Delhi services Bill likely to be tabled today in LS
Bill designates L-G as the authority who will have the final say on the postings and transfer of bureaucrats in the Delhi government
The Bill to replace the Delhi services Ordinance will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023, seeks to designate the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) as the authority with a final say on the postings and transfers of all bureaucrats serving under the Delhi government.
The draft Bill, which mandates the creation of an authority for transfers and postings of senior officers in the Delhi government, has been circulated among MPs. The Bill deviates from the May 19 Ordinance on two aspects. First, it drops Section 3A that said, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, order or decree of any court, the Legislative Assembly shall have the power to make laws as per Article 239AA except with respect to any matter enumerated in Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India or any matter connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The second deviation is that it also empowers the L-G to appoint the heads of boards or commissions that are enacted by Delhi Legislative Assembly.
The Ordinance, promulgated on May 19 effectively negated the May 11 Supreme Court judgement that gave the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government the power to make laws and wield control over bureaucrats deputed to the Delhi government.
The objective of the Bill was “to give effect to the intent and purpose behind the provisions of Article 239AA of the Constitution, a permanent authority, headed by the Chief Minister of Delhi along with the Chief Secretary, and the Principal Secretary, Home, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.”
Bill illegal and undemocratic, says AAP
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha on Monday termed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which seeks to replace the Delhi services ordinance, the epitome of “undemocratic” and “illegal” legislative action by the BJP-led Centre.
Mr. Chadha said the Bill, which is set to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, was an outright assault on the people of Delhi, an affront to the judiciary, and a “menacing threat” to the future of the country’s federal system.
He said the underlying message of the Bill was that if people elected a non-BJP government, it would not be allowed to function smoothly and the
Bill is a testing ground for such experiments.
Mr. Chadha appealed to all MPs who hold the Constitution and democracy in high regard to unite against the Bill and vote against it.
Facts bout the News
Delhi Services Bill
- The Delhi services Bill is set to replace the Delhi services Ordinance.
- The bill aims to designate the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) as the authority who will have the final say on the postings and transfer of all bureaucrats serving under the Delhi government.
- The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023, is set to replace the Delhi services Ordinance.
- The Bill designates the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) as the final authority for postings and transfers of all bureaucrats under the Delhi government.
- The Bill deviates from the May 19 Ordinance in two aspects:
- It drops Section 3A, which granted power to the Legislative Assembly to make laws except for matters in Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule.
- It empowers the L-G to appoint the heads of boards or commissions enacted by the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
- The Bill proposes the establishment of the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA).
- NCCSA will be responsible for recommending transfers and postings of all Group ‘A’ officers (IAS) and officers of DANICS serving in the Delhi government.
- The NCCSA will consist of the Chief Minister of Delhi, the Chief Secretary of Delhi, and the Principal Secretary, Home, of Delhi.
The Lieutenant Governor and the NCT Delhi- Background
The official designation of the Union Territory (UT) of Delhi is the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.
- Article 239 of the Constitution of India initially handled the administration of Union Territories (UTs) through an administrator appointed by the President.
- The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 introduced Article 239AA.
- This created an elected Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers, including a Chief Minister, for NCT Delhi.
- The NCT Delhi Assembly has the power to make laws on matters under the State or Concurrent Lists, except for public order, police, and land matters.
- The Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi was designated as the Administrator of NCT Delhi.
- The relationship between Articles 239 and 239AA led to a political contest between the Union and NCT Delhi governments over administrative control.
- In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the LG is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers on matters where the Legislative Assembly has the power to make laws.
- The Union Government enacted the Government of National Capital Territory (Amendment) Act, 2021, to overcome the Supreme Court’s decision, which restricted the powers of the Legislative Assembly and expanded the LG’s authority.
- The Delhi Government filed a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Amendment in the Supreme Court in August 2021.
- The Delhi Government argued that the Amendment diminishes the powers and functions of the elected Legislative Assembly and establishes the LG as the default administrative authority over NCT Delhi on all matters.
- They urged the court to declare the Amendment as unconstitutional as it damages the basic features of federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, and representative democracy.
- On May 11th, 2023, the Supreme Court upheld the Delhi government’s powers to control civil servants and the day-to-day administration of NCT Delhi.
Why Delhi cannot have full statehood?
- The demand for full statehood for Delhi has been present for many years.
- The Supreme Court, relying on the 1987 Balakrishnan Committee report, concluded that Delhi cannot be granted full statehood.
