Current Affairs February 04-05, 2024: Source of Funds for Panchayats, E-Courts Mission Mode Project, Efficacy of India-made Typhoid Vaccine, Multidimensional Poverty, Fiscal Deficit, Apollo Butterflies

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{GS2 – Polity – IC – Judiciary} E-Courts Mission Mode Project

  • Context (PIB): Union Cabinet approved e-Courts Phase-III with a budgetary outlay of Rs.7210 crore.
  • Phase III of the e-Courts Project in India is rooted in the philosophy of “access and inclusion”.
  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
  • It is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice, GOI, SC, and S.C e-committee.
  • It will be implemented in a decentralised manner through the respective HCs.
  • It is a national e-Governance project for ICT enablement of subordinate courts of the country.
  • It was conceptualised on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005”.

Functions of e-Courts Project

  • To provide efficient and time-bound citizen-centric service delivery.
  • To develop, install, and implement decision support systems in courts.
  • To automate the processes to provide transparency in the accessibility of information.
  • To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost-effective, predictable and reliable and promote ease of justice.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Education} Credit system for Classes 9 to 12

  • Context (IE): CBSE plans to introduce a credit system for Classes 9 to 12 as recommended by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 to integrate vocational and general education.

National Credit Framework (NCrF)

  • Developed by the University Grants Commission in 2022, NCrF aims for the integration of training and skill development into school and higher education.
  • Credits earned will be stored digitally in the Academic Bank of Credits, accessible through Digilocker.

Academic Year Structure

  • An academic year will consist of 1,200 notional learning hours, equating to 40 credits.
  • It includes both academic and non-academic learning hours.

Scheme of Studies Modifications

  • The scheme now includes teaching hours and credits for each subject.
  • Classes 9 and 10 will require the completion of 10 subjects, including three languages (two Indian) and seven core subjects.
  • Classes 11 and 12 will involve six subjects, including two languages (one Indian) and four other subjects with an optional fifth.
  • The addition of multidisciplinary and vocational courses aims to enhance the breadth of education and practical skills of students.

Examination System Changes

  • Credits earned will be independent of exam marks.
  • CBSE will conduct external exams for core subjects in Class 10 and for languages, social science, and Group 3 and 4 subjects in Class 12.
  • Art education, physical education, and vocational education will have mixed assessment modes.
  • The existing grading system will remain, with students graded from A1 to E based on their performance.
For Class 10, under the CBSE’s proposed changes
Subject Categories Examination Type
Three Languages External (Board Exam)
  • Mathematics and Computational Thinking
External (Board Exam)
  • Social Science
External (Board Exam)
  • Science
External (Board Exam)
  • Environmental Education
External (Board Exam)
  • Art Education
Mixed (Internal & Board Exam)
  • Physical Education
Mixed (Internal & Board Exam)
  • Vocational Education
Mixed (Internal & Board Exam)
  • Students are required to pass all 10 subjects to move on to the next grade.
For Class 12 subjects under the CBSE’s proposed changes
Group Number Subjects Group Examination Type
Group 1 Languages External Exam
Group 2 Arts Education (Dance, Music, Sculpting), Physical Education, Vocational Education Mixed (Internal & Board Exam)
Group 3 Social Science (History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, etc.), Interdisciplinary Areas (Environmental Education, Commerce, etc.) External Exam
Group 4 Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Science External Exam
  • Students must select at least two languages from Group 1.
  • Students are required to choose four main subjects (with an optional fifth subject) from at least two of the remaining groups.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Diseases} Efficacy of India-made Typhoid Vaccine

  • Context (TH): Bharat Biotech’s Typbar typhoid vaccine maintains efficacy for over four years in children aged 9 months to 12 years.
  • The vaccine showed an efficacy of
    • 70.6% in children aged nine months to two years
    • 79% of children older than two years
    • 79.6% of children aged two to four years
    • 79.3% of those aged five to twelve

Typbar TCV

  • It is a conjugate vaccine, pre-qualified by WHO-SAGE (Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization) in 2017.
  • It is the first clinically proven conjugate Typhoid vaccine.
  • The conjugate vaccine is suitable for infants from six months, unlike the polysaccharide and live attenuated typhoid vaccines, which are not for children under two years.
  • A single dose of it effectively prevents typhoid in children 9 months to 16 years old, with protection starting 2-3 weeks post-administration.
  • Bharat Biotech supplied the conjugate typhoid vaccine to Pakistan in 2017, making it the first country to adopt it into its national immunization program.
A conjugate vaccine is which combines a weak antigen with a strong antigen as a carrier so that the immune system has a stronger response to the weak antigen.

