GS 3 : Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc
Smart Meters to Bring a Revolution in the Power Sector –
India is replacing conventional electric meters with prepaid smart meters to bring a revolution in the power sector. The majority of smart meter users have begun to experience some of the technology benefits. However, the low uptake of smart meter apps and access to detailed electricity bills are some of the road bumps that need to be solved.
What are Smart Meters?
- Smart meters are next-generation digital electricity meters that measure energy consumption and communicate this information back to the utility company in near real-time.
- Unlike traditional electric meters that require manual reading, smart meters automatically send readings to the utility company, enabling a two-way communication between the meter and the utility.
A study on Smart Meters –
- A recent study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) found that the majority of smart meter users have already begun to experience some of the technology benefits.
- The study covered about 2,700 urban households that use prepaid or postpaid smart meters across six States.
- Half the users reported improvements in billing regularity, and two-thirds said paying bills had become easier.
- Around 40% of users alluded to multiple co-benefits such as a greater sense of control over their electricity expenses, a drop in instances of electricity theft, and improved power supply to the locality.
- In fact, 70% of prepaid smart meter users said they would recommend the technology to their friends and relatives.
- These findings give confidence that India’s smart metering transition is heading in the right direction.
Advantages of Smart Meters over traditional electric meters –
- Accurate billing:Smart meters enable accurate billing as they eliminate the need for estimated bills, providing customers with accurate and transparent information about their energy usage.
- Near real-time data:Smart meters provide near real-time data on energy consumption, enabling customers to monitor their usage and make informed decisions about their energy consumption.
- Dynamic pricing:Smart meters have the potential to enable dynamic pricing, where electricity tariffs vary depending on the time of day, season or other factors, incentivizing customers to use energy when it’s cheaper and reducing demand during peak hours.
- Improved energy management:Smart meters allow utilities to better manage energy supply and demand, reduce power outages, and integrate renewable energy sources more effectively.
- Energy theft detection: Smart meters can help detect and respond to energy theft, reducing losses for utilities and ensuring a fair distribution of energy costs.
- Customer control: Smart meters provide customers with more control over their energy consumption, allowing them to better manage their energy usage and reduce their bills.
Challenges in the Smart Meter Deployment –
- High installation costs:The upfront cost of installing smart meters can be significant, and may be a barrier to adoption for utilities or customers.
- Technical challenges:Installing and integrating smart meters into existing grid infrastructure can be technically complex, requiring significant upgrades to communication networks and other equipment.
- Data privacy and security:Smart meters collect and transmit sensitive customer data, raising concerns about data privacy and security.
- User adoption:Encouraging customers to adopt smart meters can be a challenge, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the technology or if there is a lack of education around the benefits of smart meters.
- Interoperability:Ensuring that smart meters are interoperable with different communication protocols and standards can be a challenge, particularly in areas with multiple utility providers.
- Regulatory challenges:The regulatory environment can also be a challenge, particularly if regulations around smart meters are unclear or if there is resistance from stakeholders such as utility providers or consumer groups.
Ways to improve smart meter deployment –
- Education and awareness:Utilities and governments can run awareness campaigns to educate customers about the benefits of smart meters, and how they can help reduce energy consumption and save money. These campaigns should target different socio-economic groups, and provide actionable tips and information on how to use smart meters to their advantage.
- Co-ownership and collaboration:Utilities and government bodies should collaborate to ensure a smooth installation and recharge experience for users, and leverage smart meter data for revenue protection and consumer engagement. Discoms (distribution companies) should take the driving seat and co-own the program with Advanced Metering Infrastructure Service Providers (AMISPs) who are responsible for installing and operating the AMI system.
- Innovative and scalable data solutions: Discoms, system integrators, and technology providers should collaborate to devise innovative and scalable data solutions to effectively use smart meter data to unlock their true value proposition. This would require an ecosystem that fosters innovation in analytics, data hosting and sharing platforms, and enables key actors to collaboratively test and scale new solutions.
- Empower consumers: Policymakers and regulators must strengthen regulations to empower consumers to unlock new retail markets. They must also enable simplification and innovation in tariff design and open the retail market to new business models and prosumagers (producers, consumers, and storage users). Regulations should be put in place concerning phase-out of paper bills, arrear adjustment, frequency of recharge alerts, buffer time, rebates, and data privacy.
- Interoperability: It is crucial to ensure that smart meters are interoperable with different communication protocols and standards. This can be achieved through standardization, certification, and testing programs.
- Pilot programs and learning opportunities:Utilities and governments can run pilot programs to test new smart meter technologies and business models, and learn from the results to scale up successful models.
