Daily Current Affairs – 27-05-2023

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    Census 

    Syllabus: GS1/ Society, Population, GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions

    In News

    • Despite demands from several communities to be counted as separate religions, the next Census will only count Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain as distinct religion options.

    What are changes introduced in the upcoming Census?

    • On religion: The census would count only six separate religions namely Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain. The demands of various other communities like Sarna, Lingayat, etc were overlooked.
      • Respondents can write the name of any religion other than the six mentioned, but no separate code will be provided to them.
      • Nature-worshipping Adivasis in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Odisha have been campaigning to include their Sarna faith as a separate religion, while Karnataka’s Lingayats have been making a similar demand.
    • New questions in the next Census: Next Census will also introduce “natural calamities” as a new option when asking about the factors responsible for the migration of an individual or a family, apart from existing options such as education, marriage, work or business.
    • Digital Census: The next Census is also set to be the first digital Census, where respondents will have the option to fill in the questionnaire from the comforts of their own homes. Census 2021 has been postponed indefinitely due to pandemic.
    • Code directory: For the first time, a code directory — containing possible responses and their matching codes for questions involving descriptive and non-numeric entries — has been prepared for the use of enumerators during the second phase of Census 2021. 
      • It has codes in respect of Relationship to Head, Mother Tongue and Other Languages Known, Occupation, Nature of Industry, Trade or Service, Birth Place/Place of last residence, and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) etc.

     

    Decadal Census of India

    • Background: 
      • By the middle of the 19th century, the East India Company had taken near-absolute control of India. 
      • In 1858, the Government of India Act 1858 was passed in the British parliament, the company was liquidated, and its authorities were transferred to the British Crown. But to administer the dominion, the British government needed detailed, reliable data on the people and where they lived.
      • Later, the newly established office of the registrar general and census commissioner launched and completed the first Census of India in 1881. It was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872. 
      • Many legacies of the colonial raj continued after 1947. The Census of India, fortunately, is one.
      • The census is a Union subject under Article 246 of India Constitution. Census organization was set up on an ad-hoc basis for each census till the year 1951 census. The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide a plan for conducting population census along with the duties and responsibilities of census officers.
    • Objective:
      • The Indian Census has been an attractive source of data for scholars and researchers in demography, economics, anthropology, sociology, statistics and many other disciplines. 
    • Who conducts the Census?
      • The responsibility of conducting the decadal census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
      • The Census is the enumeration of the population of the country and it is being conducted at an interval of 10 years. 
    • Process:
      • The population census activity involves multiple activities which are carried on in sequential phases as listed in the below diagram.

     

    • The first phase of the census activity is the Preparatory phase where all the planning and groundwork for the ensuing enumeration activity takes place. There are multiple activities involved in this phase , whose goal is to ensure that everything is in place by the time the census enumeration activity begins on the ground.

     

    Difference between the National Population Register (NPR) and the Census 

    • The process of NPR and Census will begin simultaneously, the two databases are not the same.
    • The decennial census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on the different characteristics of the people of India.
    • While NPR only contains demographic information, more details are required for the census like information on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, and housing and household amenities among others.

     

    Source: TH

     

    All-in-one policy plan to spread insurance in India

    Syllabus: GS1/Social Empowerment, Poverty & Developmental Issues, GS2/ Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Arising out of their Design & Implementation

    In News

    • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is devising a new affordable bundled product to give citizens protection against multiple risks.

    More about the news

    • About:
      • IRDA is devising an affordable product covering health, life, property, accident risks to give citizens protection, and seeking to expedite claim settlements by linking death registries onto a common industry platform.

     

    • State-level insurance committees:
      • To meet the target of providing insurance cover for all by 2047, the IRDA is also looking to form State-level insurance committees similar to the ones prevalent in the banking sector, and rope in State governments to formulate district-level plans.
    • Amending the insurance laws: 
      • Separately, the IRDA has proposed amendments to the insurance laws that the government may take up soon, which will allow differentiated capital requirements for niche insurers so as to attract more investments, and permit players to add value-added services to the policies they sell.

