Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- PM Vishwakarma Scheme
- Digital India Programme
- Caste based Survey
- SC handbook on gender stereotypes
- Facts for Prelims
1 . PM Vishwakarma Scheme
Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the “PM Vishwakarma” scheme with an outlay of ₹13,000 crore. The scheme, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech, will be available for traditional craftspeople and artisans from 2023-24 to 2027-28.
About the scheme
- The scheme aims to strengthen and nurture the “Guru-Shishya parampara” (teacher student tradition) or the family-based practice of traditional skills by artisans and craftspeople working with their hands and tools.
- The scheme also aims at improving the quality, as well as the reach of products and services of artisans and craftspeople and to ensure that the Vishwakarmas are integrated with the domestic and global value chains.
What are the benefits provided under this scheme?
- Artisans and craftspeople will get PM Vishwakarma certificate and ID card, credit support up to ₹1 lakh (first tranche) and ₹2 lakh (second tranche) at a concessional interest rate of 5%.
- The Scheme will further provide Skill Upgradation, Toolkit Incentive, Incentive for Digital Transactions and Marketing Support.
- There will be two types of skilling programmes — basic and advanced under the scheme and a stipend of ₹500 per day will also be provided to beneficiaries while undergoing skill training.
- 30 lakh families will be covered over five years of the scheme.
- Scheme will provide support to artisans and craftspeople of rural and urban areas across India. Eighteen traditional trades will be covered in the first instance under PM Vishwakarma.
- These trades include (i) Carpenter (Suthar); (ii) Boat Maker; (iii) Armourer; (iv) Blacksmith (Lohar); (v) Hammer and Tool Kit Maker; (vi) Locksmith; (vii) Goldsmith (Sonar); (viii) Potter (Kumhaar); (ix) Sculptor (Moortikar, stone carver), Stone breaker; (x) Cobbler(Charmkar)/ Shoesmith/Footwear artisan; (xi) Mason (Rajmistri); (xii) Basket/Mat/Broom Maker/Coir Weaver; (xiii) Doll & Toy Maker (Traditional); (xiv) Barber (Naai); (xv) Garland maker (Malakaar); (xvi) Washerman (Dhobi); (xvii) Tailor (Darzi); and (xviii) Fishing Net Maker.
2 . Digital India Programme
Context: The Union Cabinet approved a five-year extension and expansion of the Digital India programme, including an expansion of the Computer Emergency Response Team, India (CERT-in).
About the expansion of the programme
- The expansion of the programme will have an outlay of ₹14,903 crore.
- This scheme would enable the following
- 6.25 lakh IT professionals will be re-skilled and up-skilled under the Future Skills Prime Programme;
- 2.65 lakh persons will be trained in information security under the Information Security & Education Awareness Phase (ISEA) Programme;
- 540 additional services will be available under the Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) app/ platform. At present over 1,700 services are already available on UMANG;
- 9 more supercomputers will be added under the National SuperComputer Mission. This is in addition to 18 supercomputers already deployed;
- Bhashini, the AI-enabled multi-language translation tool (currently available in 10 languages) will be rolled out in all 22 schedule 8 languages;
- Modernisation of the National Knowledge Network (NKN) which connects 1,787 educational institutions;
- Digital document verification facility under DigiLocker will now be available to MSMEs and other organisations;
- 1,200 startups will be supported in Tier 2/3 cities;
- 3 Centres of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence on health, agriculture and sustainable cities will be set up;
- Cyber-awareness courses for 12 crores college students;
- New initiatives in the area of cyber security including development of tools and integration of more than 200 sites with National Cyber Coordination Centre
- It will give a boost to the digital economy of India, drive digital access to services and support India’s IT and electronics ecosystem.
Digital India Programme
- Digital India is a programme to transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy.
- The Digital India is transformational in nature and would ensure that Government services are available to citizens electronically.
- It would also bring in public accountability through mandated delivery of government’s services electronically, a Unique ID and e-Pramaan based on authentic and standard based interoperable and integrated government applications and data basis.
- Digital India programme was launched on 1st July, 2015 to enable digital delivery of services to citizens. Based on the success of the programme, the Union Cabinet during August 2023 approved the expansion of the Digital India programme. The total outlay is ₹14,903 crores.
The vision is centred on three key areas
- Digital infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
- Governance and services on demand
- Digital empowerment of citizens
- Digital Infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
- Availability of high speed internet as a core utility for delivery of services to citizens.
- Cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable to every citizen.
- Mobile phone and Bank account enabling citizen participation in digital and financial space.
- Easy access to a Common Service Centre.
- Shareable private space on a public Cloud.
- Safe and secure Cyber-space.
