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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 24 April 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. BRO reports glacier break in Uttarakhand
  2. MHA invokes Disaster Management Act
  3. Why India’s oil and gas production is falling?
  4. Rupee weakness and Ways and Means credit

BRO reports glacier break in Uttarakhand

Context:

  • There are reports of a glacier breaking off in the Sumna area, located close to the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand.
  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Commander concerned had informed them that reports of such an incident had been received and teams were being sent to the area.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical Geography, Distribution of Key Natural Resources, Water Resources, Important Geophysical Phenomena), GS-III: Geography (Various Security Forces & Agencies & Their Mandate)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Glacier?
  2. Why does a glacier break?
  3. Where has this “glacier break” happened?
  4. About the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

What is a Glacier?

  • A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. It is form by the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation) over many years. It is the largest reservoir of fresh water on the Earth (75 percent of the world’s fresh water).
  • Glaciers are unique because they are reservoir of fresh water, have sheer mass and their ability to move (Glaciers flow like very slow rivers). It may move in two ways- Internal flow is when the pressure and gravity on the ice in a glacier cause it to move downhill; Basal sliding is when an entire glacier moves because its base is slightly melted. Rivers, valleys and lakes are formed after melting of glaciers.
  • As per National Snow & Ice Date Centre, it occupies about 10 percent of the world’s total area.

Why does a glacier break?

  • Glacier break can happen due to erosion, a buildup of water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, an earthquake or cryoseism, volcanic eruptions under the ice.
  • It can also happen after a massive displacement of water in a glacial lake when a large portion of an adjacent glacier collapses into it.
  • The direct causes of glacial lake outbursts are earthquake, heavy rainfall/snowmelt, long-term dam degradation, etc.

Where has this “glacier break” happened?

  • Sumna is around 40 km ahead of Raini village — towards the China border — in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
  • Recently, upstream on the Rishiganga river near Raini village in the same Niti Valley, a glacial burst had occurred – leading to a flash flood in the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers, and devastation at the site of two hydro power projects downstream.

Important Glaciers in India

Name StateMountain Range
Batura GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Khurdopin GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Hispar GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Biafo GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Baltoro GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Chomolungma glacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Diamir GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Siachen GlacierJammu & KashmirKarakoram Mountain Range
Gangotri GlacierUttarkashi, UttarakhandHimalayas
Milam GlacierUttarakhandTrishul peak of  Pithoragarh
Pindari glacierNanda Devi, UttarakhandUpper reaches of the Kumaon Himalayas
Zemu GlacierSikkimEastern Himalaya Located on Kanchenjunga peak
10th February 2021 Current Affairs - Legacy IAS Academy

About the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighboring countries.
  • Currently, the organisation maintains operations in twenty-one states, one UT (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
  • Presently, BRO is also involved in the construction of a tunnel at the Rohtang pass which is estimated to be ready by 2019.
  • The BRO operates in 18 Projects namely: Arunank, Beacon, Brahmank, Chetak, Deepak, Dantak, Himank, Hirak, Pushpak, Sampark, Setuk, Sewak, Shivalik, Swastik, Udayak, Vartak, Vijayak and sela tunnel.
  • The organisation’s operations are spread across India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan.
  • The BRO was formed on 7 May 1960 to secure India’s borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country.
  • The BRO consists of Border Roads Wing under the Ministry of Defense and the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF). Officers are selected through the Indian Engineering Services (IES) Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

-Source: The Hindu


MHA invokes Disaster Management Act

Context:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) invoked the Disaster Management Act, after several states, including Delhi, cried foul over the shortage of medical oxygen.
  • Political leaders even accused neighboring states of blocking the supply of oxygen at a time when India is battling the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster Management (Disaster Management, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Disaster Management Act, 2005
  2. Where does Disaster Management stand in the Lists?
  3. Challenges
  4. What does the recent MHA order say?

Disaster Management Act, 2005

  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005, (23 December 2005) received the assent of The President of India on 9 January 2006.
  • The Act extends to the whole of India.
  • The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.”
  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC).
  • All State Governments are mandated under the act to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
  • The Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will be the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the district.
  • The Act provides for constituting a National Disaster Response Force “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under a Director General to be appointed by the Central Government.
  • Definition of a “disaster” in the DM Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes.
  • The objective of the Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
  • The Act contains the provisions for financial mechanisms such as the creation of funds for emergency response, National Disaster Response Fund and similar funds at the state and district levels.
  • The Act also devotes several sections various civil and criminal liabilities resulting from violation of provisions of the act.

So, what exactly does the Disaster Management Act do?

