CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/08/2023

Source: The Hindu

508 Amrit Bharat Stations

(General Studies- Paper III)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of 508 railway stations across India on August 6.

  • The redevelopment will cost more than ₹24,470 crores.

Key Highlights

  • The chosen 508 stations are spread across 27 states and union territories.
  • Stations in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and others will be redeveloped.
  • The stations will be developed as ‘City Centres’ with proper integration of both sides of the city.
  • The redevelopment will include modern passenger amenities, upgraded waiting rooms, and free Wi-Fi.
  • The design of the station buildings will be inspired by local culture, heritage, and architecture.

About Amrit Bharat Stations scheme

  • The Amrit Bharat Stations scheme is a redevelopment project for railway stations in India.
  • It aims to redevelop almost 1300 prime railway stations across the country.
  • The scheme is part of the government’s efforts to provide world-class amenities at railway stations.
  • The redevelopment of 508 railway stations has been initiated with a cost of more than ₹24,470 crores.
  • The redevelopment will focus on creating “City Centres” at the stations, integrating both sides of the city for better urban development.
  • The project will provide modern passenger amenities, upgraded waiting rooms, and free Wi-Fi at the stations.
  • The design of the station buildings will be inspired by local culture, heritage, and architecture.
  • Each station’s redevelopment will take into account the specific cultural and architectural elements of its region.
  • The scheme aims to improve traffic circulation, inter-modal integration, and signage for the guidance of passengers.
  • Green building standards will be followed in the redevelopment of all Amrit stations.
  • The government has a vision to produce green energy from every railway station, and the Amrit stations will align with this goal.

Source: The Hindu

Is India’s Sugar surplus leading to a Crisis?

(General Studies- Paper III)

India became the largest sugar producer in the world in 2021-2022, surpassing Brazil, with a record production of 359 lakh tonnes.

Key Highlights:

  • Chronic over-cultivation of sugarcane due to profitable cash crop status has led to excess sugar production and high sugar exports.
  • Excessive sugarcane cultivation has a disastrous impact on groundwater resources in drought-prone states.
  • Policies and subsidies, such as the fair and remunerative price (FRP) scheme and state incentives, favour sugarcane cultivation, leading to a sugar surplus and high exports.
  • The Indian government has considered diverting surplus sugar to ethanol production through the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) program, reducing crude oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • While EBP has been successful, sugarcane over-cultivation continues to deplete groundwater resources.
  • Solutions include reassessing incentives to diversify crops, promoting sustainable cultivation practices like drip irrigation, investing in water-saving and management systems, and conducting more research on groundwater availability and distribution.
  • India must prioritize sustainability in its agricultural sector to address the challenges posed by excessive sugar production and groundwater depletion.

About Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) scheme

  • The Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) scheme is a government initiative in India that aims to provide fair and guaranteed prices to sugarcane farmers for their produce.
  • It is an important policy measure implemented by the Central government to support and protect the interests of sugarcane growers.
  • The FRP is fixed by the government each year and serves as the minimum price at which sugar mills must purchase sugarcane from farmers.
  • Fixing the FRP: The FRP is determined by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which is a statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
  • The CACP takes into account various factors such as the cost of cultivation, input prices, and market conditions before recommending the FRP for sugarcane.
  • The FRP is then announced by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
  • The FRP is similar to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that is fixed for other agricultural crops.
  • It ensures that sugarcane farmers receive a fair and assured income for their produce, irrespective of market fluctuations or price volatility.
  • Obligation for Sugar Mills: Sugar mills are obligated to pay sugarcane farmers the FRP or higher for their produce.

Delays in payment can attract an interest up to 15% per annum, and the sugar commissioner can recover unpaid FRP.

  • This ensures that farmers are not exploited by private sugar mills, and they receive a minimum guaranteed income for their crop.
  • State Advised Price (SAP): In some states, particularly where sugarcane cultivation is significant, state governments may announce a State Advised Price (SAP) in addition to the FRP.

The SAP is higher than the FRP and serves as an additional incentive for sugarcane cultivation.

Note: The FRP is based on the Rangarajan Committee report on reorganizing the sugarcane industry.

About Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme

  • The Ethanol Blended Program (EBP) was launched by the Indian government in 2003.
  • The primary objective of the program is to reduce crude oil imports and curtail greenhouse gas emissions from petrol-based vehicles.
  • The Government of India decided to launch Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme in January, 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol.
  • Under the EBP, ethanol, an organic compound made from sugarcane molasses or sugar, is blended with petrol to produce ethanol-blended petrol (EBP).
  • The program started with a modest goal of achieving a blending rate of 5% (5% ethanol mixed with 95% petrol) in petrol, and it has been gradually increased over the years.
  • The Government has 10% blending target for mixing ethanol with petrol by 2022 & 20% blending target by 2030.
  • To promote ethanol production and use, the government has reduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on ethanol from 18% to 5%.
  • In the year 2021, of the total 394 lakh tonnes of sugar produced in India, about 350 lakh tonnes were diverted for ethanol production as part of the EBP.
  • The EBP not only reduces the country’s dependence on imported crude oil but also provides an additional source of revenue for the sugarcane industry, as excess sugarcane is diverted to produce ethanol.
  • The program aligns with India’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy sector.

Note: Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have achieved over 10% ethanol blending in petrol during Ethanol Supply Year (ESY) 2021-22. Government has amended the National Policy on Biofuels – 2018 which has advanced the target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol to ESY 2025-26 from 2030.


About National Policy on Biofuels – 2018

  • The National Policy on Biofuels was released by the Government of India in 2018 to promote the use of biofuels and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The policy aims to increase the blending of biofuels in petrol and diesel, encourage domestic production of biofuels, and promote sustainable agricultural practices.


  • The policy seeks to achieve a 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel by the year 2030.
  • It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy sector.

Types of Biofuels:

  • The policy identifies three main types of biofuels: first-generation (1G), second-generation (2G), and third-generation (3G) biofuels.
  • First-generation biofuels are derived from feedstocks like sugarcane, corn, and vegetable oils.
  • Second-generation biofuels are produced from non-food crops and agricultural residues.
  • Third-generation biofuels include algae-based biofuels and other advanced technologies.
  • Feedstocks and Raw Materials:The policy encourages the use of surplus food grains, sugarcane, and other agricultural products to produce biofuels.
  • It promotes the cultivation of non-edible oilseeds and other feedstocks on wasteland to avoid competition with food crops.

Incentives and Subsidies:

  • The policy provides various incentives and subsidies to encourage the production and use of biofuels.
  • It offers fiscal incentives, including exemptions and concessional rates for duties and taxes on biofuels.
  • The policy allows for a higher price for ethanol produced from different feedstocks to ensure remunerative prices for farmers.

Research and Development:

  • The policy emphasizes the importance of research and development in the biofuels sector.
  • It encourages the establishment of research institutions and centers to develop advanced biofuel technologies.

Sustainable Development:

  • The policy focuses on the principles of sustainable development and environmental conservation in the biofuels sector.
  • It promotes the use of biofuels for reducing air pollution and improving air quality.

Blending Targets:

  • The policy sets specific blending targets for various biofuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels.
  • It outlines a roadmap to achieve the blending targets over the next few years.

Implementation and Monitoring:

  • The policy outlines a detailed plan for the implementation of various initiatives under the National Policy on Biofuels.
  • It sets up a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to track the progress and effectiveness of the policy’s implementation.


Source: The Hindu

Rising food prices may affect Inflation

(General Studies- Paper III)

India’s retail inflation in July may have spiked close to or crossed the 6% upper tolerance threshold of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The rise in inflation is due to a broad-based uptick in food prices.

Key Highlights

  • The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) may raise its inflation projections for the ongoing July to September quarter and the full year 2023-24 in its monetary policy review.
  • Consumer price inflation (CPI) rose to a three-month high of 4.8% in June, driven by higher food prices, particularly cereals, pulses, milk, and tomato prices.
  • In July, tomato prices were up almost 176% from a year ago, and tur, rice, salt, milk, and pulses saw an increase of over 10%.
  • Economists expect CPI to settle around 5.8%, with core inflation easing to 5% from 5.1% in June.
  • Rice prices have spiked in the northeast and southern regions, affecting rice sowing due to flooding and poor rainfall.
  • India’s recent non-basmati rice export ban may bring relief to consumers but impacts over 140 countries dependent on its supplies.
  • Higher food inflation may push headline inflation to 6%-6.5% in July and August, with an expected range of 5-6% over the rest of the fiscal year.
  • Edible oils, particularly palm oil imports from Malaysia and Indonesia, could face pressures due to potential El Niño conditions affecting their crops.

About RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) established the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on June 27, 2016, as part of the framework of inflation targeting in India.
  • The MPC is responsible for setting the benchmark interest rate, known as the policy repo rate, which is the rate at which the RBI lends money to commercial banks.
  • The MPC consists of six members, including three members from the RBI (Governor, Deputy Governor, and an Executive Director), and three external members appointed by the central government.
  • The Governor of the RBI serves as the chairperson of the MPC and has the casting vote in case of a tie.
  • The primary objective of the MPC is to maintain price stability and keep inflation within a target range set by the government.

