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Current Affairs 09 March 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Money Laundering laws will now cover Cryptocurrency Trade
  2. International Women’s Day 2023
  3. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)
  4. Open network for digital commerce
  5. Mugger crocodile
  6. Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) project

Money Laundering laws will now cover Cryptocurrency Trade


Context:

The government has imposed the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 on cryptocurrencies or virtual assets as it looks to tighten oversight of digital assets.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are cryptocurrencies?
  2. How are they different from actual currency?
  3. How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?
  4. Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002

What are cryptocurrencies?

  • Cryptocurrencies are e-currencies that are based on decentralized technology and operate on a distributed public ledger called the blockchain.
  • Blockchain records all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The technology allows people to make payments and store money digitally without having to use their names or a financial intermediary such as banks.
  • Cryptocurrency units such as Bitcoin are created through a ‘mining’ process which involves using a computer to solve numerical problems that generate coins.
  • Bitcoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies to be launched and was created in 2009.

How are they different from actual currency?

  • The Main difference is that unlike actual currencies cryptocurrencies are not issued by Governments.
  • Actual money is created or printed by the government which has a monopoly in terms of issuing currency. Central banks across the world issue paper notes and therefore create money and assign paper notes their value.
  • Money created through this process derives its value via government fiat, which is why the paper currency is also called fiat currency.
  • In the case of cryptocurrencies, the process of creating the currency is not monopolized as anyone can create it through the mining process.

How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?

  • Any currency has its value if it can be exchanged for goods or services and if it is a store of value (it can maintain purchasing power over time).
  • Cryptocurrencies, in contrast to fiat currencies, derive their value from exchanges.
  • The extent of involvement of the community in terms of demand and supply of cryptocurrencies helps determine their value.

Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002

  • According to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, Money laundering is concealing or disguising the identity of illegally obtained proceeds so that they appear to have originated from legitimate sources.
    •  It is frequently a component of other, much more serious, crimes such as drug trafficking, robbery or extortion.
  • Money laundering is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 7 years and Fine under the PMLA.
  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is responsible for investigating offences under the PMLA.
  • The Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) is the national agency that receives, processes, analyses and disseminates information related to suspect financial transactions.
  • After hearing the application, a special court (designated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act PMLA, 2002) may declare an individual as a fugitive economic offender and also confiscate properties which are proceeds of crime, Benami properties and any other property, in India or abroad.
  • The authorities under the PMLA, 2002 will exercise powers given to them under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
    • These powers will be similar to those of a civil court, including the search of persons in possession of records or proceeds of crime, the search of premises on the belief that a person is an FEO and seizure of documents.

-Source: The Hindu


International Women’s Day 2023


Context:

Every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) will be commemorated on March 8.

Relevance:

GS I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About International Women’s Day 2023
  2. Gender Gap in STEM

About International Women’s Day 2023

  • International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD) will be commemorated on under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
  • The United Nations has highlighted the need for inclusive technology and digital education.
  • It plans to have discussions on the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools.
  • With the IWD’s origins linked to women workers’ movements, it is important to note that women’s lack of access to technology and digital tools makes them less likely to be a part of the wider domains of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – collectively termed the STEM fields.

Gender Gap in STEM

The gender gap in STEM refers to the disparity in representation between men and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Here are some facts about the gender gap in STEM:

  1. Low Participation Rates: Globally, girls are less likely to pursue STEM studies compared to boys. Only 18% of girls in higher-level education are pursuing STEM studies, while 35% of boys are. This trend continues into STEM careers.
  2. Gender Divide within STEM Fields: Even within STEM fields, there is a gender divide. Boys are more likely to pursue engineering, manufacturing, and construction, while girls tend to gravitate towards natural sciences.
  3. Enrolment Disparities in Engineering Programmes: In India, there is a significant enrolment gap between male and female students in engineering programmes. In 2020-2021, only 29% of students enrolled in UG, PG, MPhil, and PhD engineering programmes were female.
  4. Women Outnumber Men in Science Courses: While women are underrepresented in engineering, they tend to outnumber men in science courses at all levels of education. In India, women make up 53% of enrolment in science courses.
  5. No Guarantee of Employment: Despite the gains made in women’s enrolment in science courses, there is no guarantee of increased employment opportunities. Several factors, including bias and discrimination, can hinder women’s ability to secure jobs in STEM fields.

Closing the gender gap in STEM requires concerted efforts to promote gender equality, encourage girls’ participation in STEM education, and address structural and cultural barriers that prevent women from entering and succeeding in STEM careers.

-Source: Indian Express


National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)


Context:

Recently, the chairperson of NAAC’s executive committee, resigned after repeatedly demanding an independent inquiry into the functioning of the council.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)
  2. What is the difference between assessment and accreditation?
  3. Advantages of NAAC Accreditation
  4. Is NAAC’s accreditation mandatory for institutions?
  5. Why are so few institutes accredited?