Typhoid

  • Causative Agent: the bacterium Salmonella Typhi.
  • Transmission: Spread through ingestion of food or water contaminated by faeces or urine of infected people.
  • Symptoms: High fever, weakness, stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite, and sometimes a rash. Severe cases can lead to serious complications or death.
  • Prevalence: in areas with poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. Prevalent in South-East Asia, Africa, and parts of South America.
  • Diagnosis: Blood, stool, or urine tests to detect S. Typhi.
  • Treatment: Primarily treated with antibiotics.
  • Vaccination: Two main types of vaccines, live attenuated oral vaccine (Ty21a) and injectable inactivated vaccine (Vi polysaccharide vaccine), offer 60% protection only.
    • Conjugate vaccines (e.g., Typbar TCV) have been developed for longer-lasting protection.
  • Prevention: Vaccination, safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and adequate hygiene.
  • Global Burden: approximately 11-20 million cases and 128,000-161,000 deaths annually in the world.
Resistance to multiple antibiotics is increasing, making treatment more challenging.

{GS2 – Social sector – Poverty} Multidimensional Poverty

  • Context (IE): In the Interim Budget speech, Finance Minister said 25 crore Indians had been pulled out of multi-dimensional poverty over the past decade.

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Multidimensional Poverty Index (Global MPI)

  • Global MPI is a measure of multidimensional poverty covering 107 developing countries.
  • It was first developed in 2010 by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for UNDP’s Human Development Reports.
  • Global MPI uses three dimensions and ten indicators.

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National Multidimensional Poverty Index (National MPI)

  • It is published by NITI Aayog using the methodology in consonance with the global methodology.
  • Like the global MPI, India’s national MPI has three equally weighted dimensions – Health, Education, and Standard of living, but represented by twelve (10 in Global MPI) indicators.
  • National MPI model = (10 indicators of the global MPI model retained + 2 new indicators (Maternal Health and Bank Accounts)) in line with national priorities.

How is Poverty calculated?

  • Poverty is calculated based either on income levels or on expenditure levels.
  • The international poverty line (set by World Bank), which is currently $2.15 per person per day, is the threshold that determines whether someone is living in poverty.
  • India has not declared its poverty figures since 2011, measured based on consumer expenditure surveys by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

How MPI is calculated?

  • According to the MPI method, if a person is deprived of a third or more of 10 (weighted) indicators, they are identified as MPI poor.
  • However, to calculate the index value, three separate calculations are needed.
  • First, need to find out the incidence of multidimensional poverty (denoted by the symbol H). It answers the question – How many are poor?
  • The incidence refers to the proportion of multidimensionally poor in the population.
  • It is arrived at by dividing the number of multidimensionally poor persons by the total population.
  • Second, need to find out the intensity of poverty (denoted by the symbol A). This answers the question – How poor are they?
  • To compute intensity, the weighted deprivation scores of all poor people are summed and then divided by the total number of poor people.
  • Finally, the MPI is arrived at by multiplying the incidence of multidimensional poverty (H) and the intensity of poverty (A).

{GS3 – IE – Budget} Fiscal Deficit

  • Context (TH): It was announced in the interim Budget that the Centre would reduce its fiscal deficit to 5.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2024-25 & less than 4.5% of GDP by 2025-26.
  • The revised estimates (for 2023-24) also lowered the fiscal deficit projection to 5.8% of GDP.
  • These announcements have surprised many, as most were anticipating a higher fiscal deficit target.

Fiscal Deficit vs National Debt

  • Fiscal deficit refers to the shortfall in a government’s revenue when compared to its expenditure.
  • For example, in 2024-25, the government’s total revenue is estimated to be ₹30.8 lakh crore whereas the total expenditure is estimated to be ₹47.66 lakh crore.
  • Please note, the borrowings that form part of the revenue should not be included.
  • Fiscal Deficit = Total Expenditure – (Total Revenue – Borrowings)
  • Fiscal Deficit = Budget Deficit + Borrowing
  • The fiscal deficit should not be confused with the national debt.
  • The national debt is usually the amount of debt that a government has accumulated over many years of running fiscal deficits and borrowing to bridge the deficits.
The national debt stands at 81.9% of GDP (as of Nov 2023).

