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Daily Current Affairs

27-October-2023

1. For outreach events, civil servants will be called nodal officers, not Rath Prabharis, clarifies Centre

Topic: GS2 – governance.

Context:

  • The Union government clarified the use of the term “Rath Prabharis” for civil servants during the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, replacing it with “nodal officers.”
  • The Congress raised objections, questioning the involvement of officials in pre-poll “political propaganda.”

Issues of Appointing Civil Servants for Political Purposes:

  • Impartiality at Stake: When civil servants are deployed for political activities, their impartiality in serving the government of the day comes into question. This can undermine public trust in government institutions.
  • Violation of Service Rules: Using civil servants for political tasks may violate service rules and codes of conduct that mandate their neutrality and commitment to serving the public interest.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Civil servants may face ethical dilemmas when asked to engage in political propaganda, potentially compromising their professional integrity.
  • Partisan Activities: Involving civil servants in pre-poll activities blurs the lines between the bureaucracy and political parties, eroding the distinction between the two.
  • Public Perception: Such appointments can create a perception that government resources are being misused for political gains, leading to public skepticism.
  • Conflict of Interest: Civil servants are best placed to offer unbiased advice to the government. Engaging them in political roles may lead to conflicts of interest.
  • Erosion of Administrative Efficiency: Shifting civil servants away from their core administrative functions can disrupt the efficient delivery of public services.

Measures to address these challenges:

  • Clear Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines and codes of conduct that explicitly prohibit civil servants from engaging in political activities.
  • Ethics Training: Provide ethics training to civil servants to ensure they understand the boundaries between their administrative roles and political involvement.
  • Strict Enforcement: Enforce disciplinary actions for civil servants found engaging in partisan activities, demonstrating a commitment to upholding the rules.
  • Independent Oversight: Introduce independent oversight bodies to monitor and report on potential violations of neutrality by civil servants.
  • Transparency: Promote transparency in the appointment and deployment of civil servants, ensuring that such decisions are based on merit and not political affiliations.

Question: Examine the implications of utilizing civil servants for political tasks and its impact on the bureaucracy’s impartiality and ethical standards. Suggest measures to address these challenges for upholding the integrity of the civil services.

2. Punjab farm fires down by 53%, but air quality likely to worsen in Capital

Topic: GS3 – air pollution

Context:

  • Punjab government reports a 53% reduction in stubble-burning incidents from September 15 to October 25 compared to the previous year.
  • Delhi continues to experience “poor” air quality for four consecutive days, with a likelihood of worsening to “very poor” by Saturday.

More on this news:

  • Air pollution in Delhi worsens during the winter due to meteorological factors and stubble burning in neighboring states.
  • Punjab had been singled out as a “non-performing outlier” among states impacting Delhi’s air quality.
  • The Punjab government committed to reducing stubble burning by at least 50% this year, following the recommendations of the Commission for Air Quality Management.
  • Punjab recorded 2,704 stubble-burning incidents during the mentioned period, down from 5,798 incidents the previous year.
  • The state generates 20 million tonnes of paddy straw, and the government has implemented various strategies to address the issue.
  • The Commission for Air Quality Management acknowledges a “declining trend in stubble burning” in Punjab over the past three years.
  • Delhi relaunches the “Red Light On, Gaadi Off” campaign to reduce vehicular pollution by encouraging motorists to turn off their vehicles at traffic lights.

3. Is India ready to host the Olympic Games?

Topic: GS3 – Sports infrastructure

Context:

  • The Prime Minister expressed India’s aspiration to host the 2036 Olympic Games.
  • Hosting the Olympics is a prestigious endeavor for nations, as it highlights the country’s global importance and soft power.
  • A successful Olympics entails strong National Olympic Committees (NOC), legacy planning, government collaboration, and social participation.
  • India’s readiness to host the Games in 2036 is questionable due to the need for infrastructure, governance improvement, and sports development.

What are the challenges?

  • Limited timeframe: Preparing for the Olympics in just 13 years may pose a significant challenge.
  • Infrastructure development: Building and upgrading sports facilities and infrastructure in time.
  • Governance issues: Addressing the governance problems in Indian sports organizations.
  • Achieving competitive excellence: Developing athletes and teams to compete effectively.
  • Economic considerations: Balancing costs and benefits, avoiding excessive spending.
  • Cultural and social readiness: Ensuring support and participation from diverse communities.
  • International competition: Facing competition from other cities/countries bidding for the Olympics.

4. Why are the China-Bhutan boundary talks significant?

Topic: GS2 – International relations

Context:

  • Bhutan and China held their 25th round of boundary talks after a seven-year gap.
  • The talks represent significant progress in resolving border disputes between the two countries.

