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23rd July Current Affairs

Central bank digital currency (CBDC)

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

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India is likely to soon kick off pilot projects to assess the viability of using digital currency to make wholesale and retail payments to help calibrate its strategy for introducing a full-scale central bank digital currency (CBDC).

Need for:

An official digital currency would reduce the cost of currency management while enabling real-time payments without any inter-bank settlement.

India’s fairly high currency-to-GDP ratio holds out another benefit of CBDC — to the extent large cash usage can be replaced by CBDC, the cost of printing, transporting and storing paper currency can be substantially reduced.

The need for inter-bank settlement would disappear as it would be a central bank liability handed over from one person to another.

What is the CBDC or National Digital currency?

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), or national digital currency, is simply the digital form of a country’s fiat currency. Instead of printing paper currency or minting coins, the central bank issues electronic tokens. This token value is backed by the full faith and credit of the government.

SC Garg Committee recommendations (2019):

Ban anybody who mines, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form.

It recommend a jail term of one to 10 years for exchange or trading in digital currency.

It proposed a monetary penalty of up to three times the loss caused to the exchequer or gains made by the cryptocurrency user whichever is higher.

However, the panel said that the government should keep an open mind on the potential issuance of cryptocurrencies by the Reserve Bank of India.

Challenges in rolling out National Digital Currency:

Potential cybersecurity threat.

Lack of digital literacy of population.

Introduction of digital currency also creates various associated challenges in regulation, tracking investment and purchase, taxing individuals, etc.

Threat to Privacy: The digital currency must collect certain basic information of an individual so that the person can prove that he’s the holder of that digital currency.

Microplastics in Ganga

(GS-III: Environment and Ecology)

In News:

Various stretches of Ganga have been polluted with Microplastics, a recent study has revealed.

Details:

The highest concentration of such plastic was found at Varanasi, comprising single-use and secondary plastic products.

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are defined as synthetic solid particles sized ranging from 1 micrometre to 5 millimetre (mm), which are insoluble in water.

Reasons behind this:

Untreated sewage from many cities along the river’s course.

Industrial waste and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics pile pollutants into the river as it flows through several densely populated cities.

The plastic products and waste materials released or dumped in the river break down and are eventually broken down into microparticles.

Why is plastic pollution especially harmful?

Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped.

Some marine species such as zooplanktons show preferential ingestion of smaller particles, making them easier to enter the food chain and their conversion to fast-sinking faecal pellets.

Over the past few years, various news reports have shown that marine animals such as whales, seabirds and turtles unknowingly ingest plastic and often suffocate to death.

Impact on humans:

For humans, too, marine plastic pollution is harmful if it reaches the food chain. For instance, microplastics have been found in tap water, beer and even salt.

One of the first studies to estimate plastic pollution in human ingestion that was published in June 2019 said that an average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic each year.

Consumption of plastic by humans is harmful since several chemicals that are used to produce plastics can be carcinogenic.

Even so, since microplastics are an emerging field of study, its exact risks on the environment and human health are not clearly known.

India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:

More than 20 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products.

India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

Independence of the Judiciary

(GS-II: Polity and Constitution; Judiciary)

In News:

Recently the Supreme Court of India mentioned about two “parallel systems” of justice — one for the rich and the other for the poor.

Details:

It was dealing with a case where the bail granted to the husband of a legislator in Madhya Pradesh.

What’s the issue?

Madhya Pradesh High Court had granted the bail. The Supreme Court termed the grant of bail to a man with criminal antecedents who has been evading arrest a “grave error”.

What has the court said?

India cannot have two parallel legal systems, one for the rich and the resourceful and those who wield political power and influence, and the other for the small men without resources and capabilities to obtain justice or fight injustice.

The existence of a dual legal system will only chip away the legitimacy of the law.

Independence of the judiciary is the independence of each and every judge. The case pointed to a larger malaise of application of political pressure on trial judges.

How the Constitution of India ensures the independence of the Judiciary?

Security of Tenure: Once appointed, the judges cannot be removed from the office except by an order of the President and that too on the ground of proven misbehavior and incapacity (Articles 124 and 217).

The salaries and allowances of the judges are fixed and are not subject to a vote of the legislature.

Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court: Parliament can only add to the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court but cannot curtail them.

No discussion in the legislature of the state with respect to the conduct of any judge of Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties.

Both the Supreme Court and the High Court have the power to punish any person for their contempt.

Why Judicial Independence is needed?

The judicial independence ensures public confidence as an institute of the last resort where justice will be served despite any opposition and Influence.

People place high credibility and trust in the judiciary to get justice in case of any kind of misconduct by the executive.

The latter clause and confidence will be meaningless if executive interference is allowed into the process of judicial proceedings as well as judicial bias over the executive.

Inland Vessels Bill

(GS-III: Infrastructure)

In News:

The government has introduced the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, in Lok Sabha.

Key features of the Bill:

It provides for a unified law for the entire country, instead of separate rules framed by the States.

The certificate of registration granted under the proposed law will be deemed to be valid in all States and Union Territories, and there will be no need to seek separate permissions from the States.

The Bill provides for a central data base for recording the details of vessel, vessel registration, crew on an electronic portal.

It requires all mechanically propelled vessels to be mandatorily registered. All non-mechanically propelled vessels will also have to be enrolled at district, taluk or panchayat or village level.

Inland Water Transport (IWT) in India:

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.

IWT is a fuel-efficient and environment-friendly mode.

As per the National Waterways Act 2016, 111 waterways have been declared as National Waterways (NWs).

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) at an estimated cost of ₹5369.18 crores for capacity augmentation of navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of Ganga (part of NW-1) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.