Ojaank IAS Academy




19 JANUARY 2023 – Current Affairs

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Chinese hydro-hegemony over Brahmaputra

GS Paper- II

Context– India has planned to build a buffer reservoir in the proposed Arunachal hydropower project to counter China’s proposed 60,000 MW Medog hydropower project on the Brahmaputra River.
Brahmaputra hydrology: A tool of aggression for China
  • China has continued to use the water of river Brahmaputra for its interest and has intentionally created hazardous conditions for downstream states like India and Bangladesh.
  • Concerns over China’s proposed 60,000 MW hydropower in Medog, Tibet are influencing the design of a proposed hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Siang district.
  • A ‘pre-feasibility report’ on the 11,000 MW project, which is more than five times the scale of the greatest such projects in India, has been submitted.
What exactly is the Medog Super-dam Project?
  • China is developing a mega dam in Tibet that would generate three times the electricity produced by the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest power facility.
  • The bridge will span the Brahmaputra River before it comes into India from the Himalayas.
  • It is expected to produce 300 billion kilowatt-hours of power per year and will be the biggest dam in the world when completed.
India’s plan: To build buffer reservoir
  • During monsoonal flow, the planned project’s design features a “buffer storage” of 9 billion cubic metres (or approximately 9 billion tonnes of water).
  • This might serve as a reservoir for a year’s flow that would otherwise be accessible from the Brahmaputra, or as a buffer against unexpected discharges.
The Medog Project’s Threats
  • Because Chinese dams can contain significant amounts of water, during droughts China might cut off the river’s flow, endangering the lives of millions of people in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Bangladesh.
  • The Medog dam, with a capacity of 60,000 MW, has the potential to decrease the natural flow of water from the Brahmaputra.
  • Away from India, it might be used to cause “artificial floods” in the Brahmaputra basin during dry spells.
  • Dams would trap the silt transported by the river, lowering soil quality and eventually reducing agricultural production.
  • The Himalayas are considered the most vulnerable to earthquakes and seismic activity by seismologists.
  • The combined impact of these two megaprojects might exacerbate ecological deterioration by transforming lotic habitats to lentic ecosystems.
  • Damming the Brahmaputra will provide water security in a period of extraordinary climate change.
  • Any damage to the mega dam, if built here, will result in dam breaching and flooding across India and Bangladesh.
Why are such issues unaddressed?
  • There is no bilateral or multilateral treaty, nor is there any other effective and formal instrument of agreement for joint management of the Brahmaputra River.
  • All confrontations between India and China are centred on undelineated frontiers.
  • India’s quandary Hydropower projects in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, although possibly useful in managing floods from the Brahmaputra.
  • This may or may not function as a strategic deterrence to China.
  • A massive dam in India may help reduce floods within the country, but it may also spark new disagreements about water sharing with Bangladesh downstream.
Way forward
  • Our common waterways must be managed together.
  • Because India shares river basins with its neighbours, hydrodiplomacy should be an essential component of Indian foreign policy.
Source – The Hindu