- Governance and Services on Demand
- Seamlessly integrated across departments or jurisdictions.
- Services availability in real time from online and mobile platforms.
- All citizen entitlements to be available on the Cloud to ensure easy access.
- Government services digitally transformed for improving Ease of Doing Business.
- Making financial transactions above a threshold, electronic and cashless.
- Leveraging GIS for decision support systems and development.
- Digital Empowerment of Citizens:
- Universal digital literacy.
- All digital resources universally accessible.
- All Government documents/ certificates to be available on the Cloud.
- Availability of digital resources / services in Indian languages.
- Collaborative digital platforms for participative governance.
- Portability of all entitlements for individuals through the Cloud.
Scope of Digital India
The overall scope of this programme is
- To prepare India for a knowledge future.
- On being transformative that is to realize IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow).
- Making technology central to enabling change.
- On being an Umbrella Programme – covering many departments.
- The programme weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single, comprehensive vision, so that each of them is seen as part of a larger goal. Each individual element stands on its own, but is also part of the larger picture.
- The weaving together makes the Mission transformative in totality.
- The Digital India Programme will pull together many existing schemes which would be restructured and re-focused and implemented in a synchronized manner. The common branding of the programmes as Digital India, highlights their transformative impact.
Nine pillars of Digital India
Digital India aims to provide the much needed thrust to the nine pillars of growth areas, namely
- Broadband Highways
- Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity
- Public Internet Access Programme
- e-Governance: Reforming Government through Technology
- e-Kranti – Electronic Delivery of Services
- Information for All
- Electronics Manufacturing
- IT for Jobs
- Early Harvest Programmes
Benefits of Digital India Mission scheme
- The Digital India Scheme made it possible to link 12000 post offices of rural areas electronically.
- This scheme increases the electronic transactions concerned with e-governance.
- In almost 1.15 Lakh Gram Panchayats, an optical fiber network of Rs 2, 74,246 Km has been connected under Bharat Net Programme.
- A Common Service Center has been operative under the National e-governance project of the Indian government that provides access to information and communication technology. Through computer and Internet access, the CSCs are creating multimedia content on various matters like e-governance, health, education, entertainment, telemedicine, and other government and private services.
- The digital village area was created with well-equipped facilities like solar lighting, LED assembly unit, sanitary napkin production unit, and Wi-Fi couple.
- Internet data is a major tool for making the delivery of services and the urban internet penetration. It has reached 64% almost.
- Presently, the number of daily active internet users has crossed 300 million from 10-15 million daily users.
Challenges of Digital India scheme
- The daily basis Internet speed and Wi-Fi hotspots speed are slow as compared to the developed countries.
- The small and medium scale industries are struggling a lot in adapting new modern technology.
- Limited capability of entry-level smartphones for smooth internet access.
- Lack of skilled manpower in the field of digital technology.
- To look for about one million cybersecurity experts to check and monitor the growing menace of digital crime.
3 . Caste based survey
Context: The Supreme Court is set to hear a batch of petitions challenging the Patna High Court’s verdict upholding the Bihar government’s ongoing caste survey. A Bench of Justices Sanjay Khanna and SVN Bhatti declined a plea seeking a stay on the controversial survey.
Background of the news
- The Patna High Court allowed the State government to continue with the survey after observing that the action of the State was perfectly valid, initiated with due competence, and in the furtherance of a ‘compelling public interest’.
What is caste census?
- Caste census means inclusion of caste-wise tabulation of India’s population in the Census exercise.
- India has counted and published caste data — from 1951 to 2011 — of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only.
- It also publishes data related to religions, languages and socio-economic status.
Was it done earlier?
- The last caste census was conducted in 1931. All caste data are projected on its basis. It became the basis for quota caps under the Mandal formula.
- Caste data were collected for the 2011 census but the data were never made public.
What is the ongoing ‘caste-based survey’?
- The State government launched a two-phase caste survey in Bihar, stating that detailed information on socio-economic conditions would help create better government policies for disadvantaged groups
- The survey, which will also record the economic status of families alongside their caste, is estimated to collect socio-economic data for a population of 12.70 crore in the 38 districts of Bihar.
- The government was in the middle of the second phase, which had begun on April 15 and was to be completed by May 15, but the survey was halted after the High Court stay on May 4. Following the stay order, the Bihar government indicated that it may take the legislative route to complete the survey ‘at any cost.’
- However, with the recent High Court verdict dismissing all petitions opposing the move, the government on August 2 resumed work on the second phase of the survey and aims to complete the exercise by mid-August. In the second phase, data related to castes, sub-castes, and religions of all people is to be collected. The final survey report can be expected in September, less than a year before the 2024 general election.