    Bima Trinity

    • Considering “huge protection gaps” that exist “even today in almost all the lines of the insurance, be it life, health, motor, property or crops, IRDA is planning to create an “UPI-like moment” in insurance through a plan worked out with general and life insurance firms that is termed as “Bima Trinity”.
    • The trinity includes following:
      • Bima Sugam platform:
        • Bima Sugam platform will integrate insurers and distributors on to one platform to make it a one-stop shop for customers, who at a later stage can pursue service requests and settlement of claims through the same portal.
      • Bima Vistar:
        • IRDA is simultaneously developing a possible lynchpin product Bima Vistar that will be a bundled risk cover for life, health, property and casualties or accidents, with defined benefits for each risk that can be paid out faster than usual without the need for surveyors.
      • Bima Vaahaks:
        • The third part of the trinity envisaged by the IRDA entails a women-centric workforce of Bima Vaahaks (carriers) in each Gram Sabha that will meet the women heads of each household to convince them that a composite insurance product like Bima Vistar can “come in handy if there is any distress”.

    Significance:

    • If India’s insurance regulator’s plans fructify, households across the country could soon be able to get 
      • An affordable single policy that covers health, life, property and accident, 
      • Get their claims settled within hours, and 
      • Even secure value-added services such as gym or yoga memberships at the time of buying a policy.
    • Part of a broader overhaul:
      • These initiatives are part of a broader overhaul, including legislative amendments to attract more investments through differentiated licences for niche players similar to the banking sector, with an eye on making insurance “available, affordable and accessible” to citizens with a ‘Gram Sabha- to district- to State-level’ approach. 
    • Empoyment:
      • The regulator believes these changes could double the number of jobs in the sector to 1.2 crore.
    • Faster claim settlements:
      • With many States digitising their birth and death registries, the IRDA platform, if integrated with those registries, could help settle claims as fast as six to eight hours or a day at the most.
    • Amendments to the insurance laws:
      • The amendments will also enable the entry of new players in the form of micro, regional, small, captive players, specialised players, and even composite licenses. 

    Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA)

    • About:
      • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), is a statutory body formed under an Act of Parliament, i.e., Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 (IRDAI Act 1999).
      • The Authority acts as the regulator of the insurance industry in India and oversees the functioning of the Life Insurance and General Insurance companies operating in the country. 
    • Formation:
      • The Government of India was the regulator for the insurance industry until 2000. However, to institute a stand-alone apex body, the IRDA was established in 2000 following the recommendation of the Malhotra Committee report in 1999. 
      • In August 2000, the IRDA began accepting applications for registrations through invites and allowed companies from other countries to invest up to 26% in the market. 
    • Objective:
      • The main objective of the IRDA is to protect the interests of the policyholder and regulate the insurance industry. 
    • IRDA enforces the provisions under the Insurance Act. The mission statement of the IRDA is:
      • To protect the interest and fair treatment of the policyholder.
      • To regulate the insurance industry in fairness and ensure the financial soundness of the industry.
      • To regularly frame regulations to ensure the industry operates without any ambiguity.

    Source: TH

    Angel Tax

    Syllabus: GS3/Indian Economy/Taxation

    In News

    • Investors from 21 countries including the US, the UK, France, Australia, Japan have been exempted from the levy of angel tax for investment in unlisted Indian startups.

    What is angel tax?

    • There may be some unlisted companies that are doing extremely well operationally, and investors wait to buy the shares of such companies when first shares are issued. 
    • In such a situation, the company, knowing its brand value and market expectations, may issue shares at a price higher or over what a comparable stock may be granted at in the market.  
    • It will be counted as income for the start-up and be subject to income tax under the head ‘Income from other Sources’ for the relevant financial year.
    • It is essentially the tax that unlisted companies (read-startups) are liable to pay on the capital they raise through issue of shares. 
    • Angel tax was first introduced in 2012 to deter the generation and use of unaccounted money through the subscription of shares of a closely held company at a value that is higher than the fair market value of the firm’s shares.

