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Prelim Bits 16-05-2023 | UPSC Daily Current Affairs

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May 16, 2023

India and EFTA

India and EFTA take further steps towards a new Trade and Partnership Agreement (TEPA) in the Ministerial meeting held in Brussels.

  • The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a four-nation bloc founded by the Stockholm Convention in 1960.
  • The inter-governmental organisation is for the promotion and intensification of free trade to benefit the member countries.
  • It was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European Community.
  • Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are the EFTA States.
  • The four EFTA countries are not part of the European Union (EU).

EFTA

  • India and ETFA - India is the ninth-largest trading partner of EFTA, accounting for about 2.5% of India’s total merchandise trade in 2020-21.
  • India’s main exports to EFTA - Textiles, chemicals, gems, and jewellery, machinery, and pharmaceuticals.
  • India’s main imports from EFTA - Machinery, chemicals, precious metals, and medical instruments.
  • TEPA - India and EFTA started negotiating a broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement in 2008.
  • The free trade agreement between the two regions is officially dubbed as Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA).
  • TEPA will enhance two-way commerce, investment flows, job creation and economic growth between India and EFTA countries.

References

  1. PIB - India and EFTA take further steps towards a new TEPA
  2. The European Free Trade Association
  3. Live Mint - India and EFTA make progress in talks on TEPA

UPSC Chairman

Educationist Manoj Soni will take oath as the chairman of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

  • Mr. Soni joined the Union Public Service Commission as the member in 2017.
  • Prior to his appointment in the UPSC, Soni has served three terms as Vice-Chancellor.
  • UPSC - The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is a Constitutional Body under Article 315-323 Part XIV of the Constitution.
  • UPSC is the central recruiting agency of India.
  • It conducts examinations for appointments to the All-India Services and various Group A and Group B Services  of the Union.
  • The Commission with maximum of 10 members is headed by a Chairman.
  • Appointment, Removal and Tenure -The appointment of the Chairman and members of UPSC is given in the Article-316 of the Constitution.
  • The Chairman and other members of UPSC shall be appointed the President of India.
  • The Chairmen and members can be removed only by the President.
  • The chairman and members hold office for a term of five years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • Their salary is charged from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Acting Chairman - the President can appoint one of the members of the UPSC  as an acting Chairman  when,
    • The office of the Chairman falls vacant or
    • The Chairman is unable to perform his/her functions due to absence or some other reason.
  • Members - The Commission can have a maximum of 10 members.
  • The number of members is decided by the President under his discretion.
  • The members of the commission are not eligible for the reappointment to the same commission.

References

  1. The Hindu - Manoj Soni to take oath as UPSC chairman
  2. UPSC - Appointment of Chairman and members

Rehabilitation Council of India

The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) spearheads transformation in education with national workshop on inclusive learning.

  • The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) is a statutory body under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • It was established in 1986 as a society and became a statutory body in 1993 by Rehabilitation Council of India Act of 1992.
  • Its main mandate is to standardize, regulate, and monitor training programs in the field of special education and disability.
  • RCI is also responsible for maintaining the central rehabilitation register (CRR) and promoting research in this domain.
  • The Council also prescribes minimum standards of education and training for 16 categories of professionals and personnel allocated to RCI.
  • The RCI plans to initiate various national programs that promote flexible education, experiential learning, practical skill-based education, and ultimately, inclusive education.

References

  1. PIB - Spearheads Transformation in Education with National Workshop on Inclusive Learning
  2. Rehabilitation Council of India

Adhaar-enabled Payment System

Scammers are reportedly using the gaps in Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS).

  • AEPS is a bank led model which allows online interoperable financial transaction.
  • These transactions are done at PoS (Point of Sale / Micro ATM) through the Business Correspondent (BC) of any bank using the Aadhaar authentication.
  • AePS removes the need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial details.
  • It empowers the customers to use Aadhaar as their identity to access their respective Aadhaar enabled bank account and perform basic banking transactions.

AEPS

  • Services provided under AePS - Balance enquiry, cash deposit, cash withdrawal, remittances through a Business Correspondent and Aadhaar to Aadhaar Fund Transfer .
  • Requirement for transaction - It allows fund transfers using only the
    • Bank name
    • Aadhaar number
    • Fingerprint captured during Aadhaar enrolment
  • Transfer Limit - The banks define limit of fund transfer. The RBI does not have such limit.

References

  1. IE - Gaps in AePS abused by cybercriminals
  2. Cashless India - Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS)
  3. NPCI - Aadhaar Enabled Payment System

Groundwater Extraction and Land Subsidence

The groundwater exploitation is silently sinking the ground beneath India’s feet.

Aquifers are deep water channels that are stores of percolated water.

  • Agricultural practices in northwest India are heavily dependent on groundwater withdrawal.
  • Over time, when the underlying aquifers aren’t recharged, they run dry.
  • The layers of soil and rock above the dry aquifers start to sink.
  • The subsidence from groundwater extraction was gradual and barely visible annually.
  • Similar Activity - soil settlement is seen in the mines where the soil sinks in to fill voids created from mining.
  • Government Measures - The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) monitors water levels 4 times a year.
  • However, CGWB does not analyse the consequences of ‘over exploitation.’
  • Study - A study by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, reported land subsidence of nearly 7-12 cm per year and groundwater extraction rates of 46 cm to 236 cm annually in Punjab and Haryana.
  • Other areas - A research paper linking groundwater extraction to subsidence in Gandhinagar, Gujarat published, shows that the issue was not specific to north India alone.
  • Over exploited groundwater blocks and land subsidence has been reported in Kolkata and parts of eastern India too.

The Jakarta case

  • Jakarta is the fastest-sinking city in the world and its core land subsidence problem is excessive extraction of groundwater.
  • Excessive groundwater extraction, particularly from deep aquifers results in massive pumping of both the water and air.
  • Jakarta has lost its hydraulic support in the soil.
  • Extra pressure on the soil owing to the growing population and massive urban development, leads to compaction and land subsidence.
  • This phenomenon is also seen in Semarang (Indonesia), Bangkok (Thailand), Yokohama (Japan) and Mexico City.
  • The deep groundwater cannot be replenished immediately since the process is slow hence, the control of groundwater extraction crucial.

References

  1. The Hindu - Groundwater exploitation is silently sinking the ground
  2. DTE - Jakarta acts to stop being the next Atlantis
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