Origin of caste census and ‘Mandal’ politics
- The census conducted at the beginning of every decade does not record any caste data other than for those listed as Scheduled Castes. In fact, the last census that officially collected full caste data was in 1931. In the absence of such a census, there is no proper estimate for the population of OBCs, various groups within the OBCs, and others.
- Despite the ambiguity, the Union government has categorically ruled out conducting a Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), saying it is unfeasible, ‘administratively difficult and cumbersome.’
- The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC), popularly known as the Mandal Commission, named after Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal, a former Chief Minister of Bihar, was established in 1979 by the then Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
- Ten years later, on 13 August 1990, the V.P. Singh government announced the decision to implement the Mandal Commission report, which recommended 27%reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC). With the Supreme Court ruling in Indra Sawhney & Others v. Union of India (1992) that caste was an acceptable indicator of backwardness, the recommendations of the Mandal Commission were finally implemented.
- The Mandal Commission estimated the OBC population at 52%. However, it is debatable whether the estimate holds true even today. Opposition parties, especially regional caste-based parties, have continued to demand a caste census saying that such an exercise is necessary to streamline welfare policies. The demand also relates to the question of expanding OBC entitlements in the electoral context.
Why was the survey stayed earlier?
- The High Court imposed an interim stay on the exercise after concluding that the Bihar government did not have the legal authority to conduct it since it is a census “in the garb of a survey.”
- During the proceedings, the State government apprised a division Bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad that 80% of the work has already been done, following which the Bench directed the State to secure the data already collected and not disclose any of it until final orders are passed in the case.
- The Court observed that nothing was placed on record about the objects sought to be achieved by the Bihar government before embarking on “such a massive exercise,” especially with regards to the collection of data pertaining to the “sensitive issue of caste.” It also opined that the power to carry out a census is in the exclusive domain of the Parliament and thus the State legislature cannot embark upon such an exercise.
- The Court also raised concerns about privacy, as the State government intends to share the data collected with the various political parties constituting the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. It noted that the Supreme Court had ruled privacy to be a facet of the right to life in its landmark judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (retd) v. Union of India (2017).
Why did the High Court uphold the survey?
- Means to achieve affirmative action- The purpose of the survey is to identify Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes with the aim of uplifting them and ensuring that equal opportunities are extended to them.
- The Court relied on the ruling in Indra Sawhney to rule that there is no fault with the identification of caste in a bid to ameliorate social backwardness as envisioned under Article 16(4) of the Constitution.
- The Court ruled that the survey was necessary as any affirmative action under Article 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) is only possible after the collection of relevant data regarding the social, economic and educational conditions of communities in the State.
- The Court recognised that caste has been found to be an important indicator of backwardness since historically discrimination was meted out to communities based on their caste names. It held that the “mere unfortunate circumstance of birth within one caste” cannot exclude an individual from the privileges and benefits enjoyed by other members of the society.
Efficacy of caste surveys
- The caste surveys help in mapping out socio-economic deprivations, fundamental in the creation of an egalitarian society.
- It is also predicted that if the Bihar caste census is successful, then other States will also demand it— a demand the Union government is resisting.
4 . SC Handbook on gender stereotypes
Context: A “career woman” is only a “woman”; “eve teasing” is “street sexual harassment” and “forcible rape” is simply “rape.” These corrections in sexual stereotypes are part of a handbook for judges and other legal practitioners released by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.
Key highlights of the handbook
- The SC handbook is a 30-page booklet that aims to assist judges and the legal community in identifying, understanding and combating stereotypes about women.
- The handbook identifies common stereotypical words and phrases used about women, many of them routinely found in judgements.
- For example, in the 2017 Supreme Court ruling awarding the death penalty for the convicts in the Delhi gang-rape case, the verdict repeatedly uses the word “ravished” to say raped.
- The handbook states that “Where the language of judicial discourse reflects antiquated or incorrect ideas about women, it inhibits the transformative project of the law and the Constitution of India, which seek to secure equal rights to all persons, irrespective of gender”.
- The handbook quotes other judgements where judges unwittingly use stereotypical characterisations of women.
- Some of the “stereotype promoting language” the handbook flags as “incorrect”, and suggests “alternative language (preferred)” for, include ‘concubine/keep’ for which the suggestion is ‘woman with whom a man has had romantic or sexual relations outside of marriage’; for ‘a woman of easy virtue’, simply ‘woman’; for ‘child prostitute’; a ‘child who has been trafficked’; and for ‘Hormonal (to describe a woman’s emotional state)’, the use of ‘a gender neutral term to describe the emotion (e.g., compassionate or enthusiastic)’.
