Daily Current Affairs : 14th August

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Delimitation
  2. Soil piping, Land Subsidence & Lateral Spread
  3. Regulatory Sandbox
  4. Negative Rate Policy
  5. Stubble Burning

1 . Delimitation

Context : As the Election Commission held internal discussions on the delimitation of constituencies ahead of elections to the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, former Chief Election Commissioner and ex-officio member of the Delimitation Commission N. Gopalaswami said the increase in the number of seats was “an issue which is a political decision of Parliament”.

About Delimitation

  • Delimitation means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats.
  • Population is the basis of redrawing of boundaries and allocation of seats.
  • This task is assigned to a four-member Delimitation Commission of which one of the members represents the EC.

About J&K Delimitation Process

  • According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the UT of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114. The Act also specifies that delimitation will be based on the 2011 census till 2026.
  • Assembly, under the Reorganisation Act is to have 114 seats, of which 24 have been kept aside for areas under Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which means elections will be conducted for 90 seats. The old Assembly had a strength of 111 seats (again 24 kept aside for PoK) with four seats for Ladakh region. That means seven extra seats will be added to the effective strength of the House. Which part of J&K will these seats be from remains to be decided,” 
  • The delimitation exercise will also take into account reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as provided for under the Constitution, and that could tip the scales in favour of one region.
  • There is also a significant population of those who were displaced during Partition in 1947-48 and settled in Jammu, who have had no no voting rights so far in the Assembly polls

2 . Land subsidence, Lateral spread, Soil Piping

Context : Destabilising geological processes, coupled with extreme rainfall events and unscientific farming and construction activities, pose a serious threat to human habitation in the highlands of Kerala, according to scientists.

About the Findings

  • A team of scientists from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) here who carried out an investigation in the wake of the heavy rain and devastating floods in August 2018 had found that land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping were an immediate threat to life and property in the uplands.

Soil Piping

  • Piping occurs when water erodes  beneath the surface of the ground creating an underground tunnel known as soil pipe. This usually begins as small pores underground and are enlaged with increase erosion, in some instance these hole may be even large enough for a person to crawl through.
  • In areas where there are craks in the soil or areas of less resistance , water will start to move through creating  a void. Eventually after constant erosion the surface layer of the ground will not have any support beneath and thus collapse creating a depression. 
  • In some other instances  the soil pipe can be formed from openings in the ground that has been left behind when plants died or trees have been uprooted. Animals can also help create soil pipes by burrowing and tunneling in the soil. These voids provide an opening for moving water and create ideal situations for soil pipe formation.
  • Soil piping is a common feature along side river bank leading to river bank failure. As water seeps beneath the river bank it creates an alternate route, this is eroded and shaped by the water forming a channel (soil pipe). As more water seeps into the bank, the soil becomes heavier and more likely to break apart making it prone to erosion and failure. Soil piping has been related to earth dams failure, dike failures and formation of sink holes.
  • Soil piping is a natural process, but  often human induce activities may result in change in surface and underground water flow and result in increased subsurface erosion and making soil pipe a potential risk. Soil pipe collapse may become a threat to farming and can threatened the stability of a building.

Land Subsidence

  • Land subsidence is the lowering of the land-surface elevation due to changes that take place underground.
  • It is the sinking of the sub surface soil caused by sub surface erosion, often triggered by unscientific land use and drainage

Lateral Spread

  • Lateral spread occurs when soil on a gentle slope start moving downhill. It is caused by a process called as liquefaction
  • When soil looses strength due to saturation it behaves like fluid triggering a flow. Lateral spread is progressive and spreads rapidly, often culminating in a complex landslip

3 . Regulatory Sandbox

Context : The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday issued the final framework for regulatory sandbox in order to enable innovations in the financial technology space.

About RBI Framework

  • Objective of the sandbox is to foster responsible innovation in financial services, promote efficiency and bring benefit to consumers.
  • “The proposed FinTech solution should highlight an existing gap in the financial ecosystem and the proposal should demonstrate how it would address the problem, and bring benefits to consumers or the industry and/or perform the same work more efficiently,” the banking regulator said.
  • RBI will launch the sandbox for entities that meet the criteria of minimum net worth of ₹25 lakh as per their latest audited balance sheet.
  • The entity should either be a company incorporated and registered in the country or banks licensed to operate in India.
  • While money transfer services, digital know-your customer, financial inclusion and cybersecurity products are included, crypto currency, credit registry and credit information have been left out.