Agnipath Scheme game changer says PM

GS Paper- III

Context- According to the Prime Minister, the Agnipath recruiting plan is a “transformative strategy” that would be a “game changer” in boosting the armed forces.
What exactly is the Agnipath Scheme?
  • From now on, this will be the only method of recruiting personnel for the three armed forces.
  • Recruits under the scheme will be known as ‘Agniveers’.
  • They can seek for regular employment in the military forces after completing their four-year service.
  • They may be granted preference over others for certain positions in other government agencies.
  • The measure is likely to reduce the average age profile of armed services members from 32 to 24-26 years over time.
Working of the scheme
  • The recruiting process will begin in 90 days, with an anticipated intake of 46,000 young men and women this year.
  • All three services will be enrolled through a unified online system, with special rallies and campus interviews held at accredited technical institutes.
  • The recruitment would be conducted on a “All India All Class” basis, with eligibility spanning from 17.5 to 21, and medical and physical fitness criteria in accordance with existing rules.
Payouts of the Agniveers
  • Apart from risk and hardship and other allowances as applicable, the ‘Agniveers’ will receive an annual package ranging from 4.76 lakh in the first year to 6.92 lakh in the fourth year.
  • On conclusion of service, they will get around 11.71 lakh under the ‘Seva Nidhi’ package, including contribution and interest.
  • The recruits would be required to give 30% of their monthly earnings to Seva Nidhi, with the government matching their contribution.
  • Under the system, there will be no right to gratuity or pension payments.
  • During their employment, the ‘Agniveers’ would receive a non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh.
Why are aspirants protesting?
  • A four-year contract serves as the core of this strategy.
  • The majority of Army recruiting takes place in states such as Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan.
  • Many of these workers prioritise employment security, including retirement benefits and pensions, over competitive pay.
  • The majority of them will be compelled to leave their jobs within four years, which contradicts their expectations and dreams.
  • A member of the army is supposedly trained for two to three years, but as part of the Agnipath, troops will only be trained for six months.
  • According to defence specialists, Russian soldiers who were only prepared for a short period of time before going to battle performed disastrously.
  • Concerns have been raised about how the new recruits will be integrated into the existing structure, in which most Army units are based on geography, caste, or class.
Reasons behind aspirants’ frustration
  • Analysts frequently mention the Armed Forces’ shortage of gazetted officers, and there has been no recruiting in the previous two years.
  • Many hopefuls have missed out on joining the armed forces since they have reached the age of majority.’
  • The proposal, disguised as a quest for “significant defence policy reform,” is a shambles.
  • Coaching mafias have been instrumental in inciting and agitating protests.
Need for the Scheme: Official explanation
  • With the world’s largest volunteer army, paying a higher wage and pension cost in the face of rising revenues has slowly undermined the capital side of the defence budget.
  • For job-seekers, the administration has already announced they will get preference in the Central Armed Police Forces.
  • One important advantage of this strategy would be the service’s substantially lower age profile. It will broaden the opportunities for advancement for the permanent cadre.
  • Aspirants will be able to seek other occupations with other ministries and governments once they retire.
  • Aspirants will be given priority, educational credentials, and skill certificates to assist them in rehabilitating in other sectors.
  • Those who want to be entrepreneurs will be given a financial package and bank loans, while those who want to continue their education will be awarded a 12 class equivalent degree.
Way forward
  • Make the contract duration for new hires greater than four years. This issue is not addressed in the current explanation.
  • Reconsider the 25% re-enlistment after the end of the contractual period. For long-term positions, retention should be more than 50%.
  • Obtain a formal pledge from CAPFs, state police forces, and other organisations that they are willing to absorb this trained military workforce for those departing after a brief service.
  • Continue with current regular enrolment in lower numbers, and gradually transition to Tour of Duty after it has stabilised after five to ten years.
  • A nation should never compromise with the personnel who make up the fighting sinews of its armed forces.
  • The easiest approach to avoid this image is to regard them as raw gems to be cut and polished to their greatest potential before being used in national defence.
  • A diamond lasts forever, and our future service members ought to give their all for the advancement of the country and their own lives.
Source – The Hindu

UNSC bans LeT’sMakki after China lifts its hold

GS Paper- III

Context- The UN Security Council’s (UNSC) ISIL and Al Qaida Sanctions Committee has sanctioned Abdul Rehman Makki, a fundraiser and senior planner for the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
  • Maki is being blacklisted: UN Security Council Resolution 1267
  • On October 15, 1999, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1267.
  • It went into effect in 1999 and was enhanced following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
  • The Da’esh and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee is now in place.
What is UNSC 1267 committee?
  • It consists of all permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
  • The 1267 terrorist list is a worldwide list with a UNSC stamp.
  • It is one of the most significant and active UN subsidiary groups involved in anti-terrorism activities, notably with regard to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
  • It examines UN initiatives to curb terrorist mobility, particularly those involving travel bans, asset freezes, and terrorism-related arms embargoes.
How is the blacklisting done?
Submission of Proposal
  • Any member state may propose listing an individual, group, or entity.
  • The proposal must contain actions or activities suggesting that the proposed individual/group/entity was involved in the funding, planning, facilitating, arranging, or carrying out of acts or activities related to the organisations in question.
The final decision
  • Consensus is used to make decisions on listing and de-listing.
  • The proposal is distributed to all members, and if no member objects within five working days, it is accepted.
  • An “objection” is a formal rejection of the proposition.
  • Creating and removing “Technical Holds”
  • Any Committee member may also place a “technical hold” on the proposal and request further information from the proposed member state.
  • Other members may also put holds during this time.
  • The topic is still on the Committee’s “pending” list.
  • Pending concerns must be resolved within six months, however the member state that imposed the halt may request an extension of three months.
  • If no objections are filed at the conclusion of this period, the subject is considered authorised.
How China supports Terror in Pakistan?
  • China has shown its double standards on the problem of terrorism by persistently refusing to designate terrorists located in Pakistan.
  • This time, Beijing claims that the blacklisting is a “recognition” of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism record.
Here is a chronology of how China affects the global efforts against terrorism:
  • After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India proposed an independent terror designation against Masood Azhar, but China rejected it.
  • After seven years, India considers naming Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, which is backed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. China has once again blocked the move.
  • 2017: The trio submits a third proposal, which is once again rejected by China.
  • 2019: Following the assault on CRPF troops in Pulwama, J&K, India summons 25 envoys from various nations to underscore Islamabad’s involvement in supporting, encouraging, and growing global terrorism. India submits the fourth request, which calls for Masood Azhar to be listed. China has removed its technical blockade.
  • In June 2022, China vetoed an Indian and US move to designate Pakistan-based terrorist Abdul Rehman Makki as a “Global Terrorist.”
  • August 2022: China rejects an India-US request to name Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) deputy commander Abdul Rauf Azhar as a UN Security Council designated terrorist.
Why China shields Pak-based terrorists?
  • China compensates Pakistan for keeping India involved in regional and internal crises.
  • The price is that Pakistan does not speak out against China’s mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in restive Xinjiang province.
  • When it comes to the international community’s common fight against terrorism, China’s actions show its double language and double standards.
  • This obviously demonstrates its concern for its puppet state, Pakistan.
Source – The Hindu

