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5th July Current Affairs

Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH)

(GS-III: Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post-1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth)

In News:

The government plans to table the Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH) Bill to overhaul the special economic zones (SEZ) legislation. DESHs as the DESH Act will replace the current SEZ Act of 2005.

Why replace the existing SEZ Act?

WTO’s dispute settlement panel has ruled that India’s export-related schemes, including the SEZ Scheme, were inconsistent with WTO rules since they directly linked tax benefits to exports.

Countries aren’t allowed to directly subsidize exports as it can distort market prices.

Why SEZ is not so popular now?

MAT and Sunset clause: SEZ started losing its allure after the introduction of minimum alternate tax and a sunset clause to remove tax sops.

SEZ units used to enjoy 100% income tax exemption on export income for the first five years, 50% for the next five years, and 50% of the ploughed back export profit for another five years.

How is the DESH legislation different?

Boost domestic manufacturing: The DESH legislation goes beyond promoting exports and has a much wider objective of boosting domestic manufacturing and job creation through ‘development hubs’.

These hubs will no longer be required to be net foreign exchange positive cumulatively in five years (i.e, export more than they import) as mandated in the SEZ regime, and will be allowed to sell in the domestic area more easily.

The hubs will, therefore, be WTO-compliant.

Single window portal: DESH legislation also provides for an online single-window portal for the grant of time-bound approvals for establishing and operating the hubs.

Will it be easier to sell in the domestic market?

Yes. Companies can sell in the domestic market with duties only to be paid on the imported inputs and raw materials instead of the final product.

In the current SEZ regime, duty is paid on the final product when a product is sold in the domestic market. Besides, there is no mandatory payment requirement in forex, unlike in the case of SEZs.

Equalization Levy: As per the bill, the government may impose an equalization levy on goods or services supplied to the domestic market to bring taxes at par with those provided by units outside.

What role will states play in DESH?

Larger role for states: In the SEZ regime, most decisions were made by the commerce department at the Centre. Now, states will be able to participate and even directly send recommendations for development hubs to a central board for approval.

State boards would be set up to oversee the functioning of the hubs. They would have the powers to approve imports or procurement of goods and monitor the utilization of goods or services, warehousing, and trading in the development hub.

Large Hadron Collider

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

The world’s most powerful particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will begin smashing protons into each other at unprecedented levels of energy beginning July 5.

Details:

It is expected to throw up evidence of “new physics” — or physics beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact, governed by four fundamental forces.

What is LHC?

The Large Hadron Collider is a giant, complex machine built to study particles that are the smallest known building blocks of all things.

Structure: LHC is a 27-km-long track-loop buried 100m underground on the Swiss-French border.

Operation: In its operational state, it fires two beams of protons almost at the speed of light in opposite directions inside a ring of superconducting electromagnets.

Guided by magnetic field: The magnetic field created by the superconducting electromagnets keeps the protons in a tight beam and guides them along the way as they travel through beam pipes and finally collide.

High precision: The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is akin to firing two needles 10 km apart with such precision that they meet halfway.

Supercooled: Since the LHC’s powerful electromagnets carry almost as much current as a bolt of lightning, they must be kept chilled. It uses liquid helium to keep its critical components ultracold at minus  271.3 degrees Celsius, which is colder than interstellar space.

Experiments:

ATLAS is the largest general-purpose particle detector experiment at the LHC

Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment is one of the largest international scientific collaborations in history, with the same goals as ATLAS, but which uses a different magnet-system design.)

Latest upgrade: After its maintenance and upgrades, the collider was switched back on this April. This is the LHC’s third run.

Achievements:

‘God Particle’ discovery: In scientists at CERN had announced the discovery of the Higgs boson or the ‘God Particle’ during the LHC’s first run.

This led to Peter Higgs and his collaborator François Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013.

The Higgs boson is the fundamental particle associated with the Higgs field, a field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.

‘New Physics’ beyond Standard Model: After the discovery of the Higgs boson, scientists have started using the data collected as a tool to look beyond the Standard Model, which is currently the best theory of the most elementary building blocks of the universe and their interactions.

New quest: To further the understanding of so-called “dark matter”: Dar matter is a hard-to-detect, the hoped-for particle is believed to make up most of the universe, but is completely invisible as it does not absorb, reflect, or emit light.