What is a FinTech sandbox?

  • A FinTech sandbox or an application program interface (API) sandbox is an environment that innovators and testers can use to mimic the characteristics exhibited by the production environment on a real-time basis to help simulate responses from all the systems an application interfaces with.
  • This enables banks and FinTech players to experiment with innovative financial products or services within a well-defined space and duration.
  • Moreover, the presence of appropriate safeguards helps in containing the consequences of failure. Essentially, the sandbox allows for the pilot testing of newly developed technologies. 

About Regulatory Sandbox

  • A regulatory sandbox is a framework set up by a financial sector regulator to allow small scale, live testing of innovations by private firms in a controlled environment (operating under a special exemption, allowance, or other limited, time-bound exception) under the regulator’s supervision.
  • The concept, which was developed in a time of rapid technological innovation in financial markets, is an attempt to address the frictions between regulators’ desire to encourage and enable innovation and the emphasis on regulation
  • A regulatory sandbox introduces the potential to change the nature of the relationship between regulators and financial services providers (regulated or aspiring) toward a more open and active dialogue.
  • It may also enable the regulator to revise and shape the regulatory and supervisory framework with agility
  • A regulatory sandbox would benefit fintech companies by way of reduced time to launch innovative products at a lower cost

4 . Negative Rate Policy

Context : Negative rate policy – once considered only for economies with chronically low inflation such as Europe and Japan – is becoming a more attractive option for some other central banks to counter unwelcome rises in their currencies.

About Negative rate Policy

  • Under a negative rate policy, financial institutions are required to pay interest for parking excess reserves with the central bank. That way, central banks penalize financial institutions for holding on to cash in hope of prompting them to boost lending.
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) introduced negative rates in June 2014, lowering its deposit rate to -0.1% to stimulate the economy. Given rising economic risks, markets expect the ECB to cut the deposit rate, now at -0.4%, in September.
  • The Bank of Japan (BOJ) adopted negative rates in January 2016, mostly to fend off an unwelcome yen spike from hurting an export-reliant economy. It charges 0.1% interest on a portion of excess reserves financial institutions park with the BOJ.

Pros and Cons

  • Aside from lowering borrowing costs, advocates of negative rates say they help weaken a country’s currency rate by making it a less attractive investment than that of other currencies. A weaker currency gives a country’s export a competitive advantage and boosts inflation by pushing up import costs.
  • But negative rates put downward pressure on the entire yield curve and narrow the margin financial institutions earn from lending. If prolonged ultra-low rates hurt the health of financial institutions too much, they could hold off on lending and damage the economy.
  • There are also limits to how deep central banks can push rates into negative territory – depositors can avoid being charged negative rates on their bank deposits by choosing to hold physical cash instead.

5 . Stubble Burning

Context : 41% reduction in stubble burning incidents in 2018 over 2016; Over 4500 villages of Haryana & Punjab declared as Zero Stubble Burning Villages: Director General ICAR

About the News

  • Through the various efforts under the Central Sector Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the State of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh & NCT of Delhi’ the paddy residue burning events have reduced by 15% and 41% in 2018 as compared to that in 2017 and 2016, respectively in all these States as per the satellite data.
  • More than 4500 villages in Punjab and Haryana was declared as Zero Stubble Burning Villages during 2018 as not a single crop burning incident was reported from these villages during the year.

About the Scheme

  • Central Sector Scheme was launched with a total outgo of Rs.1151.80 Crores for the period from 2018-19 to 2019-20 by the Government of India to tackle air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance @50% of the cost is provided to the farmers for purchase of in-situ crop residue management machines on individual ownership basis.
  • The financial assistance for establishment of Custom Hiring Centres of in-situ crop residue management machinery is @ 80% of the project cost.
  • Within one year of its implementation utilizing an amount of Rs. 500 crore, the happy seeder/zero tillage technology was adopted in 8 lakh hectares of land in the North- Western States of India.
  • Under the scheme Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness among farmers are also implemented

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