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14th December Current Affairs

House panel flags ‘casual approach’ of govt. over setting up disability centres

(GS-II: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes)

In News:

According to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, the Union Government looks somewhat casual in its approach to establishing the District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRC).

Background:

The revised DDRC scheme requires the establishment of 269 DDRCs, although only 55-60 DDRCs have been made operational in selected districts yet.

The 2011 census estimated (based on questions on 7 kinds of disabilities) that the number of PwDs in India is close to 2.68 crores (2.2% of the population) – that is more than the entire population of Australia.

Establishment of DDRCs:

Background:

  • During 1985-1990, District Resource Centres (DRCs) started as an outreach activity of the National Institutes/ALIMCO under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • These centres provided comprehensive services to persons with disabilities (PwDs) at the grass root level and facilitated capacity building at the district level.
  • From the year 1999-2000, the DDRCs was established with active support from the State Governments, with the District Management Team headed by Collector acting as the convergence point.
  • DDRCs are funded under the Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) from 2020-21 under which grants are released to State Governments and other bodies to support various activities for the welfare of the disabled.

Objectives of setting up DDRCs: To provide rehabilitative support to PwDs through awareness generation, early intervention, counselling, etc.

Number of DDRCs: All the districts, including left-wing extremism-affected districts, have been approved for setting up of DDRCs. Each DDRC must provide rehabilitation services to PwDs of the adjoining/neighbouring district if it does not have a DDRC.

Other findings of the panel:

The government is yet to set up dedicated sports training facilities for Divyangjans. Out of 5 such facilities promised in 2014-15, only 1 has been approved so far at Gwalior.

In 2021-22, only 16,000 students were paid pre-matric scholarships against 25,000 slots for PWDs.

Government’s reply to the panel’s findings:

269 DDRCs (those given funds at least once) have been set up across the country.

To upscale their services, a MODEL DDRC has been conceptualised by the Department of Empowerment of PwD.

There is an increase in the number of disabilities covered from 7 to 21 in 2018 as provided under the Rights of PwDs Act, 2016

The revised guidelines for setting up the rest of the DDRCs would be implemented in 2022-23

These centres are to be located near district hospitals and intervention centres.

Way ahead:

The government should lay down a proper roadmap with timelines for the establishment of the DDRCs in every targeted district.

Fusion energy breakthrough by US scientists boosts clean power hopes

(GS-III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, biotechnology, and issues relating to intellectual property rights.)

In News:

US government scientists have made a breakthrough in the pursuit of limitless, zero-carbon power by achieving a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time.

About Nuclear Fusion:

Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light atomic nuclei combine to form a single heavier one while releasing massive amounts of energy.

It is the opposite of nuclear fission, where heavy atoms are split apart

Nuclear fusion is described as the “holy grail” of energy production. It is the process that powers the Sun and other stars

Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma — a hot, charged gas made of positive ions and free-moving electrons with unique properties distinct from solids, liquids, or gases.

Why is nuclear fusion so important?

Nuclear fission reactors used currently produce a lot of radioactive waste, which can be dangerous and must be stored safely – potentially for hundreds of years whereas the waste produced by nuclear fusion is less radioactive and decays much more quickly

Nuclear fusion doesn’t need fossil fuels like oil or gas

It also doesn’t generate greenhouse gases

Most fusion experiments use hydrogen, which can be extracted cheaply from seawater and lithium, i.e., fuel supplies could last for millions of years

Fusion could generate four times more energy per kilogram of fuel than fission (used in nuclear power plants) and nearly four million times more energy than burning oil or coal

Challenges with Nuclear Fusion:

It has been particularly difficult to obtain high enough plasma densities, temperatures, and energy confinement times simultaneously for a reactor to approach ignition conditions.

Forcing and keeping the elements together in fusion requires very high temperatures and pressures.

Evolution of Nuclear Fusion Study:

The IAEA has been at the core of international fusion research. The IAEA launched the Nuclear Fusion journal in 1960 to exchange information about advances in nuclear fusion, and it is now considered the leading periodical in the field.

The world’s largest international fusion facility, ITER was established in 2007 in France, to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy production.

Banks wrote off NPAs in excess of Rs10 lakh crore in last 5 years: FM

In News:

Banks have written off bad loans worth Rs 10, 09, 511 crores in the last 5 fiscal years as told by the Finance minister in the parliament.

What are NPA/ Bad loans?

A non-performing asset (NPA) is a loan or advance for which the principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days.

How are they described?

Banks are required to classify NPAs further into Substandard, Doubtful and Loss assets

  1. Substandard assets: Assets which have remained NPA for a period less than or equal to 12 months.
  2. Doubtful assets: An asset would be classified as doubtful if it has remained in the substandard category for a period of 12 months.
  3. Loss assets: As per RBI, “Loss asset is considered uncollectible and of such little value that its continuance as a bankable asset is not warranted, although there may be some salvage or recovery value.”

Writing off of Bad loans/NPA?

Writing off a loan essentially means it will no longer be counted as an asset.

By writing off loans, a bank can reduce the level of non-performing assets (NPAs) on its books.

An additional benefit is that the amount so written off reduces the bank’s tax liability.

Why do banks write off?

After the write-off, the lender moves the defaulted loan, or NPA, out of the assets side and reports the amount as a loss.

After the write-off, banks are supposed to continue their efforts to recover the loan using various options.

They have to make provisioning as well.

The tax liability will also come down as the written-off amount is reduced from the profit.

The chances of recovery from written-off loans are very high as shown by an RTI reply.

The Geminids meteor shower

In News:

The easiest-to-view meteor shower – Geminids will peak around the 13th and 14th of December.

What are meteor showers?

It is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate or originate, from one point in the night sky.

Meteors are usually fragments of comets. As they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, they burn up, creating a spectacular “shower”

The uniqueness of Geminids Shower:

The Geminids can produce approximately 100-150 meteors per hour for viewing (in clear weather and new moon).

Unlike most meteor showers, they originate not from a comet, but from an asteroid, the 3200 Phaethon.

The 3200 Phaethon was discovered on October 11, 1983. It is named after the Greek mythology character Phaethon.

As the 3200 Phaethon moves close to the Sun while orbiting it, the rocks on its surface heat up and break off.

When the Earth passes through the trail of this debris, the Geminids are caused.

Why are they called Geminids?

They are named after the constellation Gemini, from whose location in the sky meteor shower appears to originate.