The target range is usually set at 4% with a tolerance band of +/- 2 percentage points.

  • The MPC meets at least four times a year to review economic and financial developments and make decisions on the policy repo rate.
  • The MPC uses a data-driven approach, analyzing various economic indicators such as inflation, growth, fiscal deficits, and global economic trends before making its decisions.
  • If inflation is within the target range, the MPC may decide to maintain the policy repo rate or make no changes.

If inflation is above the target range, the MPC may raise the policy repo rate to curb inflation.

Conversely, if inflation is below the target range, the MPC may lower the policy repo rate to stimulate economic growth.

  • The MPC’s decisions are announced after each meeting and have a significant impact on the borrowing and lending rates in the economy.

About CPI

  • Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a basket of goods and services.
  • CPI is calculated and published by the National Statistical Office (NSO) of India on a monthly basis.
  • The CPI is categorized into various groups, such as food and beverages, housing, clothing, transport, and others, to represent different expenditure patterns of urban consumers.
  • The CPI is an important indicator of inflation in the economy and is used by policymakers, businesses, and consumers to assess the cost of living and make economic decisions.
  • In India, the CPI is divided into two main categories: CPI Urban and CPI Rural, reflecting the inflation experienced by consumers in urban and rural areas, respectively.
  • The headline CPI represents the overall inflation rate for all goods and services in the basket.

The core CPI excludes the volatile food and fuel components to show the underlying inflation trend.

  • CPI is compared on a year-on-year basis to understand the inflation rate, which indicates the percentage change in prices compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) uses the CPI as a key indicator to determine its monetary policy decisions, particularly in setting the policy repo rate.
  • High CPI indicates rising prices and eroding purchasing power, which may prompt the central bank to raise interest rates to control inflation.
  • Low CPI suggests stable or falling prices, which may lead the central bank to lower interest rates to stimulate economic growth.

Source: The Hindu

Details of unaccounted-for wealth highly classified

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

  • The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), under the Ministry of Finance, has refused to disclose information on unaccounted income and wealth inside and outside India.
  • It has done citing that it could affect the economic interest of the country.

Key Highlights

  • The information sought by the petitioner under the Right to Information Act was related to the “Estimation of unaccounted income and wealth inside and outside the country.”
  • The NIPFP stated that the information was a classified document based on the agreement between the institute and the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, and thus, exempted under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

About National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)

  • The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) is a research institute under the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
  • NIPFP conducts research and provides policy inputs on various aspects of public finance and policy.
  • It was established in 1976 as an autonomous body.
  • The institute’s primary objective is to contribute to the economic and fiscal policy formulation in India.
  • NIPFP conducts studies and analysis related to taxation, public expenditure, fiscal policies, budgetary processes, and financial markets.
  • The institute’s research findings and recommendations aim to support the government in formulating effective and efficient fiscal policies.
  • NIPFP plays a significant role in enhancing the understanding of fiscal and economic issues in India and contributes to evidence-based policy-making.

Source: The Hindu

M.P. strategy for tigers can help cheetahs too

(General Studies- Paper III)

Madhya Pradesh’s tiger population has seen a 50% surge, making it the state with the highest number of tigers in the 2022 census, with a total of 785 tigers.

Key Highlights

  • The success in increasing the tiger population can be attributed to the forest department’s strategy of actively moving tigers and their prey within the state to balance predator and prey populations.
  • The forest department has implemented practices like incentivized voluntary village relocations, reintroduction of species, and prey supplementation in various tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • The tiger census report highlights the importance of balancing the population of both predators and prey for successful conservation efforts.
  • Active prey management, which involves identifying regions with a large number of prey and moving them to areas with fewer prey, has been instrumental in increasing tiger numbers in the state.
  • Protection from poaching and conservation efforts in tiger reserves and forest divisions have contributed to the rise in tiger numbers.
  • Tigers are also found outside the reserves in significant numbers in both Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • Similar strategies of active prey management can be applied to form a viable cheetah population in the state.
  • The Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh is currently hosting African cheetahs, and the conservation efforts for cheetahs draw from experiences with tiger and other ungulates.
  • Active prey management is considered a necessary conservation tool given the various pressures on natural habitats and wildlife.

Note: Madhya Pradesh has six tiger reserves, and while it has the highest number of tigers, the most populous reserve is the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.

