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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 23 June 2021

Contents

  1. Integrated power development scheme
  2. China cracking down on cryptocurrencies
  3. At UNHRC, grave concerns raised over Xinjiang
  4. Suicide worldwide in 2019 report

Integrated Power Development Scheme

Context:

As part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, a 50 kWp Solar roof top was inaugurated in Solan, Himachal Pradesh under the Integrated power development scheme of Ministry of Power, Government of India.

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Energy Sources and Infrastructure, Government Schemes and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS)
  2. Government efforts towards solar power.
  3. Similar Government Schemes
  4. Way Forward for India’s Clean Energy?

Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS)

  • Ministry of Power, Government of India notified “Integrated Power Development Scheme” (IPDS) in 2014.
  • The scheme will help in reduction in AT&C losses; establishment of IT enabled energy accounting / auditing system, improvement in billed energy based on metered consumption and improvement in collection efficiency.
  • The Objectives of IPDS are:
    1. 24×7 Power supplies for consumers.
    2. Reduction of AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses.
    3. Providing access to power to all households.
  • All Power Distribution Companies (Discoms) are eligible for financial assistance under the scheme.
  • Components of the IPDS Scheme are:
    1. Strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution networks in the urban areas.
    2. Metering of distribution transformers / feeders / consumers in the urban areas.
    3. IT enablement of distribution sector and strengthening of distribution network under R-APDRP for 12th and 13th Plans by carrying forward the approved outlay for R-APDRP to IPDS.
    4. Schemes for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and IT enablement of balance urban towns are also included under IPDS. Scope of IT enablement has been extended to all 4041 towns as per Census 2011.
  • Underground cabling to include additional demand of States and smart metering solution for performing UDAY States and Solar panels on Govt. buildings with net-metering are also permissible under the scheme.

Government efforts towards solar power.

  • India expanded its solar generation capacity 8 times from 2,650 MW in May, 2014 to over 20 GW in January, 2018, and 28.18 GW in March, 2019.
  • The government had an initial target of 20 GW of solar capacity by 2022, which was achieved 4 years ahead of schedule.
  • In 2015, according to Paris climate deal, India agreed to the target of 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

Achievements so far in terms of Clean Energy

  • Solar tariffs in India have reduced from Rs. 7.36/kWh in FY15 to Rs. 2.63/kWh in FY20.
  • As of December 2020, over 36.69 crore LED bulbs, 1.14 crore LED tube lights and 23 lakh energy-efficient fans have been distributed across the country, saving 47.65 billion kWh per year.
  • In the first half of November 2020, India’s power consumption increased 7.8% to 50.15 billion units (BU), indicating an improvement in economic activity.
  • Energy generation from thermal sources stood at 472.90 billion units (BU) in April-September 2020.
  • India’s rank jumped to 22 in 2019 from 137 in 2014 on World Bank’s Ease of doing business – “Getting Electricity” ranking.
  • As of 28th April, 2018, 100% village electrification was achieved under DDUGJY.

Similar Government Schemes

  1. Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya): To ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
  2. Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY): The rural electrification scheme provides for (a) separation of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders; (b) strengthening and augmentation of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas including metering at distribution transformers, feeders and consumers end.
  3. GARV (Grameen Vidyutikaran) App: To monitor transparency in implementation of the electrification schemes, Grameen Vidyut Abhiyanta (GVAs) have been appointed by the government to report progress through the GARV app.
  4. Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY): For operational and financial turnaround of Discoms.
  5. 4 Es’ in the Revised Tariff Policy: The 4Es include Electricity for all, Efficiency to ensure affordable tariffs, Environment for a sustainable future, Ease of doing business to attract investments and ensure financial viability.

Way Forward for India’s Clean Energy?

  • Clean energy will be a major driver of India’s economic recovery and international competitiveness, and working to leverage India’s domestic innovation ecosystem will bring value to the country and industry.
  • Four principles can be considered as a framework for policymakers and other key decision-makers considering programmes to support India’s clean energy future
    • Invest in least-cost-energy solutions,
    • Support resilient and secure energy systems,
    • Prioritize efficiency and competitiveness, and
    • Promote social and environmental equity.
  • India needs to identify strategic opportunities for economic recovery in the short, medium, and long terms that can translate challenges posed by the pandemic into clean energy transition opportunities.

-Source: PIB


China cracking down on cryptocurrencies

Context:

  • China has broadened a crackdown on its massive cryptocurrency mining industry with a ban on mines in a key southwestern province.
  • Values of prominent cryptocurrencies are crashing and China’s crackdown against crypto-currencies, which are those that aren’t sanctioned by a centralised authority and are secured by cryptography, is said to have a lot to do with the crashing of the value of crypto-currencies.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Blockchain technology), GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding “Mining” of bitcoin
  2. What has China done in the “Crackdown on Cryptocurrencies”?
  3. Why is China doing this?

Click here to learn what are cryptocurrencies?

Understanding “Mining” of bitcoin

  • Bitcoin mining is the process of creating new bitcoin by solving a computational puzzle.
  • Bitcoin mining is necessary to maintain the ledger of transactions upon which bitcoin is based.
  • In purpose, Bitcoin miners play a similar role to gold miners; they bring new Bitcoins into circulation.
  • They get these as a reward for validating transactions, which require the successful computation of a mathematical puzzle. And these computations have become ever-increasingly complex, and therefore energy-intensive in recent years.
  • The result of bitcoin mining is twofold. First, when computers solve these complex math problems on the bitcoin network, they produce new bitcoin (not unlike when a mining operation extracts gold from the ground). And second, by solving computational math problems, bitcoin miners make the bitcoin payment network trustworthy and secure by verifying its transaction information.