UPI for NRIs: What it means for India and Indians abroad

GS Paper- III

Context- If their domestic bank accounts are connected to their international mobile phones, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has permitted Indians living abroad to access the quick payments network UPI.
What exactly is UPI?
  • UPI (Unified Payments Interface) is an instant real-time payment system designed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that facilitates inter-bank transactions.
  • The Reserve Bank of India regulates the interface, which operates by instantaneously moving payments between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.
What precisely has the NPCI permitted on UPI?
  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) published a circular that prepared the path for further usage of the domestic payments network UPI.
  • So far, UPI has only authorised Indian phone numbers, leaving out non-resident bank accounts tied to foreign phone numbers.
  • Phone numbers from ten countries, including Singapore, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, were authorised to be used on UPI in the initial phase.
  • According to NPCI, this may be extended to other countries as well.
How would it assist Indians living in other countries?
  • Non-resident Indians would be allowed to transact using UPI once the systems are in place, whether they are in India or overseas.
  • Non-residents must have either a non-resident external (NRE) or a non-resident ordinary (NRO) account in India to utilise UPI.
  • Given the size of India’s UPI merchant infrastructure, it would be more beneficial when account holders visited the country.
  • While overseas, people may use UPI to send money to family members in India and use it on e-commerce sites that accept such payments.
What are the requirements for using this facility?
  • NPCI has instructed banks to onboard only those accounts that fulfil the Foreign Exchange Management Act norms and directions given by the departments of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Apart from that, both the remitter and the recipient banks must guarantee that they comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and fighting financial terrorism (CFT) requirements.
Does it help the plan to take UPI global?
  • The plan to access NRIs is a step towards NPCI’s goal of making UPI a worldwide phenomenon.
  • The initial list of ten nations will be expanded in the future.
  • NPCI International Payments Ltd, a company it established in 2020, has been attempting to promote domestic payment systems in other nations.
  • It has already partnered with payment system providers in Nepal, the UAE, France, the United Kingdom, and other countries to enable UPI adoption.
  • There are also plans to connect UPI to Singapore’s Paynow.
How will it help the UPI ecosystem?
  • In India, UPI is nearly associated with digital payments, with over 12.8 trillion in transactions in December.
  • Following a poor start in 2016, UPI payments have increased rapidly. The availability of UPI is likely to increase transaction volumes, given that there are over 13.5 million NRIs.
  • According to industry analysts, just as native Indians do not have to pay for UPI, NRIs would also be allowed to use it for free.
  • However, it may be a sluggish start because the acceptance infrastructure outside is still being created.
Source – Indian Express

Legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose

GS Paper- I 

Context- Subhas Chandra Bose’s identity, life, disappearance, and death are all shrouded in mystery.
Role in the Liberation Struggle:
  • He was a vibrant figure in India’s liberation struggle who motivated hundreds of Indians to join the fight.
  • In the span of two decades, he resigned from the Indian Civil Service to join the freedom movement, challenged the Congress leadership and took an extremist stance against the British, evaded the intelligence network to travel to Europe and Southeast Asia, formed two governments, and raised two armies.
  • Bose’s political efforts were centred on revolutionary movements in Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, and the United Provinces.
Bridging Communal Divide:
  • Bose attempted to reconcile the growing communal division.
  • Netaji and his army teach us about self-sacrifice, togetherness – regardless of class or neighbourhood — and discipline.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Childhood:
  • He was born in Cuttack, Orissa, on January 23, 1897.
  • His father, Janaki Nath Bose, was a well-known lawyer, while his mother, Prabhavati Devi, was a devout Hindu.
  • He was a bright student since he was a youngster.
  • Swami Vivekananda’s teachings had a profound impact on him, and he was noted for his patriotic enthusiasm as a student.
  • He was most known for his combative attitude to independence and his support for socialist programmes.
  • Famous Slogans: “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom!”
  • “Jai Hind.”
  • The first person to refer to Mahatma Gandhi as “Father of the Nation” in his speech from Singapore.
  • He is claimed to have perished in an aircraft disaster in Taiwan in 1945. However, there are other conspiracy theories surrounding his demise.
Major Events linked to him
  • 1919: He went to London to take the Indian Civil Services (ICS) test and was chosen, but the Jallianwalla Bagh murder profoundly distressed him and he abandoned his Civil Services apprenticeship midway to return to India in 1921.
  • 1938: Upon his return, he was elected President of the Indian National Congress in Haripur and campaigned for unconditional Swaraj (self-governance).
  • He advocated the use of force against the British, who then opposed Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals.
  • Re-elected as President of the INC in Tripuri in 1939.
  • However, he quickly resigned as president and founded the All India Forward Bloc, a movement within the Congress aiming at uniting the political left.
  • 1942: Traveled to Japan and assumed leadership of the East Asian Indian Independence Movement. With Japanese assistance and influence, he became command of the Indian National Force, a trained army of around 40,000 men in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia (Azad Hind Fauj).
  • 1942: The Indian troops of the Azad Hind Fauj bestowed the title ‘Netaji’ on him in Germany.
Source – Indian Express

China’s shrinking population and India’s surging ahead

GS Paper – III

Context- According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s population will fall to 1,411.8 million in 2022, down from 1,412.6 million the previous year.
India’s situation:
  • After 2011, India did not perform an official headcount Census. However, according to UN forecasts, its population will be 1,417.2 million in 2022 (greater than China’s) and 1,428.6 million in 2023.
  • Population drivers and indicators
Mortality rate:
  • The population of a country grows when mortality or the proportional number of deaths decreases.
  • Increased education levels, public health and immunisationprogrammes, access to food and medical treatment, and the provision of adequate drinking water and sanitation facilities all reduce mortality.
The crude death rate (CDR):
  • It is the number of deaths per 1,000 people each year.
  • In 1950, China’s CDR was 23.2 while India’s was 22.2.
  • It decreased to single digits for China in 1974 (to 9.5) and India in 1994 (9.8), and is expected to fall to 7.3-7.4 for both in 2020.
  • Life expectancy at birth: Another mortality measure is life expectancy at birth. It increased from 43.7 to 78.1 years for China and 41.7 to 70.1 years for India between 1950 and 2020.
  • Fertility rate: As fertility rates fall, population growth slows and may even reverse, as it happened in China.
The total fertility rate (TFR):
  • In 1950, the typical woman bore 5.8 children throughout her lifetime in China and 5.7 children in India.
  • In India, the TFR has dropped dramatically during the last three decades.
  • It fell from 3.4 to 2 between 1992-1993 and 2019-21, with the drop being more pronounced in rural regions.
Fertility at replacement level:
  • A TFR of 2.1 is described as “replacement-level fertility”.
  • In other words, a mother with two children replaces herself and her partner with two new lives.
  • Because not all newborns survive, the replacement TFR is set somewhat higher than two.
TFR is below the replacement rate:
  • According to the 2020 Census, China’s TFR was 1.3 births per woman, up from 1.2 in the 2010 and 2000 censuses.
  • The problem is that the TFR is significantly lower than the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • From 2016, China officially discontinued its one-child policy, which was implemented in 1980. However, this is unlikely to halt the country’s population decrease, which the UN predicts will reach 1,312.6 billion in 2050, a drop of about 100 million from the 2021 peak.
Decline working age population:
  • The true challenge for China is the reduction in its prime working-age population.
  • If there is a big population that is able to work and earn, there will be fewer individuals to assist — those who are too elderly or too young — as well as increased tax revenues and savings potential from income production.
  • When they are used to finance projects, a virtuous cycle of growth is set in motion, as it was in China.
  • However, the cycle has begun to reverse, and the proportion of China’s working-age population is expected to dip below 50% by 2045.
India’s potential
  • Fertility rates in India have just recently begun to decline below replacement levels, even in rural regions.
  • The growth of education, agricultural mechanisation, and landholding fragmentation are the key causes of this decline.
  • Reduced labour needs in agricultural operations and smaller holdings make big families working the land less required.
  • Even with declining fertility rates, India’s population is expected to rise and decrease after reaching 1.7 billion in around 40 years.
  • The working-age population is more important: its percentage of the total population barely exceeded 50% in 2007, and will peak at 57% by the mid-2030s.
Challenges for India:
  • A population of more than 1.4 billion people will necessitate policymakers’ unwavering emphasis on sectors critical to human well-being, including as education, nutrition, healthcare, housing, and employment.
  • The kids must be trained with skills that are essential in the knowledge economy.
  • For any given per capita income, people’s productivity must rise.
  • Efforts to enhance work opportunities will be required, as will policies to raise labour force participation rates for both men and women.
  • Because of the climate catastrophe and other ecological imperatives, many activities will leave little footprints.
  • Most significantly, the problems will spark debate, discussion, and even conflict, necessitating the inclusion of various viewpoints.
  • To move forward, India’s democratic traditions and the strength of its institutions will be required.
  • Of course, much more has to be done in many regions of the country, like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh, where the TFR is higher than the national average and gender prejudice is deeply embedded in society.
  • To really achieve Population Control, the government should prioritise educating women and providing them the ability to make and implement their own decisions.
  • States must guarantee that contraception is accessible, inexpensive, and available in a variety of ways that are acceptable to people who use it.
Way ahead
  • Overall, India has a window of opportunity to harvest its “demographic dividend” long into the 2040s, as China did from the late 1980s to 2015.
  • However, this is totally dependent on the provision of real economic possibilities for a youthful population; otherwise, the demographic dividend may turn into a demographic nightmare.
Source – Indian Express