Sardar Patel’s vision for civil services

(GS-IV: Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers)

In News:

Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, address at Delhi’s Metcalf House gave a very important message to the civil servants, the “steel frame of India”.

Values that Civil Servants must have:

A civil servant must cultivate an esprit de corps. It means to have a shared feeling of pride among team or group members.

A civil servant should regard it as a proud privilege to belong to the Service, covenants of which you will sign, and to uphold throughout your service its dignity, integrity and incorruptibility.

In whatever position of responsibility, he or she may be a civil servant should always try how best to contribute to the well-being of India as a whole.

According to Patel, a civil servant can trust the government to keep her or him contented and happy so that she or he may give her or his best, “but it would be unworthy of you if you make that a condition of service”.

Patel advised civil servants to maintain to the utmost the impartiality and incorruptibilityof administration.

“A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles.

The larger message Patel was regarding the code of conductof a civil servant.

The future of the civil service will depend much upon the foundation and traditions laid down by civil servants, their character and abilities, and their spirit of service.

They should look forward to their future with trust and confidence. If they serve in the true spirit of service, they will have the best reward.

Niti Aayog Report on Alternatives to Plastics

(GS-III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment)

In News:

A Niti Ayog report has suggested on plastic alternatives or technologies making plastic degradable.

What does the report say?

Status:

India produces 3.47 mn tn of plastic waste/year, out of which 60% is collected for recycling.

Goa, Delhi & Kerala have reported the highest per capita plastic waste generation, while Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura have reported the lowest per capita plastic waste generation.

Globally, 97-99% of these plastics are derived from fossil fuel feedstock while the remaining 1-3% come from bio (plant) based plastics

Recommendations:

Develop emerging technologies:g., additives can make plastics biodegradable polyolefins, such as polypropylene and polyethylene

Use of Bio-plastics: as a cost-effective alternative to plastics

Appreciate the contribution of the Informal sector and vulnerable groups in recycling waste

Use Extended Producer responsibility to minimize waste

Levelling and collection of compostable and biodegradable plastics

Transparency: Disclose data on waste generation, collection and disposal

Avoid greenwashing: Greenwashing is the process of conveying misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound

Best Practices:

India:

Arunachal Pradesh: Plastic banks were established in one district; Plastic was used in Road Construction in variable districts

Delhi: Environmental compensation of INR 88,00,000/- levied for violation of PWM Rules

Tamil Nadu Collection efficiency of plastic waste is 92%

Sikkim: Usage of plastic waste in road construction initiated

Uttarakhand: The use of plastic waste as fuel, RDF and waste in energy plants is proposed

Biodegradable cutlery: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Lab DFRL has developed technology for biodegradable cutlery

World:

Edible Seaweed Cups (Indonesia): Seaweed can grow up to 60 times faster than land-based plants, making it an important carbon sink

Algae-blended ethylene-vinyl acetate: A US-based firm has created algae-blended ethylene-vinyl acetate transforming air and water pollution (ammonia, phosphates, and carbon dioxide) into plant biomass rich in proteins

Zero plastic recycled paper bottle: A UK firm has invented the only commercially available zero plastic recycled paper bottle in the world

Wood-based paper packaging: In 2020, a Scotland-based paper manufacturing company developed a sustainable wood-based alternative to plastic packaging

Biotransformation process: A UK-based company has developed an additive which, when added to the masterbatch of polyolefins, i.e., PE and PP, onsets the degradation

Types of Environmentally friendly plastics:

Bio-plastics encompass many materials that are either bio-sourced or biodegradable or both and are made from renewable biomass resources, most often corn starch/ sugarcane/ cassava – which might be either biodegradable or not.

Biodegradable plastic means that plastics, other than compostable plastics, which undergo complete degradation by biological processes under ambient environmental (terrestrial or in water) conditions, in specified time periods, without leaving any microplastics, or visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, which has adverse environmental impacts, adhering to laid down standards of BIS and certified by CPCB.

Compostable plastics: Plastics that undergo degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds and biomass, and do not leave toxic residue. These can be plant-based, but can also be petroleum-based as well.

BASF’s Ecoflex is an excellent example of a compostable polymer, which is partly petroleum-based but is compostable at industrial compost facilities.

Oxo-degradable: Plastics are conventional plastics such as PE, which include an additive to help them break down into smaller fragments, which could lead to microplastic leakage in the environment.