About National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)

  • The University Grants Commission established the NAAC as an autonomous body (UGC).
  • It was founded in 1994 as a result of recommendations made under the National Education Policy (1986).
  • The Karnataka Societies Registration Act of 1960 governs its registration.
  • Vision: To make quality the distinguishing feature of higher education in India through a combination of internal and external quality evaluation, promotion, and sustainability initiatives.
  • Bengaluru is the headquarters.
NAAC’s objectives are as follows
  • To arrange for periodic evaluation and accreditation of institutions of higher education or units thereof, as well as specific academic programmes or projects;
  • To stimulate the academic environment in higher education institutions in order to promote the quality of teaching-learning and research;
  • In higher education, to promote self-evaluation, accountability, autonomy, and innovation;
  • To conduct quality-related research, consulting, and training programmes.

What is the difference between assessment and accreditation?

  • The performance of an institution or its units is evaluated using predetermined criteria.
  • Accreditation is quality certification for a set period of time, which in the case of NAAC is five years.
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) made accreditation mandatory for Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in a gazette notification in January 2013.
How the Accreditation Process Works:
  • The Assessment and Accreditation process entails the following steps: online submission of Institutional Information for Quality Assessment (IIQA) and Self-Study Report (SSR).
  • NAAC Data Validation and Verification (DVV).
  • NAAC Student Satisfaction Survey (SSS).
  • Visit by a Peer Team.
  • Institutional Evaluation.

Advantages of NAAC Accreditation

  • A higher education institution learns whether it meets certain quality standards set by the evaluator in terms of curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research, and financial well-being through a multi-layered process steered by the NAAC.
  • The NAAC assigns institutions grades ranging from A++ to C based on these parameters. If an institution receives a D, it is not accredited.
  • Apart from recognition, accreditation assists institutions in attracting capital because funding agencies seek objective data for performance funding.
  • Through an informed review process, it assists an institution in determining its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
  • NAAC accreditation benefits students pursuing higher education abroad because many global higher education authorities insist on the institution where the student has studied being recognised and accredited.
More information
  • For any college to be accredited, several questions about faculty, facilities, academic and administrative processes, such as the number of PhD faculty, students enrolled, number of computers, books in the library, and so on, are asked.
  • For each question asked, there is a top score that has been kept a closely guarded secret for years.
  • However, the NAAC will now reveal that score, allowing institutes to step up and aim for higher numbers.

Is NAAC’s accreditation mandatory for institutions?

  • While the UGC has over the years issued many circulars directing institutes to mandatorily undergo NAAC’s assessment, the process still remains largely voluntary.
  • The National Education Policy (2020) has set an ambitious target of getting all higher educational institutes to obtain the highest level of accreditation over the next 15 years.
  • However, according to information shared by the Centre in Lok Sabha in February, out of the 1,113 universities and 43,796 colleges in the All India Survey on Higher Education Report 2020-21, only 418 universities and 9,062 colleges were NAAC-accredited as on January 31, 2023.

Why are so few institutes accredited?

  • According to current and former officials of the NAAC, the fear of obtaining poor grades holds institutes back from applying.
  • In 2019, the UGC launched a scheme named ‘Paramarsh’ to address the issue.
  • Under the scheme, some of the best-performing institutes were identified to serve as mentors to at least five institutes aspiring to get accredited.
  • Last year, the NAAC also explored the possibility of issuing Provisional Accreditation for Colleges (PAC), under which one-year-old institutes could apply for accreditation that would be valid for two years.
  • Currently, only institutes that are at least six years old, or from where at least two batches of students have graduated, can apply. The accreditation is valid for five years.
  • But a white paper prepared by a team of academics, including Patwardhan, said that such a system could lead to compromise with quality.

-Source: Indian Express


Open Network For Digital Commerce


Context:

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry recently said that the ONDC will help small retailers survive the onslaught of large tech-based e-commerce companies.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ONDC?
  2. What led to formation of ONDC?
  3. What are the likely benefits of ONDC?

What is ONDC?

  • It is a not-for-profit organisation that will offer a network to enable local digital commerce stores across industries to be discovered and engaged by any network-enabled applications.
  • It is neither an aggregator application nor a hosting platform, and all existing digital commerce applications and platforms can voluntarily choose to adopt and be a part of the ONDC network.
  • The ONDC model is trying to replicate the success of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in the field of digital payments.
  • UPI allows people to send or receive money irrespective of the payment platforms they are registered on.
  • The open network concept also extends beyond the retail sector, to any digital commerce domains including wholesale, mobility, food delivery, logistics, travel, urban services, etc.
The main aims of ONDC are to:
  • Promote open-source methodology, using open specifications and
  • Promote open network protocols independent of any specific platform
  • Digitise value chains,
  • Promote inclusion of suppliers,
  • Standardize operations,
  • Derive efficiencies in logistics
  • Enhance value for consumers.
Example:
  • Currently, a buyer needs to go to Amazon, for example, to buy a product from a seller on Amazon.
  • Under ONDC, it is envisaged that a buyer registered on one participating e-commerce site (for example, Amazon) may purchase goods from a seller on another participating e-commerce site (for example, Flipkart).