Why is it important for judges to use the right words?
- The handbook argues that the language a judge uses reflects not only their interpretation of the law, but their perception of society as well.
- Even when the use of stereotypes does not alter the outcome of a case, stereotypical language may reinforce ideas contrary to the constitutional ethos. Language is critical to the life of the law. Words are the vehicle through which the values of the law are communicated. Words transmit the ultimate intention of the lawmaker or the judge to the nation.
Have there been similar efforts in other countries?
- There have been projects in other countries, pushed by both academia and practitioners, which hold up a mirror for the court’s practices.
- For example, the Women’s Court of Canada, a collective of female lawyers, academics and activists write “shadow judgements” on equality law.
- In India, the Indian Feminist Judgement Project also ‘rewrites’ judgements with a feminist critique. It is led by advocate Jhuma Sen, Dr Aparna Chandra at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and Dr Rachna Chaudhary at the Ambedkar University, Delhi
5 . Facts for Prelims
Global Initiative on Digital Health
- The Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) is a WHO managed network of stakeholders organized to facilitate the implementation of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025 and other WHO norms and standards for Digital Health System Transformation.
- The Initiative will serve as a platform to enable a wide global ecosystem to work collectively to promote country capacity and strengthen international cooperation in digital health.
- GIDH will prioritize the following core areas of work: assessing and prioritizing Member States’ needs, evaluating the availability and reporting of country-level digital health resources and identifying under-funded priorities, supporting technically and financially the accelerated achievement of the strategic objectives defined in the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025, building capacity and converging efforts to encourage developing, maintaining and adapting digital health technologies to continuously changing needs.
- The Initiative will work to address variability in the quality of digital solutions and emerging technologies related to standards, data privacy, security, and interoperability, etc., by amplifying identified best practices, open standards, and quality-assured building blocks.
- Digital health is a proven accelerator to advance health outcomes and achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
- The Initiative will strive to help Member States to advance their national digital health transformation by strengthening collaboration among partners and existing networks and amplify current multi-national and regional activities
- The key components of the GIDH will leverage existing evidence, tools and learnings and will be co-created through a transparent and inclusive process. Through this evidence-based and comprehensive co-creation process, GIDH will ultimately aim to
- ALIGN efforts to support of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020–2025;
- SUPPORT quality-assured technical assistance to develop and strengthen standards-based and interoperable systems aligned to global best practices, norms, and standards;
- FACILITATE the deliberate use of quality assured digital transformation tools that enable governments to manage their digital health transformation journey.
PM-eBus Sewa Scheme
- The Union Cabinet approved the Rs 57,613-crore PM-eBus Sewa scheme according to which the central government will give financial support of Rs 20,000 crore for operations of 10,000 electric buses. This is being seen as a major push to improve green public transport in cities.
- It will significantly elevate the landscape of cleaner public transportation.
- The funds will be used for augmenting city bus services and for green urban mobility initiatives, such as setting up charging infrastructure, etc.
- PM-eBus Sewa is aimed at augmenting city bus operations in cities, mostly those which don’t have organized bus services. The scheme will be implemented on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis.
- The initiative holds the potential to generate direct employment opportunities and help in upskilling the existing resources. This scheme will also introduce economies of scale for the procurement of electric buses by leveraging aggregation for e-buses.
- The scheme will cover cities having a population of 300,000 and above according to Census 2011. Under this, 169 cities are eligible for PM-eBus Sewa and the final candidates for the electric buses will be selected through a competition.
- Cities with populations of 2–4 million will be eligible for 150 electric buses, while those with populations of 500,000 to 2 million and 3–5 million will get 100 and 50 buses, respectively. For the green urban mobility initiative, 181 cities are eligible to apply.
- The Danube delta has provided Ukraine with an alternative passage for its grain after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal last month.
- The Danube, Europe’s second longest river, has historically been crucial for the movement of freight.
- It is the second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea
- Near Tulcea, Romania, some 80 km from the sea, the river begins to spread out into its delta which has three major channels – Chilia, Sulina and St George.
- Of particular importance in this ‘new’ trade route is the Sulina Channel – a 63 km long distributary of the Danube, connecting major Ukrainian ports on the river to the Black Sea, lying completely within the borders of Romania, a NATO member.
- Ships carrying grain from Ukraine leave from Ukrainian ports such as Izmail and Reni on the mainstream (or the Chilia Channel), and head to the port of Sulina, at the mouth of the Sulina Channel.
- From there, they head around 140 km south to Constanta, Romania’s biggest seaport. Here the cargo is transferred to bigger ships that carry it out of the Black Sea into the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus straits. This route is under constant surveillance and protection of NATO.