How does the government fund its fiscal deficit?

  • To fund its fiscal deficit, the government mainly borrows money from the bond market.

Bond market

  • The bond market is often referred to as the debt market, or credit market.
  • It is the collective name given to all trades and issues of debt securities.
  • It is divided into two categories: primary and secondary bond market.
  • Primary markets are markets in which issuers first sell bonds to investors to raise capital.
  • Secondary markets are markets in which existing bonds are subsequently traded among investors.
  • RBI is a major player in the secondary market as it purchases government bonds from private lenders who have already purchased bonds from the government. (Open market operations).

Why does the fiscal deficit matter?

  • Fiscal deficit to Inflation: There is a strong direct relationship between the government’s fiscal deficit and inflation in the country.
  • Reduce borrowing cost: Fiscal deficit (FD) is indicative of fiscal discipline upheld by the government. The less the FD, the more the confidence to lenders and drives down the government’s borrowing cost.
  • Managing public debt: A high fiscal deficit can also adversely affect the ability of the government to manage its overall public debt.
  • Access to international bond market. A lower fiscal deficit may help the government to sell its bonds overseas more easily and access cheaper credit.
  • In December, the International Monetary Fund warned that India’s public debt could rise to more than 100% of GDP in the medium term although the Centre disagreed with the assessment.

How is the government planning to bring down the fiscal deficit for 2024-25?

  • Raise the tax base, tax collection and reduce spending.
    • The Centre expects tax collections to rise by 11.5% in 2024-25.
    • Spending less on fertilizer subsidy, from ₹1.88 lakh crore (2023-24) to ₹1.64 lakh crore (2024-25).
    • Reducing food subsidy from ₹2.12 lakh crore (2023-24) to ₹2.05 lakh crore (2024-25).

{GS3 – IE – Resources} Source of Funds for Panchayats

  • Context (IE): The RBI has recently published a report titled “Finances of Panchayati Raj Institutions” covering the years 2020-21 to 2022-23.

Sources of Funds for Panchayats

  • Own source of funds (1. Tax revenue & 2. Non-Tax revenue)
Tax revenue Non-Tax revenue
  1. House building tax/Property tax
  2. Profession tax
  3. Vehicle tax
  4. Tax on fairs and other entertainments
  5. Tax on advertisement
  6. Levy on factories in lieu of taxes
  1. Water fee
  2. Sanitary fee for public latrines
  3. Fee for the use of panchayat shelter
  4. User charges for hospitals and schools
  5. Fee on markets and weekly bazaars
  6. Birth and death registration fee

A diagram of a rural government
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  • Transfers from Union and State Governments
    • The 73rd amendment of the constitution provides a provision that the state governments must constitute State Finance Commissions (SFCs) every five years.
    • The SFC will make recommendations about the sharing of resources between the state and the local bodies (both rural and urban).
    • Grants received to carry out activities as part of national schemes. For example, under the 15th Finance Commission’s period, panchayats are to receive funds to implement a Centrally Sponsored Scheme known as ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’.

Key Finding of the report

  • Panchayats’ Own Sources of Revenue i.e. tax revenue is very limited. The own revenues of the Panchayats were only 1.1 per cent of their total revenue during the study period.
  • Non-tax revenue, primarily from Panchayati Raj programmes and interest earnings, constituted 3.3 per cent of the total revenue receipts.
  • The average revenue per Panchayat (encompassing taxes, non-taxes, and grants) was at approx. 21 lakhs for the three consecutive periods of 2021,2022,2023.
  • Average Expenditure witnessed a decline from 17.3 lakh in 2020-21 to 12.5 lakh in 2022-23, attributed to elevated spending during the pandemic year.
  • There are sharp inter-state variations in the devolution of powers and functions to Panchayats.
  • States having higher devolution levels exhibit better outcomes in health, education, infrastructure development, water supply and sanitation.
  • Issue: Around 95 per cent of their revenue come in the form of grants from higher levels of government.
    • This restricts their spending ability that is already hampered by delays in the constitution of State Finance Commissions.
  • Over 2.5 lakh Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) utilised the eGramSwaraj platform for accounting purposes.
  • Additionally, more than 2.4 lakh PRIs have seamlessly integrated the eGramSwaraj-PFMS Interface for online transactions, facilitating online payments.

eGramSwaraj

  • It was introduced in 2020, serves as a simplified, work-based accounting application for PRIs.
  • It addresses diverse aspects of Panchayat operations, including planning, accounting, budgeting, and online payments.
  • The platform facilitates efficient financial management and provides a platform for higher authorities to monitor Panchayat activities effectively.
  • The introduction of the Audit Online application by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) further strengthens financial management and transparency.