Fact For Prelims

Scientists use the laser to guide lightning bolts for the first time

Context: For the first time, scientists used a laser beam to steer lightning, believing that the approach may help defend against lethal bolts and, one day, even trigger them.
  • The scientists were able to picture their beam pushing a lightning bolt for 50 metres during a storm in the summer of 2021.
Concerning Lightning:
  • Lightning is an extremely quick — and huge — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, with part of it directed toward the Earth’s surface.

State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2022-23

Context: The RBI has warned in its recent study titled ‘State Finances: A Study of Budgets for 2022-23’ that the return to OPS by certain States creates a substantial danger on the “subnational fiscal horizon” and may result in the buildup of unfunded liabilities for them in the future years.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Punjab are among the states that have reintroduced the Dearness Allowance (DA) connected OPS for its workers.
  • OPS (Old Pension Scheme): It was phased out in 2004, although it promised a lifetime income after retirement. The covered amount is typically equivalent to 50% of the most recently received pay. The government is responsible for the cost of the pension.

National Pension Scheme (NPS):

Context- The National Pension Scheme (NPS) is a voluntary and long-term retirement investment plan managed by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • It was implemented for government workers in January 2004, and it was agreed to eliminate defined benefit pensions/OPS for all employees hired after April 1, 2004.
Other key aspects from the report ‘State Finances: A Budget Study for 2022-23’:
  • The gross budget deficit of states will fall to 3.4% of GDP in 2022-23 (from 4.1% in 2020-21).
  • The debt of states will fall to 29.5% of GDP (down from 31.1% in 2020-21).
  • It has advocated for enhanced capital formation allocation for areas such as health and education.
  • The allocation of resources for asset production, such as plants, machinery, and human capital, is referred to as capital formation. In 2021, India’s capital investment rate was 31.2%. (higher than BRICS)

NHAI implementing an advanced traffic management system to reduce accidents

Context: NHAI is deploying an Advance Traffic Management System (ATMS) on national roads and motorways to manage road collision events and enforce speed limits and other traffic laws.
What exactly is an ATM?

ATMS is a collection of intelligently integrated roadside equipment that is linked to enable a safe and secure travel, including smooth traffic movement and prompt response to unfavourable situations.

Concerning ATMs:

It is an integrated solution for managing highway traffic and ensuring safety using real-time information. A legitimate fitness certificate will be checked by the system. It will use GIS technologies and Network Survey Vehicle data to detect highway safety hazards.

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