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PIB News 26/06/2020

1) Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020

Why in News

Recently, the Central government has introduced the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 to amend various provisions in the Electricity Act 2003.

Key Points

  • Rationale Behind Amendment:
    • To address critical issues weakening the commercial and investment activities in the electricity sector.
      • The current challenges plaguing the Indian power sector is derived from negligence in addressing the structural issues.
      • These include operational and financial inefficiencies of power generation, transmission and distribution utilities, access and quality of power supply, political interference, lack of private investments, inadequate public infrastructure and lack of consumer participation.
    • Bringing transparency and accountability to protect the interest of consumers and ensuring healthy growth of the power sector.
  • Key Objectives:
    • Ensure consumer centricity,
    • Promote Ease of Doing Business,
    • Enhance sustainability of the power sector,
    • Promote green power,
  • Key Amendments:
    • National Selection Committee: Instead of the separate Selection Committee (for appointment of Chairperson and members of State Electricity Regulatory Commissions-SERCs), there is a proposal to set up a National Selection Committee.
      • However, the Central Government is also considering to continue with the existing separate Selection Committees for each state – but make them Standing Selection Committees so that there is no need for constituting them afresh every time a vacancy occurs.
      • The only difference is that it will now be proposed to be presided by the Chief Justice of the High Court of the state.
    • Introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer: Direct Benefit Transfer will be beneficial for both the State Governments and as well as Distribution Companies.
      • It will be beneficial for the State Government because it will ensure that the subsidy reaches the people who are actually entitled and the State Government gets clear accounts of the amount given as subsidy.
      • It will benefit the distribution company by making sure that the subsidies due are received as per the number of beneficiaries.
    • National Renewable Energy Policy: India is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. It is therefore proposed to have a separate policy for the development and promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy.
      • The policy prescribes a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from renewable sources of production. It seeks to give special attention to hydro power.
    • Sustainability:
      • Cost Reflective Tariff: There had been the issue of lazy attempts from the commissions in adopting the tariffs determined, causing issues of cost escalation.
        • To address this problem, the Amendment has prescribed a period of 60 days to adopt the determined tariffs. Failing such a timeline of 60 days, the tariff would be deemed to be accepted.
      • Payment Security: It is proposed to empower Load Dispatch Centres to oversee the establishment of adequate payment security mechanisms before dispatch of electricity, as per contracts.
        • Late payment of dues of generating and transmission companies have reached unsustainable levels. This impairs the finances of the Gencos and Transcos and also increases the Non Performing Assets of the Banks.
    • Ease of Doing Business:
      • Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA): It is an Authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court with powers to execute their orders as decree of a civil court.
        • The Authority will enforce performance of contracts related to purchase or sale or transmission of power between a generating company, distribution licensee or transmission licensee.
        • Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) do not have powers to execute their orders as decree of a civil court.
      • Cross Subsidy: The Bill provides for the SERCs to reduce cross subsidies as per the provisions of the Tariff Policy.
    • Miscellaneous:
      • Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL): It is proposed to increase the strength of APTEL to at least seven to facilitate quick disposal of cases.
        • To be able to effectively enforce its orders, it is also proposed to give it the powers of the High Court under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act.
      • Penalties: In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission, section 142 and section 146 of the Electricity Act are proposed to be amended to provide for higher penalties.
      • Cross Border Trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.
      • Distribution sub-licensees: To improve quality of supply, an option is proposed to be provided to Discoms to authorise another person as a sub-license to supply electricity in any particular part of its area, with the permission of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.
  • Issues involved:
    • Cost reflective tariff has been a concern for states like Telangana which provide free electricity to the farming sector.
    • Formation of ECEA has also been criticized as a move towards centralization of power.
    • Recognition of franchisees and sub- licensees might open the sector to private players.

Way Forward

  • The Bill provides the Central government more power to determine tariff and regulations in the power sector. Since electricity is a Concurrent subject, States must not be deprived of their powers, through this Amendment.

2) Odisha starts project to conserve Bhitarkanika fishing cats

News: Odisha Government has started a two-year conservation project for Fishing Cats in Bhitarkanika National Park.

Facts:

  • Fishing Cat: They are a medium-sized wildcat found in South and Southeast Asia.
  • Habitat: In India, fishing cats are mainly found in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, on the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats.
  • Significance: In 2012, the West Bengal government officially declared the Fishing Cat as the State Animal.
  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I
  • Threat: Habitat Destruction, Hunting,  Poaching among others.

3)Cabinet approves 2% interest subvention for Shishu-Mudra loans

News: Government has approved a 2% interest subsidy for Shishu loan account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana(PMMY) for a period of 12 months to eligible borrowers.

Facts:

  • Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana(PMMY): It was launched by the Prime Minister in 2015.
  • Aim: To provide loans up to 10 lakh to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises.
  • Lending Institutions: Commercial Banks, RRBs, Small Finance Banks, MFIs and NBFCs.
  • Categories of Loans: MUDRA has created three products as per the stage of growth and funding needs of the beneficiary micro unit:
    • Shishu: Covering loans up to Rs. 50,000.
    • Kishore: Covering loans above Rs. 50,000 and up to Rs. 5 lakh
    • Tarun: Covering loans above Rs. 5 lakh and up to Rs. 10 lakh.

Additional Facts:

  • Udyami Mitra Portal: It was launched by Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to improve accessibility of credit and handholding services to MSMEs.
  • Udyam Sakhi: It is an initiative of the Ministry of Micro,Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to encourage women entrepreneurs by creating business models revolving around low-cost products and services to empower women and make them self-reliant and self-sufficient.