What led to formation of ONDC?

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under Ministry of Commerce and Industries, conducted an outreach during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to understand its impact on small sellers and hyperlocal supply chain functioning.
  • Post which, it found that there is a huge disconnect between the scale of online demand and the ability of the local retail ecosystem to participate.
  • Following this, consultations were held with multiple ministries and industry experts and “ONDC was envisioned to revolutionise digital commerce in India,” as per the strategy paper.

What are the likely benefits of ONDC?

  • The ONDC will standardise operations like cataloguing, inventory management, order management and order fulfilment, hence making it simpler and easier for small businesses to be discoverable over network and conduct business.
  • However, experts have pointed out some likely potential issues such as getting enough number of e-commerce platforms to sign up, along with issues related to customer service and payment integration.

-Source: The Economic Times


Mugger Crocodile


Context:

According to a recent study, anthropogenic threats like illegal fishing and sand mining pose a threat to the mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus plaustris) of the Rapti River flowing along the Chitwan National Park.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News, Conservation of Ecology and Biodiversity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Crocodile Species Found in India
  2. Key Facts About the Rapti River

Crocodile Species Found in India

I- Marsh Crocodile/Mugger
  • Restricted to the Indian subcontinent, Mugger or Marsh crocodiles are generally found in freshwater habitats including lakes, marshes and rivers. They may also be found in coastal saltwater lagoons and estuaries.
  • They are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • They are an egg-laying and hole-nesting species which preys on fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
  • The main cause of their vulnerable status is habitat destruction, fragmentation, and transformation, fishing activities and use of crocodile parts for medicinal purposes.
  • This species of crocodile are already extinct in Myanmar and Bhutan. 
II- Saltwater Crocodile
  • The saltwater crocodiles, also known as the estuarine crocodile, are believed to be the largest crocodile species living on Earth.
  • They are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • In India, it inhabits Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park, the Sundarbans in West Bengal and the Andamans and Nicobar Islands. They can also be found across Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
  • It is capable of prevailing over almost any animal that enters its territory and ambushes most of its prey and then drowns or swallows it as a whole.
  • Its reputation as a man-eater is one of the biggest reasons for its hunting and a threat to its existence. It is also hunted for its skin and another major cause of its decorating population is loss of habitat.
III- Gharial
  • The gharial, also known as the gavial is the longest of all living crocodilians and they have long and thin snouts which resemble an earthen pot (known as “Ghara” in Hindi”), and thus, are called gharial,
  • They are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. They are also Listed in the Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It currently inhabits rivers in the plains of the northern part of the Indian subcontinent and the Chambal river in the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains is known as the primary habitat of gharials.
  • The main causes of this decline include illegal sand mining, poaching, habitat destruction, floods and massive scale fishing operations.

Key Facts About the Rapti River

The Rapti River is a significant waterway in Nepal and India. Here are some key facts about the river:

  • Origin: The Rapti River originates in the Mahabharat Hills and lower range of the Himalayas.
  • Path: It flows westward along the northern border of the Chitwan National Park in Nepal and then through the Awadh and Purvanchal regions of Uttar Pradesh state in India.
  • Drainage Area: The river drains the Rapti zone in the Mid-Western Region of Nepal and parts of Uttar Pradesh in India.
  • Tributaries: The Rapti River has several tributaries, including the Rohini, Babiya, and Karra rivers.
  • Joining Point: The river meets the Ghaghara River, which is a major left-bank tributary of the Ganga River, in Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • Importance: The Rapti River is essential for irrigation and agriculture in the regions it flows through. It is also an important source of water for the wildlife in the Chitwan National Park.
  • Environmental Concerns: The Rapti River faces several environmental concerns, including pollution, deforestation, and climate change, which can impact the river’s health and the communities that rely on it.

-Source: Down to Earth


Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) Project


Context:

The Indian Railways is collaborating with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) under the Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) project.

Relevance:

GS III: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) project
  2. Benefits

About the Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) project:

  • The RTIS project involves the installation of satellite-based devices on trains to automatically acquire movement timing data, including arrival and departure times at stations.
  • The project is executed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Functionality:
  • The RTIS devices use satellite imagery to track the location and speed of trains, providing mid-section updates with a periodicity of 30 seconds.
  • The movement timing data is automatically plotted on the control chart of the train in the Control Office Application (COA) system, enabling train controllers to track the location and speed of trains more closely and without any manual intervention.
  • Passengers can use the system to get real-time information about a train’s location and running status on their smartphones.
Collaboration with ISRO:
  • The RTIS system uses ISRO’s GSAT satellites, which have GAGAN payloads for tracking the movement of trains.

Benefits:

  • The RTIS system enables faster decision-making and improved efficiency in train operations.
  • It provides passengers with real-time information about train locations and running status, improving their travel experience.
  • It enhances the safety and security of train operations by enabling closer monitoring of train movements.

-Source: The Hindu


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