In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
Digital Health Incentives Scheme
Tags: GS – 2: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)
Why in News:
Recently, National Health Authority (NHA) has announced an extension of its Digital Health Incentives Scheme (DHIS) under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).
Digital Health Incentives Scheme:
- The Digital Health Incentives Scheme (DHIS) offers financial incentives to hospitals, diagnostic labs, and digital health solution providers for adopting and enabling digital health technologies and practices.
- They can earn financial incentives of up to Rs 4 crores based on the number of digital health records created and linked to ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Health Account) numbers of patients.
- As of June 2023, a total of 1205 health facilities have registered under the DHIS, including 567 public and 638 private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic labs.
- Among the 25 registered digital solution companies, 22 are from the private sector, demonstrating diverse participation.
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM):
- ABDM was launched in September, 2021. It is a national initiative for the development of digital health infrastructure in the country.
- Ayushman Bharat is a flagship scheme of India which was launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
- It aims to provide digital health IDs for all Indian citizens to help hospitals, insurance firms, and citizens access health records electronically when required.
Issues with Digital Healthcare in India:
- Despite advancements, a significant portion of India still lacks reliable internet connectivity and necessary digital infrastructure.
- Many people, especially in rural areas and older populations, may not be familiar with technology or lack the necessary digital literacy skills to effectively use digital healthcare platforms and services.
- Maintaining patient data privacy and security is a significant concern in digital healthcare.
- While telemedicine has gained popularity, regulatory clarity regarding the practice, prescription of medications, and teleconsultation across state lines has been a challenge.
- Implement blockchain technology to securely store and manage electronic health records.
- Leverage big data analytics to predict disease outbreaks, plan resource allocation, and devise targeted interventions to manage public health challenges more effectively.
- Offer online courses for medical professionals to upskill in areas like telemedicine, data analytics, and AI applications in healthcare.
- Establish comprehensive regulations and guidelines for digital health technologies, ensuring patient privacy, data security, and ethical use of digital services and other technologies.
Source: PIB Gov.
Bharat Net Project
Tags: GS – 3: Indian Economy (Growth and Development)
Why in News:
Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved Rs 1.39 lakh crore for the Modernization of the BharatNet project.
Bharat Net Project:
- National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) was launched in October 2011 and was renamed as Bharat Net Project in 2015.
- It is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical Fiber. And also, a flagship mission implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL). BBNL is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) set up by the Government of India under the Companies Act, 1956.
- Partnering with Village Level Entrepreneurs (Udyamis), who will play a pivotal role in providing fiber connections to the last mile.
- Government aims to expedite the process of connecting all 640,000 villages across India within the next 2.5 years. This acceleration aligns with the goal of enhancing digital connectivity and bridging the urban-rural digital divide.
- The government will cover the expenses related to bringing the necessary infrastructure to the households, such as laying down the fiber connections and related hardware.
Challenges to the Bharat Net Project:
- The project has faced significant delays in implementation, with the pace of progress being slower than anticipated. Despite the government’s efforts to connect villages, only about 194,000 out of the targeted 640,000 villages have been connected so far.
- The challenging terrain, lack of proper roads, and logistical difficulties have all contributed to delays in connecting villages.
- Technical challenges such as signal quality, bandwidth limitations, and network downtime have affected the overall user experience.
- The presence of private telecom operators like Jio and Airtel in some rural areas poses a challenge for BharatNet.
- Addressing technical, financial, operational, and awareness related challenges is essential for the project’s success in achieving its goal.
- Efforts should be made to expedite the implementation process by addressing bottlenecks and streamlining the deployment of infrastructure.
- Clear financial planning, allocation, and management are necessary to support the project’s expansion and maintenance activities.
- Focusing on improving the quality of service is vital to attract and retain users.
Source: Indian Express
Digital India RISC-V (DIR-V) Program
Tags: GS-II: Government policy
Union government of India releases Future of DIR-V Program in line with India’s self-reliance vision (Atmanirbhar Bharat)
About Digital India RISC-V (DIR-V) Program:
- It is an initiative by the Ministry of Electronics & IT in India which aims to enhance the semiconductor ecosystem and technology capabilities.
- It will develop advanced microprocessors using RISC-V architecture and decrease dependence on imported semiconductors.
- Important Features
- It focuses on open-source RISC-V architecture for flexibility and promote collaboration among academia, research institutions, and industries.
- It addresses the rising demand for semiconductor chips in various sectors besides fostering innovation and research in the semiconductor field.
- It will enable domestic development of high-performance microprocessors and enhance national security by reducing reliance on foreign tech.
- It will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the semiconductor sector and will facilitate public-private partnerships for effective implementation.
- It will forge partnerships with prestigious academic institutions like IIT Madras besides collaborating with organizations like C-DAC for research and development.
