Topic 1: DIKSHA e-education platform
Why in news: The National e-Governance Division (NeGD) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is set to integrate Personalised Adaptive Learning (PAL) into its existing Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) platform.
- The PAL’s software-based approach is expected to allow each student to have an individualised learning experience over the course of the curriculum based on their unique needs and abilities.
- About DIKSHA:
- DIKSHA serves as National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers.
- DIKSHA provides e-content for schools by an online portal and a mobile application.
- It has embedded assistive technologies for learners with visual or hearing challenges.
- However, DIKSHA is a static content repository.
- DIKSHA features digitised National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks used by national and State Boards.
- Apart from this, DIKSHA hosts 2.43 lakh contributions by 11,624 academics by way of teaching videos, explainers, and practice questions.
- Currently, all these contributions are scattered across the platform.
- Significance of the integration:
- The NCERT has sought the PAL’s integration into DIKSHA.
- For example, if a student of Class 9 is learning the Pythagoras theorem and makes a calculation mistake, the AI learning system flags it and loops the student back to a basic video of how to make the calculation.
- The NCERT has sought the PAL’s integration into DIKSHA.
- States where PAL is already being used:
- Andhra Pradesh has signed contracts with three privately owned edtech companies for training teachers to use IT applications in the classroom, provide analytics for remedial learning, and help students improve their conceptual understanding.
- In Assam, the PAL was adapted in 200 schools from Classes 6 to 10.
- Each school had nearly 200 students, and Embibe provided 10 devices per school.
- Madhya Pradesh, too, is mulling over introducing PAL for students from Classes 6 to 10 on its flagship State education portal, the CM-RISE.
Topic 2: Notice to Airmen (NOTAM)
Why in news: India has issued a fresh Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a designated range recently.
- While the NOTAM itself does not explicitly specify the type of missile to be tested, experts suggest that the range mentioned, spanning 1990 kilometers, points towards the possibility of an Agni-1P missile test.
- About Agni-IP:
- The Agni-1P, a medium-range ground-based ballistic missile.
- It is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
- A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.
- It was originally used way back in 1947 and were modeled after “Notice to Mariners“, which advised ship captains of hazards in navigating the high seas.
- NOTAMs basically provide information about potential hazards or changes to flight operations that may affect safety.
- The information can include things like:
- temporary flight restrictions,
- changes to air traffic control procedures,
- runway closures, etc.
- NOTAMs are typically issued on a short-term basis, and they are meant to be used by pilots, air traffic controllers, and other aviation professionals to stay informed about changes to flight operations.
- They are also used by airport operators and other organizations that need to be aware of potential hazards or disruptions to flights in order to plan accordingly.
- Overall, the NOTAM system is an important tool for ensuring the safety and efficiency of flight operations by providing pilots and other aviation professionals with critical information about potential hazards and changes to flight operations.
Topic 3: Extreme weather events lead to increase in child marriages: Study
Why in news: Extreme weather causes an increase in the occurrence of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) by intensifying elements of structural oppression, such as gender inequality and poverty, according to a recent study published in the journal International Social Work.
- A review of 20 studies published from 2010-2022 connected droughts, floods and other extreme weather events to increases in child, early and forced marriages in low- and middle-income countries.
- Countries covered:
- The studies were from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Findings of the study:
- Gender-based violence (GBV) and inequities worsen in extreme weather contexts.
- This has adverse impacts on women and girls’ resilience during weather extremes and disasters.
- Development initiatives might reproduce or ignore gender disparities, without concerted efforts accounting for gender and other social inequalities.
- The researchers found that CEFM was used as an adaptive coping strategy to reduce economic vulnerabilities in extreme weather contexts.
- For eg., in Bangladesh, daughters were married early after Cyclone Aila in 2009 to reduce their economic and food burden on the household.
- In Kenya, young brides are sought to help with increased labour demands, such as walking long distances to find food and water.
- In Malawi, girls exposed to drought were more likely to be married early compared to those living in non-drought areas.
- Role of dowry/bride price:
- Bride price and dowry was an important factor in the link between CEFM and extreme weather.
- Girls in sub-Saharan Africa or Vietnam, where the groom’s family paying a bride price to the bride’s family is local custom, had an increased probability of CEFM during droughts and rainfall shocks.