- According to the report, Delhi, as the national capital, belongs to the entire nation, and having it as a full-fledged state with its own government might create conflicts and prejudice national interests.
- Allowing Delhi to become a full state would result in a constitutional division of sovereign, legislative, and executive powers between the Union and the State of Delhi.
- The Parliament’s legislative access would be limited, and it could only intervene in special and emergency situations.
- Granting full statehood would hinder the Union’s ability to fulfill its “special responsibilities in relation to the national capital and the nation as a whole.”
- The report emphasized that the Union’s control over Delhi was crucial for the national interest.
Recalibrating India’s clean-cooking strategy
Over the last 15 years, the Government of India has attempted to replicate the success that liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) adoption has seen in urban households, in poorer and rural households. The Grameen Vitrak Yojana, launched in 2009, has helped grow the rural distributor base from 18% to 60% of the total LPG distributor base today. The ambitious Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) has provided more than 9.5 crore new households with LPG connections since 2016. With near-universal coverage of LPG, this is nothing short of an administrative and operational miracle. However, for the first time, LPG consumption in Indian households saw an absolute reduction in FY23 (minus 0.5% versus FY22) after years of steady growth. The questions are: how long must India consider just subsidising LPG to improve adoption? And what are the other options that it can explore?
The LPG story
In the recent past, the share of Indian households using LPG as the primary cooking fuel had risen to 71% in 2020 from 33% in 2011, according to the India Residential Energy Consumption Survey (IRES) conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). It was a clear indication that Indian households wanted to adopt clean cooking solutions, and policy could overcome ‘preferences’ and financial barriers. However, global events that unfolded since the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing loss of livelihoods and income on the one hand and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting surge and volatility in crude and product prices on the other, have dented even a near-term prospect of universal use of LPG in Indian households.
In 2020, with the onset of COVID-19, subsidy for LPG consumption was withdrawn for all consumers.
Then, in FY21, three free cylinders were provided to all PMUY consumers as part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. This drove the annual refill rates for LPG among PMUY consumers to their highest levels of 4.55 cylinders per active connection (from three to four cylinders in other years). However, of the possible 24 crore free cylinders available for the taking, only 14.1 crore were actually consumed.
Further, a nominal subsidy of ₹200 per cylinder was reinstated for PMUY consumers in September 2022, and it helped improve refill rates in FY23 (4.09) versus FY22 (3.68). Average refill rates for active non-PMUY consumers are in slow decline — 40% of PMUY consumers choose to get two or less refills in a year now. These outcomes suggest that despite significant efforts, home delivery and distribution channel issues remain and more budgetary outlay will be needed for subsidies to entice the poor to consume LPG and avail its health benefits.
Another challenge is that India’s dependence on imported LPG — the refined commodity — has steadily increased to over 64% in FY23 (versus 46% in the pre-PMUY phase). Further, Indian households have seen a near-doubling in LPG prices since May 2020 in nominal terms. With volatile international prices, especially since the Russian war against Ukraine, and a domestic budget that relies on petroleum (and its products) taxation significantly, it is unlikely that India can return to a regime where a subsidy of approximately INR20,000 crore (2011-12 prices) was provided each year for LPG consumption over the first two decades of the 21st century.
Diversity in clean cooking
In order to resolve this impasse, India’s clean cooking policy must actively pivot towards the adoption of a suite of clean-cooking technologies and shift from an LPG-only strategy. For example, electric cooking, including induction cook-tops, can significantly offset the need for flame-based cooking. With near 100% access to electricity connections, rural households can also shift specific cooking needs to electricity. A CEEW study finds that even at a high tariff of ₹8 for each unit of electricity, e-cooking would still be cheaper than cooking using LPG at today’s prices. Equally, there are legitimate concerns about the power distribution grid in rural India and its ability to support all-electric cooking, given the high power needs of the extant technology.
In urban areas, nearly 10% of households already use electrical appliances for their cooking needs, and they can seed the bigger transition that we want to realise in rural areas. One possible mechanism to nudge the shift to e-cooking could be through telescopically increasing LPG prices beyond a threshold (say, seven cylinders that the average household consumes today). This could displace LPG in higher-use groups and, in turn, create a demand for new e-cooking technologies and models, and precipitate a bandwagon effect.
