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Current Affairs 14 July 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Social Trailblazer Programme & Social Entrepreneurship
  2. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
  3. Artificial Sweetener
  4. National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021
  5. Marine Heatwave
  6. Non fungible tokens
  7. Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS)

 Social Trailblazer Programme & Social Entrepreneurship


Context:

The Union Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, while addressing a Social Enterprise Conclave organized by Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) in partnership with LIC Housing Finance Limited has launched the 2nd edition of the Social Trailblazer Program, aiming to boost the Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in India.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Social Trailblazer Programme
  2. Social Entrepreneurship
  3. Need for More Social Entrepreneurs
  4. Challenges of Social Entrepreneurship in India
  5. Way Forward

Social Trailblazer Programme:

  • The Social Trailblazer Programme is designed to support the development of social enterprises and entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas.
  • Its primary focus is on nurturing early-stage social and collective enterprises in various sectors.

Objectives:

  • The program aims to nurture and strengthen the ecosystem of Indian social enterprises.
  • It seeks to promote the growth of social enterprises and social investment to address long-standing social and environmental challenges.

Focus Areas: The Social Trailblazer Programme focuses on the following sectors:

  • Agriculture
  • Green Technology
  • Finance Technology
  • Education
  • Renewable Energy
  • Healthcare & Life Sciences
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Social Impact
  • Waste Management
Support and Incentives:
  • Selected startups receive financial awards, including up to INR 25,00,000 in the form of equity funding and up to INR 5,00,000 in the form of grant funding.
  • The program provides one year of personalized incubation and acceleration support at IRMA ISEED Foundation.
  • Top-performing startups have the opportunity for additional funding, with up to INR 50,00,000 in follow-on investment from IRMA ISEED’s networks.
  • Participants also receive technology support, including up to USD 1000 worth of AWS (Amazon Web Services) credits.

Social Entrepreneurship:

  • Social entrepreneurship is the practice of using business models and innovative ideas to address social and environmental problems.
  • Social entrepreneurs aim to create positive change while generating revenue and profits.
Characteristics:
  • Social entrepreneurs, also known as social innovators, identify social and environmental problems and develop innovative solutions.
  • They align with trends like Socially Responsible Investment and Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing.
  • Examples of social entrepreneurship include educational programs in underserved areas and initiatives to support children orphaned by epidemic diseases.
Types of Social Entrepreneurship:
  • Community Initiative: Small-scale projects that address specific issues within marginalized and underprivileged communities.
  • Non-Profit Organization: Organizations established with the intention of not making a profit, where revenue is not distributed to directors or members.
  • Social Enterprise: Organizations that use commercial tactics to optimize both social impact and profits for co-owners.
  • Cooperative: Democratically run businesses collectively owned by a group of individuals working towards shared economic, social, and cultural goals.
  • Social Conscious Business: Businesses that demonstrate sensitivity and responsibility towards social issues and injustice.

Need for More Social Entrepreneurs:

  • Social impact entrepreneurs have the potential to drive significant social change on a large scale by taking risks and developing sustainable solutions.
  • India’s economic growth has not been inclusive, leaving a significant gap between the rich and poor, and marginalized communities behind. Social entrepreneurs can play a crucial role in promoting inclusive growth and creating opportunities for these communities.
  • India faces environmental challenges such as pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Social entrepreneurs can create sustainable solutions to address these challenges, promoting environmental protection and sustainable development.
  • Collaboration with the government and private sector allows social entrepreneurs to leverage resources, policies, and expertise to create a more significant social impact.

Challenges of Social Entrepreneurship in India:

  • Attracting Investors: Social entrepreneurs often tackle future-oriented issues that may be perceived as risky by investors focused on profit-driven projects.
  • Developing a Strong Business Strategy: Social enterprises require support from professionals to create solid business plans that align with market realities and customer needs.
  • Balancing Financial and Social Goals: Social enterprises need to balance financial returns with social outcomes, which may make them less attractive to investors or donors.
  • Higher Costs and Risks: Addressing complex social problems can involve higher costs, risks, and uncertainties for social entrepreneurs.
  • Burnout and Well-being: The demanding nature of social entrepreneurship can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and a loss of motivation, affecting the well-being and effectiveness of social entrepreneurs.

