need for a comprehensive roadmap of implementation as previous policies also promised things that were not fulfilled.
- The school-level reforms touch most of the aspects. Care should be taken that in the quest of making exams easier, we don’t create a numerical surge in passed students without any real term knowledge base. The current system of giving high marks in 10 and 10+2 level exams have been criticized by many educational experts.
- The policy of a multi-disciplinary approach in higher education is welcome but a foolproof framework needs to be created so that the core interests and preferred knowledge streams are not neglected.
- As Education is in the concurrent list, there remains a huge task of consensus-building among states. The cooperative federalism approach is most conducive to critical fields like education.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a need to build huge digital capacities to digitize the education sec The lack of online teaching facilities is hampering the education and there is a fear of washing away of this academic year.
- The BharatNet scheme may be extended to include digital infrastructure for public and private schools throughout the nation.
- The vocational training program for school children needs synergy between the ministries of HRD, skill development, and labour.
The New Education Policy-2020 represents aspirations to become a knowledge powerhouse of the world inculcating the best of the global educational experiments. The global education development agenda reflected in the Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development, adopted by India in 2015 – seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The Education policy is a step in the right direction given it is implemented throughout the long period it targets.
Reference: The Hindu
India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a “global strategic partnership “, based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues. The emphasis placed by the new Government in India on development and good governance has created new opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the new motto “Chalein Saath: Forward Together We Go”.
With the Change in US Presidency India have many convergences and differences that need to be encouraged resolved and progressed.
Convergence of India US Relations
Recently, the US praised India’s efforts towards renewable energy and controlling emissions. Biden’s decision to lift restrictions and caps on a number of visas and green cards has relieved India.
- Cooperation in healthcare
- Healthcare is clearly an area that India can play up in bilateral relations.
- Also, the US has revealed its plans to enhance health cooperation through a memorandum of understanding (MoU). It is likely to deal with COVID-19 testing, vaccination and critical drug supplies.
- The two countries can also work with multilateral agencies across the spectrum of vaccine (development, logistics and distribution.
- India produces around 20 per cent of the global requirement for generic drugs by volume and every third tablet of generics consumed in the US.
- The President-elect has indicated his commitment to providing better and affordable healthcare
- This could be an opportunity for the Indian pharma sector to play a role in reducing health costs of the American consumer.
- India can benefit from advancements in medical technologies, devices, new medicines and R&D capabilities, presenting opportunities for American companies.
- Job creation through trade and exports
- Biden has set an ambitious target for US-India trade.
- Businesses in both countries are also looking for diversifying their manufacturing supply chains.
- This portends well for the creation of employment in manufacturing.
- An area where strategic considerations and imperatives of job creation converge is defence, especially since India has been designated a Major Defence Partner of the US.
- Focus on infrastructure in both countries
- For the US, this can mean opportunities in India in transportation, power and other urban amenities.
- The US’s renewed focus on climate change should lead to greater cooperation with India in energy-related areas.
- Cooperation in energy-related areas includes more efficient energy dissemination and management (such as smart grids) to renewable energy technologies.
- Enhance opportunities in 5G tech
- There is potential to enhance mutual opportunities in the 5G tech sector.
- Increased partnership between the two nations can accelerate the development of technology solutions, promote vendors in the 5G open ecosystem and drive economic growth.
- The two countries should engage in shaping the rules of a new order in this space.
- This also has an important strategic element when seen in the light of developments in the Indo-Pacific as well as China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
- Multilateralism for cooperation in wider areas
- Once the Biden administration assumes office, we should expect the U.S.’s return to multilateralism.
- The Trans-Pacific Partnership aimed to create a rules-based order that all parties could subscribe to.
- With the ascendancy of the Indo-Pacific paradigm and the Quad and Quad Plus, a successor to the TPP could include a wider canvas.
- For India, this could mean cooperation beyond defence and security, including economics, technology and developments pertaining to the regional order.
Differences between India US relations:
- Impact on India’s ties with Russia
- The Biden administration looks at CAATSA act as a powerful tool. It was made clear by him in countering Turkey’s S-400 purchase and the Nord Stream2 pipeline project from Russia.
- The purchase of the S-400 missile systems will attract sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act.
- Trade issues
- Under Biden, India is hoping that the US will reverse its decision to cancel its GSP status for Indian exports.
- The mega Indian investment plan announced during the “Howdy Modi” visit has ended abruptly. (Petronet India’s $2.5 billion stake in U.S. company Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG project)
- Dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan
- The US will not see India as part of the Afghan solution, and it will seek more support from Pakistan to facilitate its exit. This is because India firmly supports the Ashraf Ghani government and refusing to engage the Taliban.
- Issues Factoring China:
- During the Trump presidency, China’s aggression at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in early 2020 brought India and the U.S. closer.
- America provided “moral and material support” to India through greater military cooperation, intelligence sharing etc.,
- Even, India gave up its hesitancy over holding the Quad. India participated in two Quad ministerial meetings in the past year
- The Biden administration sees China as a competitor in areas such as defence, trade and technology. However, it is also pushing for cooperation in certain areas such as climate change.