What has China done in the “Crackdown on Cryptocurrencies”?

  • In June 2021, China has reportedly cracked down on crypto mining operations. The country has over the years accounted for a large percentage of the total crypto mining activity that takes place.
  • Access to cheap electricity has made mining lucrative in China and China accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total computational power in 2020.
  • Now, provincial governments one by one have acted against these mining operations. The latest to do so is Sichuan, which was a hydroelectric-based crypto mining hub.
  • A few days back, the People’s Bank of China directed banks and payment firms to put a stop to crypto-currency trading.

Why is China doing this?

  • The fact that cryptocurrencies bypass official institutions has been a reason for unease in many governments.
  • The anonymity that it offers aids in the flourishing of dark trades online.
  • While many countries have opted to regulate the world of crypto-currencies, China has taken the strictest of measures over the years. According to observers, the latest set of measures are to strengthen its monetary hold and also project its new official digital currency.
  • China first imposed restrictions on cryptocurrencies way back in 2013 and then it then barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin.
  • In 2017, China barred what are called initial coin offerings, under which firms raise money by selling their own new cryptocurrencies. This is largely an unregulated market.
  • An inter-ministerial committee report in India two years ago, in fact, noted that in 2017 the government of China also banned trading between RMB (China’s currency renminbi) and crypto-currencies.

Click Here to read more – Recently in news: El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender

-Source: The Hindu


At UNHRC, grave concerns raised over Xinjiang

Context:

More than 40 countries led by Canada voiced grave concerns at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet — triggering a fierce backlash from Beijing.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions, India’s Neighbors)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
  2. About the recent move in UNHRC against Chinese activities
  3. Who are Uyghurs?
  4. What are the accusations Levelled against China?

About United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. The headquarters of the Council is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The Council has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis.
  • The Council investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in United Nations member states, and addresses thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
  • The members of the United Nations General Assembly elect the members who occupy 47 seats of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
  • The seats are distributed among the United Nations regional groups as follows: 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and seven for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).
  • The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September. The UNHRC can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies, at the request of one-third of the member states.

About the recent move in UNHRC against Chinese activities

  • Countries voiced concerns against China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet and this statement was backed by Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.S., among others.
  • It was said that credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uighurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uighur culture.
  • The statement cited reports of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents.

Who are Uyghurs?

  • Uyghurs are predominately Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslims who live primarily in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. Islam came to the region in the 10th century. Prior to Islam, the Uyghurs embraced Buddhism, Shamanism, and Manicheism.
  • Uyghurs embraced Islam in 934 during the Karahanid Kingdom. Kashgar, the capital of the Kingdom, quickly became one of the major learning centers of Islam.
  • Art, the sciences, music and literature flourished as Islamic religious institutions nurtured the pursuit of an advanced culture. In this period, hundreds of world-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged.
  • Uyghurs played an important role in cultural exchanges between the East and West and developed a unique culture and civilization of their own based on Islam.

What are the accusations Levelled against China?

  • China is accused of encouraging internal migration into the Xinjiang province to increase the non-Uyghur population and power in the region.
  • In recent years, there have been many reports of students, teachers, and civil servants have been forbidden from fasting during Ramadan, forbidden from wearing their traditional dress and even keeping a beard.
  • Uyghurs continue to be the only population in China consistently subjected to executions for political crimes, and these executions are often both summary and public. With the rise of China as the expected superpower of the 21st century, such repressive policies against the Uyghur Muslims are likely to get worse.

Click here to read more about Sinicization in Xinjiang, Taiwan etc.

-Source: The Hindu


Suicide worldwide in 2019 report

Context:

Suicide worldwide in 2019 was published by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues, Government Schemes and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Suicide and what are suicide related laws in India?
  2. Highlights of the Suicide worldwide in 2019 report
  3. Suicides and SDG targets according to the report

What is Suicide and what are suicide related laws in India?

Suicide is defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.

Laws in India

  1. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both. It is to be noted that the abetting of the commission of suicide (but not the abetting of attempt to commit suicide) is covered under Section 306 IPC and the abetment of suicide of a child is covered under Section 305 IPC.
  2. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 provides that “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the IPC, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code. However, this law applies only to those suffering from mental illness. There is presumption of severe stress in case of an attempt to die by suicide.

Highlights of the Suicide worldwide in 2019 report

  • The Covid-19-pandemic has increased mental stress globally. However, a crisis was already in place in 2019 as more than 7 lakh people or one in a 100 in the world, died by suicide in 2019.
  • Many of those who died in suicide were young people as more than half of global suicides (58%) occurred before the age of 50 years.
  • Suicide was the fourth-leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 globally in 2019.
  • More than 75% of global suicides in 2019 occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Africa, Europe and South-East Asia recorded suicide rates higher than the global average.
  • In 20 years (2000-2019), the global suicide rate had decreased by 36%.

Suicides in India

  • India has the highest suicide rate in the Southeast Asian region.
  • A total of 1,34,516 cases of suicide were reported in 2018 in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
  • While the rate of suicide was 9.9 in 2017, it increased to 10.2 in 2018.

Suicides and SDG targets according to the report

  • Reducing the global suicide mortality rate by a third is both, an indicator and a target (the only one for mental health) in the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the world will not be able to reach this target.
  • The SDGs call on countries to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by a third, by 2030 through prevention and treatment and to promote mental health and well-being.
  • They ask countries to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol. They also call for universal health coverage, which mental health is part of.
  • Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted, the report said. Currently, only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.

Click Here to read more about Mental wellbeing and related Initiatives in India

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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