August 10, 2022

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS (JULY 01, 2022)

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THE GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL ISSUES

REPORT ON FUTURE PENETRATION OF ELECTRIC TWO-WHEELERS IN THE INDIAN MARKET

THE CONTEXT: NITI Aayog and Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) have released a report titled ‘Forecasting Penetration of Electric Two-Wheelers in India’.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • Using a tool made by NITI Aayog and TIFAC, eight scenarios have been developed for analysing the future penetration of electric two-wheelers in the country.
  • In an optimistic scenario, the report forecasts 100% penetration of electric two-wheelers in the Indian market by FY 2026–27. In another scenario, which is technology driven and where current incentives are withdrawn by 2024, the report predicts 72% penetration by 2031.

The eight scenarios considered are:

  • Challenged Diffusion
  • Performance Driven
  • Low Battery Cost
  • Technology Driven
  • Incentive Driven
  • Battery Cost Challenged
  • Same Performance
  • Optimistic

The future scenarios have been constructed on the basis of three major factors that influence the market penetration of electric two-wheelers:

  • demand incentives
  • cost of battery
  • (iii) vehicle performance in terms of both range and power.

Four broad constraint levels have also been identified for the eight scenarios, in terms of installed vehicle manufacturing capacity and available charging infrastructure:

  • full constraint (where both vehicle production and charging infrastructure are constraints)
  • (ii) production constraint (where only vehicle production is a constraint)
  • (iii) charge constraint (where only the charging infrastructure is a constraint)
  • (iv) no constraint.

Highlights:

  • In the ‘Technology Driven’ scenario, if an R&D programme manages to enhance the range and power of electric two-wheelers by 5% annually between FY 2023–24 and 2025–26, and by 10% in FY 2026–2027, then the penetration of electric-two wheelers may reach about 72% in FY 2031–32—even with no extension of demand incentives.
  • The sale of electric two-wheelers may cross 220 lakh units in FY 2028–29 under the Optimistic’,Same Performance’ and ‘Battery Cost Challenged’ scenarios. It may reach 180 lakh units under the ‘Technology-Driven’ scenario. Under the ‘Incentive Drive’ scenario, the sale is expected to reach only 55 lakh units in FY 2031.
  • If there is sufficient installed capacity of electric two-wheelers and charging infrastructure, then sale (which finally reaches about 250 lakh units) may at some point even surpass the production under the ‘Optimistic’, ‘Same Performance’ and ‘Battery Cost Challenged’ scenarios.
  • The report provides important insights into the required infrastructure, manufacturing capability, policies, and technology-development priorities in the area.
  • The scenarios can be used by government agencies, the industry, and academic/R&D institutions for evidence-based analysis of policies, market scenarios and technology development strategies.

THE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

EXPLAINED: HOW CHINA, AND UAE ARE HELPING PAKISTAN TIDE OVER ITS ECONOMIC CRISIS

THE CONTEXT: Amid Pakistan’s current economic crisis, it may consider giving minority shares in its public-owned companies to the United Arab Emirates at a negotiated price, according to news media in Pakistan.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • China, another Pakistan ally, has also stepped in to help the country with a $2.3 billion loan.
  • As Pakistan’s economic condition has worsened over the last few years with foreign exchange reserves dipping, it has turned to various kinds of loan deals. According to data, the UAE was unwilling to give $2 billion, after Pakistan failed to pay back the loan it had received in February 2019 of the same amount.

Who all has been helping Pakistan deal with the crisis?

  • As per sources, the UAE government has offered to acquire 10 to 12 per cent shares in government-owned companies in Pakistan through its sovereign wealth funds.
  • “There is a proposal from a friendly country to purchase Pakistani companies’ stocks on a buy-back basis, which means buying secured-loan-based securities,” said Finance Minister Miftah Ismail while talking to The Express Tribune. This means that Pakistan would want to buy back the stakes in its companies after a certain period.
  • Meanwhile, China to has offered loans to Pakistan in the past in March 2019 it gave a loan of $2.1 billion to the South Asian country. It was reported that in the same year the country had received $1 billion each from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as part of the bailout packages given by the two Gulf nations. Saudi Arabia’s loans were a part of a $6 billion bailout package, which was agreed to in 2018.