- Negative Impact on India’s Pharmaceutical Industry
- Biden wants to secure America’s supply chains. For Instance, he is insisting on localizing the production of pharmaceuticals. It will affect India, as it is a major exporter of pharma.
- This move will also hit the India-Japan-Australia trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) to counter their dependence on Chinese goods. Now with the US localizing, the benefits of this initiative will be lesser.
- Human rights issue between India and the US
- The US has stated that the “shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the U.S.-India relationship”.
- Thus, the US has been vocal against crackdowns on freedom of speech in India. For example, the Internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir, farmers’ protests and the government’s face-off with Twitter.
- Also, India’s actions to shut down international agencies Amnesty, Greenpeace, Compassion International will be dealt with strictly, by the U.S.
- Further, the U.S. will want India’s cooperation in ensuring human rights in South Asia. It is most likely given India’s current term in the UN Security Council. However, ensuring cooperation on Human Rights will affect India’s neighbourhood relation. For instance,
- If India takes a hard stance against the coup in Myanmar it will affect India’s interests in the region.
- Similarly, Sri Lanka faces a resolution at the Human Rights Council for alleged wartime excesses in 2009 operations against the LTTE.
- India’s support for its neighbour would place it closer to China than to the U.S.
Both countries should treat the economic and commercial dimension with as much priority as the strategic dimension. Both governments should embrace the prosperity-creating potential of such an approach.
General Studies – 3
Reference: Down to Earth
Tropical forests are forested landscapes in tropical regions: i.e. land areas approximately bounded by the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, but possibly affected by other factors such as prevailing winds. Tropical forests are extensive, making up just under half the world’s forests.
Tropical forests are often thought of as evergreen rainforests and moist forests, but these account for only a portion of them. The remaining tropical forests are a diversity of many different forest types including: Eucalyptus open forest, tropical coniferous forests, savanna woodland (e.g. Sahelian forest), and mountain forests (the higher elevations of which are cloud forests).
Between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of humid tropical forests have been cleared since the early 1990s.
Importance of tropical forests:
- The world has total forest cover of 4.06 billion hectares, of which 8 billion hectares (or 45%) is tropical forest (FAO).
- Tropical forests play key roles in the functioning of global environmental systems.
- For example, they are major climate regulators, taking up and storing carbon to mitigate climate change.
- They also provide multiple other ecosystem services, such as provision of food, freshwater, raw materials and medicinal resources.
The major threats facing the tropical forests of the world today are:
- A number of tropical forests have been designated High-Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, but remain subject to a wide range of disturbances, including more localized pressures such as habitat loss and degradation and anthropogenic climate change.
- Studies have also shown that ongoing climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of some climate extremes (e.g. droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes) which, in combination with other local human disturbances, are driving unprecedented negative ecological consequences for tropical forests around the world.
- All tropical forests have experienced at least some levels of disturbance.
- Current deforestation in the biodiversity hotspots of South America, sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific, can be attributed to export of commodities such as: beef, soy, coffee, cacao, palm oil, and timber;
- A study in Borneo describes how, between 1973 and 2018, the old-growth forest had been reduced from 76% to 50% of the island, mostly due to fire and agricultural expansion.
- The growth of populations in countries with rainforest.
- An increase in worldwide demand for tropical hardwoods has put a greater strain on the rainforests.
- Tree cover loss exhibited uneven patterns globally and across time, with large-scale deforestation and agricultural expansion in the Americas to small-scale shifting cultivation in central Africa, and a combination of agroforestry and commodity-driven agriculture in Asia
- Forest fire and other land-use change activities causing the reduction in intact forests area
- Different regions of the tropics have different responses to climate threats. Some regions, like Africa’s Congo basin, are more resilient than other parts of the world
- In Asia, tropical forests appear more vulnerable to land use and fragmentation
- The Amazon basin shows large-scale vulnerability to drying conditions in the atmosphere, with frequent droughts and large-scale land use changes
- A widely held view is that placing a value on the ecosystem services these forests provide may bring about more sustainable policies.
- there is a requirement for “strong transnational efforts … by improving supply chain transparency [and] public–private engagement”.
- However, clear monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for environmental, social and economic outcomes are needed.
- For example, a study in Vietnam indicated that poor and inconsistent data combined with a lack of human resources and political interest (thus lack of financial support) are hampering efforts to improve forest land allocation and a Payments for Forest Environmental Services scheme.
Tropical forests are complex ecosystems that provide many different ecosystem services. These contribute to human wellbeing on local, regional, and global scales. For example, on a local scale, communities in the Brazilian Amazon harvest fruit from the forest for consumption and on a commercial basis. This results in health benefits and increased income. An example on the global scale is that tropical forests are important carbon sinks, taking the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere
Reference: The Hindu
A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), or national digital currency, is simply the digital form of a country’s fiat currency. Instead of printing paper currency or minting coins, the central bank issues electronic tokens. This token value is backed by the full faith and credit of the government.
The Reserve Bank of India is likely to soon kick off pilot projects to assess the viability of using digital currency to make wholesale and retail payments to help calibrate its strategy for introducing a full-scale central bank digital currency (CBDC).