Demand from these early adopters can then spur the domestic manufacturing ecosystem for e-cooking technologies and stem this runaway dependence on imported LPG and crude, and the outflow of precious forex. This requires targeted support in the interim for manufacturers to embrace efficiency and design for the needs of Indian households — how about a gas and electric cooktop in one device for a start? Displacement of ‘chulhas’ by e-cooking would also avoid climate pollutant release. With the newly launched carbon market, India can actually monetise these avoided emissions and help finance the capital needed by poorer rural communities to adopt e-cooking. The debate needs to move from LPG subsidy alone to financing and business models that value India’s clean cooking transition for its climate and clean air benefits, through a bouquet of solutions.
The debate needs to move from LPG subsidy alone to financing and business models that value a clean cooking transition because of the environmental benefits.
Facts about the News
Over the last 15 years, the Government of India has attempted to increase LPG adoption in rural and poorer households through schemes like Grameen Vitrak Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).
- LPG consumption in Indian households saw a reduction in FY23, which raises questions about how long India should continue subsidizing LPG to improve adoption.
- The share of Indian households using LPG as the primary cooking fuel rose from 33% in 2011 to 71% in 2020, indicating a preference for clean cooking solutions.
- Global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and volatility in crude prices have impacted the prospects of universal use of LPG in Indian households.
- Challenges include issues with home delivery and distribution channels, increasing dependence on imported LPG, and rising LPG prices.
- To resolve the impasse, India’s clean cooking policy should pivot towards adopting a suite of clean-cooking technologies, not just relying on LPG.
- Electric cooking, including induction cook-tops, can offset the need for flame-based cooking, especially in areas with near 100% electricity access.
- A mechanism to nudge the shift to e-cooking could be increasing LPG prices beyond a certain threshold, displacing LPG in higher-use groups and creating demand for new e-cooking technologies.
- India can monetize avoided emissions from e-cooking through the carbon market to help finance the transition and support domestic manufacturing of e-cooking technologies.
About Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana (PMUY)
- In May 2016, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG), introduced the ‘Pradhan MantriUjjwalaYojana’ (PMUY).
- It is a flagship scheme with an objective to make clean cooking fuel such as LPG available to the rural and deprived households.
- The scheme was launched on 1st May 2016 in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh.
- The target under the scheme was to release 8 Crore LPG Connections to the deprived households by March 2020.
- Ujjwala 2.0: Additional allocation of 1.6 Crore LPG Connections under PMUY Scheme with special facility to migrant households.
– The scheme was launched in Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh.
- As on 1st March 2023 there are 9.59 crore PMUY beneficiaries.
- SC Households
- ST Households
- Pradhan MantriAwasYojana (Gramin)
- Most Backward Classes
- Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)
- Tea and Ex- Tea Garden tribes
- Forest Dwellers
- People residing in Islands and River Islands
- SECC Households (AHL TIN)
- Poor Household as per 14-point declaration
- Applicant must have attained 18 years of age.
- There should not be any other LPG connections in the same household.
- Cash assistance for PMUY connections is provided by Government of India – Rs. 1600 (for a connection 14.2kg cylinder/ Rs. 1150 for a 5 kg cylinder).
- Additionally, All PMUY beneficiaries will be provided with first LPG refill and Stove (hotplate) both free of cost along with their deposit free connection by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
- For the year 2023-24, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a subsidy of Rs. 200 per 14.2 kg cylinder for up to 12 refills per year to be provided to the beneficiaries.
The hybrid EV imperative
A crucial element of the world’s transition to becoming net-zero is electric vehicles (EVs). In this milieu, hybrid EVs present a big opportunity for economically developing countries: while their power generation and grid capacity and reliability, the fraction of renewable sources in the power generation mix, and availability of fast-charging infrastructure are still less than ideal, hybrid EVs offer a way to begin the transition instead of waiting.
What is net-zero for a vehicle?
Net-zero for a vehicle includes emissions at both the tailpipe of the vehicle and at the power plant. Making vehicles net-zero requires cutting emissions from both new and existing vehicles. Figure 1 shows the global sales of full EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs.
What are the different types of EVs?
Any vehicle propelled by an electric drivetrain, taking electric power from a portable, electrical energy source, is called an Electric vehicle (EV).
In a hybrid EV, an internal combustion engine (ICE) is used to produce electricity with an electrical generator. A small battery, typically 1-5kWh, is used in a hybrid EV as an energy buffer to store the electricity.
The battery can’t be charged from the grid.