Way Forward:

  • The field of social entrepreneurship has shown promising growth and has generated innovative ideas to address social problems profitably.
  • India’s social entrepreneurship ecosystem is well-developed and offers opportunities for collaboration, learning, and creative problem-solving in various sectors.
  • It is crucial to create a nurturing ecosystem that supports social entrepreneurs in taking up programs, bridging gaps created by the pandemic, scaling existing initiatives, and integrating them into the mainstream response system.
  • This can be achieved through:
    • Building Supportive Networks: Establishing networks and platforms that connect social entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and experts to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and resource mobilization.
    • Access to Funding: Ensuring adequate funding opportunities for social entrepreneurs through impact investment, grants, and innovative financing models specifically designed for social enterprises.
    • Policy Support: Creating an enabling policy environment that recognizes and supports the unique needs and contributions of social entrepreneurs, including providing incentives and regulatory frameworks that encourage and facilitate their work.
    • Capacity Building: Offering training, mentorship, and incubation programs to enhance the skills and capabilities of social entrepreneurs in areas such as business planning, financial management, impact measurement, and scaling strategies.
    • Collaboration with Stakeholders: Encouraging collaboration between social entrepreneurs, government agencies, corporates, NGOs, and academic institutions to leverage diverse expertise, resources, and networks for greater impact.
    • Public Awareness and Recognition: Raising awareness about social entrepreneurship, its potential for driving social change, and recognizing the achievements and impact of social entrepreneurs to inspire more individuals to enter the field.

-Source: The Hindu, PIB


Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act


Context:

According to Army sources, there is a significant limitation for security forces operating without the legal protection provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur.

Relevance:

GS III- Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
  2. AFSPA Acts in force
  3. Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA
  4. Why was AFSPA imposed on the Northeast in the first place?
  5. Arguments Against AFSPA
  6. Arguments in Favour of AFSPA
  7. Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA
  8. Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
  • AFSPA is invoked when a case of militancy or insurgency takes place and the territorial integrity of India is at risk.
  • Security forces can “arrest a person without warrant”, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even based on “reasonable suspicion”.
  • It also provides security forces with legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
  • While the armed forces and the government justify its need in order to combat militancy and insurgency, critics have pointed out cases of possible human rights violations linked to the act.
  • According to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain status quo for a minimum of 3 months.
  • The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement alleged to have happened.

AFSPA Acts in force

It is effective in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

History of AFSPA Acts
  • An AFSPA Act passed in 1958 was applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam.
  • In the following decades it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at present, it is in force in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam).
  • Another one passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force.
  • An Act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.

Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA

  • After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order,
  • Destroy any arms dump, hide-outs, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence.
  • To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
  • To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
  • Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
  • Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made present over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
  • Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
  • Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act from prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings, except with the sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.

Why was AFSPA imposed on the Northeast in the first place?

  • When the Naga nationalist movement kicked off in the  1950s with the setting up of the Naga National Council — the predecessor of the NSCN — Assam police forces allegedly used force to quell the movement.
  • As an armed movement took root in Nagaland, AFSPA was passed in Parliament, and subsequently imposed on the entire state.
  • In Manipur, too, it was imposed in 1958 in the three Naga-dominated districts of Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul, where the NNC was active.
  • It was imposed in the 1960s in the Kuki-Zomi dominated Manipur district of Churachandpur, which was under the sway of the Mizo insurgent movement, and extended to the rest of the state in 1979, when groups in the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley groups began an armed insurgency.
  • As secessionist and nationalist movements started sprouting in other Northeastern states, AFSPA started being extended and imposed.