India is on a unique journey of meeting its growing electricity demand while decarbonizing its generation sources. Smart meters comprise a critical part of the transition toolbox, by way of enabling responsible consumption, efficient energy management, and cost-effective integration of distributed energy resources. A user-centric design and deployment philosophy will be crucial for the success of India’s smart metering initiative. With the effective implementation, India can improve smart meter deployment and user satisfaction, making the smart-meter revolution a reality.
GS 2 : Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
Legalization of Cannabis usage and cultivation –
Himachal Pradesh is reportedly considering legalizing cannabis cultivation, joining Uttarakhand, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. The criminalisation of cannabis cultivation and drug use in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985 has resulted in long pre-trial incarceration, stigmatisation of users, and poor rehabilitation prospects. A public health approach could help address drug dependence and reduce the burden on the criminal justice system.
What is Cannabis?
- Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical or recreational purposes.
- The main psychoactive component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of the 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD).
- It is used by smoking, vaporizing, within the food, or as an extract.
Prospects of legalizing Marijuana –
- Health benefits:
- The cannabinoids found in Cannabis is a great healer and has found mentioned in Ayurveda.
- It can be used to treat a number of medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy, insomnia, HIV/AIDS treatment, and cancer.
- Ecological benefits:
- The cannabis plant and seeds apart from being labelled a super-food as per studies is also a super-industrial carbon-negative raw material.
- Each part of the plant can be used for some industry. Hemp currently is also being used to make bio-fuel, bio-plastics and even construction material in certain countries. The cosmetic industry has also embraced Hemp seeds.
- Marijuana is addiction-free:
- An epidemiological study showed that only 9% of those who use marijuana end up being clinically dependent on it.
- The ‘comparable rates’ for tobacco, alcohol and cocaine stood at 32%, 15% and 16% respectively.
- Good source of Revenue:
- By legalizing and taxing marijuana, the government will stand to earn huge amounts of revenue that will otherwise go to the Italian and Israeli drug cartels.
- In an open letter to US President George Bush, around 500 economists, led by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, called for marijuana to be “legal but taxed and regulated like other goods.
- A potential cash crop:
- The cannabis plant is something natural to India, especially the northern hilly regions. It has the potential of becoming a cash crop for poor marginal farmers.
- If proper research is done and the cultivation of marijuana encouraged at an official level, it can gradually become a source of income for poor people with small landholdings.
- Prohibition was ineffective:
- In India, the consumption of synthetic drugs like cocaine has increased since marijuana was banned, while it has decreased in the US since it was legalized in certain states.
- Moreover, these days, it is pretty easy to buy marijuana in India and its consumption is widespread among the youth. So it is fair to say that prohibition has failed to curb the problem
- Marijuana is less harmful:
- Marijuana consumption was never regarded as a socially deviant behaviour any more than drinking alcohol was. In fact, keeping it legal was considered as an enlightened view.
- It is now medically proven that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985 –
- The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act is an Indian law that prohibits the production, manufacture, possession, transportation, sale, and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
- The Act was enacted in response to the US-led global war on drugs in the 1970s.
- The NDPS Act has been amended several times since its enactment, with the most recent amendment being in 2014.
- The Act defines different categories of drugs and prescribes different punishment for different offenses.
- The Act has been criticized for its strict provisions, especially for small-scale drug users, who are often imprisoned and face difficulty accessing rehabilitation and de-addiction centers. In recent years, there have been calls for decriminalizing small-scale drug use and treating drug consumers as victims rather than offenders.
Why criminalizing drug users is not a good option?
- Pre-trial incarceration and stigmatization:Criminalization means long pre-trial incarceration and stigmatization of drug users, who are often from socially and economically vulnerable backgrounds.
- Lack of access to de-addiction centres:Many drug users lack access to de-addiction centres, which makes their rehabilitation difficult.
- Difficulty in rehabilitation:Putting drug users behind bars makes their rehabilitation difficult and exposes them to the risk of becoming peddlers.
- Overburdened criminal justice system:Over-criminalisation of drug users clogs already burdened courts and adds to the workload of overworked investigating agencies.
- Squandering public resources:Public resources that could have been deployed to set up a robust rehabilitation network are squandered away in the process.
- Ineffective in deterring drug use: Criminalisation was intended to deter the use of drugs. However, drug dependence has increased over the years across the world.
- Undermining social well-being:The over-criminalisation of drug users undermines their social well-being, which perpetuates the cycle of addiction and crime.
Steps to address the negative impact of criminalizing drug users –
- Decriminalization: The government should consider decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal consumption, as recommended by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. This will treat drug users as victims rather than culprits and facilitate their rehabilitation.
