INDIAN POLITY, GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
1.2 LAKH PEOPLE DIED IN ROAD ACCIDENTS IN 2020: NCRB
THE CONTEXT: As many as 3.92 lakh lives have been lost in three years in deaths due to negligence related to road accidents, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed in its annual ‘Crime India’ report for 2020.
- While 1.2 lakh deaths were recorded in 2020, the figures stood at 1.36 lakh in 2019 and 1.35 lakh in 2018.
- Meanwhile, 52 cases of deaths due to negligence related to rail accidents were recorded across the country in 2020; 55 such cases in 2019 and 35 in 2018.
- During 2020, India also logged 133 cases of “deaths due to medical negligence;” 201 such cases in 2019 and 218 in 2018.
- There were 51 cases of “deaths due to negligence of civic bodies” in 2020, while there were 147 cases in 2019 and 40 in 2018, according to the report.
- Another 6,367 cases of “deaths due to other negligence” were reported across the country in 2020; 7,912 cases in 2019 and 8,687 in 2018, it showed.
RAJASTHAN PASSES BILL TO REGISTER CHILD MARRIAGES
THE CONTEXT: The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in the state assembly. The bill has a provision that requires child marriages to be registered within 30 days.
- The legislation would now allow registration to be done at the level of District Marriage Registration Officer as well as Additional District Marriage Registration Officer and Block Marriage Registration Officer level.
- The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said the commission would examine and do the needful to protect the interest of children.
- Child marriages surged by 50 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the most recent NCRB data.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2020, a total of 785 cases were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
- The numbers of cases registered were the highest in Karnataka at 184, followed by Assam at 138, West Bengal at 98, Tamil Nadu at 77 and Telangana at 62.
THE CONTEXT: World’s longest expressway between Delhi and Mumbai to open in March 2023. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways concluded the two-day review of the work progress on the 1380-km eight-lane Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, which will reduce travel time between certain cities to 12-12.5 hours from 24 hours.
WHAT IS THE DELHI-MUMBAI EXPRESSWAY?
- Cost: Rs 98,000 crore
- Length: 1,380 km
- Completion schedule: The first phase from Delhi-Jaipur (Dausa)-Lalsot and Vadodara-Ankleshwar is expected to be open to traffic by March 2022. The expressway is expected to be completed by March 2023.
- The project was kickstarted in 2018 with the foundation stone being laid on March 9, 2019.
- The expressway will feature a spur to Jewar Airport and Jawaharlal Nehru Port to Mumbai through a spur in Mumbai.
- The expressway will improve connectivity to economic hubs like Jaipur, Kishangarh, Ajmer, Kota, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Bhopal, Ujjain, Indore, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat.
- Out of the 1,380 km, contracts have been awarded for more than 1,200 km where work is under progress.
- Over 15,000 hectares of land has been acquired across states for the construction of the Delhi-Mumbai expressway.
KEY FEATURES OF DELHI-MUMBAI EXPRESSWAY
- The eight-lane access-controlled expressway can be expanded to a 12-lane expressway depending on the volume of traffic.
- The expressway will have wayside amenities – resorts, restaurants, food courts, fuel stations, facilities for truckers, logistics parks.
- A helicopter ambulance service for accident victims and a heliport, which will use drone services for business as well.
- Over two million trees and shrubs are planned to be planted along the highway.
- The expressway is the first in Asia and only the second in the world to feature animal overpasses to facilitate unrestricted movement of wildlife.
- The expressway will also include two iconic 8-lane tunnels, one tunnelling through Mukundra sanctuary without disturbing the endangered fauna in the region for 4 km and the second 4 km eight-lane tunnel will pass through the Matheran eco-sensitive zone.
- The expressway will result in annual fuel savings of more than 320 million litres and reduce CO2 emissions by 850 million kg which is equivalent to the planting of 40 million trees.
- More than 12 lakh tonnes of steel will be consumed in the construction of the expressway, which is equivalent to building 50 Howrah bridges.
- 80 lakh tonnes of cement will be consumed for the project, which is approximately 2% of India’s annual cement production capacity.
- The project has also created employment for thousands of trained civil engineers and more than 50 lakh man-days of work.