Arguments Against AFSPA

  • Symbol of Hatred: The Jeevan Reddy Committee, which was founded in 2004, criticised AFSPA as a symbol of hatred, persecution, and a tool of oppression.
  • Immunity to Security Forces: AFSPA has been dubbed a “draconian Act” for the unrestricted authority it grants the military forces and the impunity that security officers have for their acts performed under the law. Under AFSPA, the “armed forces” have the authority to shoot to kill or demolish a structure based solely on suspicion.
  • Human Rights Issue: The AFSPA’s activities have been criticised because people have died as a result of them. It’s been a contentious issue, with human rights organisations condemning it as being too forceful.
  • Prolonged continuation: Despite a nearly 25-year ceasefire accord, the Union Government has been chastised for renewing the “disturbed region” tag on Nagaland every year to keep the AFSPA alive.
  • Concerns of AFSPA in Manipur: Many protests over suspected extrajudicial executions by the security forces have taken place in Manipur throughout the years. The bullet-riddled body of Thangjam Manorama, who was reportedly raped and killed by a group of Assam Rifles troops in 2004 sparked outrage across the state. Irom Sharmila, often known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, is a towering figure who is well-known for her 16-year hunger strike in protest of AFSPA atrocities.
Arguments in Favour of AFSPA
  • The AFSPA is described as a law that takes a straightforward approach to control criminal activity in disturbed areas.
  • Fascist techniques and all groups, private and public, that engage in violence and attempt to pressure the government by organised violence must be controlled. As a result, the AFSPA is vital.

Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA

  • When India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA.
  • They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR.
  • In 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had no place in Indian democracy.
  • The Act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.

Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA

1997 judgment on AFSPA

  • In Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights vs Union of India 1997, a Constitution Bench ruled that the ability to use deadly force under Section 4(a) of the AFSPA should only be used in “certain circumstances.”
  • A 1997 Supreme Court judgment advocated “caution and use of minimum force against our own people” in AFSPA regions.

Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) case 2017

  • The Supreme Court addressed the extrajudicial executions in 2016, clarifying that the bar under Section 6 of the AFSPA does not offer officers “complete immunity” from any investigation into their alleged misconduct.
  • The government received severe criticism from the Supreme Court in 2016 for the continuance of AFSPA.

Reactions to the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland

  • Lok Sabha members condemned the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland with some Opposition MPs calling for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as well.
  • Nagaland Chief Minister has also called for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
  • Human rights bodies in India and beyond are debating the contentious AFSPA that gives unbridled powers to the security forces.
  • Nagaland Chief Minister also criticised the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.
  • In the northeast, the AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of the State bordering Assam.
  • For Jammu and Kashmir, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, is in force.

-Source: The Hindu


Artificial Sweetener


Context:

A World Health Organization’s (WHO) committee categorised artificial sweetener aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However, another committee simultaneously assessing the levels that can be safely consumed has said there is no need to reduce the previously established acceptable daily intake (ADI) for the sweetener.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Low-Calorie/Artificial Sweeteners
  2. How Your Body Reacts to an Artificial Sweetener
  3. Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners
  4. Disadvantages/Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Low-Calorie/Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) are sweeteners that have fewer calories compared to sugar and other caloric sweeteners like fruit juice concentrates and corn syrups.
  • They are also known by other names such as non-nutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, and high-intensity sweeteners.
  • Some LCS are labeled as “sugar-free” or “diet” and can be used as general-purpose sweeteners.
  • LCS are commonly found in various beverages and foods, including frozen desserts, yogurt, candies, baked goods, chewing gum, breakfast cereals, gelatins, and puddings.

How Your Body Reacts to an Artificial Sweetener?

Processing Regular Sugar:
  • When you consume regular sugar, it enters your bloodstream and is transported to cells, where it can be converted into energy or stored for later use.
  • Sugar can be stored as glycogen (the body’s storage form of sugar) or converted into fatty acids and stored in fat cells.
Artificial Sweeteners and Body Response:
  • Artificial sweeteners are typically man-made chemicals that the human body is not naturally designed to process.
  • Some artificial sweeteners cannot be absorbed by our bodies. For example, sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol remain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
  • If an artificial sweetener is absorbed, the body recognizes it as a foreign substance or toxin.
  • Instead of being distributed to different cells in the body, artificial sweeteners are primarily processed by the liver.
  • The liver is responsible for eliminating artificial sweeteners from the body, similar to how it metabolizes alcohol.

Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Adds sweetness without adding actual sugar, making it an appealing option for reducing sugar intake.
  • Artificial sweeteners have significantly fewer calories than real sugar.
  • Most artificial sweeteners contain such a negligible amount of calories that they can be labeled as “No Calories.”
  • Can serve as a transitional tool for individuals shifting to a healthier diet by gradually reducing sugar consumption.
  • Useful for people managing diabetes or pre-diabetes as they do not affect blood sugar levels the same way real sugar does.

Disadvantages/Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Studies on mice have shown that long-term ingestion of artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, can alter the gut microbiome and lead to glucose intolerance.
  • The altered gut microbiome and glucose intolerance were reversible with antibiotic treatment and transfer of fecal matter, suggesting a potential role of artificial sweeteners in metabolic disorders.
  • Concerns have been raised about the possibility of artificial sweeteners exacerbating metabolic disorders and increasing the risk of progression to diabetes and obesity.
  • Artificial sweeteners may not satisfy sugar cravings, potentially leading to overeating to fulfill those cravings.

-Source: Indian Express


National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021


Context:

Recently, the GST Council said the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on medicines and Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) used for treating rare diseases enlisted under the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021, will be exempt when imported for personal use.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues, Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are ‘Rare diseases’?
  2. Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’
  3. Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021
  4. Criticisms of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021
  5. Constitutional Provisions in the context of the new policy for rare diseases

What are ‘Rare diseases’?

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.

  1. Haemophilia,
  2. Thalassemia,
  3. Sickle-cell anaemia,
  4. Auto-immune diseases,
  5. Pompe disease,
  6. Hirschsprung disease,
  7. Gaucher’s disease,
  8. Cystic Fibrosis,
  9. Hemangiomas and
  10. Certain forms of muscular dystrophies

Are some of the most common rare diseases recorded in India.

Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’

  • Rare diseases pose a significant challenge to health care systems because of the difficulty in collecting epidemiological data, which in turn impedes the process of arriving at a disease burden, calculating cost estimations and making correct and timely diagnoses, among other problems.
  • There are 7,000-8,000 classified rare diseases, but less than 5% have therapies available to treat them.
  • About 95% rare diseases have no approved treatment and less than 1 in 10 patients receive disease-specific treatment. Where drugs are available, they are prohibitively expensive, placing immense strain on resources.
  • These diseases have differing definitions in various countries and range from those that are prevalent in 1 in 10,000 of the population to 6 per 10,000.
  • India has said it lacks epidemiological data on the prevalence here and hence has only classified certain diseases as ‘rare.’
  • Currently, only a few pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing drugs for rare diseases globally and there are no domestic manufacturers in India except for those who make medical-grade food for those with metabolic disorders.
  • Due to the high cost of most therapies, the government has not been able to provide these for free.

Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

  • Patients of rare diseases will be eligible for a one-tome treatment under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
  • Financial support up to Rs20 lakh under the Umbrella Scheme of Rashtriya Arogaya Nidhi shall be provided by the central government for treatment of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1) for their treatment in Government tertiary hospitals only. – (NOT be limited to below poverty line (BPL) families, but extended to about 40% of the population as eligible under the norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY))

The policy has categorised rare diseases in three groups:

  1. Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment;
  2. Those requiring long term or lifelong treatment; and
  3. Diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit.

The government has said that it will also assist in voluntary crowd-funding for treatment as it will be difficult to fully finance treatment of high-cost rare diseases.

Criticisms of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

  • Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh — caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.
  • The Policy leaves patients with Group 3 rare diseases to fend for themselves due to the absence of a sustainable funding support.
  • What the policy doesn’t capture is that these are diseases that last a lifetime adding up to a huge amount of expenditure and many of the patients who can’t afford such treatment will be unable to even make it to the prescribed tertiary hospitals for treatment.