Has the IMF offered help?

  • Currently, Pakistan is requesting a bailout from the IMF but has not received any confirmation for it. According to sources, the IMF has set four “tough prior conditions” that include increasing electricity tariffs, and imposing a Rs 50/litre petroleum levy. While it is not a part of the prior conditions, the IMF has also asked for an anti-corruption body set up to probe government corruption.
  • Once this is done, the IMF would present Pakistan’s request for approval to its executive board. At the end of it, approval could help the country secure a loan of USD 2 billion.

Why is wrong with Pakistan’s economy?

  • In the last few years, due to multiple factors, Pakistan has seen economic problems of worsening inflation and depletion of its foreign exchange reserves. According to the World Bank’s outlook for the country from April this year, this has been due to “long-standing structural weaknesses of the economy and low productivity growth”.
  • A “less conducive external environment for exports” has additionally contributed to a record-high trade deficit, weighing on the Pakistani Rupee.

THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

THE FREE FALL OF THE RUPEE

THE CONTEXT: The Indian rupee hit an all-time low against the U.S. dollar this week weakening past the 79 rupees to a dollar mark and selling as low as 79.05 against the dollar.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • Many analysts expect the rupee to weaken further in the coming months and move past the 80 rupees to a dollar mark. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the rupee to weaken past the 94 rupees to a dollar mark by FY29.

What is happening with the rupee?

  • The Indian rupee has been witnessing a steady decline this year, losing more than 6% against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of 2022. India’s forex reserves have also dropped below $600 billion, plunging by more than $50 billion since September 3, 2021, when forex reserves stood at an all-time high of $642 billion.
  • The drop in India’s forex reserves is believed to be largely due to steps taken by the Reserve Bank of India to support the rupee. RBI officials, however, have noted that the drop in forex reserves is due to a fall in the dollar value of assets held as reserves by the RBI. For instance, if a portion of the reserves are in euros and the euro depreciates against the dollar, this would cause a drop in the value of forex reserves.
  • It should be noted that, as a matter of policy, the Indian central bank has usually tried to slow down or smoothen, rather than reverse or prevent, the fall in the exchange value of the rupee against the U.S. dollar.
  • The aim of the RBI’s policy is to allow the rupee to find its natural value in the market but without undue volatility or causing unnecessary panic among investors. State-run banks are usually instructed by the RBI to sell dollars in order to offer some support to the rupee.
  • By thus selling dollars in the open market in exchange for rupees, the RBI can improve demand for the rupee and cushion its fall.

What determines the rupee’s value?

  • The value of any currency is determined by the demand for the currency as well as its supply. When the supply of a currency increases, its value drops. On the other hand, when the demand for a currency increase, its value rises. In the wider economy, central banks determine the supply of currencies, while the demand for currencies depends on the number of goods and services produced in the economy.
  • In the forex market, the supply of rupees is determined by the demand for imports and various foreign assets. So, if there is high demand to import oil, it can lead to an increase in the supply of rupees in the forex market and cause the rupee’s value to drop.
  • The demand for rupees in the forex market, on the other hand, depends on foreign demand for Indian exports and other domestic assets. So, for instance, when there is great enthusiasm among foreign investors to invest in India, it can lead to an increase in the supply of dollars in the forex market which in turn causes the rupee’s value to rise against the dollar.

What is causing the rupee to lose value against the dollar?