- But, in regions where dowry is common (bride’s family paying the groom’s) such as India, girls were less likely to get married during a drought year, because the bride’s family could not afford dowry payment.
- Other causes of CEFM:
- Parents resorted to CEFM to protect daughters from sexual violence and avoid family dishonour.
- Rates of sexual assault often escalate during times of crisis, particularly in evacuation camps or temporary shelters.
- Link between education and CEFM:
- The main driver of child marriage is gender inequality.
- Education and financial control are key to empowering women and girls and allowing them to take their own decisions.
- Educational attainment and CEFM were inversely associated for girls in India and Malawi.
- The incidence of CEFM decreased in India and Vietnam as parental education increased.
- Data on child marriage:
- Every year, 12 million girls get married before adulthood.
- While years of efforts had led to a decline in the practice, it is now at great risk of rising.
- The Global Slavery Index 2023 said climate change, along with other environmental factors, has exacerbated modern slavery in Africa.
- More than 3.1 million Africans are in forced marriage and more than 3.8 million in forced labour.
- Girls in their early or late adolescence are highly vulnerable to child marriage.
- Ensuring that their education goes uninterrupted and they receive adequate nutrition can go a long way in breaking the cycle.
Conventions and agreements:
- A number of international conventions and agreements address the issue of child marriage:
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women covers the rights to protection from child marriage in Article 16.
- The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages
- The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
- The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Topic 4: Campbell Bay National Park
Why in news: A lot of areas in the Nicobar islands are not accessible to outsiders, but entry is allowed for Campbell Bay National Park.
About the National Park:
- Campbell Bay National Park is located in the Great Nicobar Island.
- Campbell Bay National Park became a national park in 1992.
- Campbell Bay National Park is a part of the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve.
- It is the largest national park in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Campbell Bay National Park is closer to Sumatra Island in Indonesia (190 km) than Port Blair in India (533 km).
- The national park lies very close to Galathea National Park and a mere 12 km wide forested buffer zone separates the two.
- One of the defining features of Campbell Bay National Park is its pristine and untouched natural beauty.
- The park is made up of a diverse range of habitats like evergreen rainforests, mangroves, coastal areas, and marine ecosystems.
- The park is home to some of the endangered and endemic species like the Nicobar megapode, Nicobar pigeon, and the Nicobar long-tailed macaque.
Topic 5: G20 Workstreams
Why in news: The G20 works in three major tracks – The Sherpa Track and Finance Track are the official tracks and the Engagement groups come under the unofficial track.
- The 18th annual G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place at Bharat Mandapam, Pragati Maidan, in New Delhi.
- Established in 1999, the G20, for about a decade worked, at the level of finance ministers and central bank governors only.
- After the financial and economic crisis of 2008, it became a leaders’ forum.
- The summit is essentially the culmination of all the G20 processes and meetings held throughout the year in cities across the host country, among ministers, government officials, and civil society members and organisations.
Structure of G20:
- The G20 works in three major tracks:
- Two of them are official – Finance Track and Sherpa Track
- one is unofficial – Engagement groups or civil society groups
- Finance Track
- The Finance Track is headed by the finance ministers and central bank governors, who usually meet four times a year, with two meetings being held on the sidelines of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.
- It mainly focuses on fiscal and monetary policy issues such as:
- the global economy,
- financial regulation,
- financial inclusion,
- international financial architecture, and
- international taxation.
- The track’s working groups are:
- the Framework Working Group,
- International Financial Architecture Working Group,
- Infrastructure Working Group,
- Sustainable Finance Working Group,
- Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion,
- Joint Finance and Health Task Force,
- International taxation Issues, and
- Financial Sector Issues.
- Sherpa Track
- The Sherpa Track was established after the forum became a leaders’ summit in 2008.
- It consists of representatives of heads of state.
- It focuses on socio-economic issues such as:
- digital economy,
- trade, and
- Each representative is known as a Sherpa.
- It is the metaphor from the mountaineering domain, where the Sherpa is supposed to do the heavy lifting or assist the mountaineer.
- There are 13 working groups within the Sherpa Track.
- Agriculture Working Group,
- Anti-corruption Working Group,
- Culture Working Group,
- Development Working Group,
- Digital Economy Working Group,
- Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group,
- Education Working Group,
- Employment Working Group,
- Energy Transitions Working Group,
- Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group,
- Health Working Group,
- Tourism Working Group, and
- Trade and Investment Working Group.