    Amendment

    • With the latest amendment, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had proposed to also include foreign investors in the ambit, meaning that when a start-up raises funding from a foreign investor, that too will now be counted as income and be taxable. 
      • CBDT is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. 
      • The officials of the Board in their ex-officio capacity also function as a Division of the Ministry dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.
    • Exempted entities include:
      • government and government-related investors such as central banks, sovereign wealth funds, international or multilateral organisations; 
      • or agencies including entities controlled by the government;
      • or where direct or indirect ownership of the government is 75 per cent or more; 
      • and banks or entities involved in insurance business where such entity is subject to applicable regulations in the country where it is established or incorporated or is a resident.
    • Countries like Singapore, Netherlands and Mauritius, which constitute the major chunk of foreign direct investment in India, have not been included in the exemption list.

    Significance

    • By explicitly mentioning this list of countries, the government aims to attract more FDI into India from countries that have robust regulatory frameworks.
    • This move aligns with the Government’s initial intention of bringing FDI under the purview of angel tax to prevent the circulation of unaccounted money
    • Therefore, exempting investments from regulated entities resident in countries with stringent and effective regulatory frameworks serves a logical purpose.

    Source: IE

     

     Shrinking of Lakes

    Syllabus: GS3/Biodiversity and Conservation

    In News

    • More than 50 percent of the world’s largest lakes and reservoirs have shrunk over the past three decades primarily due to climate change and human activities, according to a new study.

    About the study

    • The study was published in the journal Science named ‘Satellites reveal widespread decline in global lake water storage’.
    • For the study, team examined 1,975 of the world’s largest lakes, including 1,052 natural lakes and 921 reservoirs — researchers studied lakes which are larger than 100 sq km and reservoirs with more than 1 cubic km of storage capacity.
    • The analysis was done following a novel methodology that involved combining two-dimensional water areas with one-dimensional water levels to estimate the three-dimensional change in water storage.
    • Combining recent level measurements with longer-term area measurements allowed  to reconstruct the volume of lakes dating back decades.

    Findings of the Study

    • The researchers found that out of the 1,052 natural lakes that were examined, 457 had significant water losses in the past three decades. Meanwhile, 234 natural lakes gained water and 360 of such water bodies didn’t show any notable trend.
    • The study also pointed out the worst affected largest lakes across the world and why they are shrinking in size. 
      • For instance, the Aral Sea in Central Asia, Lake Mar Chiquita in Argentina, the Dead Sea in the Middle East, and the Salton Sea in California have mainly dried due to unsustainable water consumption. 
      • Whereas, increasing temperature and (potential evapotranspiration)PET caused the complete disappearance of Lake Gowd-e-Zareh in Afghanistan, Toshka lakes in Egypt, and marked drying of Lake Kara-Bogaz-Gol in Turkmenistan, Lake Khyargas in Mongolia, and Lake Zonag in China.
    • Notably, lakes have shrunk or disappeared completely across 82 percent of the Arctic’s lake-rich regions in the past 20 years.
    • Natural lakes located in humid tropics and high altitudes are also experiencing water shortages.
    • India: More than half of the reservoirs located in peninsular India have witnessed substantial water storage decline, mainly due to sedimentation. 
      • Moreover, among the worst affected natural lakes in the country is Ladakh’s Tso Moriri.
    • Reservoirs: Two-thirds of all reservoirs across the globe have experienced significant storage declines. 
      • Reservoirs, however, showed a net global increase in water levels, owing to 183 recently filled reservoirs. 

     

    Reasons for Shrinking of Lakes

    • Human Activities: 57 percent of the net decline in the water quantity in natural lakes to human activities, such as unsustainable consumption of water.
    • Climate Change: The Arctic lakes have shrunk as a result of a “combination of changes in precipitation, runoff, temperature, and  potential evapotranspiration (PET) — loss of water due to both evaporation and transpiration, which are likely a concurrent result of natural variability and climate change. 
    • Sedimentation: The main reason behind the drop in water levels is sedimentation — the process of particles such as sand and stones settling to the bottom of a body of water.
      • Sedimentation is the primary contributor to the global storage decline in existing reservoirs and has a larger impact than hydroclimate variability, i.e., droughts and recovery from droughts.

    What are the consequences of shrinking lakes?