  • Since March this year, the S. Federal Reserve has been raising its benchmark interest rate causing investors seeking higher returns to pull capital away from emerging markets such as India and back into the U.S. This, in turn, has put pressure on emerging market currencies which have depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar so far this year.
  • Even developed market currencies such as the euro and the yen have depreciated against the dollar and the dollar index is up more than 9% so far this year. In fact, some analysts believe that the RBI’s surprise decision to raise rates in May 2022 could have simply been to defend the rupee by preventing any rapid outflow of capital from India.
  • Moreover, India’s current account deficit, which measures the gap between the value of imports and exports of goods and services, is expected to hit a 10-year high of 3.3% of gross domestic product in the current financial year. This means that India’s import demand amid rising global oil prices is likely to negatively affect the rupee unless foreign investors pour sufficient capital into the country to fund the deficit. But foreign investors are unlikely to plough capital into India when investment yields are rising in the U.S. Yields on U.S. 10-year Treasuries, for instance, have risen from around 0.5% in mid-2020 to over 3% now.
  • The rupee, it should also be noted, has consistently lost value against the U.S. dollar for several decades now. A major reason for this has been consistently higher domestic price inflation in India. Higher inflation in India suggests that the RBI has been creating rupees at a faster rate than the U.S. Federal Reserve has been creating dollars. So, while capital and trade flows gain a lot of attention in discussions on the rupee’s value, the difference in the rates at which the U.S. Federal Reserve and the RBI regulate the supply of their currencies may play a much larger role in determining the value of the rupee in the long run.

What lies ahead?

  • Analysts believe that, over the long run, the rupee is likely to continue to depreciate against the dollar given the significant differences in long-run inflation between India and the U.S.
  • At the moment, as the U.S. Federal Reserve raises rates to tackle historically high inflation in the country, other countries and emerging markets in particular will be forced to raise their own interest rates to avoid disruptive capital outflows and to protect their currencies. It should be noted that inflation in the U.S. hit a 41-year high of 8.6%.
  • The RBI too has been trying to rein in domestic consumer price inflation, which hit a 95-month high of 7.8% in April, by raising rates and tightening liquidity. As interest rates rise across the globe, the threat of a global recession also rises as economies readjust to tighter monetary conditions.

THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

EXPLAINED: WHAT IS ISRO’S ‘POEM’ PLATFORM?

THE CONTEXT: Besides placing three Singaporean satellites in precise orbit, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) also achieved the feat of successfully launching the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module or ‘POEM’.

THE EXPLANATION:

What is POEM?

  • The PSLV Orbital Experimental Module is a platform that will help perform in-orbit experiments using the final, and otherwise discarded, stage of ISRO’s workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
  • The PSLV is a four-stage rocket where the first three spent stages fall back into the ocean, and the final stage (PS4) — after launching the satellite into orbit — ends up as space junk.
  • However, in PSLV-C53 mission, the spent final stage will be utilised as a “stabilised platform” to perform experiments.

·      It is the first time that the PS4 stage would orbit the earth as a stabilised platform,” ISRO said in a statement prior to the launch. After the primary mission, the fourth stage will “write some poems in orbit”.

·      POEM is carrying six payloads, including two from Indian space start-ups Digantara and Dhruva Space.

How will ISRO keep POEM ‘alive and stable’ in orbit?

·      According to ISRO, POEM has a dedicated Navigation Guidance and Control (NGC) system for attitude stabilisation, which stands for controlling the orientation of any aerospace vehicle within permitted limits. The NGC will act as the platform’s brain to stabilize it with specified accuracy.

·      POEM will derive its power from solar panels mounted around the PS4 tank, and a Li-Ion battery. It will navigate using “four sun sensors, a magnetometer, gyros & NavIC”.

·      “It carries dedicated control thrusters using Helium gas storage. It is enabled with a telecommand feature”.

Has ISRO repurposed and used PS4 rocket junk earlier?

·      The Indian space agency first demonstrated the capability of using PS4 as an orbital platform in 2019 with the PSLV-C44 mission that injected Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2 satellites into their designated orbits. The fourth stage in that mission was kept alive as an orbital platform for space-based experiments.