A full EV – a.k.a. a battery EV or a plug-in EV – has no ICE and hence no tailpipe emissions. The battery typically is much larger at 20-120 kWh. And it can only be charged from the grid.
A plug-in hybrid EV is still a hybrid EV with a much larger battery, typically 5-15 kWh. This larger battery can also be charged from the grid. This means a plug-in hybrid operates like a fully electric vehicle as long as there is energy in the battery.
A fuel-cell EV uses a fuel cell to produce electricity for the drivetrain together with a small battery buffer to manage variations.
What is the fuel economy of hybrid and fully electric EVs?
The use of an ICE in combination with a generator and battery in a hybrid EV results in the fuel economy of these vehicles being 1.5-2x times higher than in conventional ICE vehicles for city driving and 1-1.5x times higher for highway driving. A plug-in hybrid EV combines the best of both hybrid and full EVs. Using a small battery (5-15kWh) that can be charged from the grid, it can cover 80-90% of all short, day-to-day commutes in a fully electric mode with 3-4x higher fuel economy than conventional vehicles. A driver on intercity trips can switch to the hybrid mode.
What are the net emissions of hybrid EVs?
Apart from fuel economy, an important metric is the net emissions of a vehicle. Well-to-wheel emissions include both tailpipe emissions and emissions due to fuel production – electricity or fossil fuels. The life-cycle emissions is a more comprehensive index that includes well-to-wheel emissions and emissions due to vehicle and battery production, maintenance, and end-of-life recycling. The grids of different countries are decarbonised to different extents at present (Figure 2). In the case of full EVs: the lower the emissions from power production, the lower the vehicle’s well-to-wheel and life-cycle emissions.
How do EVs’ life-cycle emissions compare to ICE vehicles?
According to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation of life-cycle emissions of various vehicles in the U.S., Europe, China, and India (Figure 3), switching to full EVs will result in 19-34% lower emissions by sedans and 38-49% by SUVs – even with the fossil-fuel-dominated energy mix in India. By 2030, when renewables account for a greater share in the grid, emissions are expected to be 30-56% lower. In an all-renewables grid, the gain? A cool 79%.
The same report also compared the life-cycle emissions of hybrid EVs with that of conventional EVs in Europe and found 20-23% lower emissions (Figure 4).
What are the challenges to transitioning to electric mobility?
First, a successful transition to full EVs requires fast-charging infrastructure along highways. This is vital because people generally want to own one affordable car serving both short and long-distance travel needs over 5-15 years, and want to drive without range anxiety. The lack of a fast-charging infrastructure will discourage people from buying full EVs. Fast-charging means power levels of 50-350 kW for cars and up to 1,000 kW for heavy-duty vehicles. To compare, our smartphones charge at 10-25 W. Fast-charging will enable drivers to make long-distance trips using their EVs with 10-20-minute stops to gain ranges of 300-400 km. The indicative prices for EV fast-chargers are: capital cost of $500-1,000/kW, service and maintenance at 5% per year; and an installation cost of around 50% of the charger cost.
The high cost and wide variation are due to the high-capacity power connections required, the cost of making and installing a new transformer and cables; service-level agreements; DC charger plug options and quantities; customisation costs; labour costs; and permits.
Second, many parts of the world, especially economically developing nations, don’t yet have access to a grid or the grid isn’t 100% reliable. The relatively high charging power for slow-charging (<22kW) and fast-charging (<350kW) make the problem more prominent vis-à-vis generation and transmission capacities. This in turn could retard the transition to EVs.
Third, mass-market price points of cars in the economically developing world are much lower, ~$12,000 – whereas EVs with a range of 300-400 km will reach parity with conventional vehicles in the richest countries at a price of $25,000-35,000 in the short term. This is due to the high battery costs, between $130-200/kWh at the pack level. EVs with higher range will need larger battery packs and thus be more expensive.
How can hybrid or plug-in hybrid EVs help us decarbonise?
The current focus in the industry is on full EVs, which isn’t practical for the immediate future, given grid reliability, state of highway charging infrastructure, and prohibitive vehicle costs. Hybrid EVs – either full or plug-in hybrids – present a big opportunity to lower emissions in the interim, i.e. from today, with ICE vehicles, until we have full EVs powered 100% by renewable energy. The 1.5-2x higher fuel economy of hybrids and 3-4x higher fuel economy of plug-in hybrids in electric mode drastically reduces fuel costs, emissions, and oil imports. Plug-in hybrids in particular can match several (but not all) of the benefits of full EVs vis-à-vis emissions and performance without requiring large batteries. With a limited all-electric range, this may not cater to all use cases, such as taxis.