    • Nearly two billion people, one-quarter of the global population in 2023, have been affected as they live in basins with large water bodies that have witnessed a significant drop in their water levels in the past three decades.
    • Many of these drying lakes have been identified as important sources of water and energy (hydropower).
    • The reduced size of these lakes not only results in freshwater decline and environmental degradation but also disrupts the water and carbon cycles.
    • Widespread water shortage in these water bodies, “particularly accompanied by rising lake temperatures, could reduce the amount of absorbed carbon dioxide and increase carbon emissions to the atmosphere as the lakes are hotspots of carbon cycling.
    • If lakes are encroached upon they disappear as a water source but also contribute to severe urban flooding. 
    • Loss of lake levels leads to groundwater pumping and depletion, leading to a host of other issues.

    How can we conserve these water bodies?

    • There is a need to manage them in an integrated manner. Steps like restrictions on water consumption and climate mitigation to bring down global temperatures are some of the ways to conserve them. 
    • This will also help in reducing sedimentation in reservoirs as the rate of sedimentation is linked to climate change — it increases when there is extreme precipitation, as well as land disturbance such as wildfires, landslides and deforestation.
    • Managing lakes in an integrated manner will elevate the status of lakes to their rightful place, and they can continue to sustain humanity. 

    Source: IE

    Facts In News

    Navy, ISRO release Gaganyaan Recovery Training Plan

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology, Space

    In News

    • The Indian Navy and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have released the Gaganyaan Recovery Training Plan at INS Garuda in Kochi.

    About

    • The document outlines the training plan for recovery of the crew module of the Gaganyaan mission.
    • The document defines overall requirements with respect to training of various teams participating in recovery operations including divers, MARCOs (marine commandos), medical specialists, communicators, technicians and naval aviators.
    • The recovery training is planned in incremental phases starting from unmanned recovery to manned recovery training in harbour and open sea conditions.

    Gaganyaan Mission

    • About: The Gaganyaan mission aims to demonstrate the capability to launch human beings (three crew members) to low earth orbit and bring them back safely to earth by landing them in either the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea.
      • Low-Earth orbit (often known as LEO) encompasses Earth-centered orbits with an altitude of 2,000 km or less. 
    • Objective: To demonstrate indigenous capability to undertake human space flight mission to LEO.
    • Launch Vehicles: The Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) is the launch vehicle for the Gaganyaan mission.
      • All systems in the LVM3 launch vehicle are reconfigured to meet human rating requirements and named Human Rated LVM3 (HLVM3).

    Advantages of Gaganyaan Mission

    • It has both tangible and intangible benefits for the nation, which includes:
      • Progress towards a sustained and affordable human and robotic programme to explore the solar system and beyond.
      • Advanced technology capability for undertaking human space exploration, sample return missions and scientific exploration.
      • Future capability to actively collaborate in global space station development & to carry out scientific experiments of interest to the nation.
      • The programme will strengthen international partnerships and global security through the sharing of challenging and peaceful goals. 
      • Ample scope for employment generation and human resource development in advanced science and R&D activities.

    Source: TH

     

    Volt Typhoon

    Syllabus:GS3/Internal Security/Cybersecurity

    In News

    • Microsoft has uncovered stealthy and targeted malicious activity focused on post-compromise credential access and network system discovery aimed at critical infrastructure organizations in the United States.

    About Volt Typhoon

    • The attack is carried out by Volt Typhoon, a state-sponsored actor based in China that typically focuses on espionage and information gathering. 
    • The Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.
      • In this campaign, the affected organizations span the communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education sectors. 
    • Volt Typhoon has been active since mid-2021 and has targeted critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the United States. 
    • Observed behavior suggests that the threat actor intends to perform espionage and maintain access without being detected for as long as possible.

    Espionage

    • Nearly every country in the world uses hackers to gather intelligence. Major powers like the United States and Russia have large stables of such groups – many of which have been given nicknames by cybersecurity experts, like “Equation Group” or “Fancy Bear.”
    • Nearly all cyber spies work to cover their tracks. Volt Typhoon was a particularly quiet operator that hid its traffic by routing it through hacked network equipment – like home routers – and carefully expunged evidence of intrusions from victim’s logs.
    • China routinely denies hacking and has done so again in the case of Volt Typhoon. But documentation of Beijing’s cyberespionage campaigns have been building for more than two decades. 

    Source: IE