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Prelims bits

Prelims Bits (4th Week)

Environment and Ecology:

North Koel Dam Project revival – Why villagers are concerned about it

  • Context: The Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has inked Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bihar and Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project.
  • About: Kutku is a village lit by solar power. Now its residents fear they will be doomed by hydropower.
  • A dam project, which has lain dormant for two decades, has been revived by the government. This has cast the future into doubt for the more than 800 indigenous residents of this village close to the Palamu Tiger Reserve of Garhwa district in Jharkhand, eastern India.
  • Around 220 kilometres from the state capital Ranchi, the picturesque village with a backdrop of blue hills and lush green fields mesmerises the visitor. But local teacher Pitrus Minj and his fellow villagers have no time to bask in the beauty.
  • The project that will displace them is the North Koel dam, popularly called the Kutku Mandal dam, around five kilometres from the home of 36-year-old Minj.
  • The dam on the North Koel river was meant to be part of a hydroelectricity generation project, to provide irrigation to the drought-prone region and for flood control. The North Koel is a tributary of the Sone river, which feeds into the Ganga. It flows along the southern and then western boundary of the Palamu Tiger Reserve.
  • When construction started, the entire area was in the state of Bihar – Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000 – and much of the farmland meant to be irrigated by the dam is still in Bihar.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change first cleared the project in 1984, eight years after construction started. At that time, the ministry added eight conditions to this clearance, including rehabilitation of people affected by the dam.

Economy:

What is Dogecoin? Will it become an alternative to Bitcoin?

  • Context: Just as the virtual currencies Bitcoin and Ethereum have surged in value this week, so has Dogecoin– a cryptocurrency started in 2013 as an internet parody
  • About: Based on the “Doge” meme and started as a “fun” alternative to Bitcoin, Dogecoin’s value has risen phenomenally
  • Dogecoin, rallied roughly 180%, reaching a market value of more than $48 billion.
  • DOGECOIN- The digital token was created in 2013 by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer as a faster but “fun” alternative to Bitcoin. It was started as a satire on the numerous fraud crypto coins that had sprung up at the time, and takes its name and logo from a Shiba Inu meme that was viral several years ago.
  • Unlike Bitcoins, whose maximum possible number is fixed at 21 million (a figure that is estimated to be reached by 2040),
  • Dogecoin numbers do not have an upper limit, and there are already more than 100 billion in existence.
  • When the crypto coin first took off, the online community that was backing it invited attention by supporting unconventional Such as sponsoring Jamaica’s bobsled team at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Also that year, the Dogecoin community gave $55,000 worth of the digital token to a Nascar driver in the US.
  • DOGECOIN’S RISE- The main reason believed to be behind Dogecoin’s meteoric surge is the same that has propelled the value of Bitcoin and Etherem–listing of Coinbase, the most popular virtual currency exchange in the US.
  • Coinbase’s market cap briefly hit $100 billion after it went public and the values of Bitcoin and Etherem touched$64,000 and $2,500, respectively, during the week. Dogecoin is said to be a part of this frenzy.

Wholesale Price Index Inflation jumps 8 year high in March 2021

  • Context: Wholesale-level inflation — measured by the WPI or the wholesale price index —  shot up to 7.39% in March o n a Y oYbasis.
  • About: This is the highest wholesale inflation rate since October 2012, and was driven largely by higher prices of crude oil and a surge in price levels of food items such as pulses and fruits.
  • The surge in March was also aided by a low base in the corresponding month of 2020
  • The data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. On a month-on-month basis, the index rose 1.6% in March 2021 compared to February 2021.
  • The prices of crude oil, petroleum products and basic metal were substantially higher in March 2021 as compared to a year ago.
  • This fed into prices of manufactured goods, which rose 7.34% compared to a year ago — the highest reading in the series.
  • While the Consumer Price Index-based retail inflation — the more widely tracked policy tool — looks at the price at which the consumer buys goods, the WPI tracks prices at the wholesale, or factory gate/mandi levels.
  • Between the wholesale price and the retail price, the difference essentially is the former only tracks basic prices devoid of transportation cost, taxes and the retail margin etc. And that WPI pertains to only goods, not services.
  • The wholesale price index is measured by changes happening in three broad sectors – Primary articles, fuel and power and manufactured products.
  • The CPI product categorisation is sharper Food and beverages, pan, tobacco and intoxicants, clothing and footwear, housing, fuel and light and a miscellaneous category.
  • The WPI data comes right after the retail (CPI) inflation scaled a four month peak of 5.52% in March.
  • In recent years, the WPI and CPI have shown a degree of dissonance, given that the WPI has a higher weight of manufactured goods and the CPI has a greater constitution of food items.
  • The convergence of sorts in March is a warning sign, given that a higher print of both indices portends an economic phenomenon of too much money chasing too few goods and services.
  • Also, there are concerns that the higher inflation on the wholesale side could eventually spill over to the retail level in the following months, especially if the new lockdowns and restrictions hit supply chains.
  • Although WPI numbers are not the RBI’s main metric for the purpose of setting monetary policy, the sharp spike in March could dissuade the MPC from looking at rate cuts well into the future,
  • Even as yet another economic disruption looms large due to the Covid caseload surge.