Regenerative braking in hybrid EVs – i.e. recovering the kinetic energy of the vehicle while slowing down instead of dissipating it as heat in the braking system – can improve fuel economy esp. in urban areas with frequent stop-go conditions and in hilly conditions. An engine start-stop mechanism can also save fuel at traffic junctions and in heavy traffic.
Finally, the purchase price of hybrid cars is only 5-15% higher than conventional vehicles and is independent of the vehicle range. In an ideal future, all our electricity comes from renewable sources and we power our EVs using solar energy during the day and with wind energy at night. For countries that can already work towards this goal now, our priority must be to realise this vision. In places where transitioning to renewables for power and building fast-charging infrastructure will take a decade or more, we need to switch to hybrid EVs as a short-term solution due to the fuel-economy and emissions benefits.
(Gautham Ram is an Assistant professor of electric mobility at the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)
Hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) is a crucial element in the world’s transition to a net-zero future.
By combining the benefits of internal combustion engines with electric drivetrains, these vehicles offer an effective short-term solution to lower emissions and fuel costs while paving the way for a more sustainable future.
These vehicles offer a realistic approach for nations facing grid limitations and challenges in building fast-charging infrastructure.
Facts about the News
A crucial element of the world’s transition to becoming net-zero is electric vehicles (EVs).
- In this respect, hybrid EVs present a big opportunity for economically developing countries.
- Net-zero for a vehicle includes emissions at both the tailpipe of the vehicle and at the power plant, requiring cutting emissions from both new and existing vehicles.
- Different types of EVs include hybrid EVs, full EVs, plug-in hybrid EVs, and fuel-cell EVs.
- Hybrid EVs use an internal combustion engine (ICE) to produce electricity with an electrical generator, have a small battery (1-5 kWh) as an energy buffer but can’t be charged from the grid.
- Full EVs have no ICE and no tailpipe emissions, relying solely on electricity from the grid and have larger batteries (20-120 kWh).
- Plug-in hybrid EVs have a larger battery (5-15 kWh) and can operate in fully electric mode as long as there is energy in the battery, and they can be charged from the grid.
- Hybrid EVs have 1.5-2x higher fuel economy than conventional ICE vehicles for city driving and 1-1.5x higher for highway driving.
- Plug-in hybrid EVs can cover 80-90% of short, day-to-day commutes in fully electric mode with 3-4x higher fuel economy than conventional vehicles.
- Well-to-wheel emissions, including tailpipe emissions and emissions from fuel production, are important metrics to consider for net emissions of a vehicle.
- Switching to full EVs is expected to result in 19-34% lower emissions for sedans and 38-49% lower emissions for SUVs in various regions, even with fossil-fuel-dominated energy mix.
- By 2030, when renewables account for a greater share in the grid, emissions are expected to be 30-56% lower, and in an all-renewables grid, emissions can be 79% lower.
- Hybrid EVs present a big opportunity for economically developing countries to lower emissions in the interim until full EVs powered by renewable energy become more feasible.
- Hybrid EVs offer fuel economy and emissions benefits, regenerative braking, and lower purchase prices compared to conventional vehicles.
- A successful transition to full EVs requires fast-charging infrastructure along highways to address range anxiety and encourage adoption.
- Access to reliable grids and grid capacity are challenges for transitioning to EVs in economically developing nations.
- Mass-market price points for EVs in economically developing countries are lower, and high battery costs pose challenges for affordability and range.
- Hybrid EVs, either full or plug-in hybrids, can drastically reduce fuel costs, emissions, and oil imports with their higher fuel economy.
- Plug-in hybrids offer several benefits of full EVs in emissions and performance without requiring large batteries, but they may not cater to all use cases.
- In regions where transitioning to renewables and building fast-charging infrastructure will take time, hybrid EVs offer a short-term solution for emission reduction.
Government’s Initiatives for E- Vehicles
To assist the acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country, the central government has announced a number of promotional measures in the previous ten years, including tax incentives for electric vehicle owners, public EV charging infrastructure development, and so on.
- The Government of India in its budget 2021- 22, has reiterated its support to the EV sector.
- The government of India has launched so far – FAME-II, PLI SCHEME, and Battery Swapping Policy, Special Electric Mobility Zone, Tax Reduction on EVs.