Constitutional Provisions in the context of the new policy for rare diseases

  1. Article 38 says that the state will secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people. Providing affordable healthcare is one of the ways to promote welfare.
  2. Article 41 imposes duty on state to provide public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement etc.
  3. Article 47 makes it the duty of the State to improve public health, securing of justice, human condition of works, extension of sickness, old age, disablement and maternity benefits and also contemplated.

-Source: The Hindu


Marine Heatwave


Context:

The northern Bay of Bengal has been experiencing an intense Marine Heatwave since 28th June 2023, leading to India’s usually arid northwest receiving extreme rainfall.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Marine Heatwave
  2. Impact of Marine Heatwave on Rainfall in Northwest India
  3. Impacts of Marine Heatwaves

Marine Heatwave:

  • Marine heatwaves are prolonged periods of abnormally high Sea Surface Temperature (SST).
  • These events can lead to coral bleaching, seagrass destruction, and loss of kelp forests, impacting the fisheries sector negatively.
  • Common drivers of marine heatwaves include ocean currents that accumulate warm water and air-sea heat flux, which is warming from the atmosphere through the ocean surface.
  • Winds can amplify or dampen the warming effects of a marine heatwave, and climate modes like El Niño can influence the occurrence of these events in specific regions.

Impact of Marine Heatwave on Rainfall in Northwest India:

  • The marine heatwave in the Bay of Bengal elevated sea surface temperatures, resulting in increased evaporation rates and a higher supply of moisture in the atmosphere.
  • This surplus moisture contributed to above-average rainfall in northwest India.
  • The marine heatwave likely influenced the formation and behavior of low-pressure systems called depressions in the Bay of Bengal.
  • These depressions play a significant role in monsoon and rainfall patterns.
  • The marine heatwave, along with changing timescales of depressions, affected the path and trajectory of these weather systems.
  • Depressions were more inclined to move towards northwest India rather than north-central India, leading to a concentration of rainfall in the northwest region and resulting in above-average rainfall in that area.

Impacts of Marine Heatwaves:

  • Ecosystem Structure: Marine heatwaves can alter ecosystem structure by favoring certain species while suppressing others.
  • Mass Mortality: Marine heatwaves have been associated with mass mortality events in marine invertebrates, leading to significant ecological disruptions.
  • Behavioral Changes: Species may be forced to change their behavior in response to marine heatwaves, putting them at increased risk of harm.
  • Habitat Range Shifts: Marine heatwaves can cause shifts in the habitat ranges of species, resulting in changes to ecosystem dynamics. For example, the expansion of spiny sea urchins into new areas can negatively impact kelp forests.
  • Economic Losses: Marine heatwaves can have significant economic impacts, particularly on fisheries and aquaculture industries.
  • Biodiversity Loss: Marine heatwaves can lead to drastic declines in biodiversity, affecting the overall health and functioning of marine ecosystems.
  • Corals and Bleaching: Marine heatwaves can cause widespread coral bleaching, leading to coral mortality and ecosystem degradation.
  • Interaction with Other Stressors: Marine heatwaves often occur alongside other stressors such as ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and overfishing. These combined stressors can further damage habitats and increase the risks of deoxygenation and acidification in affected areas.

-Source: Down To Earth


Non Fungible Tokens


Context:

NFTs are gaining massive popularity now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to showcase and sell digital artwork.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy (Money and Banking)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Non fungible tokens( NFTs)?
  2. How do NFTs work?
  3. Difference between NFT and cryptocurrency
  4. Risks associated with buying NFTs

What are Non fungible tokens( NFTs)?

  • Anything that can be converted into a digital form can be an NFT.
  • Everything from your drawings, photos, videos, GIF, music, in-game items, selfies, and even a tweet can be turned into an NFT, which can then be traded online using cryptocurrency.
  • But what makes NFTs unique from other digital forms is that it is backed by Blockchain technology.
    • For the uninitiated, Blockchain is a distributed ledger where all transactions are recorded. It is like your bank passbook, except all your transactions are transparent and can be seen by anyone and cannot be changed or modified once recorded.
  • NFTs are gaining massive popularity now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to showcase and sell your digital artwork.
  • Billions of dollars have been spent on NFTs since its inception—which date backs to 2015
    • Terra Nulius was the first NFT on Ethereum Blockchain, although this project was merely an idea which only allowed to customise a short message which was then recorded on blockchain.
    • Then came Curio Cards, CryptoPunks and CryptoCats in 2017, before NFTS slowly moved into public awareness, then expanding into mainstream adoption in early 2021.
Who can buy NFTs?
  • Anyone who holds a cryptocurrency wallet can buy an NFT. That is the only prerequisite to purchase an NFT.
  • There is no need of any KYC documents to purchase an art.
  • All you need is a cryptocurrency wallet powered by Metamask, and an NFT marketplace where you can buy and sell NFTs.