  • The Disaster Management Act allows the Centre to issue guidelines, directions or orders to the States for mitigating the effects of any disaster.
  • The definition of ‘disaster’ under the Act is quite broad and, literally speaking, would include a pandemic too.

Where does Disaster Management stand in the Lists?

  • Disaster management as a field of legislation does NOT find mention in either List II or List III, nor does any particular entry in List I specifically deal with this.
  • Thus, the Disaster Management Act could only have been enacted by Parliament in exercise of its residuary powers of legislation under Article 248 read with Entry 97 of List I.

Challenges

  • One of the most glaring inadequacies in the Act is the absence of a provision for declaration of ‘disaster- prone zones’.
  • Almost all disaster related legislations in the world have mapped out disaster- prone zones within their respective jurisdictions.
  • The state cannot be expected to play a pro- active role unless an area is declared ‘disaster- prone’. Classification helps in determining the extent of damages as well.
  • The Act portrays every disaster as a sudden occurrence and completely fails to take into account that disasters can be progressive in nature as well.
  • The Act calls for establishment of multiple- national level bodies, the functions of which seem to be overlapping, making coordination between them cumbersome.
  • The local authorities, who have a very valuable role to play in the wake of any disaster as first responders, barely find a mention at all. There are no substantive provisions to guide them, merely a minor reference to taking ‘necessary measures’.
  • Added to that, delayed response, inappropriate implementation of the plans and policies, and procedural lags plague the disaster management scheme in India.
  • Inadequate technological capacity for accurate prediction and measurement of the disaster result in large scale damage.

What does the recent MHA order say?

  • In its order, the MHA said no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states.
  • The MHA order also says no restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the state/UT in which they are located.
  • Free movement of vehicles carrying oxygen must be enabled in cities without any restriction of timing, while also enabling inter-city supply without any restrictions.
  • No authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or area.
  • Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the Government, is prohibited with effect from April 22 until further orders.
  • Slates/UTs shall strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by Empowered Group ll and as revised from time to time.

-Source: The Hindu


Why India’s oil and gas production is falling?

Context:

  • India’s crude oil production fell by 5.2 per cent and natural gas production by 8.1 per cent in the FY21.
  • While Covid-19 related delays are among the key reasons cited by producers behind lower production, India’s crude oil and natural gas production have been falling consistently since 2011-12.
  • India’s crude oil and natural gas production have been falling consistently since 2011-12.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (International Trade, Mobilization of Resources, Growth and Development of Indian Economy)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Reasons for the current Decline in Production
  2. Reasons for Less Private Participation
  3. Steps taken

Reasons for the current Decline in Production

  • Most of India’s crude oil and natural gas production comes from ageing wells that have become less productive over time.
  • There is no more easy oil and gas available in India and that producers would have to invest in extracting oil and gas using technologically intensive means from more difficult fields such as ultra-deep-water fields.
  • Crude oil production in India is dominated by two major state-owned exploration and production companies, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) and Oil India. These companies are the key bidders for hydrocarbon blocks in auctions and were the only successful bidders in the fifth and latest round of auctions under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) regime with ONGC bagging seven of the eleven oil and gas blocks on offer and Oil India acquiring rights for the other four.
  • India’s efforts to attract foreign energy giants into hydrocarbon exploration and production haven’t been quite fruitful.
  • Mounting pressure due to climate change is prompting oil and gas players to diversify into clean energy.

Impact

  • Low domestic production of crude oil and natural gas makes India more reliant on imports. The share of imports as a proportion of overall crude oil consumption in India has risen from 81.8% in FY2012 to 87.6% in FY2020.
  • Boosting oil and gas production has also been a key part of the government’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative and its goal to boost the use of natural gas in India’s primary energy mix from the current 6.2% to 15% by 2030.

Reasons for Less Private Participation

  • One of the key reasons cited by experts for low private participation in India’s upstream oil and gas sector are delays in the operationalisation of hydrocarbon blocks due to delays in major clearances including environmental clearances and approval by the regulator of field development plans.
  • Industry players have been calling for a reduction in the cess on domestically produced crude oil to 10% from the current 20%.
  • Internal maximum production levels set by oil and gas majors to address climate change had also lowered interest by oil majors to expand operations in India.