Significance of the China – Bhutan talks:

  • The border discussions had stalled following the Doklam Standoff in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Both sides initiated a 3-Step Roadmap in 2021 for border resolution, with the first boundary delimitation technical talks held in August 2023.
  • The roadmap aims to clearly delineate Bhutanese and Chinese territory through negotiations, site visits, and formal demarcation.
  • India is closely monitoring the talks, as any development in Bhutan’s relations with China is of concern.
  • India is particularly interested in the discussions over Doklam and is wary of China gaining access to areas near India’s Siliguri corridor.
  • China’s demand for full diplomatic relations with Bhutan and opening an embassy in Thimphu is also a point of concern for India.
  • Bhutan’s leadership has assured that India’s interests will be considered in all decisions and consultations will be maintained.

5. SC allows surrogacy, strikes down rule banning use of donor gametes

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has protected a woman’s right to parenthood, who has Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome, through surrogacy.

What was the issue and Supreme Court’s observations:

  • A government notification amended the law, banning the use of donor gametes for surrogacy, which threatened the woman’s hopes of becoming a mother.
  • The court ruled that the law permitting gestational surrogacy is “woman-centric” and based on the woman’s inability to become a mother due to medical or congenital conditions.
  • The amendment cannot contradict Rule 14(a), which specifically recognizes conditions necessitating gestational surrogacy, including the absence of a uterus.
  • The court clarified that the surrogate child should be related to the husband when Rule 14(a) applies, addressing the government’s contention.

6. India’s green hydrogen move may worsen pollution if steps are not in place, says study

Topic: GS3 – clean energy.

Context:

  • India’s plans for ‘green hydrogen’ could worsen pollution without proper controls, according to a study by the Climate Risk Horizons (CRH) think-tank.
  • The National Green Hydrogen Mission aims to produce five million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030, requiring significant renewable energy capacity.

What are the concerns mentioned in the study:

  • India’s total renewable energy capacity as of August 2023 stood at 131 GW, and the plan envisions adding an equivalent capacity by 2030.
  • India needs to install 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • The primary concern is that if electrolysers for hydrogen production run 24×7, they may rely on coal-generated power during non-daylight hours, increasing carbon emissions.
  • Many projects have not disclosed their electricity sources, raising questions about their environmental impact.

Multiple-choice question:

Which of the following statements about green hydrogen is correct? 

  1. Green hydrogen is primarily produced using natural gas and carbon capture technologies.
  2. It is considered “green” when produced using renewable energy sources without resulting in fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Green hydrogen production does not rely on electrolysis or any electrochemical process.
  4. Green hydrogen has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to grey hydrogen.

Select the correct option from the following:

  1. Only one statement is correct
  2. Only two statement are correct
  3. Only three statement are correct
  4. All statements are correct.

Answer:  Option B – Only two statements are correct 

Explanation: 

  • Green hydrogen is considered “green” when produced using renewable energy sources (such as wind, solar, or hydropower) without resulting in fossil fuel emissions. This definition aligns with the environmentally friendly aspects of green hydrogen.
  • Green hydrogen has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to grey hydrogen. Grey hydrogen is produced using natural gas, resulting in higher carbon emissions, while green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy sources, reducing carbon emissions and making it a greener alternative.

7. Sensex sinks 1.4% to 4-month low on geopolitical, U.S. bond yield worries

Topic: GS3 – economy

Context:

  • The Sensex declined 1.4% to its lowest point in four months due to concerns about rising U.S. bond yields and escalating geopolitical tensions.

What is bond yield?

  • Bond yield is the rate of return that an investor earns on a bond. It is calculated by dividing the annual interest payment on the bond by the bond’s market price.
  • Bond yields are inversely related to bond prices: when bond prices go up, bond yields go down, and vice versa.
  • Bond yields are important because they affect the cost of borrowing for governments and businesses. When bond yields are high, it is more expensive for governments and businesses to borrow money. This can dampen economic growth.
  • Bond yields are also important for investors, as they affect the returns on their investments. When bond yields are high, investors can earn more money on their bond investments. However, this also means that bond prices are more likely to fall in the future.
  • There are a number of factors that can affect bond yields, including inflation expectations, economic growth prospects, and central bank policy.

Multiple-choice question: 

Which of the following statements about bond yield are correct? 

  1. Bond yield is always higher for short-term bonds compared to long-term bonds.
  2. Yield to Maturity (YTM) considers the bond’s current market price, coupon interest rate, and remaining time to maturity.
  3. A rising interest rate environment generally leads to lower bond prices.

Select the correct option from the following:

  1. Only Statement 1 is correct.
  2. Statements 1 and 2 are correct.
  3. Statements 2 and 3 are correct.
  4. All statements are correct.