- Engagement Groups
- The unofficial track comprises engagement or civil groups.
- These groups often draft recommendations to the G20 Leaders that contribute to the policy-making process.
- The engagement groups are:
- Women20, and
Topic 6: Gujarat Declaration
Why in news: World Health Organization (WHO) has released the outcome document of first WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit 2023 in form of “Gujarat Declaration”.
- The declaration reaffirmed global commitments towards indigenous knowledges, biodiversity and traditional, complementary and integrative medicine.
- It reiterates that India as host of the WHO Global Traditional Medicine Centre at Jamnagar, Gujarat has an important role in in taking forward the summit action agenda and other relevant priorities.
- Gujarat Declaration will serve as a catalyst to harness the potential of traditional medicine through the lens of science.
- It will focus on the integration of traditional medicines in national health systems and help unlock the power of traditional medicine.
- Gujarat declaration talks about scaling up efforts to further implement evidence-based TCIM (Traditional complimentary integrative medicine) interventions and approaches in support of the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) and all health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs
- This was the First global summit on Traditional Medicine and was organised by the World Health Organization (WHO), co-hosted by the Ministry of Ayush at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Topic 7: State-level finances
Why in news: The economists a public sector bank recently analysed the state of state finances based on the latest Budget data collected by PRS Legislative Research, a not-for-profit research organisation.
- Data was analysed for 27 states on four different counts:
- Fiscal Deficit:
- It refers to the amount of money a state government has to borrow to meet its annual expenditure.
- It expressed as a percentage of overall size of the state’s economy (the gross state domestic product or GSDP).
- The accumulated borrowings by the government over the years.
- It is expressed as a percentage of GSDP.
- Outstanding guarantees:
- That a state government provides.
- It is expressed as a percentage of the GSDP.
- Percentage of the total revenue income:
- That a state government has to spend towards paying off the interest component of its debt.
- Fiscal Deficit:
How these four indicators help:
- Fiscal Deficit tells us how much a state government has to borrow in the current financial year to meet the gap between its expenditures and revenues.
- Under the existing prudential norms, fiscal deficit should not exceed more than 3% of a state’s GDP.
- Debt levels tells that if a state has been recklessly borrowing year after year, it would end up having a huge pile of debt.
- Under the existing prudential norms, debt should not go beyond 20% of a state’s GDP.
- Outstanding guarantees refer to debts that are on the books of state government-run entities but are effectively backed by the state government.
- For eg, often a state government-run electricity distribution company or an irrigation utility subsidise consumers by not charging the full price.
- In the process, they run up a debt which, in the final analysis, has to be paid by the state government.
- State governments that do not allow their entities to run up high debts (by charging market prices) end up having lower outstanding guarantees.
- The fourth metric captures the net result of running high deficits and debts:
- That one has to pay higher interest costs.
- This is akin to a common man having to pay a higher EMI for a bigger loan.
- However, this interest payout is expressed as a percentage of the state government’s total revenues.
Status of different states:
- Fiscal Deficit and Debt levels.
- Debt levels:
- On debt levels, only three states — Odisha, Gujarat and Maharashtra manage to meet the prudential norm.
- Within the three, it is Odisha which has the lowest debt levels.
- This shows it has contained its annual fiscal deficit far better than the other two states over the recent past.
- Four states — Karnataka, Telangana, Assam and Chhattisgarh are at a debt level of less than 25%.
- Five states — Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh have debt ratios between 25%-30%.
- As many as 15, had debt levels in excess of 30% of the state GDP (or GSDP).
- Fiscal deficit:
- On the fiscal deficit front, three states — Punjab, Manipur and Arunachal have fiscal deficit of 5% and above.
- Taking into account the performance on both metrics together, Odisha comes out on top while Punjab lies at the bottom.
- Outstanding guarantees:
- Odisha continues to do well in the third metric as well.
- This is another aspect of debt that has to be monitored because while the probability of invocation of guarantees is low, it pressurizes the states nonetheless and is not looked upon positively in the context of fiscal prudence.
- Impact high debt:
- As debt increases so does the interest outgo, which in turn puts pressure on the revenue account as a larger part of the revenue receipts are used to pay interest which means that less is left for other purposes.
- Odisha stands out among the bigger states of India.