Steps taken

  • The government has asked ONGC to boost its investments in explorations and increase tie-ups with foreign players to provide technological support in extracting oil and gas from difficult oil and gas fields.
  • The government is also reaching out to major foreign players to convey that the current system of auction and regulation is much more “open and transparent” than before.
  • In October 2020 Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the Policy framework on reforms in the exploration and licensing sector for enhancing domestic exploration and production of oil and gas.
  • The NDR was established by the Government in 2017 to assimilate, preserve and upkeep the vast amount of data which could be organized and regulated for use in future exploration and development, besides use by R&D and other educational institutions
  • It is an integrated data repository of Exploration and Production (E&P) data of Indian sedimentary basins.
  • It replaced the erstwhile New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 2016 and provides for a single License for exploration and production of conventional as well as non-conventional Hydrocarbon resources; Pricing and Marketing Freedom; reduced rate of royalty for offshore blocks.

-Source: Indian Express


Rupee weakness and Ways and Means credit

Context:

  • Reserve Bank of India is intent on preventing any further depreciation in the currency as the surge in COVID-19 cases hits jobs and growth.
  • The rupee has already lost 2.6% against the dollar so far in April 2021, putting it on the cusp of marking its worst month since the pandemic hit the country early last year.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided to continue with the existing interim Ways and Means Advances (WMA) scheme limit of ₹51,560 crore for all States/ UTs shall for six months i.e., up to September 30, given the prevalence of COVID-19.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Fiscal Policy, Growth & Development of Indian Economy, Issues Relating to Economic Development in India)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About depreciating Rupee
  2. What is WMA?
  3. What is Ways and Means Advances limit?
  4. Types of WMAs and Interest rates
  5. Importance and advantages of higher Ways and Means Advances

About depreciating Rupee

  • INR is likely to trade with a depreciating bias on the back of a stronger dollar, relatively weaker emerging market or EM currencies, muted EM inflows and rising COVID-19 cases in India.
  • The rupee closed at 75.01 to the dollar, and traders said they expect it to stay in the 74.50 to 76.00 range against the greenback in the near-term.
  • The RBI has committed to buying ₹1 trillion worth bonds in the April-June period in its effort to temper the rise in bond yields to help the government borrow its budgeted ₹12.06 trillion from the market at low interest rates.
  • It said it would do more going forward, and this would be alongside its regular open market bond purchases and special open market operations — the simultaneous sale and purchase of government securities over different tenors — the equivalent of the U.S. Operation Twist.
  • RBI’s policy priority of keeping a lid on G-sec (government bond) yields is more pressing than arresting INR depreciation. A weaker rupee helps exports and the RBI may prefer it.

What is WMA?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gives temporary loan facilities to the central and state governments. This loan facility is called Ways and Means Advances (WMA).
  • When managing money, we know that cash outflows often overshoot inflows. When businesses face this, they approach banks to get working capital loans. But State governments in India either go for market borrowings by issuing securities or seek short-term funding from the RBI. Such Borrowings through WMA are to be repaid within three months and usually offered at the repo rate.
  • In that sense, they aren’t a source of finance per se, thus not a part of Fiscal Deficit. Section 17(5) of the RBI Act, 1934 authorises the central bank to lend to the Centre and state governments subject to their being repayable “not later than three months from the date of the making of the advance”.

The Ways and Means Advances scheme was introduced in 1997 to meet mismatches in the receipts and payments of the government.

Ways and Means Advances Meaning- for UPSC SHort term Fund SHortages Centres and States

What is Ways and Means Advances limit?

  • The limits for Ways and Means Advances are decided by the government and RBI mutually and revised periodically, usually half-yearly.
  • There is a State-wise limit for the funds that can be availed via WMA. These limits depend on many factors, including total expenditure, revenue deficit and fiscal position of the State. WMA limits are revised periodically and the previous utilisation rates are considered while determining revised limits.
Ways and Means Advances Meaning- for UPSC Devolution of funds between States and Centre

Types of WMAs and Interest rates

Ways and Means Advances Meaning- for UPSC Short term Borrowing by States Overdraft

The interest levied for special WMAs are lower than the repo rate due to the backing of government securities.

Importance and advantages of higher Ways and Means Advances

The cash flow problems of State governments, which were already under stress, have been aggravated by the impact of Covid-19. With economic activity at a near standstill, there is hardly any money coming in from GST, petroleum products, liquor, motor vehicles, stamp duty or registration fee. As frontline fighters against Covid-19, many States are in need of immediate and large financial resources to deal with challenges, including medical testing, screening and providing income and food security to the needy.

  • Increased WMA limit for States to borrow short-term funds from the RBI provides a financial cushion when there’s uncertainty in revenue collections due to stressed economic conditions.
  • WMA can be an alternative to raising longer-tenure funds from the markets, issue of State government securities (State development loans) or borrowing from financial institutions for short-term funding.
  • WMA funding is much cheaper than borrowings from markets.

-Source: The Hindu

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