Answer:  Option C – Statements 2 and 3 are correct 

Explanation:

  • Statement 1: This statement is incorrect. Short-term bonds typically have lower yields compared to long-term bonds. This is because investors generally demand higher yields for the increased risks associated with long-term investments.
  • Statement 2: This statement is correct. Yield to Maturity (YTM) considers the bond’s current market price, coupon interest rate, and the remaining time to maturity. It provides a more comprehensive measure of a bond’s expected return if held until maturity.
  • Statement 3: This statement is correct. In a rising interest rate environment, bond prices generally fall, leading to lower bond prices. This inverse relationship between interest rates and bond prices is a fundamental concept in bond markets.

8. APAAR ID

Topic: Prelims- Government Schemes

Context:

  • Several state governments requested schools to seek parental consent for the creation of a new student identity card known as the Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry (APAAR).
  • This is part of the ‘One nation, One Student ID’ initiative of the Centre, stemming from the new National Education Policy of 2020.

Purpose:

  • The Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry, or APAAR, is designed to serve as a distinct identifying system for all Indian students, beginning with early childhood education.
  • Giving each student a permanent, unique ID that enables tracking of their academic progress from pre-primary to higher education is the main goal of APAAR.
  • Furthermore, APAAR acts as a portal to Digilocker, a digital repository where students can safely keep track of their academic accomplishments and records, including report cards and exam results.

Benefits:

  • Academic monitoring: By giving state governments the ability to monitor dropout rates, literacy rates, and other pertinent educational data, the system seeks to bring about good change by empowering them to make well-informed adjustments.
  • Fraud Prevention: By providing educational institutions with a single, reliable reference, APAAR aims to minimize fraud and the spread of fake diplomas. In order to ensure authenticity, credits can only be deposited into the system by first-party sources that are authorized to issue certificates.

How APAAR works?

  • Each student will have an own APAAR ID that is connected to their Academic Bank Credit (ABC).
  • The ABC is an electronic database that houses student credit information acquired over their academic career.
  • By sharing the APAAR ID, all of a student’s data in the ABC will be easily transferred to their new school in the event that they change schools.
  • As a result, transfer certifications and physical document transfers are no longer necessary.

Creation of APAAR ID

  • Students must register for APAAR by providing basic information such as their name, age, gender, and date of birth, along with a photo.
  • Their Aadhaar number would be used to confirm this information.
  • In order to create the APAAR ID, students must sign a consent form and choose whether or not to share their Aadhaar number and demographic data with the Ministry of Education.
  • Parents must sign the consent form for minors.
  • It is noteworthy that the act of registering to create an APAAR ID is optional rather than required.

Concerns and Clarifications:

  • Parents and students have expressed some worries over the sharing of their Aadhaar details.
  • It is made clear that the Aadhaar number is solely required to confirm that the name and birthdate match, and that APAAR will not use or disclose this information to any other parties throughout the registration process.

9. SEBI acts against Finfluencers

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is developing a set of rules for financial influencers, or ‘finfluencers’, who use social media to share their opinions and experiences on money and investment matters.
  • Finfluencers post videos on topics such as budgeting, investing, property buying, cryptocurrency advice and financial trend tracking.

Details

  • The purpose of the regulations is to protect investors from unregistered investment advisors who give unsolicited stock tips on social media platforms.
  • Some of these advisors may have ulterior motives or vested interests in promoting certain stocks or companies.
  • Moreover, some companies may use finfluencers to manipulate their share prices through false or misleading information.
  • This can result in fraud, data theft, technological risks, diversion of funds, erosion of shareholder wealth, financial crisis and reputational damage.

Who are finfluencers, and why are they under SEBI’s scrutiny?

  • Finfluencers are people with public social media platforms offering advice and sharing personal experiences about money and investment in stocks.
  • They have gained popularity in recent years, especially among young and novice investors who are looking for guidance and inspiration in the financial markets.
  • Finfluencers claim to provide unbiased, honest and transparent information about various investment options, strategies and risks.
  • They also showcase their portfolios, returns and mistakes to their followers.

Steps taken by SEBI

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has recently issued a notice to some finfluencers, asking them to disclose their sources of income, affiliations, qualifications and disclaimers on their social media posts.
  • SEBI has also warned the public to be cautious and vigilant while following any finfluencer or taking any investment decision based on their recommendations.
  • SEBI has said that it will take appropriate action against any finfluencer who is found to be indulging in fraudulent or unfair trade practices or violating the SEBI Act, rules and regulations.

How will SEBI’s action help?

  • The notice from SEBI is a welcome step to regulate and monitor the activities of finfluencers in India.
  • It will help to protect the interests of investors and maintain the integrity and stability of the securities market.
  • It will also encourage finfluencers to be more responsible, ethical and professional in their conduct and communication.

Way Forward:

  • Finfluencers can play a positive role in spreading financial literacy and awareness among the masses, but they can also pose serious risks and challenges if they are not regulated properly.
  • Therefore, both finfluencers and investors need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and exercise due diligence and caution while engaging in the financial markets.

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