- Gujarat and Rajasthan (both highlighted in green) are at the same level.
- Even though Gujarat has much lower fiscal deficit, outstanding guarantees and overall debt ratios than Rajasthan, when it comes to the impact of high debt, Rajasthan is none the worse.
- That’s because Rajasthan’s revenues (the denominator in this ratio) has also grown proportionately, thus making it possible for it to afford the interest outgo.
Best and worst-placed states
- In the final analysis, Odisha seems to lead the rest of India.
- The debt to GDP ratio is the lowest and there are low contingent liabilities.
- The fiscal deficit too has been within the FRBM norms and the debt servicing ratio very low..
- Punjab, on the other hand, is the one big state that is pressurised on all counts — debt ratio, fiscal deficit, guarantees and debt servicing.
Reasons for Odisha’s success:
- Expenditure management:
- In Odisha’s case fiscal rectitude is more a case of astute expenditure management than revenue generation.
- That’s because states have limited scope of revenue generation.
- Sticking to annual fiscal deficit targets:
- Doing this ensures that Odisha doesn’t face higher interest rates and that keeps borrowing costs at a minimum.
- Not compromising on expenditure:
- This means sticking to what is planned and not resorting to ad hoc changes mid-year.
- Having realistic budget estimatesfor both income and expenditure:
- Often when a state government is struggling to meet the fiscal deficit target, it can resort to overstating its revenues and understating its likely spending.
- Presenting a realistic pictures helps Odisha government live within its means.
- No to huge subsidies:
- Despite being one of larger producers of paddy, the state doesn’t run up a large subsidy bill (say on account of electricity or irrigation etc.) because it gets more rainfall than Punjab, which has to produce a bulk of India’s wheat despite more erratic rainfall.
Topic 8: UPI QR Code-Central Bank Digital Currency interoperability
Why in news: Banks are enabling the interoperability of Unified Payments Interface’s (UPI) Quick Response (QR) code with their central bank digital currency (CBDC) or e₹ application.
- Users of retail digital rupee will be able to make transactions by scanning any UPI QR at a merchant outlet.
- Merchants can also accept digital rupee payments through their existing UPI QR codes.
- This integration of UPI and CBDC is part of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) ongoing pilot project on pushing the retail digital rupee (e₹-R).
What is interoperability?
- Interoperability is the technical compatibility that enables a payment system to be used in conjunction with other payment systems.
- Interoperability allows system providers and participants in different systems to undertake, clear and settle payment transactions across systems without participating in multiple systems.
- Interoperability between payment systems contributes to achieving adoption, co-existence, innovation, and efficiency for end users.
About UPI QR code-CBDC interoperability
- Interoperability of UPI with the digital rupee means all UPI QR codes are compatible with CBDC apps.
- Initially, when the pilot for the retail digital rupee was launched, the e₹-R users had to scan a specific QR code to undertake transactions.
- However, with the interoperability of the two, payments can be made using a single QR code.
- What is the digital rupee:
- The digital rupee issued by the RBI, or the CBDC, is a tokenised digital version of the rupee.
- The e₹ is held in a digital wallet, which is linked to a customer’s existing savings bank account.
- UPI is directly linked to a customer’s account.
Benefit to customers and merchants
- Seamless transactions:
- The interoperability of UPI and CBDC will ensure seamless transactions between a customer and merchant without having the need to switch between multiple digital platforms.
- Ease in daily transactions:
- It will allow a digital rupee user to make payments for their daily needs, such as groceries and medicines, by scanning any UPI QR codes at any merchant outlet.
- A single QR code:
- Even merchants are not required to keep a separate QR code to accept the digital rupee payments.
- They can accept CBDC payments on their existing QR code.
|What is a QR code?A Quick Response (QR) code consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a camera.It contains information about the item to which it is attached.QR code is an alternate contactless channel of payments.It allows merchants or businesses to accept payments from their customers directly into their bank accounts.|
How will interoperability help in increasing CBDC adoption?
- Currently, UPI is a widely used payment method, and the interoperability between it and the CBDC will propel the adoption of the digital rupee.
- At present, more than 70 mobile apps and over 50 million merchants accept UPI payments.
- The seamless integration of CBDC with UPI will enhance the acceptance and utilization of digital currencies in everyday transactions.
- This integration will be a game changer for the digital currency ecosystem.