ENVIRONMENT, GEOGRAPHY AND AGRICULTURE
CENTRE TO SIMPLIFY COFFEE ACT
THE CONTEXT: Centre to Simplify Coffee Act and promote ease of doing business.
- The present Coffee Act was enacted in 1942 and it has many provisions which have become redundant and are impediments to the coffee trade.
- Therefore, it was decided to completely relook at the provisions of the Act and to remove the provisions which are restrictive and regulatory in nature so as to bring out a simple Act that suits the present needs of the coffee sector and facilitates its growth.
- ICAR to do research on Coffee, Tea and Spices.
- ICAR to suggest solutions to deal with Coffee White Stem Borer pest.
- Centre to make efforts to bring suitable provisions in SARFAESI act to resolve problems faced by Plant growers.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT FOR INDIA TO GET TO NET-ZERO?
THE CONTEXT: On his recent visit to India ahead of the U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said he had not received any assurance that India was working to raise its ambition to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
- India, as the country with the third-largest emissions, is under pressure to come up with a higher ambition of cutting CO2 emissions.
- The net-zero concepts, according to the United Nations, has appealed to 130 countries that have either committed themselves to carbon neutrality by 2050 or are considering that target.
WHAT IS INDIA DOING TO LOWER EMISSIONS?
- India is working to reduce its emissions, aligned with the goal of less than 2°C global temperature rise, seen in its headline pledge to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33%-35% by 2030over the 2005 level. But it has not favoured a binding commitment towards carbon neutrality.
- It is also not aligned with the more ambitious goal of a 1.5°C temperature rise. Among the contentious issues it faces is heavy reliance on coal. According to the International Energy Agency’s India Energy Outlook 2021, coal accounts for close to 70% of electricity generation.
- Cutting greenhouse gases that heat the atmosphere and contribute to climate change involves shifting power production away from coal, greater adoption of renewables, and transforming mobility through electric vehicles. India is praised by some for its renewables target: scaling up power from renewables such as solar and wind to 450 GW by 2030.
- The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides for common, but differentiated, responsibilities of nations, favouring countries like India.
- Some politicians support a net-zero target as it can put India on a green development trajectory, attracting investment in innovative technologies.
HOW ARE OTHER BIG COUNTRIES PURSUING NET-ZERO?
- As the largest emitter of GHGs, China told the U.N. in 2020 that it would move to net-zero by 2060. Its pledge to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality three decades later is among the most high-profile commitments.
- The U.S., as the second biggest emitter with large historical emissions, returned to the Paris Agreement under President Joe Biden with an ambitious 2050 net-zero plan.
- The European Union (EU) member-states have committed themselves to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 over 1990 levels.
- In July, the EU published a climate law that binds the bloc to its 2030 emissions target and carbon neutrality by 2050.
WHY DO SOME ANALYSTS SEE NET-ZERO AS CONTROVERSIAL?
- Although a global coalition has coalesced around the concept, an increasingly vocal group views it as a distraction, useful only to score political points.
- Carbon neutrality looks to nascent technology to suck out CO2 from the atmosphere.
- Youth movements and some scientists call this procrastination since it enables the fossil fuel industry to continue expanding. Many fossil fuel companies support net-zero goals.
WHAT ARE INDIA’S CHOICES?
- Getting a stronger economic dividend for the same volume of CO2 emitted by reforming energy, industry and buildings, and achieving higher energy efficiency in all sectors can slow emissions.
- State governments must be part of such a climate plan, and climate governance institutions must be set up at the national and state levels.
WHAT IS THE NEED FOR A ‘BAD BANK’?
THE CONTEXT: The Union Cabinet approved a 30,600-crore rupees backstop facility for guaranteeing securities to be issued by the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL), the so-called ‘bad bank’ that is being set up to help aggregate and consolidate lenders’ non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans.
WHAT IS A ‘BAD BANK’, AND SPECIFICALLY THE NARCL?
- A ‘bad bank’ is a financial entity set up to acquire NPAs from banks and resolve them.
- The bank, which sells the stressed assets to the bad bank, is now relieved of the burden of the bad loans and can focus instead on growing its business by advancing fresh loans to borrowers requiring a credit. The cleaner balance sheet also makes it relatively easier for the lender to raise fresh capital, if required.