- However, semiconductor design and fabrication complexities require expertise and intense global competition in the semiconductor industry.
- Overall, DIR-V program is pivotal for India’s technological progress and is expected to significantly contribute to economic growth and technological leadership.
Source: PIB Gov.
India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves
Tags: GS-III: Energy Security
Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas deliberates on India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves
About Strategic Petroleum Reserve Programme
- India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Programme is a government initiative aimed at enhancing the country’s energy security by creating a strategic stockpile of crude oil.
- The program involves the establishment of underground storage to store crude oil that can be utilized during emergencies, supply disruptions, or fluctuations in global oil prices.
- Key features:
- India has an underground storage site with a total capacity of over 5.33 million Metric Tonnes (MMT) of crude oil.
- These are located in: Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh (1.33 MMT), Mangaluru, Karnataka (1.5 MMT) and Padur, Karnataka (2.5 MMT)
- Government has also approved establishment of additional facilities with total storage capacity to be expanded to 6.5 MMT.
- New locations include Chandikhol, Odisha (4 MMT) and Padur, Karnataka (2.5 MMT).
- These storages provides energy security and a buffer against supply disruptions during crises and strengthens India’s ability to manage energy needs effectively.
- Overall, Strategic Petroleum Reserves will play a crucial role in safeguarding the nation’s energy security and mitigating risks arising from global energy dynamics.
Source: PIB Gov.
Tag: GS Paper-1: Water resources.
GS Paper-2: Government Policies & Interventions.
GS Paper-3: Conservation.
North India’s first River Rejuvenation Project Devika is nearing completion. The Indian Government is reviewing Liquid Waste Management to protect the sanctity of the holy Devika River.
About the Project Devika:
- It has been built at a cost of over Rs 190 crore on the lines of ‘Namami Ganga’ on the holy Devika River in Udhampur, J&K.
- Out of the 190 crore funds allocated for the project, the sharing of allocation is in the ratio of 90:10 by the Centre and UT respectively.
- The work was started in 2019 under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).
- The role of PRIs, being the representatives of the grassroots level of the society, is vital for the success of major developmental projects.
What is the significance of the Devika river?
- Devika is considered as the sister of the sacred river Ganga, and has a great religious significance.
- This is why the Liquid Waste Management Project with the network of pipes and manholes connecting all the households under Devika Rejuvenation Project is being constructed by UEED to protect the sanctity of it.
- Devika river originates from the hilly Suddha Mahadev temple in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir and flows down towards western Punjab (now in Pakistan) where it merges with the Ravi river.
What is the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP)?
- Formation: The Central Government started the river pollution abatement programme with the launching of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP-I) in the year 1985.
- The river pollution abatement programme was further expanded to include other major rivers of the country in 1995 under the aegis of National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).
- Finally in December 1996, all projects for river cleaning in the country were brought under one umbrella scheme of NRCP.
- Objective: To reduce the pollution load in rivers through implementation of various pollution abatement works, thereby improving their water quality.
Source: PIB Gov.
Excess cane payments
Tag: GS Paper-3: Agricultural Marketing; Agricultural Pricing.
Centre allows relief to sugar cooperatives over excess cane payments made to farmers.
About the excess cane payments:
- The Centre fixes a fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane every year, which is the minimum amount that sugar mills have to pay to farmers for procuring their cane.
- Cooperative factories, particularly in Maharashtra, usually pay farmers a final cane price that is more than the Centre’s fair and remunerative price or FRP.
- Issue: This extra price paid has resulted in tax litigation, with mills claiming the excess payment as business expenditure.
- The Income Tax Department, has disallowed this and treats the excess price paid for sugarcane over and above the SMP as appropriation/distribution of profits, and thus not allowable as deduction.
Government’s efforts to resolve the issue:
- The 2015-16 Union Budget had introduced an amendment to the Finance Act.
- It provided for excess cane price payments made by cooperative sugar mills to be allowed as deduction for computing their business income.
- However, such deduction was made applicable only prospectively from 2016-17 assessment year.
- It did not end demands and litigation regarding previous assessment years.
- The Finance Ministry’s 2023-24 Budget sought to conclude the matter and to extend the benefit of deduction to all financial years prior to 2015-16.
- This was done by amending Section 155 of Income Tax Act.
- The Finance Ministry has notified the rules enabling cooperative sugar mills to claim past cane price payments made to farmers, in excess of the government’s statutory minimum price (SMP), as “business expenditure”.
- The move is expected to provide mills a relief of almost Rs 10,000 crore, against pending tax demands and litigation in respect of payments made before 2015-16 financial year.
Source: Indian Express
IMS-1 Satellite Bus Technology
Tags: GS – 3 3 Science & Technology, Space Technology
Why in news?