FAME-II Initiatives for Electric Vehicles
- The Indian government started the FAME India project on April 1, 2015, to reduce the use of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
- The FAME II scheme was introduced in April 2019 with a budget outlay of Rs 10,000 crore
- The objective was to support 500,000 e-three-wheelers, 7,000 e-buses, 55,000 e-passenger vehicles, and a million e-two-wheelers.
- The aim was to drive greater adoption of EVs in India.
- Nevertheless, the Government of India has chosen to prolong the FAME-II plan through March 31, 2024, in the budget for FY 2022-23.
- In June 2021, The Department of Heavy Industry launched the Production Linked Incentive for Advanced Chemistry Cell Battery Storage (PLI-ACC Scheme).
- Its goal is to entice domestic and international investors to invest in India’s Giga scale ACC manufacturing facilities.
- The scheme’s overall pay-out is INR 18,100 crore.
– This will be paid across five years after the production facility is operational.
Battery Swapping Policy
- The Finance Minister stated that the government intends to introduce a Battery Swapping Policy.
- This scheme will standardize the standards of batteries to be used in EVs across India.
- The legislation will help in promoting EV’s in time-sensitive service sectors like deliveries and inter-city transportation as swapping a drained battery for a fully charged one is a more practical option than on-the-spot recharging, which can take hours.
- This will make interoperability easy.
- The budget includes a proposal to lower customs duties on Nickel ore and concentrates from 5% to 0%, Nickel Oxide from 10% to 0%, Ferro Nickel from 15% to 2.5 percent.
- There is also a proposal for a reduction in customs duty on motor parts from 10% to 7.5 percent will help to lower the overall cost of EVs.
Special E- Mobility Zone
- The government plans to establish dedicated mobility zones for electric vehicles.
- Only electric vehicles or comparable vehicles will be permitted to operate in the zones identified by the administration.
- The hidden benefit of special Electric mobility zones will be that they will help curb overcrowding due to private vehicles.
Akira ransomware: why has the government issued a warning against it?
The Computer Emergency Response Team of India issued an alert for the ransomware dubbed “Akira.” The ransomware, found to target both Windows and Linux devices, steals and encrypts data, forcing victims to pay double ransom for decryption and recovery.
The group behind the ransomware has already targeted multiple victims, mainly those located in the U.S., and has an active Akira ransomware leak site with information, including their most recent data leaks.
What is the Akira ransomware?
The Akira ransomware is designed to encrypt data, create a ransomware note and delete Windows Shadow Volume copies on affected devices. The ransomware gets its name due to its ability to modify filenames of all encrypted files by appending them with the “.akira” extension.
The ransomware is designed to close processes or shut down Windows services that may keep it from encrypting files on the affected system.
It uses VPN services, especially when users have not enabled two-factor authentication, to trick users into downloading malicious files.
Once the ransomware infects a device and steals/encrypts sensitive data, the group behind the attack extorts the victims into paying a ransom, threatening to release the data on their dark web blog if their demands are not met.
As mentioned above, the ransomware deletes the Windows Shadow Volume copies on the affected device. These files are instrumental in ensuring that organisations can back up data used in their applications for day-to-day functioning.
VSS services facilitate communication between different components without the need to take them offline, thereby ensuring data is backed up while it is also available for other functions.
Once the ransomware deletes the VSS files it proceeds to encrypt files with the pre-defined the “.akira” extension.
How does Akira ransomware work?
The ransomware also terminates active Windows services using the Windows Restart Manager API, preventing any interference with the encryption process.
It is designed to not encrypt Program Data, Recycle Bin, Boot, System Volume information, and other folders instrumental in system stability. It also avoids modifying Windows system files with extensions like .syn. .msl and .exe. Once sensitive data is stolen and encrypted, the ransomware leaves behind a note named akira_readme.txt which includes information about the attack and the link to Akira’s leak and negotiation site. Each victim is given a unique negotiation password to be entered into the threat actor’s Tor site.
Unlike other ransomware operations, this negotiation site just includes a chat system that the victim can use to communicate with the ransomware gang, a report from The Bleeping Computer shares.
How does ransomware infect devices?
Ransomware is typically spread through spear phishing emails that contain malicious attachments in the form of archived content (zip/rar) files. Other methods used to infect devices include drive-by-download, a cyber-attack that unintentionally downloads malicious code onto a device, and specially crafted web links in emails, clicking on which downloads malicious code.