Tiger Reserves of Madhya Pradesh

The six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are:

  • Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
  • Kanha Tiger Reserve
  • Pench Tiger Reserve
  • Satpura Tiger Reserve
  • Panna Tiger Reserve, and
  • Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve.

Source: The Hindu

5% of birds in India are endemic

(General Studies- Paper III)

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) published a report titled “75 Endemic Birds of India” on its 108th foundation day.

Key Highlights

  • India is home to 1,353 bird species, with approximately 12.40% of global bird diversity represented.
  • Out of these, 78 bird species (approximately 5%) are endemic to India, meaning they are not found in any other part of the world.
  • Three of the endemic species have not been recorded in recent decades:
  • Manipur Bush Quail, Himalayan Quail, and Jerdon’s Courser, all of which are listed as ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN.
  • The publication highlights the importance of conserving habitats of endemic bird species to prevent them from dwindling out.
  • The Western Ghats region has the highest number of endemic species, with 28 bird species recorded.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have 25 endemic bird species, likely due to their geographical isolation.
  • Four species of birds are endemic to the Eastern Himalayas, and one each to the Southern Deccan plateau and central Indian forest.
  • Of the 78 endemic species, 25 are classified as ‘Threatened’ by the IUCN, with three species listed as ‘Critically Endangered’.
  • The publication provides information about each species, including scientific names, historical relevance, distinguishing traits, habitats, breeding habits, and food preferences.
  • The report aims to make information about endemic birds of India accessible to everyone and emphasizes conservation efforts for species found only in restricted area.

About Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)

  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is a premier scientific organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India.
  • It was established on 1st July 1916, and its headquarters is located in Kolkata, West Bengal.
  • The main objective of ZSI is to conduct surveys and research on the fauna of India, including the study of taxonomy, distribution, and ecology of various animal species.
  • ZSI plays a crucial role in documenting and cataloging the biodiversity of India, including both vertebrates (such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) and invertebrates (such as insects, mollusks, and crustaceans).
  • The organization also carries out extensive field surveys and studies in different regions of the country to gather data on various species and their habitats.
  • ZSI’s research findings and reports are essential for formulating policies and conservation strategies related to biodiversity and wildlife in India.
  • ZSI also provides expertise and technical assistance to various government agencies and organizations in matters related to fauna and wildlife conservation.

Source: The Indian Express

Start-ups help 35 cities plug water network leaks

(General Studies- Paper III)

  • The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 has selected 76 start-ups to work with 35 cities towards achieving their water security goals.

Key Highlights

  • The “India Water Pitch-Pilot-Scale Start-Up Challenge” was launched in March last year by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry in partnership with the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI).
  • The selected start-ups are given Rs 20 lakh each and are assigned to work with cities, including municipal corporations and water boards.
  • The start-ups are utilizing various innovative technologies and solutions to address water-related challenges in the cities.
  • Aumsat Technologies is using satellite-based leak management systems in Udaipur, detecting 47 leaks in a water pipeline, leading to significant water savings.
  • Urdhvam is using a patented technology called “borecharger” in Latur to revive defunct and dry borewells, resulting in the recharge of 300 borewells with a potential of 20.6 crore litres per year.
  • Retas Enviro Solutions is working in Delhi with the Delhi Jal Board to implement modular rainwater harvesting systems using tanks made of recycled polypropylene.

About Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0

  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 is a government initiative in India aimed at transforming and rejuvenating urban areas.
  • It is a continuation of the original AMRUT launched in 2015 but with new goals and objectives.
  • The primary focus of AMRUT 2.0 is to provide water supply, sewerage, drainage, and urban green spaces in cities across the country.
  • It aims to enhance the quality of life for urban residents by improving basic urban infrastructure and services.
  • The mission is designed to ensure that every household in selected cities has access to a piped water supply and a sewerage connection.
  • AMRUT 2.0 also emphasizes the creation of green spaces, parks, and recreational areas to enhance the overall urban environment and promote a healthy lifestyle.
  • The mission is part of the government’s larger urban development initiatives, including the Smart Cities Mission and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign).
  • Under AMRUT 2.0, start-ups are being engaged to provide innovative solutions to address water-related challenges in urban areas.
  • The selected start-ups are given financial support and opportunities to work with municipal corporations and water boards to implement their solutions.
  • Through AMRUT 2.0, the government aims to achieve sustainable urban development and improve the overall living conditions in cities.

Note: AMRUT 1.0 focused on the transformation and rejuvenation of 500 selected cities and towns, with an emphasis on infrastructure development in areas like water supply, sewerage, drainage, urban transport, and green spaces.