·      In a statement after the successful PSLV-C44 launch, ISRO had said: “Subsequently, the fourth stage (PS4) of the vehicle was moved to a higher circular orbit of 453 km after two restarts of the stage, to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments. Kalamsat-V2, a student payload, first to use PS4 as an orbital platform, was taken to its designated orbit about 1 hour and 40 minutes after lift-off.”

DRUG-RESISTANT SUPERBUG SPREADING IN HOSPITALS: STUDY

THE CONTEXT: Researchers at the University of Melbourne discovered three variants of the multidrug-resistant bug in samples from 10 countries, including strains in Europe that cannot be reliably tamed by any drug currently on the market.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • A superbug resistant to all known antibiotics that can cause “severe” infections or even death is spreading undetected through hospital wards across the world.
  • The bacteria, known as Staphylococcus epidermidis, is related to the better-known and more deadly MRSA superbug. It’s found naturally on human skin and most commonly infects the elderly or patients who have had prosthetic materials implanted, such as catheters and joint replacements.
  • The team looked at hundreds of S. epidermidis specimens from 78 hospitals worldwide. They found that some strains of the bug made a small change in its DNA that led to resistance to two of the most common antibiotics.
  • Another Australian study, published last month, suggested some hospital superbugs are growing increasingly tolerant to alcohol-based disinfectants found in handwashes and sanitisers used on hospital wards.

VALUE ADDITION:

What are Superbugs?

  • Superbugs are strains of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are resistant to most of the antibiotics and other medications commonly used to treat the infections they cause. A few examples of superbugs include resistant bacteria that can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections and skin infections.
  • Drug resistance (antimicrobial resistance) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can be slowed, but not stopped. Over time, germs such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi adapt to the drugs that are designed to kill them and change to ensure their survival.
  • This makes previously standard treatments for some infections less effective, and sometimes ineffective. Researchers continue to evaluate how these germs develop resistance. They also study how to diagnose, treat and prevent antimicrobial resistance.

Certain actions may step up the appearance and spread of antimicrobial-resistant germs, such as:

  • Using or misusing antibiotics
  • Having poor infection prevention and control practices
  • Living or working in unclean conditions
  • Mishandling food

THE NEWS IN NUMBERS

INDIA’S FISCAL DEFICIT

According to data from the Controller General of Accounts, 12.3 per cent, of the Indian government’s fiscal deficit of the annual budget target for 2022-23 at the end of May, mainly due to higher expenditure, In actual terms, the deficit stood at ₹2,03,921 crore. The fiscal deficit was at 8.2% of the Budget Estimate for 2021-22 during the corresponding period. The country’s fiscal deficit is projected at 6.4% of the GDP for this fiscal ending March 2023 as against the 6.71% for the previous year.

URBAN POPULATION RISES

According to the United Nations Habitat’s World Cities Report 2022,  675  million, the estimated urban population in India by 2035, the second-highest behind China’s 1.05 billion. The global urban population is back on track to grow by another 2.2 billion people by 2050. By 2035, the percentage of the population in India residing in the urban region will be 43.2%. The report noted that the rapid urbanisation was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic but only temporarily.

RISE IN COFFEE EXPORTS

According to the Coffee Board of India, 19 percent, in the rise of coffee exports from India, Asia’s third-largest producer and exporter, to 2,24,293 tonnes in the first half of this year,. The country had exported 1,88,736 tonnes in the year-ago period.

India ships both robusta and Arabica varieties, besides instant coffee. The shipment of Robusta coffee jumped 39.43% from January to June 2022, while Arabica coffee exports declined by 16.75%. The shipments of instant coffee increased by 24% compared to the year-ago period.

THE PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Q. A waterspout, a column of cloud-filled wind, descends from  a :

a) Stratus cloud

b) Cumulus cloud

c) Cumulonimbus cloud

d) Stratocumulus cloud

 

ANSWER FOR 30TH JUNE 2022

Answer: C

Explanation:

Haumea, makemake, and Eris are examples of Plutoids, which are dwarf planets with an orbit outside that of Neptune.

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