Recently, ISRO has transferred its IMS-1 Satellite Bus Technology to Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd., promoting private industry participation in India’s space sector.
- Indian Mini Satellite-1 Satellite Bus was developed by the UR Rao Satellite Centre of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- It is a small satellite platform designed to enable low-cost access to space.
- It would enable low-cost access to space by providing a dedicated platform for payloads for earth imaging, ocean and atmospheric studies, microwave remote sensing and space science missions with a quick turnaround time.
- The IMS-1 bus weighs about 100 kilograms and can carry a 30-kilogram payload.
- The solar arrays onboard generate 330 watts of power.
- It comes with four reaction wheels with a 1 Newton thruster that is good for pointing accuracy with an accuracy threshold of 0.1 Degrees.
- Used in: The bus was used in previous ISRO missions like IMS-1, Youthsat and Microsat-2D.
Source: Economic Times
Tags: GS – 3 Science & Technology, Defence
Why in news?
Recently, India has launched an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle called ‘Neerakshi’ for detecting underwater mines.
- Neerakshi is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) designed to detect mines.
- Developed by: It is a collaboration of Kolkata-based warshipmaker Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd and MSME entity Aerospace Engineering Private Ltd (AEPL).
- It is a 2.1-metre-long cylindrical unmanned vehicle about a foot in diameter and weighing around 45 kg.
- It has an endurance of nearly 4 hours and is capable of operating up to a depth of 300m.
- It can be used for a variety of functions ranging from mine detection to mine disposal to underwater survey.
- It is the first of its kind in India and will be tested by the Navy, Coast Guard, and Army before being available commercially.
- It is part of GRSE’s broader ambitions to create autonomous sea surface vehicles, sea-based drones and explore green propulsion technologies.
Source: Hindustan Times
Arash-Dorra Gas Field
Tags: GS – 2 International Relation
Why in news?
Recently, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have rejected Iran’s claims to a disputed gas field located in the offshore area known as Arash in Iran and Dorra in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
- The offshore field, known as Arash in Iran and Dorra in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has long been a focal point of contention between the three countries.
- The field holds significant natural gas reserves, making it a highly valuable resource for all involved parties.
- It was discovered in 1967. It began production in 2013 and produces natural gas and condensates.
- The dispute over this field dates back to the 1960s between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait.
Source: The Hindu
Coup in Niger
Tags: GS – 2 International Relations, GS –1 Geography
Why in news?
Niger is currently in the midst of a political upheaval as a military coup has taken control, ousting the democratically elected President.
- Historical Context:
- Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world.
- It was a French colony until 1960.
- Since independence, the country have lived under 5 constitutions and 3 periods of military rule.
- After the military coup in 2010, Niger became a multi-party state.
- Niger is a landlocked country located in West Africa.
- Border countries – Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria.
- Niger has more than 80% of its land area lying in the Sahara Desert.
- Niger takes its name from the Niger River, which flows through the southwestern part of its territory.
- It is the largest country in West Africa and roughly twice the size of France.
- Capital city:
- Desert, mostly hot, dry, dusty, tropical in extreme south.
- Ethnic Groups:
- Hausa, Zarma-Songhai, Tuareg, Fulani, Kanuri, Arab, Toubou.
- Official Language:
- French language is recognized as the official language of Niger.
- The Sahel region, home to Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal, has witnessed political instability and ethnic tensions.
- Weak governance, corruption, and ethnic clashes led to military interventions under the pretext of restoring stability.
Source: The Hindu
Tags: GS – 3 Health
Why in news?
Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Iraq has joined the league of 17 other countries that have eliminated trachoma.
- Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease and the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness.
- It is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
- Disease thrives in areas with water shortages, poor sanitation, and fly infestations.
- WHO recommends the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement) to eliminate trachoma.
- The WHO has recognized Iraq as the 50th country to eliminate at least one neglected tropical disease.
- Despite substantial progress, trachoma is still endemic in six countries in the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region.
- The 17 other countries that have eliminated trachoma are: Benin, Cambodia, China, Gambia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Vanuatu.
Source: Down to Earth
Tags: GS – 3 Environment
Why in news?
Recently, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued its first ‘extinction alert’ on the vaquita porpoise.
- The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is the world’s smallest cetacean.
- Porpoises are only distant relatives of dolphins.
- Its name means “little cow” in Spanish.
- It is unique among the porpoises as it is the only species of that family found in warm waters.
- The vaquita is only found in the northern-most part of the Gulf of California, Mexico.
- It has a large dark ring around its eyes and dark patches on its lips that form a thin line from the mouth to the pectoral fins. It only measures up to five feet in size.
- The vaquita population has been declining precipitously for decades due to bycatch in gillnet set to catch shrimp and fish, including totoaba.
- Conservation status
- IUCN: Critically Endangered
- CITES: Appendix I
Source: Down to Earth
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