- Public health approach:The government should adopt a public health approach to address drug use as a public health issue. This involves providing healthcare services to drug users, focusing on their well-being and rehabilitation, rather than just punishing them.
- Differentiating between peddlers and consumers: The government should differentiate between drug peddlers and drug consumers and take different approaches to dealing with them. While drug peddlers should be punished, drug users should be treated as victims and provided with rehabilitation services.
- Setting up a robust rehabilitation network:The government should allocate resources to set up a robust rehabilitation network for drug users. This will help address the root cause of drug use and reduce its negative impact on society.
- Public awareness campaigns:The government should conduct public awareness campaigns to educate people about the negative impact of drug use on health and well-being. This will help reduce the demand for drugs and prevent drug use among the population.
The criminalization of drug use in India has not deterred drug dependence and has resulted in a burden on the criminal justice system. A public health approach could help address drug dependence and reduce the stigma associated with drug use. India could learn from the examples of countries like Portugal and Canada and the state of Sikkim.
GS 2 : Issues relating to Health, Education and Human Resources
Government to rename its program for Non-Communicable Diseases –
Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to rename and expand its program for the control and prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
What are Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)?
- NCDs are also known as chronic diseases, which are not caused by infectious agents and are not transmissible from person to person.
- NCDs are long-lasting and progress slowly, typically taking years to manifest symptoms.
- Examples of NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.
- These diseases are often caused by modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, and environmental factors.
- NCDs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, accounting for around 70% of all deaths globally.
Why in news?
- The addition of many new diseases and health initiatives have prompted the Indian government to expand and rename its NCD program.
Renaming of the NCD Program and Portal –
- The Ministry has renamed the NPCDCS as the “National Programme for Prevention & Control of Non-Communicable Diseases [NP-NCD].”
- The application or software named Comprehensive Primary Healthcare Non-Communicable Disease (CPHC NCD IT) will now be renamed “National NCD Portal.”
- The Ministry communicated this decision to the States on May 3, 2023, through a one-page letter and asked them to adhere to the changes.
Implementation and future action –
- The NPCDCS is implemented under the National Health Mission across India.
- The letter addressed to Principal Secretaries and Health Secretaries of all States and Union Territories advised the government to use the new names for the scheme and portal in all their future references and correspondences with the Indian government.
- Under NPCDCS, 677 NCD district-level clinics, 187 District Cardiac Care Units, 266 District Day Care Centres and 5,392 NCD Community Health Centre-level clinics have been set up.
Burden of NCDs in India –
- The study ‘India: Health of the Nation’s States – The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative in 2017’ by the ICMR estimated that the proportion of deaths due to NCDs in India has increased from 37.9% in 1990 to 61.8% in 2016.
- The four major NCDs are:
- Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)
- Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) and
- The study shared four behavioural risk factors – unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Solutions to mitigate NCD burden –
- Promote healthy lifestyle:Encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity, balanced and nutritious diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and getting enough sleep.
- Increase awareness and education:Increase awareness among the public about the risk factors of NCDs and educate them about ways to prevent these diseases.
- Improve healthcare infrastructure:Increase access to healthcare facilities, especially in rural and remote areas, to ensure early detection, treatment, and management of NCDs.
- Implement policies and regulations:Implement policies and regulations that promote healthy living, such as increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products, and regulating the marketing of unhealthy food products.
- Foster public-private partnerships:Foster partnerships between the government, private sector, and civil society organizations to work collaboratively towards preventing and managing NCDs.
- Increase research and innovation:Increase research and innovation in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of NCDs to develop new and effective interventions.
GS 2 : Important International Institutions & their mandate
G-20 & SCO under India’s presidency –
India’s year-long presidency of the G-20 and leadership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should not create unrealistic expectations about the dividends India can reap from these summits. The current geopolitical climate is characterized by a high level of distrust and tensions running high and the threat of conflict looming large. The need for India is to proceed with caution during its presidency.
Overview of the current geopolitical climate –
- Tensions and distrust between the US-led camp and China/Russia-led camp pose a threat of global conflict.
- China is on a major diplomatic-cum-strategic offensive across Asia, particularly in West Asia, and is flexing its naval and military muscle in the East and Southeast Asian seas.
- India is facing challenges due to China’s offensive and its efforts to widen the arc of conflict with India.
- The situation in Ukraine is fraught, with the US and its allies providing advanced weaponry and training to Ukrainian troops, while Russia is receiving support from its allies.
- India’s ties with Russia are not necessarily anchored in defense cooperation, and India is looking more to the West, especially the US, for state-of-the-art weaponry.