According to the Bank for International Settlements, more than 60 countries are currently experimenting with the CBDC. There are few Countries that already rolled out their national digital currency. Such as,
- Swedenis conducting real-world trials of their digital currency (krona)
- The Bahamasalready issued their digital currency “Sand Dollar” to all citizens
- Chinastarted a trial run of their digital currency e- RMB amid pandemic. They plan to implement pan-china in 2022. This is the first national digital currency operated by a major economy.
Need for a CBDC:
- The growth of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum etc has raised challenges to fiat currencies.
- Along with their other vulnerabilities made the central bank of each country explore the possibility of introducing their own digital currencies.
- A 2021 BIS survey of central banks, which found that 86% were actively researching the potential for such currencies, 60% were experimenting with the technology, and 14% were deploying pilot projects.
- The need for inter-bank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another.
Viability of a CBDC:
- An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter-bank settlement.
- India’s fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC — to the extent large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.
- As the currency in digital form, it can provide an efficient way for financial transaction. Further, digital currency also solves the challenges with Cash and coins. Cash and coins require expenses in storage and have inherent security risks like the recent heist in the RBI currency chest.
- There are about 3,000 privately issued cryptocurrencies in the world. According to IMF, the key reason for considering national digital currency is to counter the growth of private forms of digital money.
- There is a possibility of these companies going bankrupt without any protection. This will create a loss for both investor and creditor. But the National Digital currency has government backing in case of any financial crisis.
- As the state-backed digital currency can provide investor/consumer protection, the private can confidently invest in the associated infrastructure without any doubts over its regulation. This will improve the services to people.
- The national digital currency will be regulated by the RBI. So, there will be less volatility compared to other digital currencies.
- Current RBI’s work on inflation targeting can be extended to national digital currency also. Since India is planning to ban other cryptocurrencies, the RBI can better regulate digital and fiat currency. Thus, upgrading to digital currency and balancing the macroeconomic stability.
- With the introduction of CBDC in a nation, its central bank would be able to keep a track of the exact location of every unit of the currency, thereby curbing money laundering.
- Criminal activities can be easily spotted and ended such as terror funding, money laundering, and so forth
- India is already facing many cyber security threats. With the advent of digital currency, cyberattacks might increase and threaten digital theft like Mt Gox bankruptcy case.
- According to the Digital Empowerment Foundation in 2018 report, around 90% of India’s population is digitally illiterate. So, without creating enough literary awareness introduction of digital currency will create a host of new challenges to the Indian economy.
- Introduction of digital currency also creates various associated challenges in regulation, tracking investment and purchase, taxing individuals, etc.
- The digital currency must collect certain basic information of an individual so that the person can prove that he’s the holder of that digital currency. This basic information can be sensitive ones such as the person’s identity, fingerprints etc.
There are crucial decisions to be made about the design of the currency with regards to how it will be issued, the degree of anonymity it will have, the kind of technology that is to be used, and so on. There is no doubt that the introduction of National Digital currency prevents the various threats associated with the private-owned cryptocurrencies and take India the next step as a digital economy. But the government has to create necessary safeguards before rolling out. India needs to move forward on introducing an official digital currency.
General Studies – 4
Reference: Times of India
In recent times, there has been new administrative reforms on the anvil in the Civil services. There is a new attempt at administrative reform on the anvil. Mission Karmayogi aims to reform the perception of Civil services and replace babudom as the political executives call bureaucracy.
Corporate management vs Civil Services
- The entire hierarchy of a company is directed towards strengthening its financial bottom-line.
- Every corporate manager, from top to bottom, knows that profitability is the ultimate goal. However, making profit is not the goal of the Government.
- Scope of the government responsibility is higher and wider than any corporate. There may be conflicts between the goals of the government itself. Eg: Privatisation and disinvestment may not align with government’s role of providing livelihoods to people.
- To produce outcomes that are equitable, and not only efficient, in providing health services to all citizens, for example, is more difficult than selling medicines to only those who can pay the price that covers their cost of discovery and production.
- The government’s job is not to make a profit. It is to improve the world for everyone.
- The civil servant has a much wider canvas than a corporate manager. He is chasing, all at once, multiple goals under a political system that has its own compulsions and priorities.
- Goals can also change overnight and he has to adjust rapidly, shedding his conceptual conditioning all at once.
- Civil servants bring to the central government knowledge about the social, political, economic and cultural peculiarities of states and diverse ministries. That knowledge is far more valuable than the domain knowledge that a private sector expert commands when it comes to successful designing and implementation of schemes for public welfare.
- Governance can improve if goals are clear and well-defined and this, in a federal multiparty polity like India, would require continuing engagement with the states and with political parties.
- Once there is consensus on goals, once the political executive is committed to these goals and will drive them from the top, administration can be channelled towards their achievement.
- There is a need to suggest ways to bolster the sagging morale and pervasive fear that seem to haunt top level administrators today.
- There has to be clarity of purpose, confidence of political support, the return of professionalism in administration.