4. Health minister launches mobile app ‘eBloodServices’ to order blood

News: The Union health minister has launched the ‘eBloodServices’ App in partnership with the Indian Red Cross Society(IRCS).

Facts:

  • eBloodServices: It aims to allow people to access safe blood easily especially during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Developed by: It has been developed by the E-Raktkosh team of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing(CDAC) under the Digital India scheme.
  • Significance: The app will make it easy for a blood seeker to get blood with complete transparency and single window access to the service.

Additional Facts:

  • e-Raktkosh: It is a Centralized Blood Bank Management System that provides a comprehensive IT solution to standardize and streamline the standard operating procedures, guidelines and workflow of blood banks across the country.
  • Indian Red Cross Society: It is a voluntary humanitarian organization established in 1920 under the Indian Red Cross Society Act.The Chairman of the Society is Union Health Minister.
  • Digital India: It is a flagship programme launched in 2015 by the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

5. Navigating the New Normal: NITI Aayog

Why in News

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, in partnership with several other stakeholders has launched a behaviour change campaign called ‘Navigating the New Normal’, and its website.

Key Points

  • The campaign has two parts:
    • Covid-safe behavioural norms: The first is a web portal, containing resources informed by behavioural science and the use of nudge and social norms theory, related to Covid-safe behavioural norms during the ongoing Unlock phase, and
    • Wearing of Masks: The second is a media campaign focused on the wearing of masks.
  • The portal focuses on easy implementation of four key behaviours in the unlock phase: mask-wearing (essential focus), social distancing, Hand hygiene, and not spitting in public.
  • Citizens Role: It aims at desired social behaviour in which the enforcement burden shifts from the Government to the citizens.
  • Sector Specific: The website will have sector-specific collaterals and guidelines for health, nutrition, and public transport (in metro cities).
  • International Examples: Japan and South Korea have made ‘mask-wearing’ a socially accepted norm.
  • Recent Examples/Initiatives in India:
    • Recently, Meghalaya has issued a new health protocol which also lays emphasis on the Behaviour Change Model for living with Covid-19.
    • The Economic Survey 2019 too lays out an ambitious agenda for behavioural change by applying the principles of behavioural economics to several issues, including gender equality, a healthy and beautiful India, savings, tax compliance and credit quality.

Behavioural Science

  • Behavioural science is a method of analysis that applies psychological insights into human behaviour to explain their decision-making
  • In reality, decisions made by people often deviate from the classical principles. Drawing on the psychology of human behaviour, science provides insights to ‘nudge’ people towards desirable behaviour.

Nudge Theory

  • According to Nudge theory, people, rather than being forced, can be encouraged and influenced to pursue or desist from certain actions through nudges.
  • It does not talk about penalizing people if they do not behave in a particular manner, rather it encourages them to make desirable decisions.
  • It believes that Humans are not-so-rational and often need encouragement or intervention — a nudge — to get going and do what’s best for the country or society at large.
  • American economist Richard Thaler has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to behavioural economics.

Limitations of Behavioural Science

  • Continuous Efforts vs One-time Action – Give It Up campaign for LPG subsidy was a comparatively easy policy as it requires only a one-time action of affluent households, whereas task is very difficult in case of living with Covid-19, Beti Bachao, Beti Padao and SBM, as it requires continuous effort to dislodge mind-sets that prevailed for decades.
  • Specific Targeting is Required: In order to make this campaign a success, focus must be on special areas of concern such as small factories and poor labourers, who comprise a large part of the vulnerable population. Example: Advertising campaigns such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme did not target specific states where child sex ratios were already skewed (although it was effective in Haryana, which also has a very poor sex ratio).
  • Case of Confirmation Bias: The applications of behavioural insights appeared to be a result of confirmation bias (to the extent that past policies were viewed with a behavioural lens).

Way Forward

  • As the lockdown is lifted, people will resume their normal activities. This raises a challenge of minimising the spread od Covid-19 without impacting the movement of people. This signals a need for change and creation of a “New Normal” – where we adapt our routine activities to enable consistent compliance to the COVID-19 protective behaviours

6.

World Drug Report 2020

News: United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes(UNODC) has released the World Drug Report 2020 on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Facts:

  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC): It was established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention.
  • Aim:To assist Member States in addressing the issues of drugs, crime and terrorism.
  • Headquarters: Vienna, Austria.

Additional Facts:

  • International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: The day is observed on June 26 since 1987 to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society.The theme for 2020 is “Better Knowledge for Better Care”.
  • Education for Justice Initiative: It was launched by the UNODC in 2019 to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

8.Urban, multi-State cooperative banks to come under RBI supervision

News: The Central government has approved an Ordinance to bring all urban and multi-state co-operative banks under the direct supervision of the Reserve Bank of India(RBI).

Facts:

  • Aim: To empower more security to depositors and to prevent instances of fraud and serious financial irregularities such as the major scam at Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative(PMC) Bank in 2019.
  • How were they regulated earlier? Till now, the Urban co-operative banks came under dual regulation of the RBI and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.
  • Significance: It will empower the RBI to regulate all urban and multi-state co-operative banks on the lines of commercial banks.
  • Concerns: The rural co-operative banks will continue to remain under the dual regulation.

Additional Facts:

  • Co-operative Banks: These are financial entities established on a co-operative basis and belonging to their members.This means that the customers of a co-operative bank are also its owners.
  • Regulation: Co-operative Banksare registered under the States Cooperative Societies Act.They also come under the regulatory ambit of the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) under two laws: Banking Regulations Act, 1949 and the Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act,1955

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