- India needs to proceed with caution while holding the presidency of the G-20 and the SCO and balance the contradictory demands of the two institutions and the Global South.
Reasons for the distrust between the two camps; United States and China/Russia –
- Economic competition:The US and China are in a race for economic and technological supremacy, with both countries vying for dominance in fields such as artificial intelligence, 5G networks, and cybersecurity. This has led to tensions between the two countries.
- Military competition:The US and China are also in a race for military supremacy, with both countries investing heavily in their armed forces and developing advanced weapons systems. This has led to concerns about a potential arms race between the two countries.
- Territorial disputes: China has territorial disputes with several countries in the region, including India, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. This has led to tensions and concerns about China’s expansionist policies.
- Human rights issues:The US and other Western countries have criticized China and Russia for their human rights records, including issues such as the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China and the treatment of political dissidents in Russia. This has led to tensions between these countries and the West.
- Political influence:The US has accused China and Russia of attempting to interfere in its political processes, including the 2016 US presidential election. This has led to concerns about the countries’ intentions and their influence in other countries.
- Strategic competition:The US and China/Russia have differing visions for the international order, which has led to strategic competition and tensions between them. The US seeks to uphold the current order, while China and Russia seek to challenge it and establish a new order that reflects their interests and values.
- COVID-19 pandemic:The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated tensions between the US and China, with both countries blaming each other for the outbreak and its spread.
Issues for India specifically with China –
- Border disputes:India and China have long-standing border disputes, which have led to multiple conflicts over the years. The recent clashes in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 resulted in the deaths of Indian and Chinese soldiers and have further escalated tensions between the two countries.
- China’s aggressive behavior: China’s assertive stance and expansionist policies in the South and East China Seas, as well as its attempts to limit India’s influence in the Indian Ocean Region, have led to tensions between the two countries.
- China’s regional initiatives:China’s regional initiatives such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the China-Indian Ocean Region Forum are of concern to India as they may limit India’s strategic and economic interests in the region.
- The Quad:China sees India’s partnership in the Quad (an informal strategic grouping of India, Australia, Japan, and the US) as a threat to its regional ambitions, and has openly criticized the grouping.
- Cyber warfare and hybrid tactics:India is also concerned about China’s ability to engage in cyber warfare and hybrid tactics, including the adoption of cyber tactics and the ‘politics of water’ by re-directing the Himalayan rivers.
Other turmoil’s in India’s immediate neighborhood –
- Afghanistan: The situation in Afghanistan appears to be steadily worsening and is now beginning to affect nations on its periphery. India has lost all traction with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Pakistan: The relations between India and Pakistan are strained due to various reasons, including cross-border terrorism.
- Sri Lanka:The political situation in Sri Lanka has been unstable in recent years, and it has caused concerns for India.
- Nepal: The political situation in Nepal has been unstable in recent years, with frequent changes in government and disagreements over the new constitution. India has also had strained relations with Nepal over various issues, including border disputes.
- Myanmar: The military coup in Myanmar in February 2021 has led to widespread protests and violence, causing concerns for India’s security in its Northeast region as well as affecting India’s strategic interests in the region.
Way ahead –
- Identifying commonalities:India should focus on identifying areas of commonality between the G-20, the SCO, and the Global South, such as sustainable development, climate change, and economic cooperation, and work towards promoting these goals in each forum.
- Prioritizing issues:India should prioritize the issues that are most important to its national interests, such as regional security and economic development, and work towards finding solutions that are mutually acceptable to all parties.
- Engaging with all parties:India should engage with all parties in each forum, including the major powers, to ensure that its voice is heard and its interests are taken into account.
- Building coalitions:India should work towards building coalitions with like-minded countries within each forum, such as other developing countries, to promote its interests and priorities.
- Developing strategic partnerships: India should develop strategic partnerships with key players in each forum, such as China and Russia in the SCO, to promote regional stability and cooperation.
India needs to be aware of the persisting challenges it faces, tone down the high expectations being generated of reaping a rich dividend from helming the G-20 and the SCO, and proceed with caution. It must chart a course that balances the contradictory demands of the G-20 and the SCO and even more so that of the Global South. India should not claim to have attained its goal of being a global power, as there are many obstacles that have to be overcome before India can achieve its predetermined goal.
GS 2 : Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
India amends Anti-Money laundering law –
Widening the ambit of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Finance Ministry has tightened the reporting norms for non-profit organisations and beneficial ownership rules.
Basics of India’s Anti-money laundering (AML) regulations –
- ThePrevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002and its accompanying rules (PML Rules) serve as the primary legal framework for the prosecution of money laundering in India.