The ransomware reportedly also spreads through insecure Remote Desktop connections.
In use since March 2023, the ransomware has steadily built up a list of victims, targetting corporate networks in various domains including education, finance, real estate, manufacturing, and consulting. Once it breaches a corporate network, the ransomware spreads laterally to other devices after gaining Windows domain admin credentials.
The threat actors also steal sensitive corporate data for leverage in their extortion attempts.
What can users do to protect against ransomware?
CERT-In has advised users to follow basic internet hygiene and protection protocols to ensure their security against ransomware. These include maintaining up to date offline backups of critical data, to prevent data loss in the event of an attack.
Additionally, users are advised to ensure all operating systems and networks are updated regularly, with virtual patching for legacy systems and networks.
Companies must also establish Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Sender policy for organisational email validation, which prevents spam by detecting email spoofing. Strong password policies and multi-factor authentication (MFA) must be enforced.
There should also be a strict external device usage policy in place and data-at-rest and data-in-transit encryption along with blocking attachment file types like .exe, .pif, or .url to avoid downloading malicious code.
The agency has also advised periodic security audits of critical networks/systems, especially database servers.
At 8.2%, India’s core sector growth touches 5-month high in June
India’s core sector output surged 8.2% in June, the fastest pace in five months, buoyed by a 21.9% spike in steel output and nearly double-digit rise in coal and cement production, as per data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry on Monday.
Seven of the eight core sectors, which constitute 40.3% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), registered an uptick in June, compared with just six in May.
Economists said coming on the back of a 13.1% rise in output last June, the 8.2% growth in June was noteworthy. They expect the IIP growth, which had hit a three-month high rate of 5.2% in May, to clock a 4%-6% rise in June as well.
Crude oil was the only sector in the red, marking the 13th successive month of contraction in output, although the extent of decline eased to 0.6%. Refinery products grew at the fastest pace in nine months at 4.6%, while electricity (up 3.3%) and natural gas (up 3.6%) output growth touched their highest levels in four and five months, respectively.
Coal production rose 9.8%, the fastest since March, while cement production rose 9.4%, the slowest in three months. Fertilizer production rose by 3.4%, the lowest pace in at least a year. On a month-on-month basis, steel output was 1.15% higher in June, while cement production rose 1.7%.
However, four sectors clocked a sequential decline from May levels — fertilizers (-5.35%), refinery products (-3.5%), coal (-3.1%) and crude oil (-3%).
Core sectors’ overall growth was broad-based and reflected the upturn in infrastructure spends, noted Bank of Baroda chief economist Madan Sabnavis. “The government push in infrastructure, especially in roads, is reflected by the strong numbers for steel and cement. The cumulative growth in these two sectors has been in double-digits in the first quarter of this year, even though last year had seen a strong performance too, creating a high base,” Mr. Sabnavis said.
ICRA chief economist Aditi Nayar said the tardy onset of the monsoon contributed to an improved performance for sectors like electricity and coal. “With the boost seen in mining and electricity from a dryer-than-normal June, we expect the IIP growth to print at 4%-6% in June.”
Facts about the News
India’s core sectors’ output surged by 8.2% in June, the fastest pace in five months, according to data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry.
- Seven out of the eight core sectors registered an uptick in June, with steel output seeing a spike of 21.9%, and coal and cement production also showing nearly double-digit growth.
- Crude oil was the only sector in decline, marking the 13th successive month of contraction in output, but the extent of decline eased to 0.6%, the lowest in this streak.
- Refinery products grew at the fastest pace in nine months at 4.6%, while electricity and natural gas output growth touched their highest levels in four and five months, respectively.
- Coal production rose 9.8%, the fastest since March, and cement production rose 9.4%, the slowest in three months. Fertilizers production rose by 3.4%, the lowest pace in at least a year.
- Economists expect the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) growth to be in the range of 4%-6% in June, coming on the back of a 5.2% rise in May.
- Steel and cement production saw a month-on-month increase in June, while fertilizers, refinery products, coal, and crude oil witnessed a decline compared to May levels.
- Core sectors’ overall growth was considered broad-based and reflected the upturn in infrastructure spends, particularly in roads, which contributed to strong numbers for steel and cement.
- The tardy onset of the monsoon contributed to an improved performance in sectors like electricity and coal, and despite the moderation in some high-frequency indicators, IIP growth is expected to remain positive.