Powers & Functions of the Panchayat (11th Schedule of the constitution)

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Russian Cosmonaut’s Record in Space

  • Context (REU): Oleg Kononenko, a Russian cosmonaut, set a new world record for the most time spent in space, surpassing Gennady Padalka’s previous record of more than 878 days.
  • Kononenko’s space career includes his first flight in 2008 and his current mission launched on a Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft.
Russia’s space achievements began with launching Sputnik 1 in 1957 and Yuri Gagarin’s space travel in 1961.

Soyuz MS-24 Mission

  • Mission Type: Crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Mission Duration: 192 days (in progress).
  • Launch Date: 15 September 2023.
  • Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome.
  • The Baikonur Cosmodrome is situated in Kazakh and managed by Russia within Kazakhstan.
  • It is the world’s largest space launch facility by area.
  • This spaceport is the departure point for all of Russia’s manned space missions.
  • Landing Date (Planned): 2 April 2024.
  • Landing Site: Kazakh Steppe, Kazakhstan.
  • Soyuz is a Russian space vehicle used for transporting astronauts and cosmonauts to and from the ISS.
  • It serves both as a means of crew delivery to the ISS and their return.
  • It functions as an emergency escape vehicle, permanently docked at the ISS for a safe return to Earth.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Apollo Butterflies

  • Context (TH): Dusted Apollo (Parnassius stenosemus) butterflies were sighted in Himachal Pradesh.
  • Dusted Apollo (Parnassius stenosemus) is a rare high-altitude butterfly, first discovered in 1890.
  • Its distribution ranges from Ladakh to West Nepal, inhabiting elevations between 3,500 and 4,800 meters in the inner Himalayas.

A close-up of a butterfly
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  • The Regal Apollo (Parnnasius charltonius), another rare species, was also sighted and is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Apollo butterflies are valuable in the poaching industry due to their commercial importance.

{Prelims – In News} Dharani Portal

  • Context (TH): The Dharani portal, a one-stop solution for land-related transactions in Telangana, is headed towards a significant revamp.
  • CM appointed a high-level five-member committee to evolve guidelines for the permanent resolution of long-pending land disputes.
  • The committee has suggested that the portal needs significant changes on the technical, administrative, and legal sides.

Issues with the Portal

  • Complaints about the portal include
    1. Patta land being included in the prohibited list,
    2. Mismatches between the extent of land in records and the actual field dimensions and
    3. There needs to be a provision for registering lands in the name of multiple owners.
  • Less than 50% of the digitised land records are error-free
    • The previous government claimed issues pertaining to almost 95% of the land were rectified.
  • There have been complaints about 30 lakh acres of land and that the land was being sold to private companies in open auctions.
  • The public has been facing numerous problems in selling/buying land as sufficient modules for different transactions have not been incorporated into the portal.
  • The system allows just one transaction at a time. Users who face multiple problems related to their land are not able to access the portal to have their grievances redressed.
  • The user can make an application for removal of the land from the prohibited list or one pertaining to the extent of land, but not both at the same time.
    • In case users apply for rectification of both these issues at the same time, their application gets rejected.
  • The Revenue Department has been overstrained as just 34 officers, one for each district, have been authorised to operate the portal.
  • The officers do not have enough ground staff to assist them with the verification of the claims by the landowners.
  • The Revenue Department has also locked horns with the Forest Department, which claims that a significant extent of forest land finds no mention in Dharani.

About the Dharani web portal

  • The portal was launched in 2020.
  • The portal will do away with any loopholes in the registration process as well as store all land and property-related information online.
  • It will simplify the registration, succession and even partition of agricultural lands to ensure that the entire process is completed timely and the e-pattadar passbook is provided to the landowners immediately.
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