- Applicability: Anti-money laundering (AML) regulations in India apply to a range of entities, such as companies, banks, crypto exchanges, foreign portfolio investors, trusts, and NGOs.
- Financial transactions are included under the PMLA
- Buying and selling any immovable property.
- Managing client money, securities, or other assets.
- Management of bank, savings, or securities accounts.
- Organization of contributions for the creation, operation, or management of companies.
- Creation, operation, or management of companies, limited liability partnerships or trusts, and buying and selling of business entities.
PML (Maintenance of Records) Amendment Rules, 2023 –
- Earlier in March, 2023, the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Amendment Rules, 2023 were introduced by theDepartment of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance.
- These rules widened the ambit of reporting entities under money laundering provisions to incorporate more disclosures for non-governmental organisations and defined politically exposed persons (PEPs) under the PMLA in line with the recommendations of the
- The new rules require reporting entities like financial institutions, banking companies, or intermediaries to disclose beneficial owners in addition to the current KYC requirements through documents like registration certificates and PAN (Permanent Account Number).
What are the recent amendments to PMLA, 2002?
PEPs are individuals who have been “entrusted with prominent public functions by a foreign country, including the heads of States or Governments, senior politicians, senior government or judicial or military officers, senior executives of state-owned corporations and important political party officials”.
- Politically exposed person:The amendment rules have introduced a new clause, which defines “Politically Exposed Persons” (PEPs).
- Beneficial ownership:In line with existing provisions ofThe Income-Tax Act, 1961 and The Companies Act, the amended rules have now lowered the threshold for identifying beneficial owners by reporting entities, where the client is acting on behalf of its beneficial owner.
- Bringing into reporting net:Earlier, definition of “beneficial owner” included, among other things, the ownership of or right to more than 25 percent of the company’s shares, capital, or profits. This threshold of 25 percent has been lowered to 10 percent, bringing more indirect players into the reporting net.
- Data:The amendments require “reporting entities”- banks, other financial institutions, and businesses operating in the real estate and jewelry industries – to gather data on each person or organization that has a 10 percent ownership in their clients.
The notification defines non-profit organisations as entities or organisations that are registered as a trust or a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, or any similar state legislation, or a company registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- Non-profit organisations:The new rules have also tightened the reporting norms for non-profit organisations.
- If the client is a non-profit organization, reporting entities must also register the client’s information on theNITI Aayog’s DARPAN portal.
- Due diligence and documentation:The necessary due diligence documentation has now expanded beyond just getting the fundamental KYCs of clients, it now also involves the submission of information, such as the names of those in top management positions, partners, beneficiaries, trustees, settlors, and writers.
- Moreover, clients must now provide information about their registered office and primary place of business to financial institutions, banks, or intermediaries.
- Cryptocurrency and virtual digital assets (VDAs):The new rules have brought crypto currency and VDAsunder the ambit of anti-money laundering law (AML).
- Transactions:The transactions covered by the PMLA now include:
- Converting virtual digital assets into fiat currencies and vice versa
- Exchanging one or more forms of virtual digital assets
- Transferring virtual digital assets
- Securely storing or managing virtual digital assets
- Providing financial services related to the sale of virtual digital assets by an issuer
Which authorities investigate and prosecute anti-money laundering offences in India?
- Directorate of Enforcement (ED): At the federal level, theDirectorate of Enforcement (ED)is the principal legal entity in charge of looking into and prosecuting money laundering offences under the PMLA.
- The ED comes under theDepartment of Revenue within the Ministry of Finance. It has the authority to initiate proceedings for the seizure of property as well as proceedings in the designated Special Court for money laundering crimes.
- Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND):TheFinancial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND), which is a part of the Department of Revenue and Ministry of Finance, is the primary national body in charge of collecting, processing, assessing, and disseminating data about suspicious financial transactions to law enforcement authorities and foreign FIUs.
- Economic Offences Wing, Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI):The CBI is a specialized police organization that’s been established to investigate certain kinds of crimes, such as crimes involving public officials who have engaged in corruption, significant economic offences, fraud, and crimes that have implications for the country or multiple states.
- Income Tax Department:This department has the authority to impose taxes on undisclosed foreign income and assets held by Indian residents to prevent the crime of money laundering.
- Registrar of Companies(RoC):As per the new requirement under the Companies Act 2013, every Indian company, whether private and public, is mandated to file with the RoC a record of the company’s significant beneficial owners (in eForm MGT-6).
- Regulators like theReserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), and Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India (IRDAI) are empowered to handle matters relating to money laundering activities and establish AML standards.