What is Cryptocurrency Bank? Crypto Banks started offering LOAN on Cryptocurrencies

  • Context: Some ‘crypto banks’ have started offering credit lines to people who have digital currencies in their investment portfolios.
  • About: People owning cryptos such as bitcoin, ethereum or ripple can pledge their holdings with crypto banks to get loans up to 50-60% of the asset value.
  • These loans come with no specific tenure and can be repaid any time.
  • Interest at 12-15% per annum is lower than 12-24% charged by the banks on personal loans, along with a processing fee in the range of 2-3%.
  • Crypto-focused institutions such as EasyFi Network, Vauld and Cashaa, among others, have started their lending operations in India.
  • If any crypto-holder wants liquidity, but doesn’t want to sell off his holdings, he can just pledge it and get a loan.
  • So, if you own bitcoin, currently valued at Rs 45 lakh, you can pledge it with a crypto bank and get a loan of up to Rs 30 lakh instantaneously.
  • The Centre’s decision to not outlaw cryptocurrency has emboldened various players such as exchanges, crypto banks, rating agencies and protocol manufacturers to expand their business in India.
  • Cashaa has tied up with United, a Jaipur-based multistate cooperative society, to form a brick-and-mortar crypto bank called Unicas.
  • The bank allows customers to deal in cryptocurrencies seamlessly, earn 9-10% interest on their crypto deposits and also get cash loans.
  • Its branches are operational in Rajasthan, Gujarat and New Delhi. Players like Cashaa and Vauld also offer crypto deposits, which work like a normal savings account with a bank.
  • Crypto deposit accounts earn up to 4% interest for the account holder.

Art and culture:

India’s first mobile app for learning Sanskrit LITTLE GURU launched

  • Context: Indian government has launched first-ever app that enables the user to learn Sanskrit, the ancient language of the country. The app created by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been named ‘Little Guru
  • About: The app was launched during the celebrations of the 71st Foundation Day of ICCR.
  • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s external cultural relations (cultural diplomacy), through cultural exchange with other countries and their peoples.
  • It was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister.
  • ICCR has been assigned the responsibility of facilitating the celebration of the International Day of Yoga by Indian Missions/Posts abroad since 2015.
  • ICCR has instituted several awards, which are conferred upon the foreign nationals for their contributions in different fields, under its mandate of promoting India’s cultural relations
  • Sanskrit- It is an old Indo-Aryan language in which the most ancient documents, Vedas are composed in what is called Vedic Sanskrit.
  • Classical Sanskrit, a language close to late Vedic as then used in the northwest of the subcontinent, was elegantly described in one of the finest grammars ever produced, the Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight Chapters”) composed by Pāṇini (c. 6th–5th century BCE).
  • Sanskrit has been written both in Devanāgarī script and in various regional scripts, such as Śāradā from the north (Kashmir), Bāṅglā (Bengali) in the east, Gujarātī in the west, and various southern scripts, including the Grantha alphabet, which was especially devised for Sanskrit texts.
  • There are also major works of drama and poetry, although the exact dates of many of these works and their creators have not been definitively established.

International Relations:

Russia Czech Republic Tension Escalates – Russia expels 20 Czech Republican diplomats

  • Context: A day after the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats, the Kremlin retaliated by announcing it would send back 20 Czech diplomats, exacerbating relations that have already been strained in recent times
  • About: Prague had accused Russian embassy officials of being intelligence operatives, and said that it suspected them of being involved in a 2014 explosion at an arms depot that left two dead.
  • Russia offered scathing criticism of the Czech Republic’s decision, saying,“In their desire to please the United States against the background of recent US sanctions against Russia, Czech authorities in this respect even outdid their masters from across the pond”.
  • Last year in June, Russia was accused of being behind a poisoning scare targeting Czech politicians, including the mayor of Prague.
  • Prague had then expelled 2 Russian diplomats, Moscow did the same.
  • According to Czech intelligence, Russian operatives were involved in an October 2014 blast at an arms storage depot in a wooded part of the country near the border with Slovakia.
  • Two people who worked there died, and their remains were found after more than a month.
  • The incident was then labelled an accident. However, investigative work by Czech authorities led them to lay the blame on Russia, specifically Unit 29155 of GRU intelligence agency.
  • The diplomatic escalation between Prague and Moscow is believed to be the most serious since 1989, when the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe ended.
  • It also adds to the worsening of relations between the West and Russia, which are already being tested by Russia’s military buildup on its western frontier as well as in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014

Science and Technology:

India’s first solar Agro Photovoltaic power project in Jammu & Kashmir

  • Context: ‘First-of-a-kind’ project in J&K will produce electricity.
  • About: A draft proposal for the plant is believed to have been submitted and work on the project, with an estimated cost of Rs 50 cr, is expected to begin this month.
  • It will be a farm where Kashmir’s famous saffron will be cultivated, but also double as a solar power project that is expected to generate up to 10 megawatts of electricity for the Valley
  • Jammu & Kashmir is set to have India’s first solar “agro-photovoltaic” power project — where a solar project will be set up on a 250-acre area (just over 100 hectares) that will simultaneously be used to cultivate saffron
  • The project will come up in Pampore — known for high-quality saffron — and cost approximately Rs 50 crore
  • The project is expected to yield saffron worth an estimated Rs 55 lakh every year.
  • The land, currently hosts defunct gas turbines from a power plant where LPG was used to generate electricity.
  • This plant was discontinued as it was turning out to be costly and the turbines have been lying idle for the last 10-12 years
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation is in talks with the Solar Energy Corporation of India to help set up this plan
  • The Solar Energy Corporation of India is a central public sector undertaking under the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
  • It will have saffron flowers on the bed and solar panels (on the) top. According to the current plan, there is a gap of around 7-8 metres between two panel rows, having a ground clearance of around 500 mm

Government scheme and Initiative:

EatSmart Cities Challenge & Transport 4 All Challenge launched

  • Context: With a dual aim of developing healthy eating habits among people along with digital solutions for safe public transport in smart cities, the government has launched two initiatives — EatSmart Cities Challenge and Transport4 All Challenge — involving competitions among cities
  • About: “It is a matter of pride that we see the Eat Right India approach getting scaled up to the smart cities level with the launch of EatSmart Cities Challenge.
  • This movement will nudge the urban populace to make the right food choices and help build a healthier and happier nation.
  • This will complement the remarkable work being done in the Smart Cities Mission.”
  • EatSmart Cities Challenge- the EatSmart Cities Challenge is envisioned as a competition among cities to recognize their efforts in adopting and scaling up various initiatives under Eat Right India.
  • This unique challenge, in partnership with Smart Cities Mission will create an environment of right food practices and habits, strengthen the food safety and regulatory environment, build awareness among the consumers and urge them to make better food choices in India’s major cities and can set an example for other cities to follow.
  • The challenge is open to all Smart Cities, capital cities of States /UTs, and cities with a population of more than 5 lakh. At the end of first phase of the challenge, 11 cities will be selected for deeper engagement for an extended period to implement their vision.
  • Transport 4 All (T4All) Challenge- The Challenge aims to bring together cities, citizen groups, and start-ups to develop solutions that improve public transport to better serve the needs of all citizens.

Aahaar Kranti Mission launched by Dr Harsh Vardhan

  • Context: A mission aimed at spreading the message of the need for a nutritionally balanced diet and to understand the importance of accessibility to all local fruits and vegetables
  • About: Vijnana Bharati (Vibha) and Global Indian Scientists’ and Technocrats’ Forum (GIST) have come together to launch the mission with the motto of “Good Diet-Good Cognition”.
  • The Aahaar Kranti movement is designed to address the peculiar problem being faced by India and the world called “hunger and diseases in abundance”
  • Studies estimate that India produces as much as two times the amount of calories that it consumes.
  • However, many in the country are still malnourished. The root cause of this strange phenomenon is a lack of nutritional awareness in all sections of our society.
  • There is also a need for a nutritionally balanced diet in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A healthy body would be able to handle the infection much better with greater immunity and higher resilience.
  • The movement proposes to address the current situation of hunger in abundance by working to rouse the people to the values of India’s traditional diet, to the healing powers of local fruits and vegetables, and to the miracles of a balanced diet.
  • It will renew the focus on nutritionally balanced diets (Uttam Evam Santulit Aahaar) replete in locally sourced fruits and vegetables
  • The mission will work on multiple dimensions simultaneously. In terms of objectives, it will seek to promote better awareness, better nutrition and better agriculture; the messages will be imparted through the curriculum in the form of `what’s and `why’s of nutrition, or through the forms of games or as instructions such as `how to’; and the content will be provided both online and offline and in all vernacular languages besides English and Hindi to reach out to as many as possible.

Miscellaneous

Film Certification Appellate Tribunal – Why has it been abolished? 

  • Context: On April 4, the Centre notified the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • About: The Tribunals Reforms Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in February, but was not taken up for consideration in the last session of Parliament
  • The President later issued the ordinance, which scraps the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a statutory body that had been set up to hear appeals of filmmakers against decisions of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and transfers its function to other existing judicial bodies
  • Eight other appellate authorities have also been disbanded with immediate effect. The ordinance has amended The Cinematograph Act, 1952, and replaced the word ‘Tribunal’ with ‘High Court’.
  • The move to abolish the FCAT along with other tribunals follows a Supreme Court order in Madras Bar Association vs. Union of India. In November last year, a two-member Bench directed the government to constitute a National Tribunals Commission
  • It said the Commission would “act as an independent body to supervise the appointments and functioning of Tribunals, as well as to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of Tribunals and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the Tribunals, in an appropriate manner
  • The court had expressed that the functioning of tribunals could be strengthened. So, the government cannot take advantage of the order and take shelter under it