- Overall, the surge in core sectors’ output in June indicates positive growth in India’s industrial production, driven by infrastructure spending and a revival in various sectors except for crude oil.
What are the Core Sectors?
- Core Industries (core sectors) of the economy are the main or key industries in the economy.
- They constitute 40.27% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
- The Eight core sectors are: Coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertiliser, steel, cement and electricity.
About Index of Industrial Production (IIP)
- The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is a crucial indicator used to gauge the changes in the volume of industrial product production within a specific timeframe.
- Published on a monthly basis by the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, IIP serves as a composite indicator measuring the growth rate of different industry groups.
- IIP categorizes production growth based on broad sectors, including Mining, Manufacturing, and Electricity, allowing an overview of the performance of each sector.
- Additionally, it classifies production growth based on use-based sectors, such as Basic Goods, Capital Goods, and Intermediate Goods, providing insights into the demand and utilization of industrial products.
- The reference base year for IIP calculations is 2011-2012, which serves as a benchmark for comparing and analyzing industrial production data over time.
Govt. floats draft National Deep Tech Start-up Policy
The office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government put out a draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) for public comment on Monday, following two versions that were iterated at high levels with other government departments, academia and stakeholder firms.
The policy seeks to “ensure India’s position in the global deep tech value chain,” in areas such as semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and space technology.
The policy seeks to bolster research and development in deep tech start-ups, which work on fundamental and technical problems, unlike firms that monetise technology with distinguished business models, the draft says.
The policy also seeks to find approaches to provide financing to deep tech start-ups at critical moments, such as before they go to market with their products or ideas.
The policy also seeks to simplify the intellectual property regime for such start-ups, ease regulatory requirements, and proposes measures to promote these firms. For instance, the NDTSP suggests that an Export Promotion Board be created to ease barriers of entry for Indian deep tech start-ups into foreign markets, and that clauses to ease such market access be included in foreign trade agreements.
Facts about the News
The office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government put out a draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP).
- The policy seeks to “ensure India’s position in the global deep tech value chain,” in areas such as semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and space tech.
- The policy aims to support research and development in deep tech start-ups that focus on fundamental and technical problems.
- It seeks to provide financing options for deep tech start-ups at critical stages, such as before they go to market with their products or ideas.
- The policy proposes simplifying the intellectual property regime and easing regulatory requirements for deep tech start-ups to promote their growth.
- An Export Promotion Board will be created to facilitate entry into foreign markets for Indian deep tech start-ups, with clauses to ease market access included in foreign trade agreements.
- The policy will focus on attracting global talent to the Indian ecosystem by offering networking opportunities to international deep tech startups and experts interested in relocating and contributing to the local ecosystem.
- An “Inter Ministerial Deep Tech Committee” will be established to regularly review the requirements.
- The government expresses dissatisfaction with certain international agreements that have negatively impacted India’s manufacturing and development power, highlighting the Information Technology Agreement-I joined in 1997.
The draft NDTSP suggests policy changes under the following themes:
- Nurturing Research, Development & Innovation
- Strengthening the Intellectual Property Regime
- Facilitating Access to Funding
- Enabling Shared Infrastructure and Resource Sharing
- Creating Conducive Regulations, Standards, and Certifications
- Attracting Human Resources & Initiating Capacity Building
- Promoting Procurement & Adoption
- Ensuring Policy & Program Interlinkages
- Sustaining Deep Tech Startups
What is Deep Tech?
Deep Tech is a technology that is based on tangible engineering innovation or scientific advances and discoveries.
- “Deep tech” or “deep technology” was coined by Swati Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of Propel(x), an online investment platform connecting early stage deep tech startups with investors.
- Deep tech startups are based on high tech innovation in engineering or significant scientific advances.
- They are different from “shallow tech” startups that involve simple technological advances moving a business from non-digital to digital models.
- Deep tech businesses revolve around real innovative technology, solving complex real-world problems.
- They often involve artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain, computer imaging, and VR, among other emerging technologies.
- Main areas of deep tech startups include AI, life sciences, agriculture, aerospace, chemistry, industry, and clean energy. Deep tech startups may operate in multiple sectors since they are game-changers.
- Deep tech startups typically have a board of advisors with CTOs, own patents or other intellectual property, and spend years in research and testing before bringing their technology to the market.
- They require large and longer-term investments, significant research, and may take longer to achieve commercial success due to disruptive technologies that take time for market adoption.