- The NARCL, which is being set up by lenders and will be 51% owned by public sector banks, proposes to take over the fully provisioned stressed assets of about ₹90,000 crores in the first phase.
- The minimum size of each NPA to be acquired will be ₹500 crores as the focus is on resolving big-ticket bad loans. The longer-term goal for the NARCL is to help resolve NPAs worth ₹2 lakh crore, with the remaining assets with lower provisions expected to be transferred in a second phase.
HOW WILL THE NARCL OPERATE?
- The ‘bad bank’ will acquire assets by making an offer to the lead bank of a group of lenders of an NPA. The NARCL would make a 15% cash payment to the banks based on a valuation and the rest would be given as security receipts.
- These receipts, in turn, would be guaranteed by the government’s ₹30,600-crore backstop facility.
- To assist the NARCL, public and private banks together would set up an India Debt Resolution Company Ltd. (IDRCL) that would manage the acquired assets and try to improve their value for final resolution. And on completion of the resolution, the balance of 85% of value, being held as security receipts, would be given to the banks.
WHY IS THE CENTRE PROVIDING A BACKSTOP?
- Given the large volume and individual sizes of these NPAs, a backstop from the government helps lend credibility to the resolution process and provides for contingency buffers.
- The guarantee, which will be valid for five years, would be invoked either at the time of resolution or liquidation to cover the shortfall (if any) between the face value of the security receipts and the actual realisation.
- The Union government’s guarantee will also enhance the liquidity of these receipts, which are tradable. Also, given that there would be a pool of assets, it is likely that the realisation of value in many cases would exceed the acquisition cost, obviating the need to draw down on the guarantee.
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR THE BANKING INDUSTRY?
- The government expects that the setting up of the twin entities, the NARCL and the IDRCL, with adequate capital and its guarantee, will incentivise quicker action on resolving stressed assets, thereby helping in better value realisation.
- As the holders of these stressed assets and security receipts, banks stand to receive the gains accruing from a successful resolution process.
- In a bid to disincentivise delay in resolution, the government has also proposed that the NARCL pay a guarantee fee to the Centre, which would increase with the passage of time.
- Critics of the bad bank concept, however, contend that the government’s role in guaranteeing some part of the NPAs could lead to laxity on the part of bankers in assessing risk and thus creating fresh dodgy loans.
- Separately, a January 2020 Bank for International Settlements working paper on ‘Bad bank resolutions and bank lending’, in fact, found that bad bank segregations are effective in cleaning up balance sheets and promoting bank lending only if they combine recapitalisation with asset segregation.
HELINA MISSILE SYSTEM
THE CONTEXT: The helicopter-launched Nag Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), HELINA (Helicopter based NAG), being developed indigenously, has completed all trials and the process for issuing of acceptance of necessity (AoN) by the Army.
- A variant of HELINA Weapon System called DHRUVASTRA is also being inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF).
- Helina is a third-generation fire-and-forget class ATGM mounted on an indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and has a minimum range of 500 metres and a maximum range of 7 kilometres.
- The system has all-weather day and night capability and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as explosive reactive armour.
- The HELINA missile can engage targets in both indirect hit mode as well as top attack mode.
- NAG missile has a land-attack version called “Prospina”.
- NAG was one of the first five strategic missiles planned to be developed under the Integrated Missile Development Programme initiated in the 1980s. The other missiles developed under the project include Agni, Prithvi and Akash, and all three have been successfully developed and inducted into the armed forces.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
SUBSTITUTE FOR SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
THE CONTEXT: Researchers from the Department of Material Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) have found a way to make a substitute for single-use plastic.
- By combining non-edible oils and cellulose extracted from agricultural stubble, the researchers made biodegradable, multiuse polymer sheets.
- In order to obtain sheets with properties like flexibility suitable for making different articles, the researchers played with the proportions of cellulose to non-edible oil.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
1. Which of the following is the Helicopter based NAG variant being inducted into Indian Airforce?
ANSWER FOR SEPTEMBER 18, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS (REFER TO RELEVANT ARTICLE)
- Statement 1 is correct: Methane gas is a more potent GHG than CO2 (80 times more potent than carbon dioxide).
- Statement 1 is correct: Its lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than CO2.
- Statement 1 is correct: Methane is the main constituent of natural gas.