How do NFTs work?

  • NFT works on blockchain as it gives users complete ownership of a digital asset.
    • For instance, if you’re a sketch artist, and if you convert your digital asset to an NFT, what you get is proof of ownership, powered by Blockchain.
  • In simple words, when you list your NFT on a marketplace, you pay something called a gas fee (transaction fee) for using the Blockchain, following which your digital art is then recorded on Blockchain, mentioning that you (your address) own the particular NFT.
  • This gives you full ownership—which cannot be edited or modified by anyone, including the marketplace owner.
  • An NFT is thus created, or as crypto enthusiasts say it is “minted”, to get exclusive ownership rights.
  • NFTs can have only one owner at a time.
  • Apart from exclusive ownership, NFT owners can also digitally sign their artwork and store specific information in their NFTs metadata. This will be only viewable to the individual who bought the NFT.

Difference between NFT and cryptocurrency

NFTs and cryptocurrencies are very different from each other. While both are built on Blockchain, that is where the similarity ends.

Cryptocurrency:
  • It is a currency and is fungible, meaning that it is interchangeable.
  • For instance, if you hold one crypto token, say one Ethereum, the next Ethereum that you hold will also be of the same value.
NFTs:
  • These are non-fungible, that means the value of one NFT is not equal to another.
  • Every art is different from other, making it non fungible, and unique.

Risks associated with buying NFTs:

  • Emergence of fake marketplaces,
  • Unverified sellers often impersonating real artists and selling copies of their artworks for half prices.
    • Recently, pop culture icon Ozzy Osbournes NFT collection CryptoBatz went live. People complained about a potential phishing link shared by the artist that was draining their crypto wallets. At least 1,330 people had visited the fake NFT project. An Ethereum wallet address linked to the scammers had received a series of incoming transactions totaling 14.6 ETH ($40,895) on January 20.
  • In order to validate transactions, crypto mining is done, which requires high powered computers that run at a very high capacity, affecting the environment ultimately.

-Source: Business Standards


Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS)


Context:

Southern Railway has identified 90 stations for development under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS).

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS)
  2. Facilities Planned under ABSS

Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS):

  • The Amrit Bharat Station Scheme (ABSS) aims at the development of railway stations with a long-term vision, focusing on enhancing facilities and amenities beyond the minimum essential requirements.
  • The scheme will consolidate and replace previous redevelopment projects that have not yet commenced.
Implementation Approach:
  • The scheme entails the preparation of Master Plans for railway stations and their phased implementation.
  • Master Plans will be based on factors such as station footfall and inputs from stakeholders.
  • Zonal railways are responsible for selecting stations, which will then be approved by a committee of senior railway officials.
  • The objective is to execute low-cost redevelopment that can be implemented in a timely manner.
Facilities Planned under ABSS:
  • Creation of a Roof Plaza in the future.
  • Provision of free Wi-Fi and space for 5G mobile towers.
  • Improving access through road widening, removal of unwanted structures, well-designed signages, dedicated pedestrian pathways, well-planned parking areas, and improved lighting.
  • Efforts will be made to combine different grades/types of waiting halls and provide quality cafeteria and retail facilities.
  • Upgrading furniture in waiting rooms, platforms, restrooms, and offices.
  • High-level platforms (760-840 millimeters) will be provided at all categories of stations.
  • Special amenities will be incorporated for the disabled, following guidelines issued by the Railway Board.

-Source: Indian Express


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